UNBSJ Opens Uptown MBA Centre

 

More than 400 people gathered in the old Scotiabank building on King Square in Saint John on Thursday for the official opening of the MBA program that has been relocated uptown from the University of New Brunswick’s Saint John campus in Tucker Park.

MP Wayne Long, on hand to announce that the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency contributed $750,000 to help facilitate the move, said it’s good for the city and the 93 students in this year’s class.

“The university saw the opportunity to bring the MBA program into the heart of this city – what a profound change this is going to make to our uptown core, while also creating a space that will allow spontaneous connections and ideas to come to life. This building is central to the heartbeat of economic development in Saint John,” said Long.

“Within a short walk, you have Economic Development Greater Saint John, ConnexionWorks, the Saint John Newcomers Centre, several major corporate headquarters, our tech cluster, real estate firms, and all three levels of government, not to mention being a dining, shopping and cultural hub.”

Read the full story on Huddle.

5 Winners In Sprint Competition

Innovacorp has awarded a total of $125,000 to five winners of its latest Sprint Competition, which provides development capital to early-stage startups in Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency on Thursday announced the five winners of the 2020 competition, which received 41 applications from across the province. Ten companies were shortlisted to pitch to the judges.

The winners are:

Phase I

Electric Owl – Margaret Dron – The company is developing its Garden Manager product, which helps people grow food in urban environments and small-scale farms. The Garden Manager will advise users on how to grow fresh and nutritious food to improve food supply and reduce the environmental impacts of food transportation.

Marecomms – Ulaş Güntürkün – Güntürkün is using his research on fifth-generation cellular communication technology and physics to create an underwater communication system that will deliver data on the ocean, even in the harshest conditions.

Phase II

Greenlight Analytical – James Wylde, Simon Benwell, Louise Richardson, Nicole Wylde – The company is developing a portable analyzer to measure cannabis and narcotics for safety, quality control, medical and law enforcement applications.

SeaChange Biochemistry – Brad Park – SeaChange is using a new bio-refinery process to produce high-value compounds from sustainably harvested seaweed. The company, which was a finalist in the BioInnovation Challenge in 2019, has found a method to use a form of biomass to produce three industrial compounds.

SmartMed – Arman Izadi, Tim Coolen, Ayda Afshar – The company is developing software for scheduling shiftwork. Its website says its automated system can schedule 700 positions in a minute.

As well as grants of $25,000, the winners will receive guidance from seasoned business professionals to help them reach their next milestones.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor. 

NBIF Backs Concrete with $500K

Patrick Hankinson

Patrick Hankinson

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has invested $500,000 in Concrete Ventures, the Halifax-based venture capital firm that began investing in early-stage Atlantic Canadian companies last year.

Fredericton-based NBIF said in a statement that it had made the investment in the fund, which is headed by serial entrepreneur and investor Patrick Hankinson, who sold his company Compilr for more than $20 million in 2014.

“Our mission at NBIF is to find and support the startups with the most potential to build a globally relevant business,” said NBIF Investment Associate Thomas Bird in a release. “That’s a mission shared by Concrete Ventures. They have an investment thesis very similar to NBIF’s, so our approach to investing is clearly aligned. By making this funding available to them, we will expand our startup portfolio while delivering strong financial returns to NBIF that we will in turn invest in other companies.”

Betakit reported Thursday that the new capital raises the fund’s total capital to almost $18 million, exceeding the original target of $17 million. The new target is $18.5 million.

Concrete Ventures began to invest in companies last May by leading a $250,000 round by Halifax-based SalesRight. It has since also invested in Motryx and Proof, both of Halifax, Securicy of Sydney and St. John’s-based Rally.

The main limited partner in Concrete is the Nova Scotia government, which backed the fund with $15 million. There are about 20 other limited partners in the fund, and NBIF has now joined the list.

Hankinson co-founded Tether, a leading Halifax tech company early in the decade, and was a founder of Compilr, a code learning platform which was acquired by Lynda. Hankinson personally invested in 14 companies as an angel investor before founding Concrete.

“NBIF is one big reason why New Brunswick has excelled as a startup hub,” said Hankinson. “They have a strong team with a professional and rigorous approach to making investment decisions. By working together, we can find and fund more of the most promising startups Atlantic Canada has to offer. This kind of regional support is important to the startup ecosystem here in Atlantic Canada. We’re looking forward to working collaboratively with NBIF.”

Entrevestor’s data shows that Atlantic Canada startups raised a record $166.6 million of private capital last year, up 43 percent from $116 million in 2017.

A Chat with Britain’s Lord Flight

Lord Flight:

Lord Flight:

With one eye on the cell phone before him, Lord Flight launched into a promotion of a subject dear to his heart – investment tax credits as a means of encouraging entrepreneurship.

I had come to his home in Westminster to interview him, and he apologized for the distraction. There was a vote in the House of Lords on the Brexit bill, and the Lord was waiting for a summoning message to pop up on his cell phone. But while there was time, he was more than happy to discuss Britain’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, Brexit, and his own investment in a Nova Scotia company.

Howard Flight – who sat in Parliament as a Conservative MP during the Tony Blair Government and was granted a peerage in 2011 – was one of the architects of the Enterprise Investment Scheme, or EIS, in 1994. It is now a pillar of the British startup scene and Flight, who is the Chairman of the EIS Association, works hard to ensure no government weakens it.

“It has been responsible for raising more than £15 billion since its inception, benefiting some 3,000 companies,” he said, seated at his kitchen table. He lives a 10-minute walk from Parliament, in a row of Georgian houses whose former residents include the actor John Gielgud and soldier T.E Lawrence. “Aside from all else, it (the EIS) has helped instill an entrepreneurial attitude in an entire generation,” he added.

How did I come to be sitting in a Lord’s kitchen, interviewing him about investment tax schemes? Before politics, Flight spent a career in finance. He is also the Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, a London-based investment group whose principals include Permjot Valia. Valia lives in Nova Scotia, where he heads such startup-related projects as MentorCamp and the Spark rural entrepreneurship competition. It was Valia who suggested I interview Flight about his investments and the EIS.

The EIS is similar to investment tax incentives that exist in each of the Atlantic Provinces, though in some respects the British program is more generous. It grants a 35 percent tax credit for investments of as much as £1 million (C$1.7 million) and there is no capital gains tax for investors who hold their investment for more than three years.

Lord Flight says he doubts the scheme has cost the Treasury any revenue because the growth of young companies more than offsets the losses suffered by granting the tax credit.

He personally has done well in a career of investments and he and Valia were happy to discuss the performance of Flight & Company, which buys and turns around distressed ventures. The fund originally held £10 million, and Valia said the value has risen 80 percent in the past five years. The partners are now raising a new fund.

As an individual, Lord Flight has invested in Halifax-based BlueLight Analytics, whose technology ensures dentists are using the right amount of energy when curing resin in tooth fillings. It’s evidence of the diverse sources of capital that Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs access to finance their businesses. Flight says he invested the equivalent of £100,000 in the company, and after the ups and downs expected in a startup, he is optimistic about BlueLight’s prospects.

He’s also optimistic about the outcome of the subject that has consumed British politics for the past four years – Brexit. Lord Flight was a Leaver and believes British goods and services are good enough to find markets on the Continent, especially if the currency adjusts to offset the effects of new tariffs.

“At the end of the day, they {European Union customers) will still want what we produce and we’ll be able to sell it to them,” Flight said.

After a 30-minute chat, he got the message on his phone. The 71-year-old peer was needed in Parliament. He apologized and moments later he was on his bike, peddling past John Gielgud’s house in the direction of the House of Lords.

InspectAR Gets $850K in Funding

St. John’s-based InspectAR Augmented Interfaces Inc., whose technology helps to simplify the production of printed circuit boards, has received an $850,000 investment from two American companies.

The young company, which grew out of the engineering program at Memorial University of Newfoundland, issued a statement saying the company hopes to double its staff this year as it accelerates development of its product. The $850,000 equity investment came from Royal Circuit Solutions and Advanced Assembly, two PCB manufacturers that are based in the western U.S. and have a family connection with InspectAR.

InspectAR uses augmented reality to help electrical engineers and electronics technicians to quickly assess and improve the state of the printed circuit board, or PCB, that they’re working on. Its software can inspect, debug and rework a PCB, while assisting with assembly and collaboration.

“This really is a tool that electrical engineers or electronic technicians can use to interact with and explore their boards in ways that were not possible before,” said Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Nick Warren in an interview. “In electronics, a lot of innovation is happening at the design stage and on the manufacturing side there’s a lot of pressure to run around quickly and catch up.”

The origins of InspectAR are similar to those of St. John’s success story CoLab Software in that both companies came out of senior year projects at MUN. Students have to take everything they’ve learned and apply it to a senior design project.

Warren and his collaborators decided to centre their project on circuit boards. In fact, Mihir Shah, who is now the CEO of the company, has a family background in PCBs as his father Milan Shah is the owner of circuit-board manufacturer Royal Circuits, based in Salinas, California.

St. John's-based Cyno Teams Up with Shopify

The team used augmented reality to assess the state of circuit boards and make it easier for hardware producers to work with them. On graduation, they launched it into a company, which they hope will revolutionize the hardware industry.

InspectAR’s seven-member team launched its first product in mid-November, and since then about 600 users have adopted the free platform. Of this group, about a dozen are paying customers, including Mysa Smart Themostats of St. John’s and Digi-Key, a Minnesota-based electronics distributor that has more than US$3 billion in annual sales.

“InspectAR has made a big, positive impact to our team,” said Dennis Field, an engineer with another client, RadioSound. “It has saved us a lot of time, allowing us to be more efficient and engineer amazing products.”

The early adopters include Royal Circuit and a Colorado company it partners with, Advanced Assembly. They are impressed enough with the product that they became investors.

Warren said the company can target a huge market as there are about 600,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. alone. CEO Mihir Shah is now working out of the San Francisco area, which gives the company a sales presence in the California market.

The development team is based in St. John’s, and the company intends to use its investment to hire new developers, aiming to ramp up total employee headcount to 15 by the end of the year.

Remsoft Names 2 New Directors

Marie Eve Fillion and Mike Hutchinson

Marie Eve Fillion and Mike Hutchinson

Fredericton-based Remsoft, which uses data analytics to aid forestry companies, has promoted two executives to director positions to upgrade its data and analytics services and its sales team.

The company announced this week that Marie Eve Fillion has been promoted to director of analytics solutions, while Mike Hutchinson has been named director of technical sales.

Remsoft has developed software that analyzes data to produce business intelligence that helps forestry companies and others make the best use of their land. 

“Forest organizations are expanding their use of digital technologies to improve adaptability, execution and competitive advantage,” said Remsoft CEO Andrea Feunekes in the release. 

“From smarter planning to more efficient forest operations, we’re strengthening our capabilities to help customers make more effective use of available data and analytics for positive impact across their business. In their new positions, Marie and Mike will play a critical role in ensuring we meet rising client needs through our software products, services and technical sales engagement.”

In her new role, Fillion will be tasked with driving growth for Remsoft Analytics Solutions. Building on her expertise in optimization and client project management, she will liaise with customers to gather and translate business needs into technical product development.

Hutchinson will support the quality and effectiveness of the company's client interaction during sales engagement, ensuring it is responsive and reflects Remsoft’s technical expertise in forestry practices.

Early-Stage Programs Now Open

Now that we’re well into January, there are programs and funding initiatives for entry-level entrepreneurs opening up around the region.

There is an endless parade of budding entrepreneurs who need to test their ideas in early-stage programs and try to assess whether their ideas could produce a marketable product. Others need help with prototyping or protecting intellectual property.

Here are a few examples of programs that can help with this and are accepting applications:

The B4C Start Program

Pond-Deshpande Centre

Fredericton

This introductory program is an accessible way to see if that idea in the back of your head is worth trying.

It is for people with business ideas but still working at another job. It is designed for someone who would like a structure to keep them accountable as they start their business. The winter program will run from Feb 21 to April 17, and will be offered again in the summer. It costs $250, and early-bird rates are still available for the summer program. 

The Evolution Program

Genesis

St. John’s

Evolution is Genesis’ pre-incubator program – an eight-week intensive program for early-stage tech startups. With experiential learning at the core of the program, Evolution instructs entrepreneurs to engage their potential customers, while receiving mentorship from Genesis’ extensive advisor network. The program helps entrepreneurs quickly identify their markets, validate their idea, and find problem-solution fit.

The program ends with its Pitch & Pick event, in which some participants present their business idea to a live audience, which includes industry professionals, investors, public-sector funders and other entrepreneurs.

Evolution courses begin in January, June and October.

Early Stage Commercialization Fund

Innovacorp

Nova Scotia

The Early Stage Commercialization Fund, or ESCF, helps move Nova Scotia university, college and university-affiliated hospital research to market, providing as much as $50,000 for each project.

ESCF aims to support technology that has reached or is close to a prototype or proof-of-concept, so that it’s easy to see how it will produce revenue. It aims for researchers who are almost ready to engage with industry partners or seek investment.

The money can be used to assess market potential, develop go-to-market strategies, perform strategic planning, protect intellectual property protection strategies, or for other uses.

The deadline for submissions for the winter round of ESCF is Feb. 12.

Kula Teams Up with Terminus

Halifax-based Kula Partners, a marketing agency serving business-to-business manufacturers across North America, has become the first manufacturing-focused agency to partner with Terminus, the world’s leading account-based marketing, or ABM, platform.

Led by co-founders Jeff W. White and Carman Pirie, Kula Partners helps B2B manufacturers to craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers and serve customers online.

With offices in Atlanta and San Francisco, Terminus bills itself as the world’s leading full-funnel account-based marketing platform. The two companies released a statement on Tuesday saying the Terminus account-based platform provides marketers with the tools they need to drive demand, achieve better revenue outcomes, and establish brand loyalty.

Terminus is led by CEO Tim Kopp, a marketing and technology executive with more than 20 years of experience at global B2B and B2C brands.

“We know the traditional marketing and sales funnel is flawed, especially for B2B manufacturers operating in niche spaces with limited total addressable markets,” said Pirie in the statement. “An ABM approach puts your ideal customers—and the stakeholders within them—at the heart of your marketing and sales strategy, helping you focus your resources on building relationships with the people that can actually buy from you.”

Kula has been in business since 2003 and in recent years has developed a niche for itself in web design and marketing systems for manufacturers. Most of its customers use WooCommerce, the world’s most widely deployed ecommerce solution. In July, it launched a product called Synchrostack that helps manufacturers integrate the various components of their ecommerce systems.

“We’re excited to have Kula Partners become our first manufacturing marketing agency partner,” said Dan Griffin, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Terminus. “We see tons of opportunity to help more North American manufacturers achieve exceptional results with ABM by combining Kula’s manufacturing marketing expertise with the capabilities of the Terminus platform.”

Please Help Us With Our Survey

Today we are launching our survey to capture data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2019, and we’re asking all founders in the region to take two minutes to complete our 14-question survey.

We know how busy people are, so we have made our survey is brief as possible. Filling in this brief survey creates three benefits.

  1. It helps to produce meaningful metrics for the startup community, which results in better programs. Policy-makers and support organization rely on our Atlantic Canadian Startup Data report as the benchmark on this segment of the economy. Your participation helps us collect the best data possible. And once again the report will be open to the public.
  2. It helps Entrevestor to provide free news on and for our community. The startup data report is a pillar of our business model, and it means we can continue to report on what’s happening in the startup world.
  3. We’re offering a further incentive to founders and CEOs to complete the survey promptly. We will donate $10 for each completed survey we accept by Feb. 3 to the Canadian Red Cross’s Australia Fires Appeal. We’re capping this at 200 responses, so we could donate as much as $2000.

We’re all appalled by the devastation in Australia, and this is a chance to help just a bit through a reputable Canadian organization that does great work. We’ll be thrilled if we reach our maximum.

You can find the survey by clicking here:

Here’s the fine print on our donations:

To be accepted as one of the 200 responses, you have to complete at least nine of the 14 questions. (We believe you can do this without revealing sensitive information.)

For your responses to be accepted, you have to meet our three criteria for a startup: 1. An Atlantic Canadian-owned company; 2. Commercializing innovation; and 3. Making a product for a global market.

We will publish how much we’ve donated to the Canadian Red Cross on Feb. 5.

Your responses to the survey will be 100% confidential. We do NOT publish data on individual companies, only aggregated data. If there is a particular question you feel uncomfortable answering, please just leave it blank.

By taking just two minutes to answer these questions, you can support Entrevestor’s work, develop important metrics for the community, and help to ease the suffering in Australia.

Please contact me at peter@entrevestor.com with any queries.

PhotoDynamic Closes $2.3M Round

Halifax-based PhotoDynamic, Inc. has closed a $2.3 million round of financing, which will help to finance the launch of its teeth-cleaning product in the autumn of this year.

The company’s CEO Martin Greenwood told Entrevestor a year ago that the company was aiming to raise at least $1.35 million, and it has handily exceeded that figure. More important, one of the lead investors is the American Association of Orthodontists, or AAO, a group that will be key to bringing the product to market. The funders also include Charlottetown-based Natural Products Canada and Island Capital Partners.

PhotoDynamic is developing a device that uses natural extracts from a wild Nova Scotia plant to erase heavy plaque buildup on teeth. Such buildups are an unwanted side-effect of wearing braces, so PhotoDynamic plans to market the product by selling it through orthodontists.

“While applicable to anyone’s hygiene regimen, our technology solves a particular problem for orthodontists and their patients who face real challenges maintaining good oral hygiene during treatment,” said Greenwood in a statement. “Receiving the AAO investment provides a great opportunity to further connect with the orthodontic community and further validate the potential patient impact of our technology.”

PhotoDynamic’s product— called PD Foam and PD Tray — eradicates plaque through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. Because the plant is known to be safe for human consumption, the product has a relatively simple regulatory path.

Pioneered by Acadia University professor Sherri McFarland, PhotoDynamic has developed foam made from the plant extract, which the user places in the top and bottom trays of a special mouthpiece. It resembles a mouth guard a hockey player would wear but it contains LED lights. Users turn on the lights, place the device in their mouths for one minute, and the plaque is gone.

Fredericton-based SomaDetect Receives $3.9M from SDTC

In 2018, PhotoDynamic subjected its product to clinical trials with 20 patients at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass. Those trials showed that, in just two weeks, the PhotoDynamic device made noticeable improvements in patients’ conditions.

Now the company is working again with the Forsyth Institute, conducting a three-month trial with 40 patients who wear braces in preparation for the full launch. PhotoDynamics now employs five people, and Greenwood expects to hire more staff this year.

The latest fundraising round – the company’s first since a $250,000 angel round in 2016 – taps into a fund the AAO established last May to advance technology that benefits orthodontics.

“The AAO thoroughly vetted Photodynamic,” said Mindi Tomey Brothers, AAO’s Vice-President for Growth and Transformation. “We were impressed with the clinical results and the potential to improve orthodontic patient care. We’re delighted to have Martin and the PhotoDynamic team as our first investment.”

Island Capital Partners is a Prince Edward Island based early stage venture fund supporting local innovation while Natural Products Canada is a national organization that supports companies developing products from natural sources.

“PhotoDynamic’s ground-breaking product is a perfect example of the power of natural compounds to create truly disruptive market opportunities,” said Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada.

The funding will result in three additions to the PhotoDynamic board: Stephen Ball, Regional Director (Atlantic) of Natural Products Canada; Ron Keefe, ICP partner and former CEO of Charlottetown-based Biovectra; and Michael Sherman, an orthodontist and trustee with the AAO.

Said Greenwood: “We’ve gathered a group of strategic investors that can assist with our supply and sourcing on Prince Edward Island, elevate our expertise in developing leading edge natural products, and strengthen connections with our core orthodontic market.”

Jobs: CloudKettle, Protocase, 45Drives

Our Jobs of the Week column today features several opportunities at such companies as CloudKettle in Halifax and Protocase and its 45 Drives unit in Sydney.

Halifax-based CloudKettle is a consulting company that helps business-to-business SaaS companies – almost all of them in major centres like San Francisco and Toronto -- increase their revenue. It is looking to hire a Vice-President of Operations and a Director of Strategic Project Delivery.

Established in 2001, Protocase makes custom electronic enclosures. It focuses on combining advances in software with advanced manufacturing techniques to offer unique custom manufacturing to the engineering, design, and research industries.  The company, which has more than 175 employees and 12,000 clients, has an opening for a software developer.

Sydney-based 45 Drives is a Protocase unit that makes data storage solutions, and has been such a success that it accounts for about half of Protocase’s revenues. It is hiring a Field Applications Specialist.

The Job 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:

Halifax

CloudKettle

Vice-President of Operations

CloudKettle continues to grow quickly, we over doubled our client base in 2019 and will do so again in 2020. With that growth, comes complexity and a need to better execute at operations as the organization scales.

In this new role, the Vice President, Operations will optimize CloudKettle’s execution and help ensure the organization’s 2020 and long term strategic plans are put into practice successfully.

The Vice President, Operations will assist in compiling the company’s budget, overseeing HR, leading IT infrastructure, security, regulatory, compliance and facilities. They will have a clear understanding of CloudKettle’s values and culture and how to leverage them as part of the strategic plan to long term business success.

Responsibilities

As Vice President, Operations you will:

  • Drive the company’s operations, including scaling existing physical space and capacity in other markets.
  • Oversight of facilities and associated budget lines and resource allocation.
  • Oversight of Finance, including leading the annual budgeting process, as well as CloudKettle’s relationships with Accounting and Banking partners.
  • Monitor receivables, cash flow, accounting, and bank processes.
  • Prepare timely and accurate financial performance reports.
  • Provide strategic oversight of HR efforts, including recruitment and retention.
  • Ensure CloudKettle’s compliance with labour, tax and other laws in markets we service.
  • Employing various initiatives to coach employees to optimize their capabilities.
  • Oversee CloudKettle’s security and compliance strategy, including the Security Committee and achievement/compliance with standards like HIPAA and SOC2.
  • Spearhead strategies to steer the company’s future in a positive direction.
  • Assess and implement improved processes and new technologies. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Director of Strategic Project Delivery

Help some of the largest enterprises in Canada and the United States get more value out of the Salesforce and Google ecosystems. In this role, you will help ensure CloudKettle’s top strategic accounts receive a seamless experience, across domains.

This position is well suited for a hands-on project manager with a significant amount of experience working with clients at large enterprises. It is a high-touch role that includes significant time with both clients and CloudKettle leadership.

To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter via email to careers@cloudkettle.com

Responsibilities

As the Director, Strategic Project Delivery you will:

  • Work with the CloudKettle executive team to formalize the communications and project management processes for strategic accounts and ensure those processes are followed
  • Lead the establishment of policies that all CloudKettle staff adhere to so all customers receive a high-level quality of services
  • Plan, organize and help execute on client and internal projects, which may include:
  • Creating documents such as project plans, schedules, and meeting agendas and minutes for clients and internal teams
  • Ensuring the successful, timely and professional completion of deliverables, including the breakdown and delegation of action items to a project team
  • Spotting and communicating to leadership when project creep is occurring and when Change Requests are required
  • Communicating with clients and team members, including regular status updates (written & verbal)
  • Ensuring documentation on all projects is up to date and accurate
  • Facilitating project debriefs and ensuring that all learnings and proposed innovation are incorporated into future processes
  • Overseeing proposal creation; assigning roles & responsibilities and ensuring satisfactory completion and delivery
  • Acting as a driver for the creation, management, and presentation of actionable business requirements for clients needs
  • Identifying client project issues/risks and presenting alternatives to alleviate or resolve them
  • Overseeing and identifying the resource impacts and interdependencies between projects and working with the client delivery teams, ensuring initiatives meet the goals and objectives of the executive leadership team . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Sydney

Protocase

Software Developer

Protocase is currently seeking a tenacious, organized Software Developer to join its Research & Development team in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. This is an exciting opportunity for an individual who’s driven by the underlying goal of making software that the end user actually wants to use. Protocase’s Research & Development (R&D) is a busy department within the company, serving many different internal teams with software development and project engineering on a variety of systems and programs.

We are a unique ultra-lean manufacturer that provides the upper echelon of scientists and engineers all over the world with rapid custom manufacturing in 2-3 days. Our team of developers is tasked with continually improving and maintaining internal and external software that are crucial to our ongoing productivity, efficiency and growth. Protocase is proud to offer its customers Protocase Designer, free enclosure-design software that makes it as easy as possible to design, price and order custom enclosures, parts and panels.

In addition to Protocase Designer, our talented team of developers maintains several pieces of business software in Java (along with some work on application add-ons in C#) that are essential to Protocase’s day-to-day operations and ongoing growth.

Responsibilities

About You:

You are tenacious when it comes to goals and completing projects. You love writing software, and you love seeing what you create come to life, function, and make users’ lives better. You understand with deep clarity that if the end user isn’t actually using the software, then your work isn’t done.

Your duties will include:

• Developing new features and improving current features for our CAD software or internal business software

• Working with internal stakeholders to solve complex problems

• Ensuring our software applications are highly testable, maintainable, and scalable In order to succeed in this role, you must be a lifelong learner who cares deeply enough about your professional excellence and pushes yourself to learn things.

In order to succeed in this role, you must be a lifelong learner who cares deeply enough about your professional excellence and pushes yourself to learn things. . .

Read the full job posting here.

45 Drives

Field Applications Specialist

At 45 Drives, we provide open storage systems with enterprise-grade quality and performance, but with an affordable price tag. Solutions can range from stock designs to highly customized units, and we pride ourselves on offering superior technical services from initial conversation through to the life the solution; to ensure that 100 per cent of our customers achieve their storage goals.

Our customers range from small start-up companies to industry leaders looking for a nonproprietary solution. With that in mind, our customers’ level of technical expertise varies – so we are always prepared to help with their questions and challenges.

We are seeking a full-time employee to work in our 45 Drives Field Applications & Service Team.

Responsibilities

You will be responsible for the Design, Commissioning, Maintenance and Servicing of our Systems for some of the largest technical organizations out there, such as Boeing, Intel, and Amazon.

Your duties will include:

• Participating in pre-sale consultations between 45 Drives account managers and customers, designing and customizing the ideal storage solution for particular customer needs.

• Developing application based test environments in order to determine the right solution for existing and new storage infrastructure for our vast customer base.

• Providing customer service and technical advice to new and existing customers of varying degrees of technical skill, post-sale. This includes commissioning and maintenance of their storage solution.

• Providing feedback to Research and Development team regarding improvement to application design.

Above all else, we are looking for someone who enjoys taking initiative in order to help people and solve complex problems within a busy environment, where no two days are alike! . .  .

Read the full job posting here.

Catalfamo Joins Mariner Board

Joe Catalfamo

Joe Catalfamo

Saint John-based Mariner Partners Inc. has expanded its board by adding venture capital veteran Joe Catalfamo, who once won a CVCA Deal of the Year award for backing Fredericton-based Radian6.

He will act as an independent director with founding partners and board members Bob Justason, Curtis Howe and Chairman Gerry Pond.

Catalfamo is best known as the managing partner for Summerhill Venture Partners, a group he co-founded, as well as a past co-founder and partner of Whitecap Venture Partners III. As the head of Summerhill, he invested in Radian6, which was also backed by several members of the Mariner management team.  Summerhill teamed up with Brightspark Ventures and BDC Capital to invest in Radian6, and together they won the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association VC Deal of the Year Award in 2011.

“[Mariner has] built an exceptional reputation as a trusted and reliable partner to some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands,” said Pond in a statement. “Through continuous innovation and a customer focus, we will continue to compete and thrive on the world stage. Joe brings experience to the table that aligns perfectly with the board’s vision for our strategic growth and we’re excited to have him as part of the team.”

Catalfamo has spent more than 28 years in the venture capital field and has experience in the mobile, enterprise software and digital media industries, said the statement. His investment targets have included Halifax-based Affinio in 2015, and New Brunswick’s iMagicTV, which was an early venture for the Mariner team.

Mariner began in 2003 when veterans of iMagicTV, which provided software for video services, launched a new company to improve the delivery of videos online and alert providers of any problems with video transmissions. That business, known as xVu, has been the core of Mariner’s business.

The company, which employs more than 200 people, has three other pillars: Shift Energy, which has developed an internet-of-things application to conserve energy in large facilities; Mariner Innovations, which provides advisory and professional services and project delivery; and East Valley Ventures, the loosely held portfolio of 28 startup investments, held by Mariner itself and/or members of its network.

Before joining Summerhill, Catalfamo served as Executive Vice-President, CFO and Director of Whitecastle Investments, a leading Canadian private investment company, and co-founder of  its venture practice.

He began his professional career with KPMG, where he held various senior positions in both Canada and the U.K. Catalfamo is a Gold Medal graduate from the University of Waterloo’s Master of Accounting program and holds Chartered Professional Accountant and Certified Management Accountant designations in Canada.

Granville Biomedical Gains Clients

Christine Goudie

Christine Goudie

St. John’s-based Granville Biomedical is improving women’s health by 3D printing vaginal simulation products that allow healthcare workers to learn about injuries caused by childbirth, disease and genital mutilation.

The company, which formed early last year, has already raised funds and gained clients, and has recently been accepted into Genesis, the innovation hub in St. John’s.

Christine Goudie, who is a co-founder, company CEO and product designer, said the venture is offering a modern, cost-effective solution for teaching hospitals and institutions which currently use either expensive silicone and plastic models or cheap items such as pigs’ anuses, cow tongues and car-washing sponges.

“There’s a lack of innovation in the area of women’s health and there has been for years,” Goudie said.  “We aim to produce simulation models at an economical price and get them into the hands of every student.”

The company is working to ensure its products resemble human tissue.

“We are currently developing custom recipes to simulate human soft tissue which will be patented next month,” she said. “That will be an integral part of our market differentiator within our upcoming product line.”

The company is also catering to students who have ethical concerns about using animal products.

“A lot of students, either because they are vegan or for religious reasons, are refusing to use animal parts,” Goudie said. “They’re looking for alternative ways to train.”

Goudie, an industrial designer, first travelled to Bangladesh in 2018 with an outreach mission to teach delegates how to 3D print simulation models.

St. John's-based Cyno Teams Up with Shopify

Goudie said the company’s sales with hospitals and institutions are growing. They also recently filled an order for genital mutilation products for west Africa and will visit Sierra Leone to gauge how effective the models are in developing countries.

“No one else is addressing that topic, that we can find,” she said.

The models show the cutting that occurs in genital mutilation.

“A lot of villagers in the region don’t read or write so this gives them a clearer idea of what the procedures involve and the complications that will arise around childbirth etc.”

She said that, because of immigration, more women who have undergone such procedures now give birth in Canada. She said doctors here either can’t restore a mother’s pre-existing genital surgery or are unwilling to do so.

“Many doctors in North America are not trained in these procedures,” Goudie said. “But they have to make the best decisions around repairing injuries caused by childbirth. Our products help them understand.”

Goudie and co-founder, nurse Crystal Northcott, got their venture off the ground in their native St. John’s by investing their own money. They also received funding from the federal and provincial governments.

The company is planning to raise private investment in the spring, and is looking forward to working with the Genesis Centre, which has already offered the company support and community.

Biomedical engineering research connections mean Granville Biomedical also has an office in Calgary. Goudie said the entrepreneurial network there is also supportive.

“Calgary has hit similar circumstances with the oil and gas crash,” she said. “And it’s beneficial, regarding sales and client acquisition, to be on the both sides of the country.”

Growth means the venture is adding another research nurse from St. John’s and an anatomist from Calgary to the team that includes a researcher/developer and six contractors. They are also seeking a student intern in engineering, who will be based in St. John’s.

There is potential to move into supplying products for other disciplines, such as urology and cosmetic surgery, and the company has already filled an order for a product for men’s urology, but Goudie said the current focus is women’s health.

“There is such need…maternal health, childbirth, endometriosis, cervical cancer etc. We want to help de-stigmatize women’s health,” said Goudie, who plans to grow Granville Biomedical while also studying for a PhD at Memorial University.

SDTC Grants SomaDetect $3.9M

Fredericton-based SomaDetect, whose technology helps to detect disease in dairy cows, has been approved for a $3.9 million grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

The two groups issued a statement on Wednesday saying the funding will help to pilot SomaDetect’s product with dairy farms and industry partners in Canada and the U.S. The company’s product is an automated, in-line sensor that provides dairy farmers with information from individual cows to help improve management decisions, milk quality, and health.

The company will install its sensors and collect data to build algorithms on dairy farms first in North America then globally.

“We are thrilled to have SDTC join us and support the wild adventure that is SomaDetect,” said SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande in a statement. “We are grateful to live at a time when everyone – our farmers, our government, our communities, our SDTC consortium partners, and technologists like us – care about creating the best possible food given the resources we have today.”

SDTC is a foundation created by the Canadian Government to provide money and support for companies developing clean technology solutions. Other Atlantic Canadian companies it has backed include CarbonCure Technologies and Metamaterial Technologies Inc., both of Dartmouth.

Founded in New Brunswick in 2016, SomaDetect combines readings from its sensors with deep-learning algorithm and visualization software to assess the health of each cow in a herd in real-time. Until now, it has taken so long to assess the health of a cow that a disease could become fatal by the time it was identified.

The statement said most dairy farmers do not currently receive data on the milk that they produce with the frequency they need. At most, they receive lab results from milk collected from individual cows once a month, or rely on manual veterinary checks. That means many farmers rely on averaged measurements from milk collection tanks and guesswork to make critical management decisions.

The global dairy industry is demanding better traceability, higher-quality food, and more information about where milk comes from, said the statement, adding that its product can probably help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in dairy farms.

Since SomaDetect will help to increase milk production per cow, fewer cows will be needed, it said. The company estimates this project will result in a 5 to 8 percent reduction in associated GHG emissions on dairy farms, or the equivalent to the energy produced by 55 wind turbines running for one year.

“The projects announced today will bring about the kinds of innovative cleantech solutions that we need in the fight against climate change,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

SomaDetect, which employs 26 people, closed a US$2 million (C$2.6 million) round of funding in August to help it build out its databank and technology. The investors include the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the Western New York Impact Investment Fund, and New York Ventures.

How Doug Jones Developed Ignite

Doug Jones

Doug Jones

As improbable as it sounds, Doug Jones has turned a love of sports into a licencing business, then into an innovation hub in Yarmouth and then into an entrepreneurship network for rural Nova Scotia.

Jones is the CEO of Ignite Labs, the innovation hub that he established in Yarmouth to foster entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia’s southwesterly town. Not only has it nurtured a range of companies that are drawing plaudits in startup circles, but the Ignite franchise has expanded into northern Nova Scotia with the opening of its Stellarton facility in October.

The project has been so successful that Alastair Trower, the head of business development at Halifax-based engineering firm Enginuity, speaks of “the Ignite model” of building a business. He describes it as identifying entrepreneurial ideas that could fly and “wrapping all the support they need around them” to foster growth.

In a phone interview from Yarmouth, Jones said the goal of ignite is to provide physical space and community support for entrepreneurs, and to provide an interface with industry so innovation can be brought to the market.

“In a lot of ways, it opened some people’s eyes,” said Jones, noting that the industry in Yarmouth is mainly the fishery, especially the lobster fishery, which has been lucrative recently. “Now they’re starting to realize that this industry is ripe for innovation.”

The story on Ignite began with Jones’ success with his company Turn2 Innovations, which is dedicated to innovations in sports equipment. An all-round athlete who ended up as a hockey scout, Jones began to come up with improvements to sports equipment that he licenced to sports manufacturers. His innovations have been adopted by such equipment makers as Wilson and Louisville Slugger.

A few years ago, Jones found himself at an event talking to Jeff Mullen, the director of enterprise development at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, who proposed an innovation hub in Yarmouth.

That led to the creation of Ignite Labs, a facility that gives entrepreneurs the tools they need for their businesses. These supports range from the basic tools for prototyping (like 3D printers and CNC machines) to a sound studio, video equipment and drones.

Ignite opened in June 2018, four months after the federal government announced one of its new innovation superclusters would be the oceantech group in Atlantic Canada. The growth of ocean-technology in the region has helped provide support for some of Ignite’s leading ventures, which have benefited from the organization’s partnerships.

For example, The Lobster Trap Company, which is producing a more robust lobster trap than what’s now on the market, worked on its prototyping with Enginuity and worked out of COVE in Dartmouth. And BlackWatch.Tech, which makes next-generation man-overboard equipment, has received support from Innovacorp’s Blue-Green competition, the Spark competition, and Volta Cohort.

In September, the Ignite franchise expanded with the opening of the Ignite facility in Stellarton to serve central and northern Nova Scotia. Jones said the new facility is making headway and has developed a strong relationship with the entrepreneurial community at St. Francis Xavier University. It’s an important relationship because it brings the research capacity that is often missing in rural innovation facilities.

Asked if he was now planning to dot the map with more Ignite outposts, Jones said the priority is simply to support growing companies.

“Our mission is to help entrepreneurs grow their companies and I don’t want to change our focus on that,” he said. “As we grow, it’s important that those entrepreneurs grow economic impact because that's the goal of Ignite.”

ProcedureFlow Partners with Deloitte

ProcedureFlow Director of Partnership Development Ciaran Coate

ProcedureFlow Director of Partnership Development Ciaran Coate

ProcedureFlow , the Saint John company that helps companies’ employees find critical information quickly, has struck a partnership with Deloitte to penetrate new markets in North America and elsewhere.

ProcedureFlow, whose corporate name is Gemba Software Solutions, said in a statement that the partnership reflects the two companies’ ongoing mission to help organizations reduce their training and onboarding time and improve their customer service.

Under the alliance, Deloitte will play a critical role in the implementation of ProcedureFlow as well as providing ongoing services and support for ProcedureFlow customers. The partners said this enables customers to benefit from the range of product features inside ProcedureFlow, along with expertise and insight from Deloitte’s professional services.

“As a rapidly growing organization, we need to provide the best possible professional services for our customers, and that’s exactly what Deloitte brings to the table - the best of the best,” said  ProcedureFlow Director of Partnership Development Ciaran Coates in a statement.

ProcedureFlow is a Software-as-a-Service tool that helps call centres provide employees with the information they need to answer questions thoroughly and immediately.

The company began in 2015 when it was spun out of Saint John tech services company Innovatia. It secured $2 million in equity funding from Innovatia and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and was headed by tech veteran Daniella DeGrace, who had previously worked for successful startups such as Radian6 and Q1 Labs.

Last September, ProcedureFlow announced it had raised $2.9 million in a round led by Build Ventures. The previous investors also invested in the round.

“ProcedureFlow has an impressive ROI,” said Derek Fitzgerald, the Atlantic Leader for Deloitte Value Creation Services. “ProcedureFlow has been able to achieve significant reduction in training and onboarding time, reduce operating costs and empower staff to strengthen client relationships.”

Code Ninjas Opens Halifax Office

A new branch of the global Code Ninjas group has opened to allow Halifax-area kids to learn to code by building video games, robotics, and drones.

Aimed at children aged seven to 14, the new centre will host a grand opening on Feb. 1. Complimentary game-building sessions, STEM learning activities and refreshments will be offered.

The Halifax location is operated by Sean Plumridge, who has worked as a business development leader and has a passion for gaming.

“Code Ninjas offers a place for kids to learn vital skills such as coding, but also teaches problem-solving and critical thinking skills,” said Plumridge in a statement. “Kids will enjoy their time and learn skills that will get them prepared for future employment opportunities.”

Code Ninjas’ core program consists of nine belts, like martial arts. The curriculum is self-paced, but not self-taught; kids get support and encouragement from senseis (instructors) and collaborate with peers as they advance from white to black belt.

The program keeps kids motivated with “Belt-Up” celebrations, where they receive colour-coded wristbands to mark their graduation to the next level.

The organization has hundreds of locations across the globe, which offer a flexible weeknight drop-in program, camps and Parents Night Out events on weekends.

Code Ninjas founder and CEO David Graham is a professional software developer who previously owned a chain of coding camps for adults. He launched Code Ninjas in 2016.

You can find more information about Halifax Code Ninjas here.

PEI’s Startup Zone Eyes Busy 2020

Patrick Farrar

Patrick Farrar

Startup Zone, the entrepreneurial incubator in the heart of Charlottetown, had a busy year in 2019, starting an in-house accelerator and co-hosting a MentorCamp. And now CEO Patrick Farrar is looking forward to more activity in 2020.

Patrick Farrar, who left a senior position with Venture for Canada in 2018 to become the CEO of Startup Zone, said the ecosystem in P.E.I. is evolving with a larger community of entrepreneurs, and greater collaboration in Atlantic Canada and across the country.

The Startup Zone opened in 2016 to provide a hub for entrepreneurial activity on P.E.I., and its position in the community has grown as the number of entrepreneurs has increased. Its website says there are now 80 member companies, three-quarters of whom have increased revenue since joining.

“It’s been a great year,” said Farrar. “Entrepreneurs are in good hands with strong partnerships on the Island and across Atlantic Canada to direct you where you need to go.”

The big story on P.E.I. was the number of high-value transactions, especially in the life sciences sector, that have fueled growth. These include: the sale of drug manufacturer BioVectra to U.S. private equity firm H.I.G. Capital for as much as US$250 million (C$330 million); pet health company MicroSintesis selling a minority stake for $16.4 million to John Risley’s private equity fund, Northern Private Capital; and the P.E.I. research group Center for Aquaculture Technologies selling to Cuna del Mar, the aquaculture-focused investment group backed by Walmart heir Christy Walton.

Meanwhile, the support network for early-stage companies has been developing, especially the Startup Zone Accelerator, which focuses on pushing founders to generate sales, assigning mentors to each young company.

“We’re seeing more entrepreneurs, which leads to more collisions, more collaborations, more networking,” said Farrar. He added Startup Zone is now working more closely with other organizations, such as Atlantic Canadian groups like Volta, Genesis, and Venn, and national groups like Communitech and the Canadian Digital Media Network in Kitchener, Ont., and Startup Canada in Ottawa.

One highlight of 2019 was the Mentorcamp held in Charlottetown in September. As well as a chance for mentorship for several Atlantic Canadian companies, the event also featured a fascinating discussion for the community on the various phases of fundraising, from the first hundred-thousand dollars to more than 10 million.

Farrar believes the increasing numbers of entrepreneurs will help the ecosystem further in 2020. There are more founders thinking big, he said, meaning they’re reaching out to national and international customers to scale their businesses.

“Having more people also lays the groundwork for developing mentors because as these early entrepreneurs develop and gain experience, they will assist others,” said Farrar. “The next year will bring a strong focus on scaling up businesses while continuing to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Eigen Promotes Picot, Barrett

Eigen's Senior Team: Greg Picot, left, Scott Everett and Erin Barrett.

Eigen's Senior Team: Greg Picot, left, Scott Everett and Erin Barrett.

Eigen Innovations, the Fredericton-based artificial intelligence solutions provider, is expanding the role of two senior team members, naming Greg Picot to the role of President and Chief Operating Officer, while Erin Barrett has been promoted to Chief Revenue Officer.

The company issued a press release Monday saying the changes are driven by the demands of Eigen’s growth trajectory and aim to ensure the company can capitalize on its momentum with current and new customers.

Six-year-old Eigen uses AI to help machines manage large amounts of data and improve their productivity. In the past few years, it has been aggressively courting leading customers in the automotive sector.

“These strategic changes provide the structure for running and growing the business while also allowing me to continue to innovate on what makes us unique,” said CEO Scott Everett in the statement. “Greg and Erin are suited for these critical roles not only because of their previous experience but also because of their relentless passion for Eigen’s success.” 

Eigen in the past few years has established itself as one of the leading AI companies in the region. The company began at the University of New Brunswick when a team of researchers began working on algorithms that could help manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. They were working under the guidance of professor and co-founder Rickey Dubay, who still sits on the company’s board.

East Valley Ventures Quietly Books 3 Exits 

Before joining Eigen, Picot was instrumental in helping build New Brunswick start-up Radian6, which was acquired by cloud computing giant Salesforce in 2011. Picot remained with the company in a senior product development role until 2015 when he joined Eigen Innovations as Director of Product Development.

“The path forward for Eigen is really exciting, and there are limitless possibilities,” said Picot.  “In just five years, we’ve grown from two employees working with local manufacturers, to more than 30 employees working with customers around the world.”

Barrett has also spent much of her career in senior roles with technology companies, including eight years with Xplornet Communications, Canada’s leading rural high-speed Internet provider. At Xplornet, she focused on customer acquisition and sales before assuming a key role in strategic business planning.  She joined Eigen’s leadership team in 2017.

“It all starts with providing demonstrable value for our customers.  We’ve proven we can do that,” said Barrett. “We now need to focus on finalizing our offering and go-to market engine to optimize that value at scale.”

In October 2018, Eigen closed a $3.5 million round of funding, led by Toronto-based tech specialist Globalive Technology. The other investors in the round included BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Opportunities New Brunswick, and several New Brunswick angels.

Calling All Startups Launched in 2019

At Entrevestor, we’re now compiling our most recent databank of Atlantic Canadian startups, and we want to make sure we have every company that launched in the past year.

So we’re asking new innovation-based companies that have been flying below the radar to please let us know you’re out there.  We won’t publicize what you’re doing if you don’t want us to. We just want to make sure we account for all the startups that are active in the region.

Why should you do this? The Entrevestor Databank has become the benchmark for metrics on the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and policy-makers in the public and private sectors use our research to assess the health of the region’s startup community. Last year, Atlantic Canada placed No. 4 in the world in the “Activator” category of Startup Genome’s global ranking of startup ecosystems, and we want to know how things have changed in the past 12 months.

We help governments and organizations – the people who support your company – to understand what’s happening in the startup community. To do this, we need to know what new companies have cropped up.

We’re looking for companies that meet three criteria:

  • Majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians;
  • Commercializing technology;
  • And developing a product for the global market.

You might say we’re interested in “investible” companies, so we don’t count tech service companies, consultancies, or web-development firms. They’re great businesses, but they’re not what our research tracks.

Your company doesn’t have to be incorporated to be included in the databank – we just want to count teams that were active in developing a business in 2019.

We’ve accounted for the new companies whose names were published in competitions like Volta Cohort, Spark, Breakthru or Sprint. If your name has appeared in Entrevestor, we’ve got you.

We’re looking for the companies that haven’t been in the news yet. If that’s you, please send an email to peter@entrevestor.com, with your company name, location, CEO, sector, and URL (if you have a website).

All information in the databank is confidential.

Next week, we will begin surveying startups across the region to help us develop a full range of data for 2019. We’re looking forward to see what it reveals about the development of startups in Atlantic Canada.

East Valley Books 3 Recent Exits

A quick study of the Portfolio page on the East Valley Ventures website tells an interesting story about how the Saint John-based investment group has been quietly exiting some companies and investing in others.

In fact, the page shows that East Valley has had three exits in the past 15 months, capped by the year-end sale of Saint John-based Cirrus9 to Toronto’s Carbon60. It was preceded by the sales of Victoria, B.C.-based Tutela Technologies in September 2019 and Barrie-Ont.-based gShift in October 2018.

These have helped the East Valley members to back new companies. At a time that many in the region bemoan the lack of angel funding, East Valley Ventures added three new companies to its portfolio in 2019.

“Two of the three exits provided attractive returns for EVV,” said East Valley Co-Founder Gerry Pond in an email Thursday. “The gShift exit was not material, but provided the company with a growth path.”

East Valley Ventures is an angel investment group, but also a division of a corporation. Its parent is Mariner, the Saint John-based tech conglomerate whose core technology xVu improves the delivery of videos online. Here are its three recent exits:

1. Cirrus9 – This company operates data centres, managed enterprise cloud infrastructure and related hosting services and support. It was never a typical target for angel investment as the company was not developing its own technology, but East Valley saw a business opportunity in backing CEO Fred Bullock’s growing business. East Valley’s Bob Justason served on the Cirrus9 board.

In December, Cirrus9 was purchased by Carbon60, which is backed by Boston private equity firm M/C Partners.

2. Tutela Technologies – East Valley Ventures invested in Victoria, B.C.-based Tutela several years ago, marking the first time EVV members backed a company outside Atlantic Canada. Tutela gathered data on mobile infrastructure, helping mobile phone providers to understand and improve their networks.

East Valley invested in the company mainly as a strategic investment for Mariner, and the investment paid off. In early September, it was bought for an undisclosed price by Boston-based Comlinkdata, a mobile phone data company owned by the private equity firm Alpine Investors.

3. GShift – The story of East Valley’s involvement with gShift dates back to 2013, when East Valley and Innovacorp invested $490,000 in Halifax-based InNetwork, which used a network of influencers to help clients amplify their marketing efforts. Pond became Chair of the InNetwork Board.

In March 2016, InNetwork was acquired by gShift, a company that enhanced search engine optimization through big data and predictive analytics. It was an all-stock deal, so gShift became part of the East Valley portfolio.

GShift was then purchased in October 2018 by Mintent Software Corp., a Vancouver-based maker of content marketing software.

The East Valley website now lists 11 exits, ranging from home runs like the 2011 exits of Q1 Labs and Radian6 (which totaled more than $1 billion) to a few with negligible returns.

It’s worth noting East Valley is plowing money into young companies. Last year it backed Halifax-based cleantech company Aurea Technologies, Halifax-based cybersecurity company Byos, and Fredericton-based eChart Healthcare.

“We really feel optimistic about our current portfolio,” said Pond. “With a few exceptions, all are strong contenders in their fields.”

 

Disclosure: Aurea Technologies’ CEO is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.

7th Wave Capital Launches

Paul LeBlanc

Paul LeBlanc

A new investment group called 7th Wave Capital has been launched to support five established businesses a year in the Maritime Provinces.

The new Halifax-based group is headed by Paul LeBlanc, best known for his communications ventures such as Coastal Communications. The 7th Wave group aims to back five companies each year, providing capital and mentorship from some of the region’s leading business people. It will take a minority position in businesses with annual revenue of $5 million or more.

“Business owners need counsel, contacts and capital in order to reach their full potential,” said LeBlanc in a statement. “And that’s why I created 7th Wave Capital to help transform good Maritime businesses into great global businesses right here from the Maritimes.”

The group’s website said the 7th Wave will invest in companies based on their chemistry with the investors, scale potential, fiscal accountability and the industries they’re in.

The advisory board for the 7th Wave comprises the following business people:

  • Darren Nantes, acting Chairman and CEO of the Guildfords Group of Companies. He is also Chair and CEO of Nantes Capital Inc. and the Nantes Group of Companies.
  • Tom Hickey, CEO of Atlantic Road Construction and the former head of Frontline Safety and Frontline Gold Corp.
  • Dwayne Smithers, President of Prime Material Handling Equipment, and a former senior executive with Secunda Marine Services.
  • Corey Miller, President of Parts for Trucks, and former President of Tirecraft Canada.
  • R.B. Cameron, the head of the Cameron Group of companies.  
  • And Wayne Crawley, Partner at the Venor recruitment agency.

The statement said the group is restricting itself to backing only five companies a year so that the group can focus its resources on each portfolio company and increase chances of success.

The group’s name refers to the belief that the seventh wave is the largest in a set of waves and the one that all surfers look to catch so they can enjoy the best ride into shore.

“Most entrepreneurs aren’t aware of its existence and find themselves thrashing in the ocean alone,” said the statement. “We help business owners spot the wave, prepare for it so they can enjoy the best business ride possible.”

Summer Institute Seeks Applicants

The 2019 Summer Institute Cohort

The 2019 Summer Institute Cohort

The Summer Institute, a 12-week accelerator for young companies from a range of sectors, is looking for applicants for its 2020 cohort, and is especially eager for social ventures to apply.

Now in its seventh year, the program is offered by the University of New Brunswick’s J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship in Fredericton and accepts applicants from around the world.

Though modern accelerators usually court companies founded on new technology, The Summer Institute has made a name for itself helping small businesses with a range of business models. It has had strong success in helping companies with a consumer product or service, emphasizing the design and human components of bringing their products to market.

“The Summer Institute is designed to help early-stage companies with a big vision that encompasses more than just the bottom line,” said Summer Institute Managing Director Joe Allen. “We look for early-stage ventures that want to make a social impact, as well as an impact to their bottom line. It’s an amazing feeling to see these companies and founders grow and meet the potential we see in them.”

The deadline to apply to the program is Feb. 15. You can find more information and application forms here.

Read Our Coverage of the 2019 Summer Institute Demo Day

The Summer Institute accepts five to seven companies each year to participate in its intensive program. The 2020 program will run from April 27 until July 16. Successful applicants receive stipends for living expenses, prototyping grants, access to workspace in downtown Fredericton, and mentor-led programming aimed at developing sustainable and profitable companies.

The program is a member of the Global Accelerator Network, an invitation-only community of organizations that provide startups with the best resources to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are.

The Summer Institute has helped to launch more than 35 companies since its first cohort in 2014, and prominent alumni include Stash Energy, Koffee Organics, UpFront Cosmetics, and Educated Beards.

"The Summer Institute has made such a huge difference in my business and my personal growth,” said UpFront Cosmetics Founder Alicia Sharp, who graduated from the 2019 program. “I was able to make my vision laser-sharp and grow my business more in 12 weeks of the program than I had in the previous 12 months on my own and my growth since the program has been astronomical.”

Moncton’s Prelam Aids SMEs

Moncton-based Prelam Enterprises, which specializes in odour control offerings like Just’a Drop and LUKY8, is offering to share its manufacturing facility and expertise to businesses in Atlantic Canada.

“We realized that a lot of small companies are doing it in their kitchen, in their garage, or basement. But if they want to scale up, there’s no real way to do that unless you invest a lot of money for equipment, a location, the resources for trademarks, laboratory, certification and all sorts of challenges that I went through 20 years ago,” co-founder Luc Jalbert says.

With this offering, smaller businesses can take advantage of the system that Prelam uses to invent, formulate, brand, manufacture and distribute their own products in Canada and abroad.

“We realized that we have the whole infrastructure here, we have all the resources here and the knowledge, and also we’re able to produce because we have the square footage to do other people’s products,” he said. . . .

Read the full story in Huddle.

MTI To List and Raise Up To $30M

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Dartmouth has received conditional approval for its public listing from the Canadian Securities Exchange, and expects to bring in as much as $30 million in capital in the coming months.

Founder and CEO George Palikaras said in an interview that the company, known as MTI, received approval from the Toronto-based stock exchange just before the holidays, and expects the shares to start trading by the end of March.

MTI, which makes synthetic materials that can alter the properties of light, plans to use some of the proceeds from the new capital to further develop its manufacturing facilities in Dartmouth.

“I like to joke that we’re bringing Silicon Valley to Dartmouth, and maybe in the future Silicon Dartmouth will be a reality,” said Palikaras in a phone interview from Las Vegas, where he is attending the Consumer Electronics Show.

Palikaras was unable to provide more details on the fund-raising, other than to say the new capital would be a mix of dilutive and non-dilutive funding. Dilutive funding is direct equity investment from shareholders while non-dilutive funding is loans and grants.

MTI announced in June that it planned to list on the CSE via a reverse takeover by Toronto-based Continental Precious Minerals, which already has a listing on the exchange. The CSE has now conditionally approved that deal, which will allow the listing to proceed pending a few other regulatory procedures. The company’s trading symbol will be MMAT.

Having already completed two acquisitions, MTI decided to seek the listing so it can raise more capital more quickly, especially for when trying to buy other companies. Palikaras said raising money in venture capital markets can be cumbersome for a deep-technology materials company, and due diligence is time consuming because VC funds don’t have sector specialists in the industry.

MTI so far has made its name in the aerospace industry – mainly through its joint venture with the European airplane manufacturer Airbus. The companies have worked together to produce laser glare protection films and eyewear to protect aircraft pilots from laser attacks.

Palikaras and his team have long planned to branch into other fields, and in the interview the CEO said the company will focus on the automotive and consumer electronics industries. (Palikaras is attending the CES in Las Vegas to meet with potential consumer electronics clients.)

The new capital will help the company develop its manufacturing capacity to enter these fields. MTI has recently identified a 50,000-square-foot facility in Dartmouth that it hopes will become its new manufacturing base. Palikaras said it is large enough to accommodate the company’s growth over the next few years.

MTI now employs more than 40 people, and Palikaras anticipates his staff will increase by 20 to 30 percent in 2020, with most of the hiring coming late in the year subject to customer traction.

He also anticipates growth in revenues. MTI has been in revenue since 2016, and product revenue is expected to increase with new product introductions and increased manufacturing capabilities. MTI has booked sales of about $1 million to $1.6 million in each year since 2016, and the company now has $3.5 million in orders on its books.

Said Palikaras: “We’re very excited about what 2020 will bring.”

START[2020] To Award $25K Prize

Ignite Labs, the Nova Scotia Innovation Hub and BioNB are teaming up to host START[2020], an Atlantic Canadian sustainable innovation pitch competition that will award $25,000 to the winning entrant.

The new program was announced this week by: Ignite Labs, which operates innovation incubators in rural Nova Scotia; The Nova Scotia Innovation Hub, a group dedicated to sustainable energy; and BioNB, the life sciences association in New Brunswick.

START[2020] is targeting entrepreneurs, startups, and existing businesses across Atlantic Canada that are producing innovation in the “biocircular economy”. That means they are producing products or services that are based on natural materials, or that are renewable, bio-degradable, and/or can be composted.

“START[2020] was created to build an ecosystem of sustainable innovation in Atlantic Canada and to help entrepreneurs, startups, and existing businesses bring their ideas to reality,” said Ignite Northern Regional Manager Sebastian Green in the statement. “This competition also represents a collaborative, inter-provincial, partnership between Ignite, The Innovation Hub, and BioNB, which makes positive change possible.”

The competition is open to any company or individual creating new value with bio-resources from any industry or sector. As well as a $25,000 prize, the winner stands to gain access to commercialization opportunities through partner organizations, prospective investors, and industry experts.

Examples of value-added innovation in the biocircular economy are:

•            Creating new products from natural sources, such as wood fibre or seaweed;

•            Creating new products from waste or biproduct materials, such as municipal solid waste or fly ash;

•            Capturing and storing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere;

•            Capturing biogas from landfills;

•            Or creating energy from biomass materials.

Applications are open until Feb. 29, and five finalists will be selected by April 1. They will be invited to pitch at the Atlantic BIOCON 2020 conference in May. The five finalists will each have five minutes to pitch their ideas followed by five minutes of questions from a panel of judges.

You can find more information and apply here.

Cyno Teams Up With Shopify

St. John’s-based Cyno, whose online platform helps physiotherapists work with patients, has signed a service agreement with ecommerce giant Shopify to provide ergonomic services to corporations.

Cyno issued a press release Monday announcing the deal with Shopify, the Ottawa-based company that offers ecommerce services to more than 1 million businesses in more than 175 countries.

Together, they will allow corporations to assess the ergonomic environment for their workforce in a cost-efficient manner with the goal of improving employee health and productivity.

“We noticed that corporations are starting to cultivate a large global workforce and they’re facing challenges to ensure that all employees are working in an ergonomically safe environment,” said Cyno Founder and CEO Peter Barbour in the statement. “With the growing trend of global and remote workforces, there is a massive need for a workplace ergonomics solution that is easy to roll out on a global scale.”

The Cyno statement said ergonomic assessments and other office health and safety services are now only offered in-person in most work environments. This requires a provider to physically travel to each workspace to conduct the work. “We realized that up to 50 percent of the service costs and delivery wait times was due to the barrier of travel,” said Barbour.

With the growing trend of flexible work, many companies have employees who work from home or in remote locations. This can present challenges in arranging for a provider to come on-site to complete assessments. Cyno said its solution eliminates the travel component and can offer ergonomic services faster and more cost-effectively anywhere in the world.

The Cyno platform uses encrypted live-stream video to connect employees with ergonomists so a full visual assessment of the workstation can take place. Using other secure features such as photo and video sharing, chat messaging and document transfer, an ergonomic specialist can create a report and, if necessary, recommend equipment. Once the equipment is approved by the company, Cyno will ship the equipment directly to the employee’s location.

Cyno was founded in 2017 in St. John’s and works out of Genesis, the city’s tech incubator. Cyno helps physiotherapists to work with the patients outside of their clinics and outside of office hours. It has developed a digital platform that includes a secure video link and additional functionality so physios can connect with their patients anywhere and anytime.

Last September, the company closed a $600,000 funding round from local investors and an additional commitment of $450,000 from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 

“We’re excited to see what the next year will bring,” said Barbour. “We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our platform meets the global privacy and security standards so we can service any company that has a global workforce. The sky is the limit.”

Jobs: 2 Openings at Halifax’s Rimot

Our Job of the Week column today features a pair of openings at Halifax-based Rimot, which is looking for a Chief Operating Officer and an AI Data Developer.

Rimot helps companies or organizations to monitor their private wireless communications systems in remote locations. Its RimotRF solution constantly collects information about the transmitter and site, combining it with weather data to give a complete picture of what is happening in the field.

The company raised $1.2 million in funding last summer.

The Job 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:

Halifax

Rimot

Chief Operating Officer

The Chief Operating Officer will enable the operation of the business to drive extensive and sustainable growth. The COO focuses on how best to run the company, think about strategy, and sustainably move the company forward.

Based out of our office in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, and reporting to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), as a key member of the senior management team that also includes Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and part-time Chief Financial Officer. The role oversees diverse business operations requiring the skills of an experienced and efficient leader ideally in technology-driven companies. Excellent people skills, business acumen and exemplary work ethics enable the drive to build great companies.

Responsibilities

· Run the business planning process and regular progress reporting

· Help define and deepen the positive company culture and vision

· Empower the recruiting, development and retention of great talent

· Oversee HR policies, benefits, and stock option plans

· Assist CEO in fundraising ventures for new equity and non-dilutive investment

· Develop and continuously improve corporate processes and business systems

· Identify and report on key performance indicators for each area of the business

· Help the team to win major deals and customers

· Manage capital and expenses to ensure we meet targets for growth and profitability

· Manage partners and vendors, including as a relationship prime for many

· Build and maintain trusted relationships with key customers, partners, and other stakeholders

· Supports governance and reporting activities for Board and investors . . . 

Read the full job posting here.

AI Data Developer

Based out of our office in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, you will Identify and refine project requirements to solve AI challenges. You will use cognitive and ML-based techniques to predict scenarios and prescribe actions. You will work alongside our back-end development team. You will collaborate with the front-end developers and other team members to establish objectives and design more functional, cohesive methods to enhance the user experience.

Responsibilities

Signs you have what it takes

· Problem solver - You are not afraid of challenging problems and attack them tenaciously with a structured and analytical approach. A lack of documentation, or incorrect documentation does not scare you, and you are able to fight through the challenge.

· Positive attitude - What others see as a risk or threat, you see as opportunity. You create change in creating solutions for constant improvement across the architecture.

· Team Player - You value being part of a great team and realize that being positive and helpful is as valuable as having great skill. You are eager to communicate clearly and confidently about innovative recommendations to improve function across the architecture.

Qualifications

If you had all of the following skills, you would be a rock star on our team

· Experience in back-end development with service-oriented design and development

· Experience with deep learning models. Optimize/ customize/ refine them

· Experience with MEAN stack especially with NodeJS, REST API, and SQL and Mongo experience

· Experience developing and consuming web services and using cloud services (AWS) . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Outcast Foods Closes $3M Round

TJ Galiardi and Darren Burke

TJ Galiardi and Darren Burke

Outcast Foods, a Halifax company that makes nutritional ingredients and supplements out of food that would otherwise be thrown out, has raised $3 million in financing.

The company formerly known as Beyond Food issued a press release Thursday announcing the financing round, which follows a $1 million angel round early in 2019. The lead investors in the latest round include: The Cosine Group, a private equity firm in Boston; David Hoffman of Oxford Frozen Foods; Torey Krug from the Boston Bruins; and Stu Rath.

Outcast Foods’ mission is to reduce food wastage, a $49.5-billion-a-year annual problem in Canada alone, by finding supermarket produce that is about to be tossed out and converting it into nutritional powders. The company, which was recently named Innovator of the Year by Divert Nova Scotia, is already selling its products to food companies in several countries.

“The more layers of the onion we peeled back, from grocers to farms, the more produce we found being tossed into a landfill,” said Co-Founder TJ Galiardi in the statement. “We’ve found a way to create a full-circle sustainable model out of highly nutritious produce that was needlessly being discarded.”

Galiardi, a former National Hockey League player, co-founded the company two years ago with serial entrepreneur Darren Burke. They’ve been researching the food waste problem for several years and have developed patent-pending technology to overcome it. The statement said their solution uses several innovations from machine learning to a novel, high-efficiency drying invention they recently commercialized.

In June, the federal government announced that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency had leant the company $925,000 to develop a brand and marketing plan and help to build a manufacturing facility in Dartmouth. That plant also opened in June, and Burke said in an email that funds from the most recent funding round will be used to expand the production capabilities of the facility.

Outcast Foods, which has 12 full-time and four part-time employees, has been working for more than a year with a national grocer and several large-scale farms to help mitigate unnecessary food waste. It plans to move across the country and eventually into international markets.

“The magnitude of this situation motivates us,” said Burke in the statement. “On one end of the food supply chain there are tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables being buried and creating greenhouse gases, and the other end there is significant food insecurity and children going to school hungry every day. By extending the shelf life of the valuable nutrients from food, we can find numerous beneficial uses such as natural health products, pet food, cosmetics, and more using our upcycling technology."

Outcast said it is now selling its nutrient-dense powders to large-scale food companies around the world, working with socially conscious grocers and farms to reduce food waste, and planning the construction of its first large-scale, zero-waste facility.

3 Things To Watch For in 2020

Now that we’re through the year-end festivities and returning to work, let’s look at what we can expect from Atlantic Canadian startups in the 21st year of the 21st century.

Here are three things we’re watching in the coming year.

Funding

Funding in 2019 was both fantastic and, well, weird, and it would be nice if financing was a bit more conventional this year. It was fantastic because Atlantic Canadian innovators raised more than $600 million in capital, the first time the region has ever exceeded $200 million. The weird part is that few of the deals were textbook venture capital deals. Even the earth-shaking $515 million round closed by St. John’s based Verafin was a hybrid of debt and equity.

Other than Halifax-based ABK Biomedical’s $40 million VC round, there were a range of sources for capital. Charlottetown-based life sciences company MicroSintesis raised $16.4 million in private equity from John Risley’s Northern Private Capital. Dartmouth’s IMV raised $29.5 million by selling shares in stock markets in March. Other companies like Metamaterial Technologies and Swarmio received commitments worth millions of dollars in preparation for their stock market listings.

Our 2019 Review Highlighted Just One Story: Verafin

The important thing is that money is flowing into Atlantic Canadian companies. The goal of the whole startup thing is to produce big companies, and those companies need capital to grow in good times or survive if we hit a recession. For the sake of optics, it would be great if Atlantic Canadian companies announced a few more pure VC deals this year.

One final note on funding: San Francisco-based Startup Genome ranked Atlantic Canada No. 4 in the world last year in the “Activator” category of its global ecosystem rankings. The ranking is based in part on funds raised by the region’s startups. Startup Genome only counts companies that are 10 years old or younger, so the 2019 funding by Verafin (founded in 2003) won’t count. I don’t know how Startup Genome calculates its rankings, but we may slip in the rankings this year.

An Exit that Means Something

Exits drive growth in the startup community, recapitalizing the local investment community and increasing hiring. But Atlantic Canada has had only one “meaningful” exit in the past five years – STI Technologies of Halifax, which was reportedly sold for more than $200 million.

In 2019, there was the follow-on sale of Charlottetown-based BioVectra for US$250 million (about C$325 million), but the capital flowed from one offshore owner to another. Other than that, the exits last year involved Saint John-based data centre owner Cirrus9, Halifax-based Alpha Dog Games and The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies, a P.E.I.-based research group. None revealed their sale price.

What’s needed is an exit that draws attention to the region and rewards a host of investors, both institutional and individual. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one.

CarbonCure

CarbonCure has the potential to be the Verafin of Halifax – one local company a city can hold up as a global leader. CarbonCure, which reduces carbon in the atmosphere by using CO2 to cure concrete, has expanded into Asia, and its tech is being used in more than 100 cement plants. Bill Gates recently highlighted the company in a blog. The fact that it’s a social venture attacking the greatest problem facing the world only amplifies its standing.

This is a big year for CarbonCure. It is one of 10 finalists in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge, which recognizes companies that find commercial uses for carbon. CarbonCure has already received US$500,000 as a finalist and could win a further US$7.5 million when the two winners are announced this year. A win would provide meaningful development capital and a sign that this is company to be reckoned with.

Bloxo Partners with reSPORT

Bloxo co-founders COO Shitangshu Roy, left, CEO Mabdu Alali, and CFO Jennifer Machattie.

Bloxo co-founders COO Shitangshu Roy, left, CEO Mabdu Alali, and CFO Jennifer Machattie.

Halifax-based Bloxo Inc., which aims to improve access to recreational sports, has partnered with Sports Nova Scotia’s reSPORT initiative and will launch the full version of its mobile app this winter.

Within a single application, Bloxo will allow facility managers to post open time slots, for sports organizers to book those slots and bring in other players, who can join and pay for a game. For example, if you want to organize a soccer game, you can book a field, invite your friends to join and have them pay their share of the costs – all on one app.

The reSPORT initiative was created to deliver solutions that aid segments of the population who are excluded from sports and help overcome barriers to sports participation. It now champions nine new methods of delivering sports, with Bloxo making the 10th.

“When I came to Canada, the system was so complex to me,” said Bloxo founder and CEO Mubdu Alali, who is an international student from Saudi Arabia. “I just wanted to play sports and it was overwhelming. The signup process can take weeks and involve complex processes, for some people that might not even be able to use email.”

Since the beta launch in April, the Bloxo team has been adding new features in accordance with its development plan and user feedback. The team has also forged partnerships with sports institutions and facilities like SMU athletics, local YMCAs, and Halifax PLAYS. These partnerships with larger institutions are the key to Bloxo’s current and future expansion.

Bloxo and Four Other Teams Win $25K Each from Volta Cohort

The Bloxo app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices and uses a simple interface so participants can easily sign up and join any type of game that organizers have posted. Some games are free, but Bloxo will also link to payment methods and charge 15 percent of the organizers’ chosen price. The goal is for users to be able to join and pay with three clicks.

“My motto is simple,” said Alali “We want to create alternatives for people. There is a physical activity crisis [and it is] Canada-specific. We have an F rating for adults.”

The platform has clear utility for facility managers looking for ways to fill their open time slots and maximize revenue. Currently, booking a space for your game as an organizer can consume a huge amount of time. It can involve searching different venues and communicating with the managers. Bloxo wants to put that all into one app so renting a space for a soccer or badminton match can be as easy as the three-click join.

While development continues, Alali has been honing his pitch skills. Bloxo recently won The Spark Zone pitch contest and was declared a winner of the Volta Cohort – which comes with $25,000 in funding as well as office space and other support. To date, Bloxo’s founders have largely financed the company themselves or sought investment from family and friends. Now, Alali says they have runway for more than three months. That’s enough for the full launch and time to develop a clearer view of the company’s value and market before an initial funding round.

Growing out of Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre, Bloxo’s five-person team now works from Volta.

Have a Great Holiday!

Our final post of 2019 is a simple wish: We hope all our readers have a fantastic holiday and prosperous New Year. 

We're taking the holidays off, and we've now posted for the last time until Jan. 2 (unless something epic happens next week and we feel we have to report on it).

Each year at this time, we post this photo of our official Entrevestor Christmas Tree ornament, which our daughter Cat Adalay 3D printed several years ago. It's the only piece of Entrevestor swag we've ever produced in the eight years we've been going, and this picture is a reminder to reflect on what's happened in the past year. 

The past year has been full of highlights for the East Coast startup community, and has easily been the biggest year ever for Entrevestor.

As well as covering a busy year in news, we made our Atlantic Canada Startup Data report public for the first time, and launched our Ecosystem Roadmap. We could not have carried out these projects without the support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Volta. They mean that Entrevestor is now not just a news site but a central hub for information on the East Coast startup communty. 

We're looking forward to another big year in 2020, for both Entrevestor and the community it covers. But first, it's time to relax for a few days and enjoy the holidays. Many thanks to all of our readers and the organizations that support our work. Talk to you in the New Year. 

Just One Story in 2019: Verafin

Verafin CEO Jamie King

Verafin CEO Jamie King

It seems obvious there is only one story for a 2019 year-end wrap-up for the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

It’s Verafin.

In September, the St. John’s company whose software helps financial institutions combat fraud and money laundering announced that it had raised $515 million in equity and debt financing. It was the largest venture capital deal ever by a Canadian company.

Yes, we could write about Halifax-based ABK Biomedical’s US$30 million (C$40 million) VC funding, the largest ever for an Atlantic Canadian life-sciences company. Or Fredericton’s Introhive claiming 10th place in the Deloitte Tech Fast50, the top place ever for an East Coast company. Or CoLab Software and Sequence Bio, both of St. John’s, becoming the companies from the region to attend the Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley.

But none of these could match the Verafin Funding.

The deal included equity financing from existing investors Spectrum Equity and Information Venture Partners and new backers Northleaf Capital Partners, BDC Capital and Teralys Capital. Verafin, which did not provide a breakdown of the equity and debt components, also borrowed money from such lenders as Wells Fargo Capital Finance and Scotiabank.

Having reflected on and discussed the deal for three months, here are five year-end observations on the deal:

Verafin Is Big and Growing: Usually a bashful company, Verafin’s statement in September gave a rare glimpse of how big it’s grown. It employs more than 500 people. Its 3,000 clients include 25 lenders with more than US$5 billion each in assets. The company hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue in the first quarter of 2019, representing 87 percent growth in ARR since the beginning of 2017. That was BEFORE the company restocked its arsenal with half-a-billion dollars in capital, giving it the firepower to continue to grow.

The Billion Dollar Company: For years, the startup community has longed for an Atlantic Canadian tech company valued at $1 billion, known as a “unicorn” or in Canada a “narwhal”. Developing such a beast is the long-held goal of Gerry Pond and the IT accelerator Propel. Verafin would not reveal the valuations of its deal, but it’s not hard to see that the investors may have valued the company at $1 billion. The thinking is that once Atlantic Canada gets its first unicorn, others will follow. “Newfoundland – and the same could be same for Atlantic Canada – doesn’t need one Verafin,” said the company’s Co-Founder Brendan Brothers in an interview. “It needs 10 Verafins.”

A Cause for Celebration in St. John’s: The Verafin deal has been a boon to the Atlantic region, which can now claim the biggest VC deal ever in Canada. (Though no one knows how long the record will stand.) But the benefits have been magnified in St. John’s, which was already on a roll and has been energized by the Verafin deal. When the founders of collaboration software company CoLab Software attended the Y Combinator accelerator last summer, mentors repeatedly told them they’d have to move from St. John’s to reach their potential. They can now point to a cross-town company that wasn’t held back by its location. “When you see someone do something you didn’t think was possible, it tells you that you can do it too,” said CoLab CEO Adam Keating.

There Were Few Other Financings of Note: So the good news is that with the Verafin financing, Atlantic Canadian innovation companies will have raised about $600 million in equity capital this year – having never broken through $200 million in any previous year. The other big deal this year was ABK Biomedical’s C$40 million funding in April. (At the time, it was the biggest VC deal ever in Atlantic Canada, a record it held for only 170 days.) But ABK and Verafin accounted for 94 percent of the $600 million in funding, meaning little was raised by anyone else. There were a few funding rounds in the low seven figures, but otherwise there were not enough scaling companies bringing in meaningful amounts of capital. That will hurt in the next few years.

The Tech Talent Pool in St. John’s May Get Even Tighter: When the Atlantic Canada Economic Council released its superb report on IT talent in the region last summer, it noted that companies were having trouble finding IT staff. In Newfoundland and Labrador, employers rated the problem 3.67 out of a possible five, with five representing extreme pain. (By comparison, New Brunswick was rated 3.87 and Nova Scotia 2.84.) The number may go up soon in St. John’s. With $515 million in capital, Verafin is ready to hire. So are CoLab, Mysa Smart Thermostat and other companies that raised capital this year. Even before the Verafin raise, Paul Preston at the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation was warning that the province faced a shortfall of about 200 programmers a year in the next five years. But the talent crunch may not be quite as crunchy as feared. Michelle Simms, the CEO of Genesis, said she asked founders at a recent round table about talent availability and got mixed reports. She said companies are having difficulty finding high level positions like CTOs or people with specialized skills, but they report being able to find people with general skillsets.

How PLATO Embraces Reconciliation

For Jenilee Paul of St. Mary’s First Nation, her role as a course instructor at PLATO can help other Indigenous people see a path for growth in the IT sector.

“It’s kind of like being a role model. You’re setting that path so the people in the courses afterward can come into it and know that they can move up the ladder and take on more courses, more skill sets or leadership roles,” she said.

Paul says there’s not a lot of tech job opportunities accessible to Indigenous communities in New Brunswick. It’s generally not a sector where they’re involved either. But PLATO is changing that because, in addition to five-month courses on software testing and automation, it also offers part-time or full-time employment.

“Being in the field with others, for Indigenous people who haven’t done anything in IT or in that field, you have that sense that you’re not alone in it,” she said. . . .

Read the full story in Huddle.

Kinduct Signs Deal with NSHA

Travis McDonough: 'We have some very significant whales at the end of a hook.'

Travis McDonough: 'We have some very significant whales at the end of a hook.'

Halifax-based Kinduct Technologies has signed a contract with the Nova Scotia Health Authority that will allow the roll-out of a new program to improve the treatment of orthopedic patients in the province.

The contract nails down the details of an agreement announced in April, when the NSHA teamed up with Kinduct, Montreal-based Emovi Inc., and Halifax’s OrthoMX to reveal a new suite of digital tools to aid orthopedic treatment. The goal is to help people being considered for knee, hip and lower back surgery, and to do so with technology made in Nova Scotia.

What it means for the patient is shorter wait times as the suite of digital products will help the healthcare system determine whether a patient needs to see a surgeon or should receive other treatments. The tools can also aid recovery from surgery, as the tools inform patients and provide a customized, data-based recovery plan.

What it means for Kinduct is that the tech company plans to shift its focus over the next few years from the sports medicine and training market to the healthcare market. Its team has been working on the orthopedic product for a decade and believes healthcare represents a bigger opportunity than sports.

The company’s healthcare market is “going to dwarf [sports] in the next three to four years,” said Kinduct Founder and CEO Travis McDonough in an interview. “We see a complete reversal for us. Sport has been an interesting petri dish for us where we’ve developed and tested the product, and it is a good market. But this is now ready for prime time.”

With a current staff of about 70 people, Kinduct has done well with its Athlete Management System, which is used by well over 100 professional and elite sports organizations. The software helps these organizations collect and analyze data on one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions about training and healthcare for athletes.

McDonough and Allan Hennigar, Kinduct’s subject matter expert in healthcare, said partners in the NSHA project have been beta-testing the suite of products with high satisfaction ratings from patients. In the coming year, they will onboard thousands of Nova Scotian patients, and the platform will be made available to 1,000 general practitioners, 250 physiotherapists and 60 surgeons.

The products operate as a unit with each company bringing different features. Kinduct provides the basic platform with the user interface and a library of data. Emovi has produced a digital tool that assesses a patient’s knee joint functions, and OrthoMX (co-founded by Halifax medtech business development specialist Barbara Campbell and NSHA orthopaedic surgeon Michael Dunbar) has developed the InStride mobile app, which assesses the walking patterns of orthopedic patients. Together, they received $2 million in backing from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to launch the NSHA project.

And over the next few years, Kinduct aims to get its medtech product into more hospitals and healthcare facilities.  McDonough said his company, OrthoMX, and Emovi are able to sell their own products independently while giving customers the option of also bringing aboard the other members of the NSHA project. Kinduct itself is already well into the sales cycle.

“We have some very significant whales at the end of a hook,” said McDonough. “We have been talking to a hospital supply organization who supplies 6,000 hospitals with a range of product, including both hardware and software. There are individual hospitals as well.”

NB’s Cirrus9 Acquired by Carbon60

Cirrus9, a Saint John-based managed cloud and data center operator, has been acquired by Carbon60 for an undisclosed price, and will now grow as part of Carbon60’s coast-to-coast operation.

Founded nine years ago by CEO Fred Bullock, Cirrus9 operates data centres, managed enterprise cloud infrastructure and related hosting services and support. It serves customers in both the public and private sectors with a client base extending from Atlantic Canada to British Columbia.

The Cirrus9 team will now become part of Carbon60, and Bullock will join the Toronto company’s management team and serve as Senior Vice-President of Business Solutions.

“The Cirrus9 team is excited to be joining Carbon60,” said Bullock in a statement. “Carbon60 shares our belief in delivering high-quality client experience as a way to differentiate in the fragmented managed services market. As the market continues to evolve, clients are increasingly looking for a trusted partner to support their businesses across multiple cloud platforms.”

Closing out a slow year for exits in Atlantic Canada, the Cirrus9 sale is undoubtedly good news for Saint John investment group East Valley Ventures, whose members invested in the company. Bob Justason, a founding member of East Valley, served on the Cirrus9 Board.

The Saint John enterprise will now become part of a far larger organization with operations in Toronto, Vancouver, Kelowna, New York, and London. The addition of Cirrus9’s New Brunswick base now gives it a true pan-Canadian presence.  

“Cirrus9’s clients will be able to leverage Carbon60’s managed AWS and Azure cloud design, migration and management expertise for secure and compliant cloud-native and hybrid cloud transformation,” said Bullock.

Carbon 60 is backed by M/C Partners, a Boston private equity firm that has invested $2.2 billion into more than 100 enterprises.

In this transaction, RBC provided financial advice to Cirrus9, which sought legal counsel from McInnes Cooper and Pierce Law. Dentons served as the legal counsel for Carbon60.

“Cirrus9 is a valuable addition to the Carbon60 organization with a team of skilled technical personnel and an impressive list of major enterprise clients across Canada,” said Carbon60 CEO John Witte. “Cirrus9 is a natural fit with Carbon60’s strategy to lead businesses across Canada in their IT cloud transformations combined with a culture of delivering superior client experiences.”

Our Data Shows How NL Is Advancing on Two Fronts.

There have been two main trends in the Newfoundland and Labrador startup community in recent years – the flood of new companies, and the accelerating advance of its most successful ventures.

This is rare. Some communities do a great job of nurturing their best companies, but without bringing in a new wave of entrepreneurs. Others continue to encourage and train new entrepreneurs, while their existing companies have trouble growing.

The startup community in Newfoundland and Labrador is advancing on both fronts, with established companies making strong gains and new companies sprouting up. And Genesis, the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, or MCE, and Bounce Health Innovation have all added or enhanced programs to improve an ecosystem that has already drawn applause from its constituents.

“It’s one of the best ecosystems for startups that I’ve ever seen,” said Matias Nielsen, a native Dane who has launched his ecommerce support company Oliver POS in St. John’s.

According to data collected by Entrevestor, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018 launched 24 new companies, more than ever before. It means the province has the youngest startup community in the region – 55 percent of the NL companies we’re following were one or two years old as of the end of 2018. It will likely mean more failures going forward as most of these new companies have yet to go through the rigours of the marketplace, but it will no doubt produce some successful ventures as well.

There are three reasons for this spike in company launches. First, Genesis has upped its game in the last few years, moving from the university’s main campus to the Emera Innovation Exchange. In 2019, it has also taken over the Common Ground co-working space in central St. John’s and launched a $775,000 micro-investment fund. These moves have tripled the organization’s capacity, and made it a member of the broader community rather than part of MUN. The overall effect has been a wider outreach to more entrepreneurs. Genesis’ Evolution program for pre-seed companies has now been going for several years and is helping young companies find product-market fit.

Second, the MCE has done a great job of helping Memorial students develop ideas for companies and provide early-stage mentorship. It provides initial funding through the Woodward Cup competition, which in early 2019 handed out $35,000 in prize money to five companies.

MCE Seeks Entries for 2020 Woodward Cup

MCE is also involved in the third factor – the Bounce Health Innovation. Bounce is a collaborative effort between MCE, Eastern Health, the MUN Faculty of Medicine and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries, or NATI. The Bounce process starts with participants asking Eastern Health what problems the province’s biggest health authority is facing. Once they’ve identified a problem, they bring together innovators to try to find a solution.

Take for instance BreatheSuite, a company that aims to improve the use of inhalers. CEO Brett Vokey started the company during a work term for his engineering degree. Going through the Bounce process, he learned that too many people don’t use inhalers properly, rendering them all but useless. The structure of Bounce allowed the engineer to understand this medical problem and work toward a marketable solution. BreatheSuite closed a $550,000 equity funding round in 2019.

This improved ecosystem for launching companies is underpinning a community that is producing some remarkable ventures.

The clearest indication of the growth was the announcement in the fall of 2019 that Verafin had raised $515 million in equity and debt financing, the largest raise of growth capital ever by a Canadian tech company. St. John’s-based Verafin, which produces anti-fraud and anti-money-laundering software for financial institutions, now employs more than 500 people, and hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue in the first quarter of 2019.

But Verafin was not the only company making advances.

Sequence Bio and CoLab Software both entered the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley in the summer of 2019 – the only Atlantic Canadian companies to have done so.  CoLab, whose software helps with collaboration in 3D design, later said it had raised $2.7 million in capital after Y Combinator.  

St. John's-based Rally Raises $750,000 in Funding

We’ve classified nine NL startups as elite companies, and four as scaling. That means 12 percent of the startups in the province are in our top tiers for growth-stage companies.

Newfoundland and Labrador also has the smallest base of zombie companies in the region. According to Entrevestor’s analysis, only three companies (4 percent of all NL startups) are considered zombies, compared with the proportion for all Atlantic Canada of 12 percent. 

In 2018, the funding for Newfoundland and Labrador came in at $8.4 million. That was less than half the $18.4 million reported in 2017, but is nonetheless a good level. Stripping out the Verafin private equity funding in 2014, the province had never produced more than $4 million in equity funding in any year before 2017.

The startups on The Rock also showed strong traction with revenues growing at a weighted average of 178 percent – more than double the figure for all of Atlantic Canada. Employment by these startups rose by 18 percent to more than 1,000 jobs as of Dec. 31 2018.

In 2019, there were auspicious signs for the outlook of early-stage financing in the province when Pelorus Venture Capital Director Chris Moyer announced the raising of a second Venture NL fund. “We would like to continue investing in Newfoundland and Labrador because we think it is a strong ecosystem,” said Moyer. “We think it is the strongest [ecosystem] in Atlantic Canada.”

CEED, BoomersPlus in Mentoring Programs

The Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development and BoomersPlus.com have teamed up to develop a network of mentors to support the startup ecosystem in Nova Scotia.

CEED and BoomersPlus issued a press release Tuesday saying they’re now involved in two pilot programs in which experienced business people are helping entrepreneurs to launch and/or grow their businesses.

Halifax-based BoomersPlus, which raised more than $1 million in equity financing in October 2018, helps retired business executives keep active with part-time contracts or similar work. It has a database of several thousand seasoned professionals who want to give back by helping entrepreneurs. CEED is a Halifax-headquartered organization that is responsible for entrepreneurial training throughout Nova Scotia.  

Under the partnership, companies going through CEED programs will be linked with mentors from the BoomersPlus lists to receive business advice from experienced executives.

“Our boomers have all had successful careers and want to reengage by sharing their wisdom and experiences with start-ups,” said BoomersPlus Founder Rick Emberley in the statement. “This is the type of partnership that helps more new entrepreneurs start businesses which drive economic growth.”

In existing pilot programs, BoomersPlus is providing mentors to CEED’s Above The Median Seniors Entrepreneurship program, which is supported by the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors. Mentors are also being provided to the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education’s new self-employment program with entrepreneurs from CEED and CBDC Bluewater.

These programs are scheduled to wrap up in February and June respectively, and CEED anticipates a full launch of its programs with BoomersPlus in April.

Halifax's Enginuity Targets Hardware Markers

The mentorship program is free for the entrepreneur as it is part of the CEED programming, and for now the mentors are volunteering. In an email, CEED Chief Executive Craig MacMullin said CEED will look into providing an honorarium for their services, and may in the future find a way to pay mentors for highly specialized services.

The partnership is now focusing on rural programming with an emphasis on starting businesses and bringing about innovation in agriculture and fisheries, said MacMullin.  Both CEED and BoomersPlus have identified opportunities in several sectors including tourism and the innovation sector.

“We see the potential to expand this programming,” said MacMullin. “This is where the expertise of BoomersPlus is critical.  As the opportunities arise across the province with other sectors and ecosystem partners, their extensive database and matching capabilities combined with CEED's mentor-mentee training model, would enable us to provide a pool of qualified mentors that could be used at an innovation hub or another entrepreneurship service provider.”

The goal is to build better companies and help to reduce the risks of entrepreneurship. MacMullin said mentors bring different perspectives to a young business, provide insights and find weaknesses in a business model. They can offer constructive feedback and help to find the keys to success.

“Mentoring is a proven means to create success in entrepreneurial endeavors,” said MacMullin. “Seventy percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years, double the rate for non-mentored small businesses over that same period.”

My Cape Breton Wish List for 2020

My wish-list for the Cape Breton startup community in 2020 (or shortly thereafter) is short and sweet – 1. a university computer science program, and 2. an angel group.

These points came up in the discussion after I delivered Entrevestor’s startup data presentation at Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre in Sydney last week. The presentation, sponsored by Onside and the Cape Breton Partnership, showed Cape Breton has got good at launching new startups in recent years. We tracked 54 Cape Breton companies last year, 10 of which began in 2018. It’s what you’d expect from a community of 99,000 people (just in Sydney) and a super enthusiastic startup community.

The problem is its companies don’t raise enough capital, and therefore are under-staffed. Cape Breton startups raised $1.2 million in 2018, less than 1 percent of the equity capital raised in Atlantic Canada. And they employed 345 people, with more than half of them working for companies more than 10 years old.

Against that backdrop, here’s what I think the Cape Breton innovation community needs:

A Computer Science Program at CBU

A programming course is already offered in Cape Breton -- the Nova Scotia Community College’s two-year IT programming course at the Marconi Campus in Sydney. What’s needed is a university program to increase tech talent. Dalhousie University allows NSCC students who’ve completed the two-year program to enter Dal computer science in third year. CBU could do something similar.

Enrollment at computer science programs is rising. Dal’s computer science enrollment has been increasing 20 percent annually lately. The NSCC program in Halifax that starts in September 2020 is already full and has a waiting list.

Starting a university program – better still, a faculty – is expensive and difficult. It needs to be supported by administration, faculty and students, it needs funding, and it needs to be staffed. But the demand and the economic reward make this something worth pursuing. A nucleus of Sydney companies – Swarmio, Securicy, Talem Health, Orenda Solutions – will be growing in coming years, and new companies will be coming along. They will need a stable of CS grads to grow.

An Angel Group

Cape Breton companies face challenges in raising capital, and competitions like Spark help to provide companies with as much as $25,000 in funding. That helps, but it’s generally not enough to grow a dynamic business.

There’s a consensus forming that Cape Breton needs its own angel group – something akin to Island Capital Partners on P.E.I. The strength of ICP is that its four principal investors and Operations Director Stefanie Corbett bring a wealth of experience to the organization. They’re top-flight mentors, great community supporters, and – as you might expect – have brought capital to the P.E.I. tech cluster.

To mimic this, Cape Breton's first step should be for a core of tech-savvy investors to step forward and commit to a certain level of investment in local high-growth companies. The good news is Nova Scotia has raised the threshold for its Innovation Equity Tax Credit, so each investor could receive a 35 percent tax credit for investing as much as $250,000.

If private investors commit $500,000, they should go to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovacorp and make the case for matching funds from those organizations. That would produce about $1 million in commitments. That MIGHT be enough to get started, though more may be needed if the fund hires an investment manager.  

One final point: This fund should aim to back two or three companies a year with at least $100,000 each. The initiative won’t work if it spreads its limited funds around too many companies.  

Manifold’s New Sales Strategy

For cloud-computing startup Manifold, a new business model is offering a path to faster growth.

Manifold’s online platform gives tech companies the ability to purchase software for their computer programmers, track how much money is being spent on the software and distribute in-house programming tools.

Now, the four-year-old business is testing a new sales strategy in which its marketplace will be integrated with project-management services from other companies.

“It might look a bit like a pivot from the outside because your end-user has changed, but it’s exactly the same set of tools and services,” said Co-Founder Matt Creager in an interview. “We’re still building the same set of products and we’re still building it for (software) developers.”

Manifold’s existing customers are medium to large firms that often employ hundreds of programmers, according to Creager, who serves as Vice-President of Marketing and Developer Relations. Manifold is led by CEO Jevon MacDonald, who on Thursday was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Saint Mary's University student-led VC fund, Venture Grade.

Having a single, unified distribution platform for development software makes it easier for firms to add new tools to a team’s existing workflow. And logging the details of purchases eases communication between programmers and management.

“There’s a lot of friction in the system, and Manifold is designed to take that friction out,” said Creager.

During the summer, Manifold began testing a new business model that involves selling to companies that, themselves, create tools for programmers.

The new customers design technologies related to tracking progress on coding projects, combining multiple pieces of code and transferring code between computer systems.

WattPad Opens New Office in Halifax

Creager said that the new strategy will allow Manifold to grow its user count much faster because it will have access to all the companies that its new, corporate customers already sell to.

“From 10,000 to 15 million (users) isn’t a leap we could have made alone, and that’s 15 million more potential customers for all the providers in our marketplace,” he said, referring to the fact that Manifold’s marketplace resells software created by other companies.

Manifold has launched its new distribution method with a round of “early access” testing, meaning that customers must be invited to join. Participation was initially capped at five client firms, all of whom had signed on within two weeks of the initial announcement.

Creager expects the new product offering to be ready to accommodate additional users by the second quarter of 2020 and move into an “open beta” testing phase near the end of the same year.

By then, he sees Manifold doubling or tripling its employee count, up from its nearly forty current staff. The new hires will make for the company’s largest annual expansion to date.

Manifold raised an $18.5 million round of investment in 2017, which earned it a place in the University of Toronto Impact Centre’s 2018 Narwhal Project list. It catalogues leading Canadian startups based on their “financial velocity”, which assesses how quickly they raise large amounts of capital. Manifold’s inclusion was a first for an Atlantic Canadian company.

Creager said Manifold doesn’t yet have plans to court additional investment, but if the opportunity to secure more funding arises, they might take it.

“Should you expect to hear a fundraising announcement from Manifold in the next 12 months?” he asked. “Probably but no guarantee.”

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Our Job of the Week column today features an opening for a Performance Marketing Strategist at Dash Hudson in Halifax.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is a visual marketing Software-as-a-Service company that helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software, called Vision, is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos.

The Job 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 the full posting:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Performance Marketing Strategist

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing platform built for the world's most important companies. Our software provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos across key visual marketing platforms.

We work with Amazon, Apple, Conde Nast, Glossier, Kylie Cosmetics, REVOLVE, Away, Unilever, Spotify, and others.

The Job

As the Performance Marketing Strategist, you will be responsible for supporting the revenue growth from Dash Hudson advertising products. You will be integral to the success of the Dash Hudson team, supporting the efforts of the sales, customer success, and product teams. Adaptability, speed, and perseverance will be your best friends.

Best part? You get to be at the center of creating something the world hasn't seen before.

Responsibilities

About You

Super organized. To the point of compulsion.

Attention to detail. You lose sleep over typos and broken formulas.

Driven to be a leader in your discipline.

Ability to make complex technical subjects simple, and communicate them to a diverse team.

Understand the needs of advertisers in the beauty, fashion, media, CPG, retail, finance, and consumer electronics verticals.

Ability to learn, absorb, and recall information at a very fast pace.

Organized and self-motivated.

Ability to self-prioritize and say no when necessary.

Not afraid to take on new challenges and solve problems independently.

What You Will Do

As a member of the marketing team, who works directly with our Sr. Director of Marketing, you will support the development and growth of the Dash Hudson advertising product:

Create use cases and supporting data to assist the sales team in acquiring new customers.

Provide training and support to the sales and customer success teams, enhancing their knowledge of ad team personas, workflows, and purchase considerations.

Participate in customer meetings, demos, and trainings to support the sales team in closing new business from advertising teams.

Participate in key customer success strategy meetings to support product adoption, creating customer value.

Structure and lead pilots with key Dash Hudson accounts.

Prepare and deliver presentations to customers at all levels.

Maintain current knowledge of B2C advertising best practices and strategies.

Learn about leading-edge tactics from the best advertisers, and translate those into advantages for Dash Hudson across sales, customer success, and product.

Participate in product strategy, roadmap, specification, and design meetings regarding Dash Hudson advertising products.

Provide support to key partnership initiatives related to advertising.

Qualifications

3 to 5 years relevant experience in digital marketing and advertising.

Certified experience with FB Ads Manager, Adwords, and Google Analytics.

Experience giving in-person customer presentations.

Experience working with multi-functional teams.

Must be proactive. You need to take on challenges you don't understand.

Must possess analytical, presentation, and organizational skills.

Being able to think strategically and collaborate between teams.

Additional Information

We believe in building great products that solve real problems for marketers, and being unabashed about our unique ability to be the best at what we do.

We believe that mutual support among the team, and a willingness for all to figure out the seemingly impossible are what will propel us forward.

To our customers, we show undying love for their support. In thanks, we smother them in hugs.

Read the full job posting here.

Enginuity Targets Hardware Makers

The Enginuity robotics room.

The Enginuity robotics room.

It was bad luck for Enginuity that it scheduled its Robotics and Automation Day on Nov. 28, the day an early snowstorm made travel to its Spryfield headquarters a bit tricky.

But the Halifax-based engineering and design company had provoked enough curiosity about its robotics shop that it attracted a good crowd not once but twice. Some supporters braved the elements on the original date, and others attended a make-up demonstration a week later.

The open house was Enginuity’s chance to display the enlarged facility it moved into last year, and demonstrate the capabilities of its 21-member team. The company, which aims to grow to 28 employees in the coming months, is able to work with clients’ projects from conception, to basic design, to detailed design, to production.

“There’s very little in the Maritimes for hardware startups,” said Alastair Trower, the head of business development at Enginuity, as he stood amid onlookers observing the mechanical movements of three robots. “We saw a gap in the market a few years ago, where people want to design products from the ground up, and we’ve filled that gap.”

Enguinity started six years ago in a smaller headquarters in Spryfield, and gained a reputation for helping clients develop hardware. In 2018, it outgrew its original shop and moved into a two-level industrial facility, allowing more growth, and a robotics facility.

Trower describes the cavernous robotics room as “a place for us to work with our clients, where the clients can understand the robots and get to the supply chain to get the right product.”

Innovacorp Names Winners of Blue-Green, Start-up Yard Competitions. 

Enginuity’s clients – whose logos are spread in a banner across the top of the robotics room – include some of the region’s largest companies, like Clearwater Fine Foods and Bluedrop Performance Learning. They also include smaller companies that come to Enginuity for a range of services, including robotics.

“Over the past five years, the cost of these things has come down enough that they are now accessible to small businesses,” said Trower, gesturing to the robots.

The client list includes a host of startups, from scaling companies like ABK Biomedical and Metamaterial Technologies, to younger ventures like The Lobster Trap Company and Ashored.

Enginuity has a fixed-price Discovery program for entrepreneurs that Trower says can “wrap a team around an idea.” The stages are designed to correspond with the common funding programs available in Nova Scotia.

The first stage is conceptual design, which can be financed with the winnings of an Innovacorp competition. Next is preliminary design, which can be funded by IRAP grants, then detailed design, which can be funded with a loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The firm then offers services in fabrication packages, building and testing.

The Enginuity client list covers a range of sectors. The banner in the robotics room includes the expected manufacturers and hardware producers. It is especially heavy in ocean-related companies, which Trower estimates make up one-quarter of its business. The firm also does work for life sciences ventures, like ABK Biomedical and PhotoDynamic.

“We can take a problem we come across in one industry, find a solution and apply it to another industry,” said Trower. “If you can drill into a rock, you can drill into teeth.”

Rally Closes $750K Funding Round

St. John’s-based legal-tech company Rally has raised $750,000 in equity funding, with which it plans to expand its development and sales teams.

The company on Wednesday held a press conference at the Emera Innovation Exchange in St. John’s to announce the funding. Venture NL (the fund managed by Pelorus Venture Capital) and St. John’s-based Killick Capital both invested $250,000 in the company, while the other investors were Halifax-based Concrete Ventures and Toronto-based Good News Ventures.

“This marks a very important milestone for us,” said CEO Scott Stevenson in a statement. “Having proven a market need and our ability to execute, this capital enables us to expand sales efforts across the U.S. and Canada, double the size of our team, and to build out the next major features for our platform.”

Rally is now gaining traction with its online platform, which helps corporate lawyers and their clients automate the writing of contracts. The platform allows lawyers to quickly prepare a questionnaire for their clients to produce the information needed for a contract. The software stores other information, like a company’s cap table, deadlines or obligations, so they can efficiently be added to documents.

While it simplifies work for lawyers, Rally also makes life easier for their clients because they can instantly access contracts and other corporate information.

Rally says its long-term mission is to make legal documents “computer-understandable” so lawyers can practise with greater efficiency and their clients can gain insight from their legal information.

What’s surprising about the company is its origins. Having studied computer science at Memorial University, Stevenson is a serial entrepreneur whose first venture was an attempt to produce The Mune, a hand-held musical instrument for electronic musicians. In an interview Wednesday, Stevenson said he did as much of the legal work as he could on The Mune as he couldn’t afford a lawyer. The exercise made him realize how much of the legal process could be automated.

He then linked up with user experience programmer Matthew Mayers and law grad Daniel Di Maria, both of Toronto. They all conceived of software that could automate the tedious processes involved in writing legal documents and became co-founders.

Rally, which has been going through the Enterprise program at Genesis, now has a product in the market and is gaining traction. “We have one major national law firm that we’re working with and a few early adopters, who we’re also working with,” said Stevenson.

The company now has four employees and Stevenson intends to raise the number to eight or nine in the coming months with the new funding. The company plans to increase its sales team, and to hire developers to add features.

The Rally fund-raising caps off an unprecedented year for tech companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. As well as the record $515 million equity-and-debt deal announced by fintech company Verafin in September, there have been funding rounds announced by companies in all stages of development. Scaling companies closed seven-figure deals, like Mysa Smart Thermostats raising $2.3 million and CoLab Software raising $2.7 million. And young companies like Rally and BreatheSuite  (which landed $550,000 in funding) were able to close their first equity funding rounds.

“We’re the product of a great, snowballing tech ecosystem,” said Stevenson. “Organizations like Genesis, Legal Innovation Zone [in Toronto], the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) and Metro Business Opportunities, have been instrumental in our success."

Applications Open for Sprint Contest

Applications have opened for Innovacorp’s Sprint competition, which awards a total of $100,000 to early-stage innovation-driven startups in Nova Scotia.

The applications are open until midnight Jan. 6 and can be found here. Winners will be notified Jan. 17.

“The goal of Sprint is to find and support high potential, early stage knowledge-based companies, and encourage entrepreneurial activity in the province,” says a post on the Innovacorp website.

Winners will receive up to $25,000 each in non-dilutive, non-repayable funding and business guidance from experienced industry professionals.

Sprint includes two streams: Phase 1 for companies that have not received Sprint funding before; and Phase 2 for companies that have been awarded funding before and met milestones. Companies can win Sprint funding up to three times.

Clever Fruit Eyes 1st Product in 2020

Clever Fruit Executive Chairman Sean Sears, left, and President Liam Tayler.

Clever Fruit Executive Chairman Sean Sears, left, and President Liam Tayler.

Nova Scotia’s Clever Fruit Products has developed a new berry-based food ingredient that can reduce cholesterol by as much ads 40 percent, and the company hopes to have a product in the market within a year.

Having started as a juice maker three years ago, the company discovered a process that dries blueberries and other fruit into a powder that can be added to foods to enhance health benefits. It recently tested the product on animals and learned its power reduces bad cholesterols by 40 percent – far better than what’s now on the market.

Clever Fruit is now trying to raise $500,000 in equity financing, which would allow it to conduct a second round of animal trials and hopefully get a health supplement to the market by the end of 2020.

“We are looking for investment from investment companies and government bodies,” said President Liam Tayler in an interview. “Quite a few government institutions have been working with us already. We have had a lot of interest from existing nutraceutical companies and it’s not out of the range of possibility that they would come on board [as investors].”

Over the past few years, Clever Fruit experimented in fermenting its juices and realized that the fermentation process resulted in a product that reduced bad cholesterol significantly. Fermentation also breaks down compounds so the body is better able to absorb the nutrients.

The company’s Chief Science Officer Vasantha Rupasinghe, who Tayler describes as one of the most experienced fruit scientists in Canada, then devised a two-phase fermentation process that resulted in a powder that could be added to foods to reduce bad cholesterol.

In combatting cholesterol, Clever Fruit is attacking a huge health problem. The company says heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and one-third of its victims suffered from high cholesterol. The main pharmaceutical treatment for high cholesterol is statin drugs, but as many as one-fifth of the population is statin-intolerant.

A Look at Halifax's Startup Community in 2018

Clever Fruit believes it has a natural non-statin product that reduces cholesterol and has no adverse side effects, though it still needs to do more testing. In 2020, the team is planning a second phase of animal trials, at which point it intends to market a health supplement, which would not require a health claim from Health Canada.

With this product bringing in revenues, Clever Fruit then hopes to conduct human trials, which if successful would lead to approval from Health Canada. That could result in the release of a nutraceutical product with a health claim by the end of 2021.

The executive team, led by Tayler and Executive Chairman Sean Sears, is now raising money, and presented recently at the Volta Cohort pitching competition and Natural Products Canada’s NCN pitch event in Toronto to gain exposure to investors.

Tayler said that success in raising $500,000 and launching the supplement would lead to a more substantial fundraising effort in the near future.

Wanting to manufacture its products in Nova Scotia, the company is looking at having two manufacturing facilities in the province, one to handle each phase of its double-fermentation process. Tayler said each process requires different substances and having two facilities would reduce the risk of them being mixed up, and help to protect intellectual property.

As the company scales, Tayler and the team, which now amounts to seven people, are considering other products using other fruits.

“One of the nice things about the product is it’s not just applicable to one fruit,” he said. “For example, cranberry has been shown to have blood pressure reduction properties. So obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Creatros in Beta Test, Eyes 1st Raise

With its digital product being beta-tested by two companies, the troika that heads St. John’s-based Creatros Technologies is turning its attention to its first fundraising effort and a full launch in 2021.

The company came together three year ago at Memorial University and set out to solve a problem that plagues many teams of programmers – understanding the skillsets of all the team members. It’s common that a development team of 25 or more individuals has a range of capabilities, and it can take time to find the right person for the right task.

The Creatros solution lays over commonly used project management tools like Jira, and instantly helps team leaders understand who on the team can do what. It means the leader can quickly find someone for a specific task.

“We want to change the way people do software management, to incorporate the human skills into the project management,” said CTO Monjur Ul-Hasan during an interview in Halifax last week. “Projects in the software space are now managed the same way as civil engineering, but software is different and human skill is the main factor. … What we are focusing on is a change of behaviour, which is not so easy.”

An experienced software developer, Ul-Hasan understands the challenges development teams face in finding people quickly who can fulfil specific jobs. At Memorial, he teamed up with Arif Shaikh (now the CEO) and Ashley Sullivan (COO) who brought a range of business development talents to the team.

MCE Seeks Applications for Woodward Cup

The product helps developers speed up their work and avoid cost over-runs. Sullivan added that Creatros can also help teams to asses their overall capabilities and identify the talents they’re missing. That means they can look for people with specific qualifications in their next hire or train staff in the needed skillsets.

Creatros now has an initial product, which works along with established project management software, such as Jira. It keeps track of which team members have been assigned specific tasks in the past and uses artificial intelligence to sift through the data and understand what team members have what skills.

The product is now being tested by two companies – Shaikh and his collaborators won’t name the companies, but said they are both based in Halifax. In the coming year, they will finish the beta test and hope to pick up some paying customers. As the company moves forward, the founders intend to upgrade the product so it can operate independent of other software, and foresee a full launch in 2021. Eventually, the product could be used for teams in other disciplines, such as civil engineering.

Creatros recently joined the flagship Enterprise program at Genesis, the St. John’s startup hub, and is now going through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic 2019-2020 cohort.

The founders so far have bootstrapped, but are now beginning to work on a funding round – something they will work on as they proceed through the CDL program. Shaikh said their target for their first round will be about $750,000.

Ul-Hasan said there is now no real competitor for Creatros in the market because no other similar solution uses AI in this way to manage a tech team.

He said: “A solution with the human factor included in project management software doesn’t exist. Jira is the biggest one but we do it differently, we are complementing them.”

Wattpad To Open Halifax Office

Toronto-based Wattpad said Monday it will open an office in Halifax, beginning in 2020 with a team based at Volta, the city’s innovation hub.

The press release on the Wattpad website said the East Coast operation would be its “second headquarters” though it gave no information on the number of people to be based in Halifax nor what they will do.

The company – which has developed platforms where people can post stories they’ve written and other people can read them – already has offices in the U.K., Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Jakarta, and Manila. 

“This expansion is a major milestone in a year of incredible milestones for Wattpad,” said CEO and Co-Founder Allen Lau in the statement. “We’re a global company, with teams and partners across time zones and on nearly every continent, so a second HQ will allow us to supercharge our business as we continue to grow. Halifax is a city and community that is unmatched in Canada, with a thriving tech scene, world-class talent, and a business-friendly environment.”

The milestones Lau referred to include Wattpad’s global community reaching 80 million people, solidifying its place as the world’s leading platform for writers.

Its users spend more than 23 billion minutes a month engaged in original stories, says the company, and its Story DNA Machine Learning technology helps it to understand what readers are looking for. Wattpad Studios and Wattpad Books use these data-backed insights to turn Wattpad stories into books, films, TV shows, and digital projects.

This year, Wattpad’s film After won several awards and was one of the top grossing indie films of the year. The company’s Hulu show, Light as a Feather, received four Daytime Emmy nominations and a second season order.

“It is really wonderful to see innovative tech companies like Wattpad choose Halifax,” said Andrew Rau-Chaplin, Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University. “The technology and innovation sectors are booming on the East Coast and, along with our partners, we are supporting this growth by educating the digital talent organizations need to thrive here.”

Wattpad raised US$51 million (C$65.3 million) in January 2018 from such investors as the Chinese Internet services company Tencent Holdings and BDC Capital.

“Wattpad’s decision to open their second headquarters in Halifax is an exciting addition to the Atlantic Canadian innovation ecosystem,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers. “We are thrilled to have Wattpad join Volta’s community of innovators, and to act as a landing pad for the company as they get to know the region.”

Volta Names Four New Directors

Rhiannon Davies, Chris Huskilson, Eva Lau, and Avvey Peters.

Rhiannon Davies, Chris Huskilson, Eva Lau, and Avvey Peters.

Volta, Canada’s East Coast Innovation Hub, has named four new members to its board of directors.

The board provides direction and leadership in carrying out Volta’s goal of building a community in which entrepreneurs can come together to learn from each other, grow their companies and expand to global markets.

The new board members are:

● Rhiannon Davies, former Chief Operating Officer of GrandVision N.V. and Co-Founding Partner of the Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund;

● Chris Huskilson, Founding Partner at Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic and former Chief Executive Officer and President at Emera Inc.;

● Eva Lau, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Two Small Fish Ventures of Toronto;

● And Avvey Peters, Chief Strategy Officer at Kitchener, Ont.-based Communitech.

“Past and present, Volta is extremely fortunate to have talented, highly respected business leaders shape the direction and growth of our innovation hub,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “The appointment of these industry experts will be invaluable to the continued growth of the startup community, and we are very excited to have them join our board.”

As well as Rodgers, the members returning to the board for another term are: Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures; Jevon MacDonald, Co-Founder of GoInstant and Manifold; business-to-business marketing strategist Ross Simmonds; and Thomas Rankin, Co-Founder and CEO of Dash Hudson.

17 Graduate from JEDI Programs

Seventeen Indigenous entrepreneurs will graduate this week from the Joint Economic Development Initiative’s Indigenous Business Incubator and Accelerator programs.

Fredericton-based JEDI, as the organization is known, is an economic development agency for Native communities in New Brunswick. It hosts both incubator and accelerator programs to help Indigenous entrepreneurs launch or expand their businesses.

The JEDI Indigenous Business Incubator is a 10-week program overseen by Artful Sciences owner Frank Erschen, and it helps participants develop their ideas into viable business models.  

The JEDI Indigenous Business Accelerator is designed for established businesses and provides participants with the tools to excel in advanced business opportunities with industry and government. The 10-week program, designed by BDO Canada, is personalized for each business based on its needs and goals.

“You can pay someone to write a business plan but JEDI’s 10-week incubator program taught me how to do it myself and own it,” said Nicole Pelletier, owner of A la Shoppe, after going through the program.

Some of the current Incubator and Accelerator participants are developing and expanding businesses in tourism, trades, retail, food production, beauty, and fashion design. The JEDI Indigenous Business Incubator and Accelerator programs are supported by the governments of Canada and New Brunswick and the First Nation communities in New Brunswick.

“It is exciting to see so many Indigenous peoples engaged in JEDI’s programs and we are happy to be able to provide them with the support and mentorship they need,” said JEDI President Alex Dedam. “Our Business Incubator program focuses on helping start-ups build their businesses while our Business Accelerator helps established companies grow and expand. JEDI’s first Indigenous Business Accelerator started in January 2016 and the demand for our entrepreneurial services continues to grow every year.”

The graduates are:

Incubator grads:

Amy Pelletier - Kwey (Aboriginal and classic fusion cuisine)

Bradley Dedam - Beta Entertainment 

Brady Dedam - Beta Entertainment  

Cody Caplin - Eel River Bar Riverside Cabins

Dora Polchies - Helping Hands

Dylan Ward - Shiftwork Recording

Greg Johnson - Two Guns Outfitters

Greg Patles – First Nations Hobby Farm

Matthew Mayer - Konnective Consulting

Nicole Pelletier - À la Shop

Paige Polches - Kwey Beauty

Randy Perley - Tommy Hawk Barber Shop

Sgoagani Wecenisqon - NiiN Designs

Accelerator Grads:

Jolene Johnson – Wabanaki Maple

Jonas Nash – JBN Welding

Martin Bear – Bear Construction

Sue Bear – Bear Construction

“The business incubation process transitions a person with a dream into a ready-to-go entrepreneur with a business plan,” said Erschen. “Incubator participants worked hard throughout the program to discover what it takes to turn their idea into a viable business. Most inspiring for us is watching participants use their new knowledge to plan their upcoming business journey and develop the confidence to effectively communicate their plan.”

Electric Owl Grows Food-Producing Venture

Margaret Dron

Margaret Dron

Halifax-based Electric Owl is preparing to launch a digital garden management platform targeted at the 46 million households in North America that grow their own food. 

The social enterprise aims to launch its Garden Manager product in the spring of 2020.  The Garden Manager will advise users on how to grow fresh and nutritious food. The aim is to improve food supply and reduce the environmental impacts of food transportation.

Founder Margaret Dron said the market is worth $20 billion annually, although around $5 billion a year is wasted because of gardners make mistakes or don't have the information they need to grow food properly.

“A key part of the solution for preventing and repairing food deserts is supporting communities with technology that helps foster sustainable food systems,” she said. “If we change how and where we grow food, the environmental impact would be massive."

A serial entrepreneur with two successful exits behind her, Dron has spent the last year refining her product, seeking expert help and building a database.  

“We’ve created the foundation and have a plan, technology, and data,” she said.

The venture’s database is being collected by its botanist who is based in Vancouver. It will include key plant physiological and environmental needs while connecting with weather stations and optionally integrating soil sensors.

News of the product’s imminent launch comes after the venture won $25,000 at the Volta Cohort’s Pitch Competition last month and $10,000 as an Innovacorp Blue Green Challenge (Agriculture) finalist.

The money helped Dron gain market validation and input from users of her initial product. She said she also has personal experience of the “decision paralysis” faced by new gardeners as they search the internet for gardening advice.

Her subscription-based product will take users from one end of the growing season to the other, showing them how to optimize their gardens and their crops. Garden Manager’s advice will be so detailed it will even warn of an impending cold front and tell users how to guard against it.

There are competing garden management products but Dron said none are using the location-specific data and AI-driven coaching that Electric Owl is integrating into its product.

“We can support any city in North America with a population of 80,000, for ninety percent of crops typically grown in urban areas,” Dron said.

Electric Owl’s long game is to gather anonymous consumer data in order to improve its service and develop tools for small-scale farm management.

Dron is herself a recent transplant.  She moved to Halifax from Vancouver after a vacation led her to conclude that Halifax offers opportunity and cost-effective access to talent and nature. 

Her team is based at Volta, Halifax’s startup house, and includes herself and a developer, with the botanist working remotely from Vancouver. Three co-op students will come aboard in the new year, and Dron is in the process of bringing on a PhD in Machine Learning from Dalhousie University.

For those who are thinking of growing their own food, she offers some advice: “Always invest in deep planters,” she said. “Soil depth opens up your options for year-round and indoor food growth. Roots need homes too.”

Blue-Green, Start-up Yard Winners

Innovacorp has announced the companies selected to participate in its Blue-Green Challenge and Start-Up Yard at COVE cohort for the 2019-2020 season.

The Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency issued a statement Thursday saying Blue-Green Challenge round one winners receive $5,000 as well as guidance from business veterans. Round two winners receive $10,000. The Blue-Green Challenge, a competition for startups involved in ocean technology, agritech or cleantech, is delivered by Innovacorp with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Start-Up Yard participants – which are all oceantech companies – receive $22,500 and access to mentoring, workshops and space at the harbourside facility in Dartmouth. The intake announced Thursday is the third cohort of the program.

The winners are:

BLUE-GREEN ROUND ONE

Oceantech

44 North – Calder Robinson, David Barclay, Emmanuelle Cook, Michael Beaudoin – Halifax

Navigation system to optimize ocean transit using underwater currents.

BlackWatch.Tech – Jonathan Raimund, Matt d’Entremont – Yarmouth 

Man-overboard device to reduce fisher fatality

Clean Catch Baits – Guillermo Villarreal De Lara, Katherine Vanzutphen, Craig Retson, Robel Berhane, Hohnathan LePage-Billard – Halifax 

Sustainable alternative to single-use, plastic fishing lures

Clean Valley CIC – Nicholas LaValle, Zhen Xiong, Damir Allen – Dartmouth

Non-toxic solutions for microplastics pollution

Easy Ocean Technology – Luting Zhang, Zhaohua Sun – Halifax

Smartphone application to capture ocean optical data, including early prediction of harmful algal blooms

Marimetrics Technologies – Chris L'Esperance – Halifax 

Trace gas analyzer to measure chemical compounds in the ocean

Pombcoup Technologies – Marc d'Entremont, Angie Greene – Yarmouth

Trawler system to protect the seabed by avoiding contact with the ocean floor

SailTimer – Craig Summers – Halifax 

Crowd-sourced wind maps from sensors on sailboats to improve marine weather forecasts

Tracker Inventory Systems – Gavin Andrews, Matthew Pyne – Sydney

Automated inventory management for seafood and agriculture producers

Cleantech and Agritech

Bio Graphene Solutions – Gary Van Dusen – Annapolis Royal 

Graphene made from organic and renewable feedstocks

ADAPT Innovation – Young Chang – Truro

Agriculture image processing hardware for drones

Electric Owl Solutions – Margaret Dron – Halifax 

Software to help grow food in urban environments and small-scale farms

myFlock – James Walsh – Kentville 

Technology to reduce risk and operating inefficiencies in the poultry supply chain

Plasma Agricultural Solutions – Lord Abbey, GL Rao, NN Misra – Truro

Treatment to improve seed health and quality

BLUE-GREEN ROUND TWO

44 North – Calder Robinson, David Barclay, Emmanuelle Cook, Michael Beaudoin – Halifax

Navigation system to optimize ocean transit using underwater currents

Tracker Inventory Systems – Gavin Andrews, Matthew Pyne – Sydney

Automated inventory management for seafood and agriculture producers

Electric Owl Solutions – Margaret Dron – Halifax 

Software to help grow food in urban environments and small-scale farms

myFlock – James Walsh – Kentville 

Technology to reduce risk and operating inefficiencies in the poultry supply chain

Plasma Agricultural Solutions – Lord Abbey, GL Rao, NN Misra – Truro

Treatment to improve seed health and quality

START-UP YARD

Copsys Industries – Farzad Hashemi – Halifax

Corrosion management technology to protect assets and reduce maintenance

SeaChange Biochemistry – Brad Park – Halifax

Technology to convert sustainable feedstocks to green chemicals

Ocean Protection Engineering Group – Andrew MacDonald, Carr Hallett – Dartmouth

All-weather emergency system to tow ships in distress

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor. 

Training a Broader Base of Founders

Nova Scotia's Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development trains a range of entrepreneurs.

Nova Scotia's Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development trains a range of entrepreneurs.

At Entrevestor, we’re dedicated to the growth of innovation-driven companies as vehicles for economic development in Atlantic Canada. But it would be great if economic policy in the region focused more on entrepreneurs than innovators.

We’re all too anxious to toss around the term “innovation” and its derivatives these days. Same goes for “disruptive”, “smart”, “clean” and so on. I plead guilty. I make my living writing about companies that are, in varying degrees, innovative, disruptive, smart, clean, and so on.

But what strikes me is that the whole ecosystem – another overused term, I admit – has evolved to the point that Atlantic Canada is really efficient at identifying disruptive technologies with high commercial potential. It’s also pretty good at developing these technologies into viable companies. And these companies are creating wealth, exports, and employment at a tremendous clip.

This column is not a complaint about support for innovators. I'm arguing that the ecosystem for innovation-driven companies is far ahead of the supports for other forms of entrepreneurship. It’s time to devote more efforts to the broader entrepreneurship community.

This notion was driven home a year ago when I interviewed Matthew Pauley, Director of the Hostetter Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at University of P.E.I. While IT and tech companies get a lot of press these days, Pauley said he’s more interested in working in entrepreneurship in traditional businesses like agriculture and tourism because these will have the largest economic impact.

“Statistically speaking, those types of companies [tech startups] are huge outliers,” said Pauley, an entrepreneurship expert who’s really excited about opportunities in agri-businesses. “What I’m trying to do – no pun intended – I’m looking at the meat and the potatoes of the economy.”

What’s needed is to take the lessons learned in nurturing innovation companies and apply them to other forms of entrepreneurship. There should be facilities where teams can meet, work, and learn from other entrepreneurs. There should be programs, especially training in sales and business development. There should be rosters of industry-specific veterans who can mentor less experienced entrepreneurs, just as there are in the tech segment. And the entrepreneurial training should be tied into succession, encouraging young people to work for and then buy out older business people who have established income streams.

To some extent these things are happening. Several development groups target more than just innovation companies, such as Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Genesis in St. John’s, the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development and Mashup Lab in Nova Scotia and Startup Zone in Charlottetown. What’s more, there are more entrepreneurship hubs in rural areas fulfilling this role, in such centres as Mahone Bay, Bridgewater, Yarmouth, Stellarton and soon Liverpool. In Cape Breton, support organizations are planning more work in developing tourism companies.

We’ve collected and produced data that shows the strong growth produced by Atlantic Canadian innovation companies (2018 numbers: revenues up 75 percent, employment up 22 percent, number of companies up 13 percent).

Training an entrepreneur to run a hotel or a craft company may not produce such gaudy metrics, but the economic impact could be as great. The innovation companies tend to reward people highly educated in STEM disciplines. Developing more entrepreneurs in other fields should result in growing employment among people with a broader range of talents.

MUN’s Woodward Cup Seeks Entries

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship has opened applications for the 2020 Mel Woodward Cup, which will hand out $35,000 in prize money to companies founded by Memorial University students.

MCE Director Florian Villaumé sent out an email Monday to say the organizers are changing the rules of the competition to channel more development capital into the two strongest participants.

The competition previously gave $10,000 each to three top companies and smaller awards to other entries. For the 2020 version, the first-place entrant will receive $25,000 and the runner-up $10,000.

“Since its inception, the community of Memorial entrepreneurs has grown exponentially, which has resulted in more applicants and different needs for funding,” said Villaumé in an email. “After three years of running the Mel Woodward Cup, we also learned from participants what works and what can be improved.”

The Woodward Cup began three years ago to provide seed funding for student-led businesses, and has become a major event in the St. John’s startup calendar. The prize money comes from funds provided by the family of the late Mel Woodward, a Memorial alumnus and pillar of the Newfoundland and Labrador construction industry.

Applications are open until March 1, and the pitching competition will be held March 23. You can find more details here.

In the last three years, the entrepreneurial community at the university has evolved, so the Woodward Cup will no longer be open to idea-stage companies. Participants must have a prototype or be in a pilot program, and have actively engaged potential customers.

The MCE suggests idea-stage entrepreneurs look for support from the Ignite Fund, which provides up to $2,000 to aid early-stage business ideas.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship also said Woodward Cup applicants will need to demonstrate a strong commitment to going full-time with their business idea after their graduation.

Past winners of the competition include CoLab Software, which this year was accepted into the Y Combinator accelerator and raised $2.7 million, and BreathSuite, which just raised $550,000

Last year, three winners received $10,000 each:

  • Duff: Ocean Resources, which is developing a way to extract chitin – a material with several biotech applications – from the shells of the invasive species green crab;
  • PolyUnity, which uses 3D printers to create high-quality medical simulations and wants to produce these models anywhere in the world;
  • And UnBound Chemicals, which is working on a process to extract substances from unwanted medications and re-use them for research or non-human uses.

A Look at Halifax’s Startups in 2018

Halifax in 2018 maintained its position as the cornerstone of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and in the last two years the city’s ecosystem has deepened.

As we present segments from our 2018 Atlantic Canada Startup Data report, we’re breaking out Halifax as its own jurisdiction because it was home to 199 startups at the end of last year – almost two-fifths of the 550 companies we tracked.

And these companies booked some impressive numbers in 2018, such as raising $64.3 million in equity funding, from sources other than the stock market. They directly employed more than 2,100 people – an increase of 29 percent from the previous year. And their revenue growth (according to companies that shared revenue data with us) was 63 percent – below the weighted average for the region, but none too shabby.

Though New Brunswick captured the headlines in funding in 2018, several Halifax companies announced major rounds. Proposify, whose SaaS product automates the production of proposals, raised $5 million. Drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics raised $4.3 million, and also raised more money in 2019 ahead of a stock market listing. Dental technology company Bluelight Analytics raised $3 million.

The most interesting fundraising in Halifax last year had no dollar amount attached: cleantech company CarbonCure announced a funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, whose backers include Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. The company is also one of 10 finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge.

The life sciences sector is making the greatest strides in Halifax, increasing the amount of money it is raising in recent years and generating more revenues. One Halifax biotech company, ABK Biomedical, announced a US$30 million (C$40 million) funding round in April 2019 – the largest VC round in the city’s history.

The ecosystem in the city is also changing. Two years ago the Creative Destruction Lab opened an Atlantic Canadian node in Halifax. Halifax’s Dalhousie University will soon be one of two universities in the region to host a pilot of Lab2Market, a pan-Canadian program to teach entrepreneurship to researchers. (The other is Memorial University of Newfoundland.)

Halifax Partnership has spearheaded the creation of the Innovation District – a patch of turf that stretches from Dalhousie University in Halifax’s South End to the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth. And Dalhousie University’s new IdeaHub offers space to companies producing hardware or other physical products.

Innovacorp has rebranded two Halifax-area incubators: the Halifax-based Enterprise Centre, which is a hub for life sciences companies, has become the Labs at Innovacorp. Across the harbour, the Technology Innovation Centre has been rebranded at the Bays at Innovacorp.

At the heart of the Innovation District is Volta, which tripled its size in 2018 to 60,000 square feet, so it now encompasses the bottom three floors of the Maritime Centre. That means it can provide work space or offices for companies of varying sizes. As of June 2019, Volta listed 45 companies as residents, and it has invested more than $600,000 through its Volta Cohort investment program.

Dal, MUN in Lab2Market Pilot

Dalhousie University and Memorial University of Newfoundland are at the forefront of a new national program to help researchers turn their discoveries into businesses.

They will be two of the three Canadian universities that will be piloting Lab2Market, a new pan-Canadian program based on successful programs in the U.S. and U.K. The program will work with PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers to determine whether their scientific discoveries could be developed into startups.

Ryerson University in Toronto will hold the first cohort in April to May 2020, then there will be simultaneous programs in Halifax and St. John’s next autumn. The Dalhousie program in Halifax will be a generalist stream while the MUN program in St. John’s will focus on ocean technology. The three universities will repeat the cohorts – which are open to researchers from anywhere – in 2021.

“It is a pilot, but we hope it will be a national program going forward,” said Jeff Larsen, Dalhousie’s Executive Director of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. “We’ve got this group of 13 universities, and we’re working on a program similar to the way it’s done in the U.S. and the U.K.”

A statement from Lab2Market said about one-fifth of Canadian PhDs end up as professors, and many graduates have difficulty adjusting to the workforce. The goal of Lab2Market is to provide researchers with the entrepreneurial skills to make the transition and produce better innovation-based companies.

The methodology of the program was developed by the National Science Foundation in the U.S., which a few years ago decided that new theories in launching startups should be taught to researchers. The thinking is that scientists within universities and research institutions are making discoveries that could be commercialized and become the foundation of new companies. But they need to learn how to interview potential customers to determine whether their new technologies have commercial applications, then learn how to bring them to market.

Former Premier Gallant Continues Innovation Role at Ryerson

The NSF’s I-Corps program in the U.S. and the I-Cure program in the U.K. use a process that will be the model for Lab2Market. It calls for each team to have three members – a researcher, a business development person, and a mentor (usually from industry). It provides these teams with enough funding that they can meet potential customers face-to-face, even if that involves travel for the interviews.

“As a university that supports entrepreneurship and innovation, Memorial has an active role in creating, growing and supporting companies through our internal ecosystem,” said Paula Mendonça, acting director of Memorial’s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office. “Programs such as Lab2Market Oceans will develop highly skilled entrepreneurs in the ocean sector.”  

In Canada, 13 universities have come together to form I-INC, which will offer Lab2Market, with Ryerson, Dal and MUN conducting the two-year pilot. The other Atlantic Canadian members are the universities of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

[UNB has also launched a similar program called I-Stem, also modeled on the I-Corps model. Its first cohort had its demo day on Nov. 21.]

Each cohort will consist of a rigorous three-day in-person training workshop, followed by six weekly online advising sessions that the participants join from their home institutions. “This will help provide the skills necessary to conduct more than 100 interviews with potential consumers and the support they need to evaluate the responses,” said a statement from the Lab2Market team. The goal is to prepare the teams for more advanced programs, such as the Creative Destruction Lab.

Said Larsen: “What we’re trying to do is create a bigger pipeline of great companies coming out of universities.”

Region Slips in Tech Talent Rankings

Atlantic Canadian cities have generally lost ground in the past year in the rankings of Canadian tech talent centres, even though other small cities have advanced.

The real estate consultancy CBRE last week released its report titled 2019 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent, which ranks major Canadian cities based on their ability to support information technology companies. The survey’s main focus is the quality and quantity of tech talent in each city.

No Atlantic Canadian city made the top 10 as Halifax slipped four spots to No. 11. Halifax in recent years has been outpaced by other cities as it placed as high as No. 6 in 2015. In the 2019 rankings, St. John’s was unchanged at 17th spot, while Moncton slipped a position to No. 20. The report made no mention of other Atlantic Canadian cities. 

The East Coast cities moved down the rankings even though CBRE noted that it was the smaller cities that experienced the most growth in the latest rankings. While Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Waterloo Region and Montreal led the rankings,  the report noted the strides made by such cities as Victoria and Edmonton.

“Mid- and small-sized markets are gathering major momentum, because they offer tech firms greater availability of office space, operational cost savings, and untapped talent pools,” said CBRE Canada Vice Chairman Paul Morassutti in a press release. “It says something that the two largest ranking improvements were in Victoria and Oshawa, and the largest venture capital deal was in St. John’s.”

(St. John’s-based Verafin in the autumn closed a $515 million equity and debt funding deal, which the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association says is the largest growth capital raise ever in Canada.)

Read About APEC Detailing the Atlantic Canadian Tech Labour Crunch

As the reference to the Verafin deal indicates, it wasn’t all bad news for Atlantic Canada.

Halifax placed No. 6 in both cities with computer science degree completions, with 1,070 degrees granted in 2017. It also took sixth place in academic attainment, with one-third of the population having a bachelor’s degree or better.

There is one category in which Atlantic Canada performs well: real estate. Moncton leads the country with the lowest occupancy rate and real estate costs, while Halifax is fifth and 10th respectively. St. John’s has the eighth-lowest occupancy rate and the 14th lowest real estate costs. Moncton is also the least expensive city in overall costs, while St. John’s is the fourth least expensive.

The rankings place a huge emphasis on the availability, concentration and quality of talent, and the Atlantic Canadian cities fare poorly in these categories. For example, the report says Halifax’s pool of tech workers increased 9.4 percent to 10,500 in the five years to April 2019 – far below the overall Canadian mark of 24.1 percent growth. The tech pool in St. John’s rose 3.8 percent to 5,400, while Moncton’s fell 8.8 percent to 3,100. It was one of only two cities in the survey to record a loss of tech talent.

In terms of quality of tech talent, Halifax places 12th, St. John’s 15th and Moncton 17th.

Redmond Joins Emergence Incubator

Mark Redmond

Mark Redmond

The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance has appointed Mark Redmond as Director of Incubation Services for the Emergence incubator, which supports life sciences startups in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere.

The BioAlliance – a partnership of government, industry and academia dedicated to fostering the life sciences sector on the Island – issued a statement Friday announcing the appointment. It said Redmond will work to expand the group’s impact on new ventures, support entrepreneurs and cultivate strong networks across the region and Canada.

With a PhD in molecular biology and immunology, Redmond has experience as a medical researcher, intellectual property manager, senior health system administrator, education leader and entrepreneur.

"I think one of my greatest strengths is as a systems thinker—someone who sees the opportunity behind issues and challenges," said Redmond in the press release. "I’m looking forward to working with our innovators and partners to help us achieve our respective goals and further grow the bio-economy in P.E.I., seizing the opportunities for today and for our future."

Founded by the PEI BioAlliance, Emergence has evolved into a facility that aided a core of companies in Atlantic Canada, and other companies across Canada and elsewhere to build out its network. Until January, the incubator was headed by Martin Yuill, who left to head the new Cleantech Commons in Peterborough, Ont.

As of February, Emergence was offering support to 73 companies. About 65 percent of them are pre-revenue and 45 percent are headed by women.

Born in Liverpool, England, Redmond brings a range of technical experience ranging from human health and veterinary medicine to biochemicals, from botanical and marine sources to sensors and devices, and from remote application monitoring to manufacturing and systems’ simulation.

Redmond launched more than 20 patent-protected products, including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices, in Canadian, American, European, Australian and Japanese markets. In recognition of this work, he received the Frost & Sullivan Product Innovation Award, the BioAlberta Entrepreneur of the Year title, and a nomination as Ernst & Young Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year.

To support talented entrepreneurs and enterprise, he co-founded the A100, a self-funding community of seasoned founders and executives who led technology companies. The A100 focuses on having the entrepreneur develop the full potential of the businessperson, not just the business.

"I am pleased to welcome Mark to the PEI BioAlliance,” said BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis in the statement. “Mark's impressive scientific background, private sector experience with startups, capital formation and IPOs, along with his experience in the academic world, will be very valuable to us and our partners as we continue our mission of incubating early stage bio-based companies across Atlantic Canada and growing the PEI Bioscience Cluster. "

Teaching Robots to Collaborate in Hostile Environments

Mae Seto, left, working with students Elijah Vautour and Edward Gregson in her lab.

Mae Seto, left, working with students Elijah Vautour and Edward Gregson in her lab.

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Mae Seto compares the way her laboratory programs robots to work to the way we all try to raise our children.

An associate professor in Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Engineering, Seto’s official titles include the Director of the Intelligent Systems Laboratory, or ISL, and the Irving Shipbuilding Research Chair in Marine Engineering and Autonomous Systems at Dalhousie University. In simpler terms, she heads a team that enables robots to think for themselves in harsh remote environments, like deep oceans and space.

Whereas a lot of work is being done in autonomous vehicles, or robots, what Seto’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory does is allow robots to operate in unfamiliar terrain with minimal human oversight. The goal is to send one or more autonomous vehicles into unmapped terrain and have the machines navigate the terrain, accomplish such specific tasks as mapping, and solve or mitigate problems that may arise, like a failed sensor. All without adult supervision.

 “It’s a lot like raising children,” said Seto. “You raise your kids so that when they leave you they can solve their own problems and achieve what they need to do with minimal help from you.”

Her team of 10 graduate students operates at the intersection of engineering, computer science, oceanography and other academic disciplines. It also sits in the overlap of academia, industry and government, especially defence. The words “inter-disciplinary” and “collaboration” frequently appear in Seto’s description of her work.

The lab is now working on about 15 different projects, a good number with industrial partners. These projects range from “Industry 4.0” projects that use artificial intelligence to predict when ship-board equipment might fail to robotics designed for outer space. The part that excites her the most is the work on autonomous underwater vehicles that operate for long periods in uncharted territory, such as under-ice in the Arctic.

Seto notes that most of the planet’s ocean floor is uncharted, and this is especially true for the portion under ice. If anyone is going to use autonomous vehicles under the ice, it is for a mission, such as finding a downed airplane or searching for mines. And the mission may involve more than one autonomous vehicle. What Seto’s team is working on is developing artificial intelligence solutions that will allow the autonomous vehicles to carry out these tasks collaboratively.

That means you have several robotic vehicles working with little human assistance in terrain that is uncharted and without the assistance of geo-tracking solutions like GPS. (This could be in a deep ocean or space – Seto says there are striking similarities about operating in both.) They must carry out the mission on their own. They must navigate unknown terrain in the murky depths. And they must communicate with each other – which is difficult underwater. If there is a malfunction or other problem, the robot must sort it out itself as best as it can. As well, the system must be robust enough to do all this in a harsh environment for a prolonged period.

“We’re talking about the collaboration of a number of autonomous robots in an environment where they cannot communicate well,” said Seto. “So, they must have on-board diagnostics and decision-making and they have to be smart about what they communicate because they can not send a lot of information at any one time.”

She also said this is on-going work that is far from being finished. “We’re trying to make the robots smarter but there are still a lot of cracks that the algorithms can fall through and make things more interesting than they need to be,” she said.

Vast Array of Skills

To devise this type of functionality requires a vast array of skills from several different disciplines, such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science and oceanography. Seto herself is uniquely qualified to bring together all these skill sets.

Seto did her undergraduate (Engineering Physics – Electrical Engineering option) and graduate studies at the University of British Columbia, completing her PhD in mechanical engineering in 1996. Starting her career in the private sector, she worked with ISE Ltd. In Port Coquitlam, B.C. for six years, conducting research and development projects related to autonomous underwater vehicles. Seto then moved to Nova Scotia to work as a defence scientist for Defence R&D Canada. Then, she joined the Dalhousie Department of Mechanical Engineering as an associate professor in 2017 and became the Irving Shipbuilding Research Chair in Marine Engineering and Autonomous Systems in January 2018.

As well as her academic and research work, Seto runs her own consulting business, 3-Laws Robotics. (The name acknowledges the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who in 1940 came up with three laws to guide the peaceful development of robots, especially in their interaction with people.) Seto says 3-Laws Robotics allows her to consult for external clients on work that has sensitivities that she is trained to work in but is not appropriate for a university laboratory.

A highlight of her career, so far, came in 2016 when she served as the Canadian lead scientist for the Exercise Unmanned Warrior – a collaborative exercise between the navies of Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. The final segment of the exercise – known as the Hell Bay portion – was carried out off the Isle of Skye in Scotland and involved autonomous vehicles from four navies collaborating as they searched for underwater mines. It was one of the largest demonstrations of unmanned vehicles ever.

“We were able to achieve some world-firsts – networking robots for a collaborative mission and showing the advantages of unmanned vehicles for naval mine counter-measures,” Seto told Defence R&D Canada at the time.

Proof of Robots Collaborating

That project established that marine drones from different navies could communicate with one another in real-time and be effective counter-measures against mines. It also shows various layers of collaboration taking place at her laboratory.

The robots are not the only ones in Seto’s lab who are collaborating. The team has relationships with universities around the globe, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ENSTA Bretagne in France and the University of Bath in the United Kingdom – to name a few.  The lab also works closely with the Ocean Frontier Institute, a network oceanographic research body that is headquartered at Dalhousie University and includes Memorial University of Newfoundland as well as universities around the world. Seto describes the OFI as the perfect body to facilitate research in oceans topics that require multiple disciplines. For example, science and engineering work together to investigate solutions for oceans research questions. Traditionally, funding bodies address one discipline at a time. 

There are also a range of private-sector partnerships, from global defence contractors like Thales Research and Development, Kongsberg Maritime, and Lloyds Register to smaller Canadian companies like Deep Vision (machine perception) Inc., ISE Ltd., and Cellula Robotics Ltd.  Seto said she is working on a large contract with another private sector partner, though was unable to reveal the details. And the team is working with Irving Shipbuilding, the company that funds the ISL through a Research Chair.

Industry 4.0 Concepts

One project with Irving Shipbuilding applies Industry 4.0 concepts.  It looks at the growing use of machine learning, data analytics and wireless connectivity within industry to achieve optimal performance. The term usually refers to factories, but Seto’s group is applying it to ships. They are researching how to prevent ships from experiencing down-time because equipment has failed or worn out. Down-time is expensive and counter-productive to any industrial complex – a ship no less than a manufacturing facility. So Seto’s lab is researching how to use machine learning and other advanced solutions to determine when essential pieces of equipment are about to give out so they can be repaired or replaced before they become a problem.

‘We’re trying to apply Industry 4.0 to ships,” said Seto. “If you have critical equipment on board -- and it does not have to be highly complex; it could be a hydraulic pump – we want to be able to predict when you expect this part to need maintenance or fail. When the network and its operations is large or complex, it is not always apparent what is going to give out next.”

She said that her team has made a good start with this project and have developed a few tools so far that can indicate the health of ship-board gear. It will need more work, she said. “This is something that you build incrementally – it’s not something you build over three months.”

One final aspect of her lab that cannot be overlooked is the educational value it brings to the students who pass through it. Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research institution, but it is also a seat of higher learning. Seto shares the university’s mission to prepare her students as well as she can for work in the contemporary world of industry and business. She believes that in the 21st Century, that means immersing them in the type of multi-disciplinary work her lab specializes in. It means that mechanical engineers learn to code and computer scientists understand the need to develop engineering solutions that can operate in harsh environments.

“I think the engineers we turn out into the workforce should be able to work in more than just the discipline that they first chose to study.  It increases their value to industry,” she said. “My mechanical engineers are actually pretty good with programming and design as well as coming up with machines. If you are going to come up with innovative solutions for complex problems, you will not draw from just one discipline alone.”

 

Sponsored by Dal Innovates

Dal Innovates provides opportunities for students and faculty at Dalhousie University to explore and experience innovation and entrepreneurship and develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to translate new ideas into innovations.  We empower our students & faculty to be the best innovators, creators and entrepreneurs and make an impact on local and global challenges. Learn more here

Medteq To Host $200K Pitch Event

The Montreal-based health technology organization Medteq is seeking health startups to apply to pitch at its next funding event, which offers startups a chance to win $200,000 in funding.

Five founders from across the country will pitch at a cocktail reception in Montreal on Jan. 13. A panel of judges will then choose which pitcher receives $200,000 in funding. You can apply here

The next day, Medteq will host its Disrupting Healthcare Summit, which will feature panels of investment managers, hospital execs, entrepreneurs and industry experts.

“Medteq is a proud supporter of innovative companies that are advancing tomorrow’s healthcare and the quality of patients' lives,” Medteq Investment Manager Meryeme Lahmami told the wedsite Montreal in Technology recently. “We’re looking for innovative health technology startups to showcase their solutions and pitch at our Investment Cocktail in January.”

Earlier this year, Nova Scotian companies Spring Loaded Technology and Densitas were among eight companies that received funding from MedTeq. The organization did not release specifics, except to say the eight companies’ funding rounds, including investments from Medteq and others, totalled $11 million.

Launched in 2013, MedTech now oversees a $19 million venture capital fund focussed on medical technology and innovation.

Dispension Installs First VID Machine

The Cannaplex

The Cannaplex

As it plots the expansion of its Cannaplex innovation hub, Dartmouth-based Dispension Industries has also just installed its first Verified Identity Dispenser, or VID, in a pilot project in Vancouver.

Dispension created the VID to allow authorities to distribute regulated substances like cannabis or opioids to registered users, and only those users. The machines use scanning sensors to take images of the patterns of veins in the user’s hands. These patterns are as individual as fingerprints, so the VID can always tell it is distributing the product to the registered user.

Co-Founders Corey M. Yantha and brothers Matthew and Brad Michaelis invented the machine to address the opioid crisis in Western Canada and the United States. This month, the team installed its first machine in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side as part of a pilot project to test its effectiveness of an automated delivery system.

“We are providing regulated doses of opioids, which then reduces the stress on the public resources and on the first responders,” said Yantha in an interview after returning from Vancouver for the installation.

The thinking behind the project is that if addicts receive regular, verifiable doses of their opioids, they’re less likely to overdose or commit crimes to feed their habit. What’s more, everyone will know dosage and content of the substance being distributed, so it is safer than buying off the street.

Yantha said that on his first day in Vancouver, there were 15 overdoses in the East Hastings area before noon, demonstrating the severity of the situation and its pressure on the system.

BioNB Leads Cannabis Research Campaign 

The seven-member team, which has not yet raised investment capital, is working with a Vancouver physician and medical team to monitor the result of the pilot. The participants will decide on the next step after assessing the pilot.

Meanwhile, Yantha is also excited about the growth of Cannaplex, a cannabis innovation hub in the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth. Early in its development, the Dispension team realized it had excess space and envisaged forming a community  of like-minded companies.

“The cannabis technology industry is a relatively new market with untapped potential, and our goal is to be a state-of-the-art centre for cannabis technology excellence,” said Matthew Michaelis. “We are already near capacity at our current location and are actively looking to acquire a larger space that can accommodate growth into a larger community”.

Six companies now work out of the Dartmouth facility, including:

  • Jazz Cabbage Gardens, which is focused on producing premium, organic cannabis in Nova Scotia;
  • Meridian DLT, a renewable energy blockchain network;
  • Dispension Blockchain Capital, a joint venture between Meridian and Dispension;
  • Mallow, which is developing a tonic from natural ingredients, such as marshmallow root and lemon grass;
  • And cannabis accessories importer and exporter Green Port Trading Company.

The Cannaplex – a name that Dispension has trademarked – operates on the same premise as Volta for the tech community – its facility is a meeting place for people interested in the cannabis industry. It’s a place to seek advice and swap ideas, a place that produces an environment conducive to growing cannabis companies.

Yantha said the team is now actively looking for a larger facility. It hopes to have a ribbon-cutting in the summer of 2020.

“We want to be the hub for businesses in the cannabis space or in the tech space who want to be part of this community,” said Yantha. “We feel it’s going to be a really amazing part of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem.”

Data Presentation in Cape Breton

The presentations of our 2018 Atlantic Canada Startup Data research will continue with a luncheon event in Sydney on Dec. 10.

Cape Breton Partnership and OnSide are hosting my presentation of our latest startup data at noon at the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability at Cape Breton University.

Each year, Entrevestor charts the growth of the startup community, collecting data on such metrics as company launches, funding, employment and revenue. I will present our findings for the region overall and focus on the metrics for Cape Breton.

This includes data on the record funding and job growth in Atlantic Canada in 2018, and an explanation of why the 2019 figures are sure to eclipse those of last year.

We’ve recently done similar events at Volta in Halifax, Genesis in St. John’s and the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

At the Cape Breton event, lunch will be provided, but pre-registration is required as space is limited. You can register here.

Launching our Ecosystem Roadmap

We’re launching something new today on Entrevestor – our first Atlantic Canada Ecosystem Roadmap.

The Roadmap is designed to help anyone find information about the startup ecosystem in the region. It’s a new section on our website that helps you find out information on the organizations that support startups. Just click on the icon on the right of our home page to visit the Roadmap.

We’ve separated the programs into nine different categories – from local startup hubs to educational institutions to investment groups – and list the programs in each category. We have descriptions of programs offered by more than 50 organizations, and links to their websites so you can reach out to them.

We’ve also included four sections to help people who are new to the startup community find their way around it. These sections help with connections for: aspiring entrepreneurs; founders based elsewhere who want to move to Atlantic Canada; people interested in becoming angel investors; and people within corporations or government who want to learn more about startups.

To some extent, this is a pilot project and we’ll monitor how it progresses. We hope people within the community – and outside it – will use the roadmap as a source of information on programs and funding.

This is a new section on Entrevestor.com that will add to the information you can find on our website about the East Coast startup community. As well as our daily news, we also have our new Atlantic Canada Startup Data section, which provides the benchmark metrics on the community.

We’d like to thank our premier partners, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Volta, for making this possible. Many thanks also to our gold partners: Ignite Fredericton, Innovacorp, Springboard Atlantic, Build Ventures, the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation; Halifax Partnership; ONSIDE; PEI BioAlliance and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.

Huge thanks to the team that helped us put this together -- Mike Hayes and Mike Cyr at Charcoal Marketing and Peter Eastwood at Eastwood Design. Their help was invaluable. 

Gallant: Still Focusing on Innvoation

Brian Gallant

Brian Gallant

After being elected Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant gave himself the job of Minister of Innovation within his cabinet, and today he’s continuing that focus in a new role.

After being out of office for almost a year, Gallant last month was named a special adviser to the President of Toronto-based Ryerson University, focusing on innovation, cybersecurity and law. He was also selected as an entrepreneur-in-residence specializing in government relations at the Ryerson accelerator, the DMZ.

In a phone interview last week, the former premier said he’s continuing to work with new technology because of his own desire to learn and because of the importance of innovation.

“As I was leaving politics, I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life,” said Gallant, who was only 36 when he left the premier’s office. “I wanted to continue to learn and help to make an impact on the world. One thing that came to mind that is absolutely crucial to society, to the country, to the planet, is innovation. That is such an important topic and my prediction is it will be an exponentially more important topic going forward.”

 In his new role, Gallant will work with startups at the DMZ, the university’s tech incubator that the former premier describes as “one of the best incubators in the world”. His job is to teach the founders how to work with government and how public policy is formed, though he added he’s learning as much as he’s teaching.

“I sought out this opportunity within Ryerson [because] I want to learn about innovation,” he said. “I was amazed at the work that they’re doing. It has a polytechnical past so it still has that can-do, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-things-done attitude throughout the whole university.”

One area Gallant is focusing on is cybersecurity, an area in which he does have some experience, at least from a policy perspective. It was during his tenure as premier that New Brunswick designated cybersecurity one of the pillars of the province’s economic strategy. He looks forward to working with the Rogers Cybersecurity Catalyst, a Brampton, Ont.-based group owned by Ryerson.

Energia To Showcase a Cohort Rich in Cybersecurity Companies

“We were very proud of our government’s work to help foster that cluster but I want to be clear that there were a lot of great things already happening,” he said, referring to his experience in New Brunswick. “We just used the government’s ‘power of convening’ and with that we were able to build up the cluster and learn about what they needed.”

He said it’s easy to under-estimate how helpful governments can be simply with their ability to get all parties – academia, the civil service, business – in the same room and work together to grow an industry.

Having spent time in Toronto and other cities in his new role, Gallant says he’s struck by the range of programs available in large cities. For example, if a young Torontonian wants to start a business in the fashion space, he or she has a range of fashion-specific accelerators to apply to.

But he adds that there are advantages to starting companies in small jurisdictions like New Brunswick.

“New Brunswick is small, but if your startup is going to need to contact a government official and a tycoon, you’re usually not able to do that in Toronto,” he said “The small nature of our region can present some challenge but it also presents opportunities and we just have to amp those up.

“If you want to meet with the mayor of Toronto, it might be difficult – lots of other people are in front of you. But if you need to meet the mayor of Saint John, you’ll probably run into him walking down the street.”

Energia To Hold Demo Day Dec 11

Joe Allen

Joe Allen

Energia Ventures next month will hold the Demo Day for its third cohort – a group rich in cybersecurity expertise.

Overseen by the University of New Brunswick’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program, Energia is an annual accelerator that works with startups involved in energy, smart grid, cleantech or cybersecurity. These are sectors in which Fredericton has strong expertise.

This year, it just turned out that all four companies participating in the program are involved in cybersecurity in one form or another rather than in energy or cleantech. The organizers recruit companies from around the world and there turned out to be more accepted companies involved directly or peripherally in security.

“If we look at our first cohort, there was one cybersecurity company, but this year they all have a touch of security – it was just the way the cookie crumbled,” said Energia Managing Director Joe Allen in an interview.  “Last year, it was focus on energy companies. It’s hard to predict what the next cohort will look like but we just want to raise the bar every time.”

The Demo Day will take place Dec. 11 at the Beaverbank Art Gallery in Fredericton. You can register here

Energia, which is open to companies from around the world, had hoped to have six companies in the program this year, but two of the international participants had visa issues so four companies will present during Demo Day.

They are:

Gray Wolf Analytics, Fredericton – Gray Wolf is developing a blockchain analytics solution that helps detect money-laundering. Its analytics platform can overlay on any blockchain and track cryptocurrency and detect if criminals are moving money around.

Tail Wind, India – This company is developing an ‘asset tokenization platform’, which allows the owner of a financial asset (say, a company or real estate), to create a cache of tradable tokens that represent ownership in the asset. This will allow the asset’s owner to raise money by selling the tokens, which can later be traded or bought back by the issuer. The company is starting with video game development so the developers can raise money by selling stakes in the game by issuing tokens.

ServUs Health, Fredericton – Servus is developing a matchmaking support platform for seniors – a digital solution that can connect seniors to such programs or services as health clinics, physiotherapists or other amenities.

Clanz, Tel Aviv – Clanz is focused on artificial intelligence software that uses sound to monitor vulnerable populations, such as toddlers, the elderly or disabled people. Using machine learning, it measures the tonality of a voice and can detect problems even among people who are unable to speak. It can be installed in a phone or CCTV to bring in an extra layer of security.

Each Energia team receives $20,000 in non-dilutive funding and the opportunity to pitch to the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation for an equity investment of as much as $50,000.

[The CEO of Gray Wolf is Dhirendra Shukla, who is also the head of the TME program. Allen said there was no conflict in the company receiving the equity funding because approval for that funding rests with NBIF not Energia. Shukla recused himself from the discussions on the non-dilutive portion, leaving those discussions to his co-founders. Allen said the non-dilutive funding is an amount that, while not insubstantial, is not out of line with other programs of this sort.]

Allen said recruiting international companies has provided great benefits for the program, and for Fredericton. For example, Tail Wind is looking into applying to the Startup Visa program to move to Fredericton. And the international contacts help the whole ecosystem.

“When I talk to people overseas, I begin almost every conversation by telling them where Fredericton is,” said Allen. “So I think it is great exposure for Atlantic Canada.”

 

Disclosure: UNB's TME program is a client of Entrevestor.

Membertou Chief Recognized

Chief Terrance Paul

Chief Terrance Paul

Chief Terrance Paul of Nova Scotia’s Membertou First Nation has been awarded the 2020 Aboriginal business award for Lifetime Achievement by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

Paul has been Chief of Membertou First Nation for 35 years and is CEO of Membertou Development Corporation, which is the first Indigenous organization in the world to receive an ISO 9001 certification and was CCAB’s inaugural recipient of the Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation Award in 2014.

"I am humbled to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business,” said Paul in a statement. “It has been my greatest honour to serve our community and work to create economic success for our people."

Since becoming Chief of Membertou in 1984, Paul has tripled the community’s land base, increased the employment rate to 80 per cent and increased graduation rates from 30 per cent to 90 per cent. In 2017, he received the Order of Canada, one of the highest civilian honours in the country.

“This year’s recipients demonstrate that when we connect hard work, passion, and determination with our values, we can transform our families and our communities,” said J.P. Gladu, President and CEO of CCAB, which is a national, non-partisan group providing knowledge, resources and programs to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal companies that foster economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses.

The awards are founded and sponsored by Compass Group Canada and will be presented at the 2020 Gala Awards Dinner on Jan. 28 in Toronto, an event sponsored by Bruce Power.

Michael Hachey, Chief Innovation Officer of Compass Group Canada, said the winners are, “role models not only for the next generation of Indigenous leaders, but for all Canadians."

The 2020 Young Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award has been won by Shelley Stewart. Stewart, who is from the Upper Nicola Band in B.C. is the owner of the logging company, Bar S Ventures.

Tickets for the gala can be purchased here. 

Appili Buys Anti-Fungal Drug Rights

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Appili Therapeutics Inc., the Halifax drug-discovery company that listed its shares in Toronto last spring, has acquired the rights to develop a new anti-fungal drug candidate from a Japanese drug company.

Appili issued a statement Thursday saying it has signed an agreement with Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. of Tokyo to develop an anti-fungal drug that can be used to fight such hard-to-cure afflictions as Cryptococcal meningitis and Candida infections.

The statement said Appili will have exclusive worldwide rights outside Japan to develop and commercialize the drug, which is now known as ATI-2307. Fujifilm Toyama will receive milestone payments and, once the drug is available to the public, royalties from sales.

“Appili has demonstrated deep expertise in accelerating anti-infective drug development that is well aligned with Fujifilm Toyama Chemical’s focus on innovative R&D in the area of infectious disease,” said Fujifilm Toyama President and COO Junji Okada in the statement. “Fujifilm Toyama Chemical is committed to solving public health issues through innovation, high-value drug development, and accretive partnership. We are confident that Appili is the right partner to help maximize the potential of ATI-2307 and address the urgent threat of invasive and difficult-to-treat fungal infections.”

Appili was launched four years ago with the goal of developing a portfolio of drug candidates and bringing them to the market. In June, the company listed its shares on the TSX Venture exchange, and one reason for the listing was that it would give the company the financial flexibility to make acquisitions and diversify its drug portfolio in the future.

Growth in Life Sciences Sector Outpaces Rest of Startup Community

The company was already working on two drug candidates: a fast-tracked drug candidate called ATI-1501, which treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children; and ATI-1503, which will take longer to develop but aims for a larger market -- addressing antibiotic-resistant viruses.

The new addition to the Appili portfolio is ATI-2307, a “novel broad-spectrum antifungal” that has qualities allowing it to treat diseases that have proven resistant to existing drugs. The Japanese company took the drug candidate into clinical development and completed three Phase I clinical trials that showed humans can take the drug without adverse effects.

Appili Chief Development Officer Armand Balboni said in the press release that existing anti-fungal agents are toxic for many patients and their outcomes are poor. He added there are not enough anti-fungal drugs even though the aging population and other factors have meant the risks of fungal infections are increasing.

“Appili was founded with the purpose of identifying, acquiring, and rapidly advancing the most promising anti-infective technologies,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan. “The acquisition of this highly differentiated, clinical-stage program added immediate incremental value to the company and is an exciting step forward.”

Appili shares have lately had their best week since the listing in June. The shares rose 48 percent over eight days to close Wednesday at 59 cents. However, they are still trading below the 80-cent mark they closed at on their first day of trading in June. The company now has a market capitalization (the total value of its shares) of $19.8 million.

Verafin Leads Record VC quarter

Verafin’s record-breaking venture capital deal showed up big-time in the most recent quarterly data report by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association.

The CVCA’s third-quarter data shows that Atlantic Canadian companies raised $532 million in venture capital in the third quarter, almost all of it attributable to Verafin’s $515 million equity and debt deal reported in September. Though there were questions about how the deal should be valued as there were equity and debt components, the CVCA decided to classify the whole raise as venture finance and booked it as the full $515 million.

Given that the Verafin deal was the largest VC raise in Canadian history, it was obviously the biggest Canadian deal in the third quarter. But it was not the only mega-deal in the three months to Sept. 30. The CVCA said 23 deals of more than $50 million each were the main reason Canada reported its best quarter for VC investment in six years.

“A staggering $2.4 billion was invested over 126 deals in the third quarter this year, the highest amount since 2013 and 79 percent higher than the previous high watermark of $1.3 billion invested in the previous quarter,” said the report.

Verafin, whose software helps financial institutions fight fraud and money laundering, said in September it received new equity financing from previous investors Spectrum Equity and Information Venture Partners, as well as new backers Northleaf Capital Partners, BDC Capital and Teralys Capital. Senior debt financing for the transaction was led by Wells Fargo Capital Finance and included Scotiabank in the syndicate. The company did not break down the equity and debt components.

With that deal, the VC funding in Atlantic Canada for the year to date looks like this:

Province 

1H2019 3Q2019 YTD2019
NS $58M $5M $63M
NB $3M $9M $12M
NL $3M $518M $521M
PEI $600K $400K $1M
Total $65M $532M $597M

(The CVCA reveals the year-to-date figures in its quarterly report, so we subtracted first-half data to come up with the third-quarter stats.)

The bad news is that two funding deals account for 93 percent of the Atlantic Canadian venture capital funding so far this year. In June, Halifax-based ABK Biomedical announced it had raised US$30 million ($40 million), led by Cambridge, Mass.-based F-Prime Capital, which is an offshoot of mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, a maker of medical software.

Other than those two financing rounds, Atlantic Canada innovation companies have raised about $42 million for the first nine months of 2019, with just a few deals worth more than $1 million.

For the third quarter, the CVCA recorded five deals worth $9 million in New Brunswick and four deals worth $5 million in Nova Scotia.

It also said Halifax has been the fifth busiest city in Canada so far this year for VC investments, with 14 deals worth $43 million. Fredericton was eighth with eight deals worth $9 million.

Other than the Verafin deal, the big news in East Coast venture capital in the past few months was that Build Ventures had refilled the tank. The regional VC fund announced the $50.5 million initial close of its second fund, which it hopes will eventually be worth $65 million. Build also led the $2.9 million investment in Saint John-based Gemba Software Solutions, one of the larger raises in the region this year.

Five Winners at Volta Cohort

Five founders carted off very big cheques worth a total of $125,000 at the standing-room-only Volta Cohort pitching competition in Halifax on Wednesday night.

In its fifth pitching event, the Volta Cohort invested $25,000 in each of five companies, meaning it has now channeled a total of $650,000 into 26 startups based in Atlantic Canada. Volta, the Halifax startup hub, organizes the event twice each year to help early-stage companies that need their first equity investment to help them reach the market.

“Injecting early stage startups with a small investment, and pairing it with mentorship and support early on has provided a tremendous boost to our regional ecosystem by helping companies get to a venture path more quickly,” said Volta Director of Strategic Projects Meghann Coleman in a statement. “The talent, passion and diversity of the ideas displayed were quite impressive, and we look forward to helping the founders and their teams as they continue to grow.”

Fourteen companies pitched at the event Wednesday, including at least one representative from each Atlantic Canadian province and Cape Breton.

The five winners on Wednesday night were:

Bloxo Inc. (Halifax) – Bloxo is a mobile and web-based platform that simplifies the process of organizing and participating in sports, by connecting organizers, players and facilities. The company addresses the difficulty of finding and booking a sports facility, and then finding players to join in and help pay for it. Its app allows people to book a field, organize a game, and get players to pay electronically before the game even starts. It has signed up 1,000 early adopters who have played 250 games and is in talks with more sports organizations.

Bursity Inc. (Halifax) – Bursity.ca is developing a web platform that helps post-secondary students pay their tuition by finding and applying for financial awards in a few easy steps. In an age of mounting student debt, it says there are $45 billion of financial awards in North America, much of which goes unclaimed each year. Bursity’s platform uses one universal form to connect students to funding opportunities. It now has 2 million opportunities listed on its site and wants to add more. The company has already enlisted 126 users who are willing to pay to use the platform to access educational funding programs. 

Electric Owl Solutions Ltd. (Halifax) – Electric Owl is developing subscription-based software solutions for home gardeners to give them the knowledge to grow their own food. Some 46 million homes grow food and spend $20 billion a year, wasting about one-quarter of it. Electric Owl has an app that tells them what they need to know to grow food properly and uses artificial intelligence to tell gardeners what to do before problems happen.

RIDDL (Fredericton) – RIDDL provides proprietary data to impact investors to guide better investment decisions. CEO Jenelle Sobey said impact investors have problems assessing the performance of social ventures. The goal is to build the world’s largest databank of social performance metrics. The company was the runner up in New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition earlier this year.

Sparrow Acoustics (Halifax) – Sparrow Acoustics is making it possible for healthcare professionals to triage a cardiac patient in less than 10 minutes using only software and an electronic stethoscope. The company combines a decade of auscultation research with computer visualization, proprietary acoustic algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Sparrow Acoustics aims to allow a family doctor to diagnose a condition in 10 minutes, rather than the current practice of being referred to cardiologists, which can be strung out for as long as six months.

Volta Cohort holds pitching sessions twice a year and provides winners with space at Volta and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. Companies outside Halifax receive support through partner organizations in other Atlantic Canadian cities.

 

Disclosure: Volta is a client of Entrevestor.

Oliver POS Preps for Full Launch

Mathias Nielsen

Mathias Nielsen

St. John’s-based Oliver POS is taking on about 10 clients a week for its online point-of-sales systems, so it now has clients on six continents. And it’s hoping to ramp that number up to 30 per week soon. The company, which began last year, says these sales have come about through customers seeking the company rather than the other way around.

“We’ve never spent a dollar in marketing,” said CEO and Founder Mathias K. Nielsen in an interview. “They’ve reached out to us. We haven’t done any outreach. Apparently, we’re gaining traction on Google now. We can’t wait to spend some money on marketing because we know there’s a bigger market but we have to have the product ready.”

Oliver POS has developed a plug-in point-of-sale, or POS, solution for what’s known a WooCommerce, which is ecommerce for websites that run off WordPress. WordPress is a content management system that is used to create about one-third of all websites, and WooCommerce is the e-commerce function for these WordPress sites.

What Oliver POS does is make WooCommerce more efficient. It can be installed with a single click, and can help retailers control their inventory and conduct other tasks from a single platform.

BreathSuite Closes $550K Funding Round

The story of Oliver POS began when Nielsen, a native of Denmark, moved to St. John’s after an eight-year stint in Beijing. A serial entrepreneur, he set up Creative Maple, an IT consultancy that targets small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. From this work, he learned that retailers were setting up websites and could not find a single piece of software to carry out all the POS functions that they needed.

So last year, Nielsen launched Oliver POS and says the response has been enthusiastic. Not only does he have early customers, including one with 156 retail locations, but he has signed partnerships with the two largest credit card processors in North America. In total, he has signed up or is in talks with five credit card processors. He is looking to bring on others, especially in Asia and Europe.

Nielsen now employs 21 people, including 14 developers, and is continuing to grow the operation. The priority for the company is to iron out a few wrinkles in the software and then begin to market the product. Oliver POS was recently accepted into two programs: Propel’s virtual Incite Phase 2 accelerator, which teaches repeatable sales techniques; and the Enterprise program for scaling companies at Genesis in St. John's.

“We want to reach 400 paying customers by March, so we’ve to figure out in the smartest way to finance scaling,” said Nielsen.

Having built up the company so far through his own resources, he said raising venture capital would be a fast way to grow the business, but he also wants to examine whether one of his established partners could help finance the growth.

He added that one of the better moves he’s made is moving to St. John’s.

“I love it,” he said. “I’ve got two children and a house and I’m really settled, and it’s one of the best ecosystems for startups that I’ve ever seen.”

SMU Seeks Startups for VCIC

The Sobey School of Business at St. Mary’s University is seeking startups to participate in its annual student venture capital competition and possibly join the international search for “the most VC-backable startup.”

For several years, the Sobey School has hosted the Canadian regional finals for the international Venture Capital Investment Competition, or VCIC. This is an international competition in which teams of graduate and under-graduate students compete to see which one makes the best mock venture capital investment.

SMU will host the 2020 regional finals for Canada on March 6, and the organizers are looking for Atlantic Canadian startups that can pitch to and negotiate with the VC teams. Startups can find more information and apply here.

The organizers will choose six startups for the regional competition -- three for the under-graduate competition and three for the graduate channel. These companies will pitch in person, go through six due diligence sessions (one with each student VC team), have lunch with the VC judges and negotiate term sheets with the teams that choose to invest in them.

The winning student VC team will proceed to the VCIC Global Finals in Chapel Hill, N.C., on March 27-28, where VC teams from seven countries will vie for the top prize. (As the host of the Canadian competition, SMU does not enter its own competition but will again participate in the VCIC regional finals in Boston.)  

Ten startups that do well in the regional finals will also be invited to the Global Finals and will compete to be named the “most VC-backable startup”. The stand-out from the SMU event will be considered to join these companies. 

“Historically, founders come because we have enough VCs in the room to justify the day at VCIC," said Patrick Vernon, VCIC director and clinical associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. "When they leave, they are surprised by the value of the feedback from students and investors alike, and the expanded network base for future fundraising. Over the years, over 25 percent of the participating startups go on to raise venture capital after the event."

In 2019, VCIC’s Most VC-Backable Startup was Admiral, a Gainsville, Fla.-based visitor relationship management company.

“The competition is daunting, with student venture capital teams ripping apart your business model and leaving no due diligence stone unturned,” said Admiral Founder and CEO Dan Rua in a statement. “Securing multiple term sheets after such a thorough process was rewarding.”

UNB Releases Innovation Map

The University of New Brunswick has released a new innovation ecosystem map, which demonstrates the importance of R&D to the provincial economy and makes a call to increase research spending.

The university on Tuesday released the New Brunswick Innovation and Ecosystem Map in a ceremony at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. The map was produced by Global Advantage Consulting, which concluded R&D is essential to the long-term growth of the provincial economy.

“There is a significant innovation gap our province is experiencing,” said UNB Vice-President of Research David MaGee in a statement. “The percentage of government and private R&D investments is remarkably lower here when compared to the rest of Canada.” 

The study finds that New Brunswick’s share of Canadian gross domestic product has shrunk from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 1.64 in 2017, marking a loss of about $1 billion in annual economic output.

To reverse that decline, the paper argues the province needs more innovation to underpin growth in exports. But in 2016 New Brunswick accounted for only 1 percent of Canada’s research and development, or a total of $354 million in research spending. Only one-third of this R&D was conducted by the private sector, compared to a level of 50 percent across Canada. Making matters worse, New Brunswick has the lowest level of higher education R&D, or HERD, spending per person of any province in Canada.

The study said 55 percent “of all R&D in NB happens at post-secondary education (PSE) institutions. This is not the situation in other provinces. Yet, New Brunswick PSE institutions receive less government funding than other provinces.”

The innovation map shows that per capita HERD spending in New Brunswick is $245, far less than $487 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $440 in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia government, it says, spends $100 million more on R&D than New Brunswick’s government.

The statement says that UNB plays a key role in driving innovation in New Brunswick, accounting for 70 percent of the sponsored research in the province.

As well as calling for more government spending on R&D, the UNB document calls for the province to:

  • Grow collaboration between higher education, governments, not-for-profits and the private sector;
  • Develop a joint strategy to attract government and private sector investments;
  • Focus on innovation in areas of strength and high potential;
  • Encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to adopt new technologies;
  • Train more talent in key industries, such as cybersecurity and cleantech, to help attract large companies and investments;
  • Provide incentives and infrastructure for companies to come to New Brunswick and stay;
  • Determine key export markets;
  • And diversify export partners and products.

“UNB excels in mobilizing knowledge and launching new sectors within our communities, such as smart grid and cybersecurity,” said UNB President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Mazerolle. “The map shows us the importance of working together to ensure we’re making investments that count. We need to focus on areas of high potential and work together to attract more companies and talent.”

 

Disclosure: UNB is a client of Entrevestor. 

Entrevestor at 3 Events in St. John’s

I will be in St. John’s early next week and taking part in a few events Tuesday that will feature Entrevestor’s startup research and my own seminar on media relations.

The first event is the presentation of our Atlantic Canada Startup Data report, which outlines the growth of the regional startup community, including such metrics as funding, revenue, employment and the like. And we will have a special focus on Newfoundland and Labrador.

This presentation will take place Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 10:30 am at Room 2007B of the Emera Innovation Exchange on Memorial University’s Signal Hill Campus. The talk will take about 45 minutes, and then there will be a Q&A session. You can register for the event here

I’ll be back in the Innovation Exchange at 2 pm to present my Media Relations for Startups seminar to Genesis companies. The theme is that media relations can help you to reach customers, funders and supporters, but you have to be strategic in approaching media and clear in describing what you do.

In the evening, I will take part in the meeting of ConnectioNL, the new community group that encourages entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ll do a quick summary of my data presentation, for those who missed it in the morning, before the meeting turns to other business. The ConnectioNL meeting will be held at 6 pm at Clovelly Golf Course, 100 Golf Course Road, and you can register for it here.

It will be great to be in St. John’s again and I’m looking forward to linking up with as many founders as possible.

Fuck Up Nights Come to Moncton

Rivers Corbett

Rivers Corbett

Years ago, Rivers Corbett made a major mistake as the owner of popular restaurant chain Relish Gourmet Burger that led to the demise of the company. In an effort to grow it, he jumped into a partnership with an investor that wasn’t a good fit.

“We should have done more due diligence instead of just getting excited about the money,” he reminisced. “A lot of emotions went with that as we tried to battle our way out of it, but ultimately we lost the battle.”

He’s learned from the mistake and moved on to bigger, and better things, now helping entrepreneurs to succeed, he said. But the former Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the province of New Brunswick wants more business people to share their experience with failures and mistakes, as well as the lessons and emotions that come with them.

Corbett is starting the Moncton chapter of Fuck Up Nights, a global movement started in Mexico City that aims to provide a space for entrepreneurs to share stories about their errors. It’s now in 318 cities around the world, including eight in Canada. . . . 

Read the full story in Huddle. 

Spark NS Awards $375K to 9 Teams

Spark Nova Scotia on Monday awarded $375,000 in prize money to nine companies located outside the metro Halifax area.

The organizers said 37 companies qualified for the competition, which aims to support startups based outside the province’s largest metro area. After training sessions were held in Bridgewater, Truro and Sydney, the field was narrowed to 19 finalists and then to nine winners, who received between $25,000 and $50,000 each.

The winners were announced at a reception at the Nova Scotia Community College Ivany Campus in Dartmouth.

“We are thrilled with the quality and potential of the start-ups that came from communities across Nova Scotia,” said Erinn Smith, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Association of Community Business Development Corporations. “The judges had a tough time selecting winners, and that’s a testament to the talent that exists in this province.”

The winners (with links to our previous articles about these companies) are as follows:

Cape Breton Winners

1st Place: CheckIn Analytics - $50,000

2nd Place (tie): Tracker Inventory Systems - $37,500

How TIS Launched with $5,000 and an Early Adopter

2nd Place (tie): Ubiquity - $37,500

Nova Scotia North Winners

1st Place: DMR Boat Design - $50,000

2nd Place: Cultivated Eco Systems - $40,000

3rd Place: GreenOil Solutions - $35,000

Nova Scotia Southwest Winners

1st Place (tie): Dr. Gordon’s Bum Cream - $50,000

Ann Gordon a Semi-Finalist in BioInnovation Challenge

1st Place (tie): myFlock - $50,000

3rd Place (tie): BlackWatch.Tech - $25,000

Blackwatch.Tech Among the Winners at Volta Cohort

In a separate statement, Ignite Labs Inc. congratulated three residents of its startup hubs, based in Yarmouth and Pictou counties, that won awards.

Blackwatch.tech, an ocean tech company based out of Yarmouth, is developing a man-over board device to help save the lives of offshore fishermen.

Green Oil Solutions, a sustainable innovation company based in Pictou County, is working on a filtration technology that separates oil and water for use on commercial fishing vessels.

Cultivated Eco Systems, a zero waste Ag-tech company based in Pictou County, is commercializing a soil probiotic that stabilizes hostile soil conditions to increase crop yields and plant growth.

“By supporting these startups, Ignite hopes to create a culture of innovation where we can help grow vibrant industries in rural Nova Scotia,” said Ignite President and CEO Doug Jones.

Ring Rescue Sells Out in 3 Weeks

When Patrick Hennessey and his fellow Dalhousie mechanical engineering students presented their final project before graduation, they likely had no idea it would one day save a priceless Blue Jays championship ring.

But they developed their project into a company, Dartmouth-based Ring Rescue, and its technology has saved the World Series ring and others from swollen ring fingers.

Ring Rescue’s simple technology uses air pressure to shrink the swelling in a finger, allowing rings to slide off easily with the addition of a simple water-soluble lubricant. It means no cutting is required so precious rings can be saved.

Hennessey, the company’s CTO, and CEO Kevin Spencer recently sold their first run of 300 units of Ring Rescue in only three weeks and are now gearing up to manufacture 1,000 more units. The device has attained Class 1 approval from Health Canada and has also been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for American distribution.

“What this technology represents is a chance to take an idea developed and commercialized in Nova Scotia to the world,” said Hennessey in an interview. “We’re really excited to be changing the standard of care for this type of ailment across the world, and we believe that we have benefitted tremendously from the ecosystem here of mentors and other businesses who have helped us along the way.”

Growth in Life Sciences Sector Outpaces Rest of Startup Community

The company received some private investment and support from such government groups as the National Research Council and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It is now transitioning away from government funding to generating revenue through sales to the medical and jewelry sectors.

Recently, the company gained media exposure when its product was used to save a Blue Jays championship ring. A patient in Toronto – who can’t be identified due to doctor-patient confidentiality – needed this priceless ring removed before surgery. Dr. John Haverstock—a former classmate of Spencer—contacted his old friend for help. After Ring Rescue shipped its product to Ontario, the ring was removed successfully and harmlessly.

Ramping up its manufacturing, Ring Rescue is targeting sales to hospitals, urgent care centres and jewelers. With strong prospects in the medical sector, the company is also working with medical distributors Medline, Owens & Minor and McKesson which collectively supply a majority of Canadian and American hospitals.

Spencer and Hennessey maintain a staff of four to five full-time employees, as well as some part-time and contract workers. The founders believe the company’s success showcases Nova Scotia’s positive environment for startups. They also hope their experience – especially in regulatory approval – can help other Nova Scotian startups.

Spencer said all the knowledge is “easily translatable to other aspects of our local economy and I think that really is important—to figure that out locally, and use that as a template not only for this company but for future ones as well.” 

Leahy Revives 2 Zombie Startups

John Leahy: 'The focus is one customer at a time.'

John Leahy: 'The focus is one customer at a time.'

A Halifax entrepreneur is relaunching two “zombie startups” in a bid to revitalize the stalled businesses.

John Leahy is the co-founder of Imagine That and Patient Intelligence. Both were created several years ago, but failed to gain traction.

Now, with new technology and more scalable business plans, Leahy sees an opportunity to make good on his original hopes for the companies.

“How we’re relaunching these zombies is that the focus is one customer at a time,” he said in an interview.

Zombies are the walking dead of the startup world—businesses that are not insolvent, but also not growing. They are often a drain on the entrepreneurial economy, because they consume resources that could be used by other, more vibrant companies.

To be considered a zombie by Entrevestor, a startup must be at least two years old, have not made any public announcements in two years and have not raised capital in at least three years. Entrevestor estimated there were at least 66 zombies among the 550 startups in the region in 2018.

Leahy, best known as a the CEO of the web development company immediaC, founded Imagine That with Debra Fraser in 2010, and Patient Intelligence with dentist Garnet Worthen in 2015.

Imagine That was originally conceived as an enterprise service that clothing retailers would place in their stores. Customers would have posed in front of cameras, and screens would have displayed images of them wearing the store’s merchandise. The system cost about $30,000 to develop.

Read Entrevestor's Analysis of Failures and Zombies in 2018

Leahy and Fraser were in conversation with prospective customers that included Macy’s, Sears and a Walmart subsidiary. In some cases, the deals being negotiated could have been worth upwards of $100,000 each.

But talks fell through, and by mid-decade, the development of Imagine That had stalled. The software was not advanced enough to generate convincing images, and the 3D clothing models were prohibitively expensive to produce, at about $300 per garment.

The new incarnation of the company relies on iPhone and Android apps that use Apple and Google’s free augmented reality platforms. Instead of 3D models of garments, they use 2D photos that are readily available from clothing manufacturers’ online databases, which has helped slash costs.

Leahy and Fraser relaunched the brand this May at Toronto’s Collision Conference, a major tech industry gathering. The app is currently being beta-tested and will be available to the public in December, with subscriptions priced at $99 monthly.

“The quality of the experience, this idea of a ‘magic mirror,’ the demand is still there,” said Leahy. “My wife and daughter are constantly saying, ‘When can we do the try-on-clothing app? Because I want to be able to try things on.’”

Patient Intelligence, meanwhile, is a database of obituaries gathered from newspaper websites and other sources by an automated “crawler.” Dentists can cross-reference the database, which currently has about 150,000 entries, against their patient lists to identify customers who may have died recently. The service is meant to prevent family members from receiving potentially upsetting appointment reminders.

The business never made it to launch in its first incarnation, but the website is now operational, with three Nova Scotia dentist offices beta-testing the service.

Since neither Imagine That, nor Patient Intelligence have any employees, their day-to-day operations are handled by immediaC—the 10-person search engine optimization company that Leahy has owned for two decades.

Neither zombie has sought outside investment, and Leahy has no plans to pursue angel financing or venture capital.

“They’re developed products at this point,” he said. “The focus is, go get customers.”

Biotech Segment Continues To Grow

The staff at Halifax-based drug development company AGADA.

The staff at Halifax-based drug development company AGADA.

One of the strongest developments in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in recent years is the development of the life sciences segment – both the biotech companies and the ecosystem that supports them.

Five years ago, these companies made up 16 percent of the companies we listed in our Entrevestor databank, but that proportion rose to 21 percent last year. And our research shows that the number of people working at Atlantic Canadian-owned life sciences companies rose 25 percent in 2018 to almost 1,300, while the companies that provided us with sales data showed a 95 percent increase in revenues. There were 24 new life sciences companies in 2018 (up from six in 2014), so that one-fifth of the region’s biotech companies were launched in 2018.

Finding a theme in this sector is difficult because there are several initiatives taking place across the region. On Prince Edward Island, the PEI BioAlliance continues to build up its community with a special emphasis on pet health and natural products. The BioAlliance’s Emergence incubator is growing into a more regional initiative.

In Nova Scotia, BioNova last year produced its BioFuture 2030 report, which sets out a roadmap for doubling the sector or better. It plans to triple employment to 4,100 jobs and quadruple revenues to $1.1 billion. It is also calling for new ecosystem initiatives, such as an accelerator to teach sales to life sciences companies.

BioNB Leads Cannabis Development Campaign 

Newfoundland and Labrador is beginning to launch more life sciences companies as the Bounce Health Innovation initiative is nurturing partnerships between innovators and the medical community. BioNB is growing and becoming more active in developing a cannabis R&D cluster in New Brunswick.

These provincial groups are working together more than ever before, as the life sciences group of the Atlantic Growth Strategy is bringing them together to work on common goals. BioNB, BioNova, the Newfoundland & Labrador Association of Technology Industries and the PEI BioAlliance are all working together in the Atlantic Canada Bio-Industries Alliance. This group brought together 20 companies and organizations in early 2019 to attend the 2019 BIO International Convention and Trade Show in Philadelphia.

As well as the ecosystem changes, there are some great companies pushing forward. Halifax-based ABK Biomedical raised a US$30 million (C$40 million) venture capital round this spring, a record for the region. Drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics listed on the TSX Venture exchange in June. Adaptiiv, which 3D prints boluses for cancer treatment, and Densitas, whose software measures breast density during mammograms, are both growing revenues. Moncton-based Picomole is developing its cancer detection device and has made inroads in the Boston area. Mara Renewables is producing its Omega-3 food supplements from algae and now employs 60 people. Publicly listed IMV of Dartmouth will soon announce the results of clinical trials for its flagship drug candidate, DPX-Survivac.

Funding of life sciences companies rose to a new plateau of more than $20 million per year in 2017 and 2018. The US$30 million funding round announced by ABK Biomedical will ensure that life sciences funding will set a record in 2019.

BioNova Calls for Tax Credit Reforms

While applauding recent investment tax credit reforms in Nova Scotia, the province’s life sciences association wants further improvements, including offering the credits to investors outside the region.

BioNova, the group that supports the development of health, life sciences and biotech companies in Nova Scotia, has teamed up with the consulting group Grant Thornton and the law firm Cox & Palmer to produce a new paper on Innovation Equity Tax Credits, or IETCs. They released the report last week at the annual BioPort conference in Halifax.

Most of the report’s 13 recommendations are technical, but No. 6 strikes at the heart of an ongoing debate in the startup community about investment tax credits. These credits are now only available to Nova Scotians, but BioNova and its co-authors want them offered to investors living elsewhere to increase the money going into high-growth companies. 

“Limiting it to Nova Scotia restricts investors and, most importantly, limits access to significant pools of capital,” says the report. “Regardless of the method, expanding the program as suggested in this paper to investors outside of Nova Scotia would likely be the biggest benefit to Nova Scotia companies in accessing funds.”

Most provinces in Canada and states in the U.S. offer a tax credit to investors in startups and other high-growth businesses as a means of encouraging investment in these businesses. Canadian provincial governments offer them only to residents living in (or businesses based in) their own provinces.

There’s been a long-standing push in Atlantic Canada for the four East Coast provinces to open up their tax credits to one another’s residents, or to offer them to investors anywhere in the world.

Motryx Wins $55,000 BioInnovation Challenge at BioPort

The Nova Scotia government in January enhanced its program so its new IETC applies to investments in approved companies of up to $250,000, up from $50,000. Investors can receive a credit equal to 35 percent of their qualifying investment, or 45 percent in the priority sectors of oceans technology and life sciences.

But the credit is still offered only to Nova Scotians. BioNova is recommending the province consider measures in place in such states as Alabama or Arkansas, which offer tax credits to external investors. Some states allow investors to transfer their credits, so an external investor can sell a tax credit to a local taxpayer. Others will offer a tax credit directly to external investors. Minnesota, for example, gives cheques to people outside the state making approved investments in companies based in the state.

The BioNova report said the Nova Scotia government could examine other means to encourage inward investment into the province’s startups, such as a payment to the target company rather than the investor. For example, if an investor in Boston invests $85,000 in a Nova Scotian company, the provincial government could provide the company with a further $15,000 to bring the total amount of capital raised to $100,000.

Peter Hickey, a BioNova board member and the CEO of biotech company Adaptiiv, said the recent changes to the province’s tax credits have already helped innovation-driven companies in the province.

“We were encouraged to see local investors benefit from the new changes,” he said in the report. “We truly believe that these are the types of significant improvements that are needed to ensure the success of technology-based businesses like ours, so we look forward to this trend continuing.”

Safa in Plug and Play with 1st Client

Jason Trask

Jason Trask

St. John’s-based Safa, which uses an artificial intelligence solution to help companies retain employees, has launched its product Safa Insight and is already working with its first enterprise client in the U.S.

The company issued a press release last week that also said it has been accepted into Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley organization that runs a series of accelerators for business-to-business technology companies. As well as being the largest venture capital fund in the Valley, Plug and Play is often referred to as “the world’s largest innovation platform.”

Safa combines AI with industrial-organizational psychology in a single solution to help companies understand their employees’ sentiments and so better retain them. Safa said that companies have had to hire expensive consultants with long wait-times to gain insights into industrial-organizational psychology. Safa Insight aims to provide knowledge that allows employers to take immediate action to predict and reduce employee turnover.

“With declining unemployment rates and voluntary turnover rates at an all-time high, our team is passionate about improving the quality of life for others by making work better,” said Safa Co-Founder and CEO Jason Trask in a statement.

Trask, a long-time entrepreneur who has raised millions of dollars of startup financing and had a successful exit, started the company in 2018. After a pivot last summer, he was joined as Co-Founder by Mandy Woodland, a startup veteran and attorney. Trask and Woodland had worked together as entrepreneurs-in-residence at the Memorial University Centre for Entrepreneurship.

With its evidence-based approach, Safa reveals which employees plan to quit and why, and how to keep them.  Safa’s proprietary “Turnover Intention Index” was developed by its industrial-organizational psychologists based on validated academic research, and uses artificial intelligence so it continuously improves.

15 Teams to Pitch at Volta Cohort on Nov. 20.

The company also offers its “Safa Certification Process”, which provides employers with a structured, repeatable process to effectively plan and implement their employee retention strategy. Clients of Safa will become “Safa Certified,” a sign to their employees and other stakeholders that they adhere to the highest standards when addressing employee retention. 

“We source data from [human resources] IT systems, labour market research, and employee surveys,” said Woodland in an email. “Using algorithms we’ve developed in-house, we combine the expertise of industrial-organizational psychology with AI to provide employers with a simple method to measure the likelihood of turnover.”

The company then prescribes solutions and provides support processes for an employer to take specific actions.

Safa is focusing its sales efforts initially on hotels and private hospitals, and its first client is a Dallas-based company that is one of the largest professional employer organizations in the U.S.  Woodland said this company works “with the national healthcare industry to place full-time and temporary physicians into hospitals and clinical care facilities.”

The Safa team has grown to 12 people who have expertise in industrial-organizational psychology, computer engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, and business. Having bootstrapped so far, the co-founders are now raising their first funding round with a goal of $1 million.

As part of that effort, Trask will pitch Nov. 20 at the Volta Cohort pitching event, which will award $25,000 to as many as five teams. Safa is also pitching at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit 2020 in Los Angeles, the largest hotel investment conference in the world. And it will soon take part in Plug and Play.

“The Plug and Play network brings together the best startups and the world’s largest corporations,” said Trask. “As the most active and largest Silicon Valley venture capital firm, they provide the perfect ecosystem to raise investment and find partners and we’re thrilled to have their support.”

Halifax Opens Innovation Outpost

The startup ecosystem in the region’s largest city got a boost Thursday with the launch of two initiatives overseen by the Halifax Partnership – the Halifax Innovation Outpost and the Halifax Innovation District.

Located at Volta, the Halifax Innovation Outpost is a new office whose mission is to nurture innovation that can improve the lives of Haligonians and help the city’s innovators work with the municipal government.

The Innovation District, which has been in the works for a couple of years, is a designation for about five square kilometres running from the campuses of Dalhousie and St. Mary’s universities, through Volta and stretching to the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth. Its mission is to take advantage of the dense grouping of innovators based in the area and help them interact to enhance the capacity for new ideas and ventures.

“The goal is to create cohesion among the many organizations that are dedicated to increasing the fertility of our entrepreneurship ecosystem within those five square kilometres,” said Miriam Zitner, the Halifax Partnership Vice-President in charge of the Innovation District. 

Volta, the startup hub in downtown Halifax, houses a group of corporate innovation outposts, which are offices where corporations or other organizations can station teams to work on innovative projects. The kernel of the strategy is to locate a remote team outside corporate headquarters and within a community of innovators so they can come up with new products and services.

Groups like Atlantic Lotto Corp., Accenture and the Province of Nova Scotia have set up outposts in Volta, and now the Halifax Innovation Outpost is the latest addition.

Operated jointly by Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax Partnership, the Halifax outpost will be led by Karl Allen-Muncey, former lead of the Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab in Kitchener, Ont., and the Innovation Outpost for Postmedia, Canada’s largest media company.

Zitner said the new Innovation Outpost will initially focus on three things: first, executing a data transparency project with HRM that tracks and reports on council's commitment to open up the municipality's data; second, to promote social innovations, including using technology to help implement the city’s poverty-reduction strategy; and third, to “make the city a living lab.”

The third component will include finding ways that the municipal government can act as an early adopter for startups in the city. As examples, Zitner said the nautical coating being developed by Graphite Innovation and Technologies could be tested on the city’s ferries, or the city could work with B-Line, which uses data to find solutions for transportation problems.

“Civic innovation is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Mayor Mike Savage in a statement. “This lab is an opportunity to find answers to longstanding challenges, to deploy agile thinking and new technologies in pursuit of a more livable city, and to make a statement that historic Halifax is stepping decisively into the future.”

The Halifax Partnership is also overseeing the Innovation District with support from the provincial government. The aim is to increase access to innovation spaces and resources and create stronger ties between academia, corporations, risk capital, government and entrepreneurs. 

The Partnership describes the Innovation District as a concentrated area where entrepreneurs, companies and organizations are collaborating to generate and accelerate new ideas. It is home to five universities and colleges, several incubators and innovation labs, and more than 2,000 companies. 

Zitner said the goal will be to increase links between the groups so they can share lessons learned and increase the number and success of viable high-growth companies in the city.

 

Disclosure: The Halifax Partnership and Volta are clients of Entrevestor. 

Jobs of the Week: Dal, Dash Hudson

A pair of openings at Halifax-based Dash Hudson and an opportunity at Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

The Newman Centre is Dalhousie’s hub for entrepreneurship, assisting students and staff across the university’s faculties who are interested in pursuing business ideas. The centre is looking for an Associate Director of Commercialization and Startups.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing Software-as-a-Service company that helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software, called Vision, is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. The company has openings for a Senior DevOps Engineer and a Senior Full Stack Developer.

The Job 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 headline postings this week:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Senior Full Stack Developer

At Dash Hudson, we believe that in today's world, some of the most meaningful interactions between brands and consumers happen through photos and videos. We aim to make these interactions impactful for brands. Our visual marketing software provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

We work with the world's leading brands and publishers to drive visual performance across all of their marketing channels. The Senior Full Stack Developer role offers a unique opportunity to build products for the world's leading brands and publishers such as Apple, Nordstrom, Sephora, Unilever, and Hearst from our office in the heart of downtown Halifax.

In case you were wondering, here's a little bit more about our team and products:

We're a diverse and growing team from around the world.

We offer competitive benefits, a flexible work schedule, bi-monthly catered lunches, a kitchen stocked with snacks, quarterly wellness benefits, and an annual company trip (dependent on hitting our annual sales target).

We build best-in-class beautiful, functional products that our customers love.

Our marketing platform is competing with the biggest companies in the marketing software industry.

We have a big vision for the future of visual intelligence. We want you to be part of it.

Our current stack includes: Vue.js, Python, Flask, Celery, Docker, MySQL, Redis, AWS (Aurora, ELB, ECS and lots more).

And here's a few interesting details about our tech:

Over 30 million unique monthly visitors for tools we support

Our tools are used on many very popular websites

Hundreds of TBs of media processed

Over 1 million images / videos added every month

Tens of TBs of data in our databases

Over 100 EC2 production instances

99.999% uptime

Large ML compute clusters for real time feedback

Large ElasticSearch clusters for snappy searches

Full CI/CD pipeline, 100% containerized microservice architecture

Dash Hudson is a group of hard-working go-getters. We're energetic, lively, and fast-learning. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves. The Dash Hudson office isn't your conventional office-you won't find any cubicles here. We created a space for our team to thrive in, and made sure to invest in a space that promotes both productivity and pause. We should also mention that we're very fond of furry friends at Dash Hudson, and have many honourary mascots that double as occasional coworkers.

Responsibilities

You will be collaborating closely with our designers, product owners and other developers. You will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build/modify backend APIs, write front-end javascript code that integrates with back-end APIs, and be responsible for ongoing improvements once deployed. If you are interested in joining a team of passionate people who like to work hard and play hard, we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Design, build, test and maintain web applications and services

Implement APIs using RESTful conventions for integrating with web and mobile applications

Work closely with our product and design teams to customize user experience on the front-end

Analyze and optimize application code for efficiency and performance

Write clean and well-organized code in accordance with industry best practices

Participate in peer reviewing of code and share expertise with other team members . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Senior DevOps Engineer

[See the description of Dash Hudson in the entry above.]

As a Senior DevOps Engineer you will play a key role in the overall success of Dash Hudson by managing, and monitoring internal systems and infrastructure. You will be responsible for various engineering efforts related to automation, scalability and security. 

Responsibilities

Prototype, design, and implement build system components
Implement automation tools and frameworks (CI/CD pipelines).
Collaborate with team members to improve the company's engineering tools, systems / procedures, and data security.
Optimize the company's computing architecture.
Conduct systems tests for security, performance, and availability.
Develop and maintain design and troubleshooting documentation.
Troubleshoot production issues and coordinate with the development team to streamline code deployment.
Develop data, process and network models to optimize architecture and to evaluate the performance and reliability of designs
Assess, test, troubleshoot, document, upgrade and develop maintenance procedures for operating systems, communications environments and applications software

Qualifications

Qualifications & Experience

4+ years of experience as a DevOps Engineer or similar role(s)
Experience with Linux server environments
Strong working knowledge of containers and orchestration (docker + kubernetes)
Knowledge of primary AWS services (EC2, ELB, RDS, Route53, S3, etc)
Proficiency with APIs / microservices architecture
Knowledge of system/network security and data backup/recovery
Ability to create scripts using Bash, Python, Perl or other language
Resourcefulness and problem-solving aptitude
Excellent communication skills

Additional Information

We believe in building great products that solve real problems for marketers, and being unabashed about our unique ability to be the best at what we do. We believe that mutual support among the team, and a willingness for all to figure out the seemingly impossible are what will propel us forward. . . 

Read the full job posting here.

Dalhousie University

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Associate Director of Commercialization and Startups

The Norman Newman Center for Entrepreneurship is part of Dalhousie's Faculty of Management. The Centre offers assistance to students and staff across faculties who are interested in pursuing business ideas, and there are options for students in the Faculties of Management and Commerce to complete majors in the area of entrepreneurship.

The Commercialization and Startup Programs include four different programs which are outlined below:

• Lab Crawls: These one-day events involve inviting Principal Investigators and their graduate students and postdocs to a “Lunch & Learn” about Dalhousie’s commercialization and startup programming, and in particular Research2Innovation, Lab2Market, Ready2Launch Accelerator and Creative Destruction Lab. This is followed by visits to several laboratories during the afternoon to understand their research, and is followed by a social event.

• Researcher2Innovator: This two-day programme explores the value of entrepreneurial thinking as (1) a means of developing careers and research of leading graduate students, post-docs and faculty; and (2), advancing the research, innovations and ideas into impacts, whether that be scientific, economic, social, cultural or environmental. It will inspire academic researchers to become innovators, and provide a pipeline of teams for the Lab2Market program.

• Lab2Market: The new Lab2Market program will generate a pipeline of more and better science- and engineering-based startups emerging from post-secondary research which can accelerate their growth at university-linked incubators and accelerators and eventually the broader startup community. The Lab2Market program uses the Lean Startup model and Business Model Canvas, and is based on similar successful I-Corps program in the U.S. and I-CURE program in the U.K. The Lab2Market national pilot will be led by Dalhousie and Ryerson. In addition, the first cohort of I-INCLab2Market will occur in Halifax in Winter/Spring.

• Ready2Launch Accelerator: The Ready2Launch Accelerator will be a 3-month program during the summer. It will focus on “teams” of newly formed startups, and use MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship accelerator model. Up to ten teams would receive between $10k and $15k for the 3 months. The program will have three key components over three months: (1) Customer; (2) Product Value; and (3) Overall Economics. Each month there would be a 1-hour “board meeting”. The Launch Accelerator will include a Demo Day.

Responsibilities

Job Summary

Working with the Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Director of the NNCE, the Associate Director will be responsible for Commercialization and Startup Programs which prepare scientists and engineers to: extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and advance the economic and societal benefits of research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization; identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research; gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs; and accelerate their growth in building viable, sustainable innovation-driven ventures. In addition, there will be another Associate Director of NNCEresponsible for other NNCEprogramming.

Key Responsibilities

- Develop short and long-term strategic plans and related operational measures and benchmarks for the Commercialization and Startup Programs, in conjunction with broader Dalhousie and Dal Innovates strategies, ensuring that resources and systems are in place to achieve planned objectives; establishes and monitors milestones to measure success.

- Develop and implement the Lab2Market national pilot program with others in the I-INCnetwork. Collaborate with other I-INC network Nodes across Canada in delivering and overseeing the Lab2Market programming nationally. Develop and maintain a comprehensive understanding of Lab2Market and I-INC and the resources and support available.

- Develop and implement the Ready2Launch Accelerator.

- Create all business processes and workflows to ensure the appropriate level of organization and service for Commercialization and Startup Programs, in accordance with Dalhousie policies and procedures. Work to establish metrics and a reporting structure for the metrics, as well as prepare an annual report of results (including economic impact) for Commercialization and Startup Programs.

- Manage the day-to-day operations of Commercialization and Startup Programs, ensuring the office operates in compliance with Dalhousie policies, procedures, and standards and is a model for operational best practices across the University.

- Manage stakeholder relationships including liaising and reporting with donors, corporate partners, senior Dalhousie employees, and government officials. Resolve conflicts between stakeholders, while ensuring strong cross Faculty relationships are maintained and strengthened. . . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Remembering a Soldier through his Letters

Harry MacKeen, a newly commissioned officer in 1915

Harry MacKeen, a newly commissioned officer in 1915

One of the highlights of 2019 for me was transcribing a bunch of old family papers, including correspondence from the First World War when my grandfather and his brother were artillery officers.

Each Remembrance Day, I always think of my grandfather H.P. MacKeen, and his service in the Great War. This year I know more about his time overseas than ever before because I went through his letters from the front.

I already knew Harry, as he was known, fought at such battles as Ypres and Passchendaele as a Major with the Royal Canadian Artillery, and that in 1916 he suffered shell shock so severe he had to be hospitalized in England. But this year I went through his papers and found what’s survived of his letters from the front.

Only about a half dozen of his letters from the war survive, as well as one or two from his brother David. As most soldiers do, he edited what he wrote to his mother. He was more candid to others, like his sister Marjorie. Though his letters to her are lost, we have her response of July 8, 1916 after he’d written her. “I cannot tell you how thrilling your last letter was – I mean the one written to me with such graphic descriptions of that ghastly battle,” she wrote. “It simply made my hair stand on end while reading it.”

He had told her his letters to their mother were less graphic, and she agreed he had to protect their mother from the truth of his ordeal. They both agreed he should tell her just enough about the battles that she would not suspect he was holding anything back, but he should spare her grisly details.

The main thing I learned from his letters was his role in the gun crew. I remember once in the late 1960s Harry explained to me the different jobs everyone had within a gun crew, but I was too young at the time to take it in.

In one letter home (undated as the first page was missing), Harry explained that he was a F.O.O., or a Forward Observation Officer. The gun crew set up behind the trenches, where they would shell the German positions, often without being able to see their targets. The F.O.O. (viewing the field of battle through binoculars) and a signaler would be located in the trenches, ahead of the gun battery, to monitor where the shells were landing. Once he saw the shells land, the F.O.O. would have the signaler radio back to the gun crew telling them how to adjust their aim to zero in on the objective.

Harry included a little cartoon at the bottom to illustrate the positioning of the F.O.O. Throughout his life, he continued to include cartoons in the margins of his letters, usually amplifying some joke in the text.

Early in the war, Harry gave the impression he enjoyed being a F.O.O. and witnessing the explosions, but it was dangerous work and Harry saw too many signalers die.

“I lost my best signaler the other day, Sgt. Oakes,” he wrote to his mother on Nov. 17, 1917. “He was on O.P. duty at the time. He was a fine fellow and the last survivor but one of all the signalers [who] were brought from Halifax. They are a very hard lot to replace. They were a dare-devil crowd and absolutely the last word in anything to do with signaling or O.P. work and the best lot in the world to work with.”

Harry survived the war, but he suffered from PTSD well into the 1920s. He overcame it and had a successful career as a trial lawyer, becoming Lieutenant-Governor in 1963. I was only 10 when he died, but his impact on me was huge.

A few cartons of his papers had been sitting in a crawl space in my house for years, and this year I finally went through them and took them into the Nova Scotia Public Archives. They’re now preserved for posterity. It seems fitting to remember Harry on the day when we salute the heroism of the millions of people who served. 

Introhive Hits No. 10 in Tech Fast50

Jody Glidden

Jody Glidden

Relationship intelligence company Introhive has placed No. 10 in the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast50, the first Atlantic Canadian company to break the top 10 in the prestigious pan-Canadian competition.

The global consultancy Deloitte on Thursday announced the winner of the Canadian program, which ranks tech companies based on four years of revenue history. Introhive, based in Fredericton and Washington, D.C., placed 10th with revenue growth of 1,700 percent over four years.

In an interview, CEO Jody Glidden said the company continues to experience high growth and is planning to raise its third funding round next summer with a target of US$50 million to $70 million (C$66 million to $92 million.)

“We had been told by a lot of our investors that we were the fastest-growing company that a lot of them had seen, so we decided to enter,” said Glidden, when asked why Introhive took part in the Tech Fast50. “We’re growing at an extraordinary pace. This is the fastest- growing startup that I’ve certainly been involved in.”

Glidden and his co-founder Stewart Walchli have been involved in a few companies, and sold two to Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) early in the century. In 2012, they launched Introhive to help corporate sales teams increase their connections by understanding who their colleagues knew. From there, Introhive grew into a company that helped sales teams use customer relationship management tools more effectively.

“Every company needs a CRM but it’s a difficult thing to get people to use effectively,” said Glidden. “Our software does almost all of the work for you, and we’re getting all the great insights of the CRM into the hands of the right people.”

Introhive’s sales have grown steadily and Glidden said there is no sign of them slowing down. The company’s strategy has been to enter one vertical (or market segment), focus on growth in that vertical, then move on to another segment. It started with the accounting market then moved on to global systems integration, law firms, finance, commercial real estate, and most recently tech companies.

Through it all, the company has been successful at raising capital. In June 2018, Intohive raised a US$15.2 million equity and debt round led by Toronto-based venture capital firm Lake Bridge Capital. Its Atlantic Canadian investors include Halifax-based Build Ventures, and Fredericton-based New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Introhive now has more than 200 employees, and more than half of them are in the company’s Atlantic Canadian offices in Fredericton, Saint John and Halifax.

Introhive is the first Atlantic Canadian company since 2015 to be named to the Deloitte Tech Fast50. STI Technologies of Halifax claimed 41st spot on the list in 2015. Then in February 2017, the company was purchased, reportedly for more than $200 million, by American multinational QuintilesIMS.

St. John’s-based Verafin was named to the Fast 50 in both 2011 and 2012, and it recently received $515 million in debt-and-equity funding, the largest VC round ever in Canada.

The next funding round will certainly be a key focus for Introhive execs in 2020, but Glidden said the big thing for the company will be simply to concentrate on basics.  

“This year that’s coming up, we’re focusing a lot more on becoming a more efficient company – everything from growth rate to retention rate with customers to all the SaaS metrics,” he said. “We have goals set for all SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] metrics and want to be best of breed in all these metrics.”

15 To Pitch at Volta Cohort Nov. 20

Fifteen Atlantic Canadian tech startups have been selected to pitch at the fall 2019 Volta Cohort Pitch Event on Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Halifax.

As many as five companies will receive $25,000 in investment as well as mentorship, office space and other benefits.

Volta Cohort launched in 2017 to address the lack of early-stage investment and resources available to young tech startups in the region. In its four previous pitch events, the program has awarded $475,000 in investments.

“Volta Cohort launched two years ago as an experiment to see if funding high-calibre, early-stage startups would lead to more venture-path companies in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. "The program has exceeded expectations, with Cohort companies collectively raising a total of more than $6 million in received and pending investments, and we continue to see a wide range of innovative applicants across sectors."

The pitching competition will be held at the event space at Volta on Barrington Street in Halifax begiinning at 5:30. You can register here

The finalists are:

Bloxo Inc. (Halifax) – Bloxo is a mobile and web-based platform that simplifies the process of organizing and participating in sports, by connecting organizers, players and facilities.

Bookt (Halifax) – bookt.ca is a consolidated, just-in-time appointment booking platform that connects on-the-go customers with in-demand beauty professionals.

Bursity Inc. (Halifax) – Bursity.ca is developing a web platform that helps post-secondary students pay their tuition by finding and applying for financial awards in a few easy steps. Its platform uses one universal form to connect students to more than 2 million funding opportunities.

Clever Fruit (Bridgewater, NS) – Clever Fruit manufactures a fermented nutraceutical ingredient to manage cholesterol naturally.

Electric Owl Solutions Ltd. (Halifax) – Electric Owl is developing subscription-based software solutions for community gardens, urban gardeners and small-scale farmers.

Hyke Technologies Inc. (St. John’s) – Hyke Technologies is developing a customer acquisition, retention, and expansion platform to revamp B2C's engagement with millennials.

JellyGood (Cole Harbour, NS) – Jellygood makes a collagen protein bar that delivers better nutrition.

Legal Innovation Lab (Charlottetown) – Legal Innovation Lab collaborates with specialist lawyers to create premium, do-it-yourself legal solutions for families and entrepreneurs, to offer solutions that cost 60 to 80 percent less than a lawyer’s typical rate.

Let’s Glo (Halifax) – Let’s Glo is a personalized employee engagement software for millennials and the companies that they work at.

Macro Movements (Sydney) – Macro Movements uses artificial intelligence to track, analyze and perfect human movement patterns.

Placebuilder (Halifax) – Placebuilder is developing a platform that will allow like-minded collaborators to capture and display their efforts for better outcomes.

RIDDL (Fredericton) – RIDDL provides proprietary data to impact investors to guide better investment decisions.

Roadblock (Halifax) – Roadblock uses computer vision and machine learning to give cities a complete view of their road infrastructure’s condition.

Safa (St. John’s) – Safa is creating an AI-powered employee retention solution for companies.

Sparrow Acoustics (Halifax) – Sparrow Acoustics is making it possible for healthcare professionals to triage a cardiac patient in less than 10 minutes using only software and an electronic stethoscope. The company combines a decade of auscultation research with computer visualization, proprietary acoustic algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Volta Cohort holds pitching sessions twice a year and provides winners with space at Volta and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. Companies outside Halifax receive support through partner organizations in other Atlantic Canadian cities.

Volta Cohort receives funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BDC Capital, and Innovacorp.

Kognitiv Spark Makes Companies-To-Watch List

Yan Simard

Yan Simard

Fredericton-based augmented reality company Kognitiv Spark has been named to the Companies-to-Watch list as a part of Deloitte’s 2019 Technology Fast50 Awards.

The Companies-to-Watch award highlights emerging Canadian tech companies that exhibit strong growth and show potential to be a future candidate for the Technology Fast50 award.  Like the main Fast50 list, the results are based on revenue growth, though the Companies to Watch have a shorter revenue history. To be eligible, companies must also devote a significant portion of their operating revenues to creating proprietary technology or intellectual property.  

“We’re excited to be receiving this recognition from Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 Awards,” said Kognitv Spark CEO Yan Simard in a statement. “It stands as a testament to everything we’ve built here at Kognitiv Spark and the efficiencies our customers have been able to achieve using our product.”

The Fredericton company uses augmented reality and mixed reality to assist remote workers using complicated equipment. If a remote worker needs instruction in using equipment or repairs are needed, a supervisor in a main office can use augmented reality to walk him or her through the steps to make sure the equipment works properly.

Simard attributed the win to the technical innovations achieved by his team to create a secure and reliable augmented reality remote support tool. He also cited the expertise of company leadership in tandem with a supportive network of industry partners. 

“Companies-to-Watch winners deserve recognition for their early-stage growth, bold entrepreneurship and forward-thinking,” said Erica Pretorius, Partner and National Leader for the Technology Fast50 program at Deloitte Canada. “By demonstrating courage, seeking opportunities, and taking calculated risks, these outstanding companies are key to the success of the technology sector.” 

Motryx Wins $55K BIC Competition

Franziska Broell

Franziska Broell

Motryx, the Halifax company whose technology improves the transportation of blood samples, has won the $55,000 BioInnovation Challenge, Atlantic Canada’s top pitching competition for life sciences companies.

Co-Founder and CEO Franziska Broell pitched the company at the finals on Wednesday at BioNova’s Bioport Atlantic competition. The other finalists were Charlottetown-based AgTech company Fieldetect, and Halifax-based SeeChange BioChemistry, which will manufacture high-value compounds from biomass.

Now in its ninth year, BIC is designed to support young life sciences companies by teaching contestants how to pitch for investment. As the winner, Motryx will receive $25,000 in seed funding and a $30,000 advisory services package to develop its business idea.

Because hospitals and healthcare systems are becoming bigger and more centralized, blood samples are often shipped to labs over great distances, sometimes including air shipment. About 3 percent of samples end up being unusable because they are ruined due to the time, temperature or vibrations involved in the trip. Motryx has developed blood vials with sensors that transmit to labs data on the conditions during the trip, allowing lab officials to identify problems and solve them.

“In the last six months, we’ve secured eight early adopter clients in Europe and the U.S., and we’ve been able to convert two into paying clients,” Broell told the panel of judges.

The company is also doing a pilot in Africa in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The company so far has raised $1.5 million, including investment from Killick Capital and Concrete Ventures.

BioNB Leads Campaign for Seeking Alternative Markets for Cannabis

SeeChange BioChemistry is using a new bio-refinery process to produce high-value compounds from sustainable sources.

Co-Founder Chris Rafuse said the company, which was founded this year, has found a method to use a form of biomass to produce three industrial compounds: polyphenols, which are used in pharmaceutical industries to help with obesity and Type 2 diabetes; lactic acid, which can be used in 3D printing, plastics and other industrial uses; and another compound that Rafuse declined to name.

Refuse said the company is attacking a $4 billion global market opportunity, and current methods of producing these materials involve extraction from petrochemicals and result in a lot of waste. There is no waste with the SeeChange process, he said, and users demand more sustainable sourcing.

“We’ve never made an outside call,” said Rafuse, adding that the company’s six prospective clients all contacted SeeChange. The company will soon be ready to start selling. “We want to hit the market hard and fast so no one sees us coming and we think we can gain a lot of market share very quickly.”

Operating under a licensing agreement with the University of Prince Edward Island, Fieldetect is developing a hand-held device that will allow farmers to detect disease in their herds fast enough to prevent a large outbreak.

President and Co-Founder Andrew Trivett said the company is beginning with hog farmers, who now have to take samples from their herds and send them to a lab to be tested. In the day or two it takes to get the results back, a disease could spread, possibly leading to a cull of the entire herd.

“What if we could take that test and have the farmer do it themselves, have it take less than an hour and get the result immediately?” asked Trivett.

Fieldetect has developed LabAnywhere, a handheld device that will test a sample from the animal and give farmers the results on their smartphones in about 40 minutes. The team expects to begin shipping the product in late 2020 and sell about 500 units in the subsequent 12 months.

Startup Metrics Talk in Fredericton

Please join us Nov. 13 for Entrevestor's State of the Startup Community presentation at the Wu Centre at University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

Each year, Entrevestor charts the growth of the startup community, collecting data on such metrics as company launches, funding, employment and revenue. I will present our findings for the region overall and focus on the metrics for New Brunswick.

The Fredericton presentation will take place at 1 pm on Nov. 13 at Room 204 of the Wu Centre. You can find tickets here.

We’d like to thank the following organizations for making this presentation possible: the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship; Ignite Fredericton; and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

We’re lining up more of these presentations. I will be delivering the presentation at Volta in Halifax on Nov. 27 at noon. And we hope to announce a few others in the coming weeks.

Dahn, Guida To Headline NBIF’s R3

Jeff Dahn, showing off a Tesla.

Jeff Dahn, showing off a Tesla.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has announced the keynote speakers at its R3 2020 gala will be Jeff Dahn, the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair at Dalhousie University, and Vincenzo Guida, research fellow for Procter & Gamble.

First held 11 years ago, R3 is a biennial event that recognizes leaders in applied research at New Brunswick universities and research institutions. NBIF holds the event in the years when it does not hold Breakthru, the biennial competition for startups.

“The calibre of these speakers underlines NBIF’s growing profile as a research partner and investor,” said NBIF Director of Research Laura Richard. “Prof. Dahn and Dr. Guida are both highly accomplished researchers, and we think their expertise and experience will be of significant interest to our event attendees.”

The R3 gala will take place April 2 at the Fredericton Convention Centre, and tickets can be purchased here. The event will feature a formal R3 luncheon to honour New Brunswick’s Top 25 Star Mentors – those from the province’s colleges and universities who have done an exemplary job of training the next generation of researchers.

Jeff Dahn is a research pioneer of lithium-ion batteries and has held a research chair position at Dalhousie University since 1996. In 2016, he began a research partnership with Tesla Motors as the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair. His group is focused on improving lithium-ion cells through increased energy density and battery life, along with reduced costs.

His lithium-ion battery research has received numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Innovation Award in 2016 and the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal in Science and Engineering, Canada’s top science prize, in 2017.

Vincenzo Guida’s projects have run the innovation gamut, from early stage to market implementation. With particular expertise in bleach chemistry and surfactant science, he has developed the manufacturing process for many new innovative and sustainable products in the fabric and home arenas.

He has authored more than 50 publications, including patents and articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and spoken at physics and engineering conferences around the world.

H.I.G. Closes BioVectra Purchase

The American private equity group H.I.G. Capital said it has completed its US$250 million purchase of Charlottetown-based Biovectra, which makes ingredients for drugs.

The private equity fund, which has $34 billion under management, issued a statement on Monday saying one of its affiliates completed the purchase from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, of the U.K. Mallinckrodt said in September it had agreed to the sale, which would feature a fixed payment now and a deferred payment that will depend on the company’s performance.

BioVectra Inc. is a leading contract development and manufacturing organization, or CDMO, which means it manufactures drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates for pharmaceutical companies.

“We are excited to enter into this new chapter with H.I.G. Capital,” said BioVectra CEO Oliver Technow in the statement Monday. "We have been fortunate over the last few years with the support of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to execute on our strategic growth plan. We look ahead to continuing on this path with H.I.G. Capital, an experienced investor in the CDMO space. H.I.G. is committed to our strategy and management team, and we look forward to continuing to pursue the company’s various growth initiatives."

Under the new ownership, BioVectra plans to continue to develop its plants in Charlottetown and Windsor, N.S., which together will add 150 employees. The company now employs 350 people and since 2015 has averaged almost $25 million in capital investments each year.

"We are very pleased to partner with Oliver Technow as well as his exceptional leadership team and dedicated employees," said Mike Gallagher, Managing Director at H.I.G. Capital. "Oliver and his team have expanded BioVectra’s presence by pursuing strategic capital expenditure programs to significantly expand capacity. We believe the company is well positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for its broad set of technical capabilities and exceptional quality track record."

NBIF in 19 VC Deals in 2018-19

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation increased its applied research funding about 150 percent in its most recent fiscal year, though its direct venture capital investment dropped.

The Fredericton-based innovation and venture capital group has issued its annual report for the 2018-2019 fiscal year (which ended March 31). It shows the foundation invested a total of $5.2 million in 19 VC investments, including three commitments that had been committed but not closed at year-end. That’s a drop of 16 percent from $6.2 million in the previous fiscal year.

The annual report also outlines the foundation’s contributions to applied research and R&D. It funded $9.7 million in applied research, more than double the $3.9 million figure of the previous year. And its Innovation Voucher program – in which private companies can work with approved researchers to conduct R&D – received $1.7 million, compared with $2.1 million a year earlier.

NBIF participated in a range of transactions in which other parties invested a total of $90.1 million – an increase of almost three times over $32.6 million in the previous fiscal year.

“We know that innovation is a continuous cycle of iteration and experimentation,” said CEO Jeff White, who assumed his role in October 2018, in his comments in the report. “It takes time, and resources, to get it right. But when you do, the impact can be significant, as we have seen repeatedly here in New Brunswick.”

NBIF has a dual function. It invests in and nurtures early-stage innovation companies, and it helps to finance research that can help New Brunswick companies. Its two VC funds nurture startups and it also helps New Brunswick companies fund R&D in the province’s research institutions through its Innovation Voucher and Applied Research programs.

NBIF’s Venture Capital Fund, which invests in scaling companies, invested a total of $4.62 million in the following companies:

Anessa                               $250,000

Avrij                                   $250,000

Beauceron Security           $750,000

EhEye                                $150,000

Gemba                              $250,000

Kognitiv Spark                  $500,000

Loft1                                  $50,000

Populus                             $250,000

Porpoise                           $100,000

Repable                             $100,000

Resson Aerospace           $227,368

Rise                                    $250,000

Smart Skin                        $500,000

Sonrai Security                $334,787

Soricimed                         $250,000

Stash Energy                    $250,000

The Startup Investment Fund invests in new companies, and it committed a total of $550,000 as follows:

Canum Nanomaterials      $250,000

RIDDL                                $100,000

TurboPlay                         $200,000

The report noted that NBIF received an internal rate of return of 96 percent from its two-year, $513,000 investment in Envenio, a Fredericton-based company that specializes in fluid dynamics. It was purchased last fall by California vaping company Juul for an undisclosed price. In June, the CVCA presented NBIF with a 2019 Private Capital Regional Impact Award for its investment in Envenio.

The 2018-19 fiscal year covered one of the strongest periods ever for venture capital investment in New Brunswick. The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, or CVCA, stated that VC investment in New Brunswick in calendar 2018 amounted to $78 million, almost four times as much as the previous year.

Most of the funding came in three deals, all of which featured NBIF participation: Cybersecurity company Sonrai Security raised US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million); relationship intelligence company Introhive raised US$15.2 million in an equity-and-debt round; and AgTech data company Resson raised $14 million.

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

Passiv Eyes US with Alpaca Deal

Passiv Co-Founders Brendan Wood, left and Brendan Lee Young

Passiv Co-Founders Brendan Wood, left and Brendan Lee Young

Passiv, whose technology helps passive investors manage their portfolios, has partnered with Silicon Valley-based Alpaca, which should help the Fredericton company expand in the all-important U.S. market.

Alpaca is a stock brokerage that operates an application program interface, or API, that allows users to program their own “robo-advisor”, or a program that will automatically balance a passive stock portfolio.  

Passiv aims to help passive investors who don’t know computer programing. It is developing a new solution based on the Alpaca API to give Alpaca clients the option of replicating robo-advisor portfolios without having to write a line of code.

“We’re excited to partner with Alpaca because their robust API will enable us to build more powerful features, create amazing user experiences and help more people to invest,’‘ said Passiv CEO Brendan Lee Young in a statement.

Passiv announced the new partnership at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, which it attended as part of the Atlantic Fintech Mission organized by Venn Innovation.

Passive investing is the practice of investing money in low-cost assets like ETFs and holding them for a long period of time so that transaction fees and other costs don’t eat into the holder's ultimate returns. The problem is that different assets appreciate (or depreciate) at different rates. So, to maintain a portfolio at the proper balance between stocks, bonds and other assets, the owner has to keep monitoring and tinkering with the portfolio. It takes time.

Robo-adviser services do this automatically, but they cost money. What Passiv does is help passive investors rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily. It notifies users when cash comes into their account and when their portfolio drifts out of alignment with their target.

Moncton-based SnapAp Wins Channel Innovation Award

“We’re very excited to see Passiv building a robo-advisor product on top of our platform,” said Alpaca CEO Yoshi Yokokawa. “This proves Alpaca’s community-driven approach and brings us one step closer to our vision of creating a developer-first investing infrastructure.”

Passiv now has three employees and its product is used to manage more than $250 million of funds in Canada. Lee Young, who co-founded Passiv almost three years ago with CTO Brendan Wood, said in an email that Passiv’s revenues have been increasing by four times annually, and the agreement with Alpaca should accelerate the growth.

“With this announcement and a push into the U.S. market, we expect for it to grow by 10x in the next year,” said Lee Young. “This will allow us to demonstrate how we can improve the investing experience for other brokerages in the U.S., U.K. and other parts of the globe.”

Passiv, which already has a partnership with Canadian online brokerage Questrade, said that major American online brokerages like Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, and Fidelity are dropping their trading commissions. This raises the question of how these brokerages plan to differentiate themselves. Lee Young believes that having open APIs and faster processes for vetting and partnering with companies like his could be one part of the solution.

“It’s really hard to get access to online brokers’ APIs and not all APIs are of good quality,” he said. “In my opinion, brokerages will need to get better at partnering, improving their APIs and also curating the right tools for clients if they want to compete.”

He added he was impressed with Alpaca’s openness to making changes to its API to accommodate Passiv, and that the New Brunswick company’s developers were elated by how easy it was to integrate with Alpaca.

Lee Young said his company is eager to find more partners: “We are going to be supporting and seeking more partnerships with U.S. brokerages, as well as raising capital.”

Startup Failures & Zombies in 2018

When we produce our annual Atlantic Canada Startup Data report, there are two sets of statistics that people usually find interesting because they're stark reminders of the perils of entrepreneurship: zombies and failures.

We found that 66 Atlantic Canadian startups failed in 2018, and we estimated there are the same number of zombies.

To put that in perspective, we were following 486 startups at the end of 2017, and in the coming year more than one-quarter of them were either out of business or raising questions about their prospects. And we think we may have been conservative on the number of zombies.

Failures

As the above chart shows, the number of startup failures in the past few years has risen, with 66 recorded in each of the last two years.

Most interpret this as good news. In fact, when we delivered presentations on our data report in 2018, no audience member expressed any shock that the number of failures is rising. When these companies close down, they free up human talent for other companies, and ease the demand for financial resources from funders and support organizations. Failures allow the stronger companies better access to scarce resources.

One third of failures – 22 companies – had launched in 2017, so they never really got off the ground. Many of these were university projects with which the founders simply chose not to continue.

We counted six failed companies in 2018 that had raised equity capital. The most notable failure was AIOtv, a Halifax- and Denver-based IT company that had employed 20 people in 2016. The company received $1 million in funding from Innovacorp, and a year later sold 44 percent of the company to China’s UTStarcom Holdings Corp. for $8 million.

Zombies

We label a startup a zombie company if it meets three criteria: the company has to be at least two years old, hasn’t made a public announcement in two years and hasn’t raised capital in at least three years. Sure, there are some companies silently forging ahead, but generally prolonged silence is a sign of trouble.

We found there were 66 zombies at the end of 2018. It’s a noticeable drop of about one-quarter from the previous year, but it would be imprudent to conclude that things are improving. Many of the zombies from 2017 made their way into our failure list in 2018.

People often ask what factors create zombies. We can’t establish cause and effect, but we can identify some concentrations and patterns in how companies develop.

Where Zombies Lurk in Atlantic Canada
Province Zombies Concentration*
Nova Scotia 44 15%
New Brunswick 11 8%
Newfoundland and Labrador 3 4%
Prince Edward Island 8 17%

Source: Entrevestor Databank. (*Concentration is the number of zombies expressed as a percentage of the total startups in the province in question.)

As a side exercise, we carried out another test to indicate the number of zombie companies. We took all 326 companies that were more than two years old and researched how many had grown to more than two employees. The rationale was that if a company is truly growing, it will be hiring people, and that increase will be visible. We found 97 companies had zero-to-two employees – 30 percent of the total. We will stick with our headline figure of 66 zombies, but the examination of staffing again shows we may be underestimating the prevalence of the undead.

Startup Data Presentation at Volta

If you’re in Halifax on Nov. 27 and are interested in learning about The State of the Startup Community, go to Volta at noon.

I will be presenting our 2018 Atlantic Canadian Startup Data report in a Lunch and Learn presentation at Volta. You can find tickets here.

We published our sixth annual data report a few weeks ago. It’s available to everyone this year because of the support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Volta and our other partners. There’s a lot of interest in our findings, and this is your chance to come out and discuss them.

You can access the full report by clicking the black box at the top right of this screen.

Many thanks to the crew at Volta for making this possible.

Cove Kombucha Backed by $1.2M

Halifax-based Cove Kombucha has closed a $1.2 million equity funding round, which the maker of healthy drinks hopes will go toward upgrading its facility, increasing production and reaching new markets.

The company said in a press release last week it attracted the investment from Vancouver-based Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, after a one-month search.

Cove is now selling its kombucha – a fermented tea drink that boasts various health benefits – at the Eastern Canadian outlets of such chains as Costco, Sobey’s and Whole Foods Markets, as well as in numerous convenience and health food stores. In December, it will launch a new product line that contains CBD, a cannabis derivative known as cannabidiol. It will be the first CBD kombucha sold in Canada.

“The kombucha market is quickly maturing and transitioning from a specialty food and beverage product to fridge staple for many Canadians,” said CEO John MacLellan in the statement.

From humble beginnings at a farmer’s market just three years ago, Cove has become an industry leader in the rising Kombucha market. The statement said the company is Canada’s fastest-growing kombucha company, and that its $1.2 million funding round is the largest seed round raised by a Canadian beverage startup in 2019.

Chief Strategy Officer Ian Whytock said in an interview the startup will be entering into a close and long-term partnership with Canaccord, ensuring the development of Cove’s next generation of health drinks.

MacLellan said Cove reached out to work with Canaccord on account of the investment group’s strong marketplace reputation, and he has high hopes for the two companies working together. This seed money will help Cove further its mission of providing healthy and delicious drinks to a growing consumer market. It has already allowed Cove to purchase more advanced bottling equipment which uses less plastic, furthering the company’s mission of sustainability.

The investment will also allow Cove to expand from its existing product line to manufacture and market CBD kombucha, which will be sold through designated retailers like the NSLC. “It’s the non-psychoactive part of cannabis, providing lots of wellness benefits,” said MacLellan in the interview. “It’s part of the New Wave 2.0 of health beverages.”

Though they set out to build a consumer product company, MacLellan and his brother Ryan (now the Chief Marketing Officer) adopted the “lean startup” model, most commonly seen in the tech sector. Where traditional companies spend years on product development, lean methodology requires the entrepreneur to interview a swath of potential customers to learn what they want and will pay for. The goal is to find a market before investing in the product.

Whytock also said Cove’s earlier success has attracted substantial venture capital funding, even though it is a beverage company. It shows a shift in the VC market, he said, adding: “You didn’t see venture-funded consumer products a decade ago.”

Whytock says the company’s goal is to have its products in stores coast-to-coast by 2020, and Cove is already investigating potential exports of its new CBD kombucha to the growing number of U.S. states where cannabis is legal. Cove now employs four people, and hopes to double staffing in the near future.

The new investment vindicates Cove’s strategy and business model, said Whytock, which shows the strengths of the region’s development and entrepreneurship. “Cove is proving that you can produce a successful consumer product company in Atlantic Canada.” 

32 Named to Propel’s Incite Phase 2

Propel has named 32 companies to Phase 2 of its Incite program – its biggest intake yet in the virtual tech accelerator.

The chosen companies span Eastern Canada.  Eleven companies are from Nova Scotia, nine from Newfoundland and Labrador, seven from New Brunswick, and four from P.E.I.  There is also one company from Quebec.

Because the Incite curriculum is delivered online, there are no restrictions on where the participants are based, and mentors from all over the world are able to interact with the attendees. Each company also receives a dedicated coach to give the entrepreneurs individual attention.

 “The momentum of Incite is building and we are thrilled that a number of the companies were referred to us by our alumni,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “We are confident this cohort boasts many of the most promising startups in our region and we cannot wait to work with them.”

Phase 2 of Incite runs for seven months and aims to help the founders build a scalable and repeatable sales process using the GrowthX methodology for market development.  Silicon Valley-based GrowthX helps people to commercialize innovation through an online platform that allows companies to access the content as they need it. Propel has regional exclusivity agreements to use GrowthX’s programming.

Companies enrolled in Phase 2 will have a chance to receive funding by several means, including a $50,000 investment commitment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp, a $25,000 cash prize, and a $30,000 investment for the winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award.

The following companies were selected for Phase 2:

AGILE, Érik Lebrun, New Brunswick.

Alibee, Axel Lecomte, Quebec.

Bench Boss, Dave D'Entremont, Ian Coultas, Newfoundland and Labrador.

CareCrew, Abdel Moslih, Nova Scotia.

Cyno, Peter Barbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

eChart Healthcare, Rivers Corbett, Amanda Betts, New Brunswick.

Flip the Page, Alex English, New Brunswick.

FoodByte, Matthew Winchester, Douglas M. Armour, Jessy Gervais, Nova Scotia.

Gibli Tech, Ben Bschaden, Mark Ernsting, Nova Scotia/British Columbia.

Hanatech, Chuck Lienaux, Nova Scotia.

Hyke, Sid Eskand, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Inspectar, Liam Cadigan, Daryll Day, Matthew Noseworthy, Nicholas Warren, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Invisible Agents, Stuart Boyd, Nova Scotia.

JellyGood, Cole Turner, Eric Gelineau, Nova Scotia.

Jobsite360, Peter Douglas, P.E.I.

Milk Moovement, Robert Forsythe, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Motryx, Franziska Broell, Nova Scotia.

Oliver POS, Mathias K. Nielsen, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Peri CRM, Harsh (Gary) Kohli, New Brunswick.

Rally, Daniel Joseph Di Maria, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Reset Breathe Fitness, Tracey Gairns Brioux, P.E.I.

RIDDL, Jess Peters, Jenelle Sobey, New Brunswick.

Septicsitter, Kelly Galloway, P.E.I.

ShopLaw, Randy Campbell, Devon Ross, P.E.I.

Simbi, Alexander Gillis, Aaron Friedland, British Columbia/Nova Scotia.

SnapAP, Sionne Roberts, New Brunswick.

SpreeSpot, Jason Bernard, Kevin Hebert, New Brunswick.

totaliQ, Andrew Sinclair, Newfoundland and Labrador/Ontario.

Tranquility Online, Joel Muise, Nova Scotia.

Universal Cognitive Solutions, Mark Gauci, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Union.dev, Randy Ansems, Kevin Ansems, Marisa Ansems, Nova Scotia.

Venture 2 Impact, Fadi AlQassar, Nova Scotia.

Swarmio Plans TSX Venture Listing

Vijai Karthigesu: 'We need to inject capital to scale.'

Vijai Karthigesu: 'We need to inject capital to scale.'

Sydney-based Swarmio Media, which helps reduce lag times in video gaming, has begun the process of listing on the TSX Venture exchange and raising about $6 million in development capital.

Formerly called Ubique, Swarmio earlier this month filed documents with regulators outlining how it will gain the listing through a capital pool company, or CPC, transaction. Swarmio will do a reverse takeover with a publicly listed shell company called Cairo Resources to secure its listing on the TSX Venture Exchange. Leading up to and during the transaction, which is expected in the first quarter of 2020, Swarmio intends to sell $6 million in shares to fund future growth.

“We are at the stage where we need to scale,” said CEO Vijai Karthigesu in a phone interview on Monday. “There are 2.5 billion gamers in the world and two-thirds of them live in Asia and Latin America. . . . We need to target these regions so what we need is a lot of money. We need to inject capital to scale.”

One of the company’s largest shareholders is Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia early-stage VC agency, which has invested $2.5 million in the company. Innovacorp Vice President of Investment Andrew Ray said in an email it intends to hold on to its Swarmio shares after the listing, though he added the public listing will make an exit easier when the time to sell does come.

Swarmio aims to solve a huge problem with multi-player online games. When players in different parts of the world are playing one another, the system is much faster for the player closest to the server, giving that player an unfair advantage. Swarmio’s solution is to develop a network of remote servers, so the players are always playing on a server based roughly equal distances from each of them. Swarmio is a decentralized eSports platform with an automated tournament management system. Today, Swarmio's platform connects more than 170 data centers in more than 70 regions globally.

Atlantic Canadian Startups Eye Stock Market Listings

Video gaming has become the world’s largest entertainment market with US$139 billion in revenue, and esports have grown dramatically, among both players and spectators.

“When we started in 2015, every time I talked about esports, nobody even cared,” said Karthigesu. “We told them, ‘This is coming, this is going to be big,’ but no one listened. But in 2018, 2019 things changed and now it is huge and it’s a good thing for us.”

As well as its market changing, Swarmio’s sales focus has evolved. It began by targeting gamers themselves but realized the more efficient go-to-market strategy lay in targeting telecom companies.

Karthigesu said the company chose a stock market listing because there is a dearth of venture capital funds in Canada that engage in Series A funding, which he described as a $6 million-to-$20 million range.

Karthigesu admits that he’s personally in “uncharted territory” in heading a listed company and that there are risks involved in a public listing. But he’s confident his company will be able to generate revenue growth and that there are unappreciated benefits in a public listing. Above all, he said, it’s easier to raise capital for acquisitions as a public company, which can boost growth.

The fund-raising will mean growth in the company’s Sydney and Halifax offices. With six employees, Sydney is now the company’s operations centre and Karthigesu envisions hiring more junior engineers and technicians who can help clients around the world implement the system. Swarmio is now looking for office space in Halifax as it grows its three-member development team in the city.

Karthigesu is already looking beyond growth in Latin America and Africa and setting his sights on larger markets.

“As soon as we raise the money, we are putting all our efforts into expanding,” he said. “Once we have Asia and LatAm taken care of, we are making plans to look at Africa and Australia.”

Bill Gates Backs CarbonCure in Blog

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

Bill Gates has thrown his support behind CarbonCure Technologies, the Nova Scotia company that is reducing carbon emissions in the production of concrete.

The Co-Founder of Microsoft on Monday posted a blog that highlighted Dartmouth-based CarbonCure, including a video that features interviews with CEO and Founder Robert Niven.

Last year, CarbonCure was one of nine companies in the world to receive funding from Breakthrough Ventures, an impact fund backed by Gates, along with other billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Jack Ma.

In the blog, Gates notes that the world is estimated to add 2 trillion square feet of buildings by 2060 –

the equivalent of putting up another New York City every month for the next 40 years.

“Many of these buildings will be made using cement, a massive emitter of greenhouse gases,” says Gates on the video. “But a company in Canada discovered an innovative way to reduce cement’s carbon footprint.”

Concrete is the second most abundant man-made material in the world, and cement, its key ingredient, is responsible for an estimated 7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. CarbonCure cures concrete by injecting CO2 into it, which produces a stronger concrete while reducing carbon emissions.

CarbonCure’s technology is already being used by more than 120 concrete producers across North America and recently expanded into Asia. The company is also one of 10 finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge.

“CarbonCure is on a mission to reduce 500 megatonnes of CO2 emissions per year,” said Niven in the video. “That is the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off the road or the equivalent of the CO2 reductions from 500 million acres of trees annually.

Earlier this month, Jennifer Wagner, CarbonCure’s Executive Vice-President of Corporate Development, was named to the Clean50, which each year recognizes 50 Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to clean capitalism.

Women’s Fund Seeks Manager

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund is seeking an investment partner, someone who can identify target companies and negotiate investments for the fund expected to launch next year.

The Women’s Venture Fund is one of the most highly anticipated additions to the region’s ecosystem, and is set to launch next spring or summer. The founders are hoping to establish a for-profit fund amounting to about $20 million that will back high-potential ventures led by women.

It is now looking for a venture partner to join the fund’s investment team. This partner will help run the day-to-day operations of the fund, source and lead new investments, and assist in all aspects of fundraising. The position also demands the candidate manage the fund’s relationship with portfolio companies after investment, and take board seats where appropriate.

“This person will be expected to bring relevant experience and thinking to our discussions about the evolution of our fund thesis, composition and structure,” said the fund in its job posting. “Candidates must have both extensive venture investment experience and work experience in the tech sector itself.”

Though the fund would prefer someone with previous experience as a tech entrepreneur, what they are really looking for is someone with a strong, attributable track record of technology investing, either with established venture firms or as an angel investor.

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund began to take shape early this year when a group of business women from around the region came together to plan a way for women investors to work with women entrepreneurs.

Cathy Bennett, the former Newfoundland and Labrador finance minister and one of the founders of the fund, said that only 2 percent of the angel investors in Canada are female and the number may be even lower in Atlantic Canada. She added that the average female-led startup receives $900,000 in funding while the corresponding figure for companies led by men is $2.1 million.

Yet there are entrepreneurial opportunities that female entrepreneurs can pursue successfully – especially in the healthcare space – that male entrepreneurs may be unaware of. And a group of female investors would understand the opportunities better and therefore be more willing to invest and help grow these companies.

Anyone interested in the position should contact Rhiannon Davies, one of the founders of the fund, at rhdavies@gmail.com.

Ashored in Top 3 at MassChallenge

The Ashored founders: Aaron Stevenson, left, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.

The Ashored founders: Aaron Stevenson, left, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.

Dartmouth-based Ashored Innovations has graduated from MassChallenge with one of the top three prizes at the international accelerator.

Ashored, which is developing fishing equipment that reduces risks to marine life, was one of two companies to receive a US$75,000 (C$98,000) platinum award at the MassChallenge demo day Thursday night. They were exceeded only by North Carolina-based Tellus Therapeutics, which won the US$100,000 diamond award.

The Boston-based support organization had accepted just over 100 startups out of 3,000 applications for its 2019 cohort. In total, MassChallenge handed out about US$1 million in non-dilutive funding to 12 graduates, including Ashored.  

“Last year, we were one of the finalists in [the U.S. oceantech conference] Ocean Exchange, and looking back on it, that competition validated our solution,” said Ashored Co-Founder and CEO Aaron Stevenson in a phone interview Monday. “But MassChallenge, with its mentors and everything that it has done for us, I would say that being in the top three at MassChallenge has validated the business model.”

Ashored, which was the only Canadian company in MassChallenge this year, is developing fishing equipment that reduces the risk of animals such as whales becoming entangled in ropes and the risk of lost equipment littering the ocean floor. Its first product, the Modular Ocean Based Instrument, or MOBI, is a lobster trap buoy that is positioned near the ocean floor and released only when the fishing boat approaches.

Stevenson, who last year took the company through the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary’s University, said the team conducted its first sea trials of MOBI last fall. That product had a timer for unraveling the spool and it established the basic functionality of the product in the open ocean. Working with the Halifax engineering company Enginuity, Ashored this autumn tested an improved product in which the spool unwinds on command via a radio signal as the fishing boat approaches.

Now, he said, the company has a few more pilots planned for this autumn. Then it plans to take what it has learned in the past year or so and re-engineer MOBI to come up with a product it can take to market. It is planning more extensive pilot projects and possibly some early sales next summer, and then a full release in 2021.

The company has just completed a “family and friends” round of $260,000. With that money and the roughly C$100,000 from MassChallenge in the bank, Ashored is hiring two more people to expand its six-member team.

Stevenson has his sights set on raising a seed round of $1.2 million to $1.5 million, and hopes to close the round in the first quarter of 2020.    

One advantage he will have as he courts investors is that Ashored has the validation of competing with 3,000 startups to get into MassChallenge and ending up in the top three in the program. What’s more, he said the program was a great stepping stone into a key strategic market with a major knowledge base and customer base.

“We had identified New England and Boston as a strategically important region for us as a company,” said Stevenson. “But we didn’t know anyone there, didn’t know where to go. One of the biggest things that we walked away with was an instant community. . . . Just to be handed the opportunity to walk into this ecosystem has allowed us to benefit more from MassChallenge perhaps even than some of the other companies based in Boston.”

Passive Design Eyes New Markets

Natalie Leonard in front of one of the homes she designed.

Natalie Leonard in front of one of the homes she designed.

A Nova Scotia engineer is aiming to take energy-efficient housing mainstream.

Natalie Leonard is the founder of Passive Design Solutions, which sells ready-made building plans for energy-efficient houses.

The company originally specialized in custom, one-off projects. But with $100,000 of federal funding, Leonard is looking to scale the business and sees standardized designs as a way to expand outside of Nova Scotia.

“It’s a product rather than a service, so it doesn’t matter so much where we are,” she said during an interview. “We don’t have to meet with clients so much, because the customer is doing their own work.”

Her “passive houses” follow a set of standards created by the Passive House Institute—a German nonprofit that researches ways to improve the energy efficiency of residential buildings.

She said that a typical passive house uses about 75 percent less energy than a conventional home. About half the savings are achieved through higher-quality materials, and the other half through better design and building practices, such as reducing uncontrolled airflow into and out of the building.

The client can also apply to have the building itself certified. The process involves a questionnaire of more than 100 pages, sometimes several rounds of re-assessment, and costs about $10,000. Most clients choose to buy solar panels instead.

“For us, energy bills are really the certification,” she said, adding that customers are contractually obligated to share their power bills with Passive Design Solutions for a year after their home is completed. The data is used to track the effectiveness of the designs.

The engineering details of passive houses vary depending on a region’s typical weather conditions, but Leonard’s plans are meant for buyers in “heating dominated climates”. They often use walls built from floor joists, which adds about 10 inches of extra space that can be filled with insulation.

So far, Passive Design Solutions has sold 30 sets of plans, most of them in Nova Scotia. Leonard is spending a portion of the $100,000 her company received from the federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Fund on expanding into central Canada, and is planning a public relations blitz in the northeastern United States.

Part of the funding has also been spent hiring consultants to help develop a more cohesive online marketing strategy, including video content, which Leonard said has been popular with prospective customers.

“We know that once people become aware of us, they tend to think it’s a good idea,” she said. “We’re very successful in closing leads.”

The company’s five full-time employees and one part-time employee all work remotely in locations ranging from downtown Halifax to Germany. In the next year, Leonard plans to hire two more staff to help her with the design process, and possibly a salesperson.

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