TablePlus Sets Up in Halifax

Henry Pham, left, and Joe Nguyen

Henry Pham, left, and Joe Nguyen

Having caught the attention of some of the world’s largest corporations, two Vietnamese entrepreneurs have now chosen Nova Scotia as their company’s new home.

Henry Pham and Joe Nguyen are the creators of TablePlus, a computer program that helps data scientists and software developers interact with large information databases.

Their product is used by staff at several Fortune 500 companies, including Google, IBM and Amazon.

“TablePlus is an app that helps developers and whoever works with data on a regular basis,” said Nguyen in an interview. “It helps them connect to the database easier, faster, and more efficiently.”

Pham and Nguyen relocated to Halifax this year as part of the federal government’s Start-up Visa Program, which aims to facilitate immigration by entrepreneurs.

They were assisted by venture capital Crown corporation Innovacorp, and their base of operations is now The Labs at Innovacorp, on the edge of Dalhousie University’s Studley campus.

Their choice to come to Halifax reflects one of their business’s core values: customer service.

TablePlus’s largest market is the United States, with Canada and Europe as the runners-up. When Pham and Nguyen were living in Vietnam, they discovered that their time zone was preventing them from responding efficiently to customer questions and support requests.

“You get up when [customers] are going to bed, and you go to bed when they’re getting up,” said Pham. “It didn’t really work very well.”

Moving to Nova Scotia was their solution to this problem.

Availability of efficient customer support is particularly important for TablePlus because it faces significant competition in the marketplace.

Most large collections of data, such as those gathered by major tech companies, are stored in a file structure called a table. TablePlus is an interface through which users can access and modify these tables.

But other companies offer similar database management tools. Rather than creating a completely new market, Pham and Nguyen are tapping into an existing one by aiming to offer a better product and better service.

Pham said that most of TablePlus’s competing products are old and inefficient, with some having been designed decades ago.

“I think I can fairly say that [the competitors] are outdated and they’re not really responsive to the customers, and that many of their customers are upset,” said Nguyen. “I think we have the advantage in terms of our technology and our fast responses to the customer.”

He added that key processes, such as saving work, are more convenient in TablePlus and that the user interface is more aesthetically pleasing.

The business’s customer roster suggests this strategy is working. Its website lists users at organizations ranging from Spotify, to Intel, to Stanford University.

In some cases, Nguyen said, corporate clients purchase the software directly. In other cases, they buy it from third-party resellers or individual employees choose to pay for it themselves.

Pham also said that the startup-friendly business environment in Halifax makes it an appealing place to grow a company.

“The government is doing a really good job of encouraging entrepreneurs to hire,” he said.

To date, the software is available for Windows, MacOS and iOS. A Linux version is in development.

Including Nguyen and Pham, TablePlus has four employees. It has not accepted venture capital or angel investment yet and doesn’t immediately plan to.

But in the long term, Pham said, a fundraising round is probably in the company’s future.

PurelyHR Launches Performance

Jason Gendron

Jason Gendron

Dieppe, NB-based PurelyHR has launched an employee-evaluation product called Performance, the latest module within its human resources management platform used by small and medium-sized businesses all over the world.

PurelyHR, the public brand for Ironflow Technologies, has developed a Software-as-a-Service product that helps SMEs with a range of human resources tasks. Performance is the solution that helps managers with the employee evaluation process.

“The business landscape is changing and our customers need the tools necessary to stimulate strong and healthy workplaces in order to maintain a competitive edge,” said PurelyHR President Jason Gendron in a statement.

In 2010, Ironflow launched Time-Off Manager, a SaaS product that helps companies simplify the task of letting employees book time off. Then in 2017, all the users of Time-Off Manager were upgraded to the PurelyHR platform, which gave them the option of subscribing to as many as four additional services, or modules.

As well as the vacation-booking system, PurelyHR lets SMEs add modules so they can: maintain records on their staff;  monitor who’s in or out of the office in real-time; schedule and track working hours of employees; and issue warnings to staff members who have broken rules.

Now Performance adds employee evaluation to the offerings, its key features include:

● Easy-to-build custom review templates;

● Automated reminders for upcoming and overdue reviews;

● 360-degree feedback and goal-setting;

● And, data integration with other PurelyHR modules.

“The module streamlines the review process so less time is spent organizing and facilitating and more time and energy can be spent on meaningful conversations around professional development, progress, and achievement,” said the company statement.

PurelyHR now has over 110,000 users in 60 countries.

ACOA Backs Springboard with $9.6M

Springboard Atlantic will receive $9.6 million in funding from the federal government to continue providing a bridge between industry and Atlantic Canadian academia for the next three years.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced the funding on Wednesday, saying it would come from the agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. The statement added that the 19 post-secondary institutions that make up the Springboard network will also contribute a total of $5.1 million.

Springboard works with Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges to encourage and support researchers within these institutions in working with industry. The group works with companies of all sizes to conduct R&D with academic researchers, and helps students and faculty begin their own companies based on their research. 

“For almost 15 years the Springboard Atlantic network has been applying practical research to address real industry problems,” said Springboard President and CEO Daryl Genge in a statement. “Our member institutions have helped companies at all stages capitalize on new opportunities and have been instrumental in fostering many of the region’s most of innovative firms. This would not have been possible without the confidence and backing of partners such as ACOA.”

These funds will support the efforts of 30 industry liaison officers situated at 14 universities and five colleges across Atlantic Canada, as well as six staff at Springboard’s head office in Halifax. Their work with post-secondary institutions help match up publicly funded research and knowledge with private sector needs, resulting in new marketable products and services.

These 30 liaison officers interact with corporations to understand industry problems and work to find ways that researchers can help to find solutions. They also provide a link between the 19 universities and colleges, so a research project could use the specialization found in several institutions.

Springboard has also helped academics learn how to turn their discoveries into companies – how to assess market demand, develop a product, find funding and get it to market. It even provides some early-stage financing for some of these enterprises.

Springboard is also driving collaboration in priority sectors of the Atlantic Canada economy, most recently with “Ocean to Plate”, a series of consultations to help the lobster industry find solutions to new and evolving challenges.

“Springboard Atlantic’s role is to match universities and colleges to private sector potential so that the valuable research our educational institutions are doing can be turned into products and services that people want to buy,” said Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan in the statement. “This investment – through ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund – will ensure Springboard’s excellent work can continue until March 2023.”

 

Disclosure: Springboard and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor.

B4C Start Registration Open

Registration is open for the autumn cohort of the B4C Start program at the B4Change Social Enterprise Accelerator in Fredericton.

A social enterprise is a business that does good in addition to making money. The Start program is for people with very early stage ideas and for those who have not yet had time to work deeply on their ideas, organizers said in a statement. The Start programming helps people consider their ideas before committing.

The Start program offers: an eight-week online program; a weekly Q&A session with peers and instructor; and a final one-hour follow-up with a program mentor. Social Enterprise Institute programming will also be offered.

B4C Start is the earliest stage of the various programs offered by the B4Change Accelerator, which was launched in early 2014 by the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The aim is to address the challenges that prevent entrepreneurs creating sustainable, scalable social enterprises, such as lack of funding resources, a lack of connections, and lack of support networks.

Click here for registration.

Thwarting Jet-Lag with LED Acupuncture

Joan Chiasson-MacDonald

Joan Chiasson-MacDonald

A retired physiotherapist from New Waterford, Cape Breton, is the driving force behind a project to create a device that can prevent such conditions as jet-anxiety, motion sickness, and even hangovers.

Joan Chiasson-MacDonald operates Yin and Yang Wellness at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport, and has partnered with Dalhousie University researchers and Cape Breton IP specialist Rob MacKenzie on new patentable technology. They are developing a chair that will use light-based acupuncture to help prevent conditions ranging from jet-lag to sea sickness.

“I think it would be great to have the service available everywhere,” said Chiasson-MacDonald in an interview. “I think people all over the world should be able to access this service. Why should anyone suffer jetlag?”

Chiasson-MacDonald spent 41 years as a physiotherapist, most of it with her own practice in New Waterford. During the last decade there, she used laser acupuncture in various ways, including to help people stop smoking. Though most of us think of acupuncture as inserting needles into certain nerves, lasers can also be used to activate acupuncture points.

Eventually, she began to use laser acupuncture to treat hangovers and cure anxiety. Then she started using it as a preventive tool, and found that the procedure could ward off hangovers, anxiety, jet-lag, motion sickness and other afflictions for as long as two weeks. (You read that right: a preventive cure for hangovers.) The Yin and Yang Wellness website features 25 testimonials from people who use the service for such things as hangover prevention.

“Joan’s hangover laser points give you the opportunity to have fun, play hard (if you want to), and not spend the next day with a headache, or sick in bed,” writes one customer who identifies herself as Heather M. “I would not travel without seeing Joan first.”

Now Chiasson-MacDonald wants to move on to something more innovative. Recent research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, has shown that LED lighting can also activate acupuncture points, just like lasers do.

Chiasson-MacDonald said this is important because laser acupuncture poses a danger: it can damage the eye if the beam hits the eyeball. People having the procedure have to wear goggles. LED light would be completely safe. Chiasson-MacDonald and MacKenzie, who heads Aramax IP Services in Edwardsville, are developing a chair with armrests that would emit LED rays into the forearm. The chair could sit unattended in a public spot like an airport, and people could pay with a credit card to get treatment to prevent jet-lag, anxiety or other problems.

They are working with Matt d’Entremont at the Nova Scotia Product Design and Development Centre at Dalhousie for the initial work, and expect to have a prototype ready early in 2020. They admit it would take capital to roll out the project, but for now they want the prototype to validate the concept.

For the time being, Chiasson-MacDonald is working on her retail operation in the lobby of the airport. Business is slow but she hopes it will improve once word gets out that you can prevent hangovers, motion sickness and jet-lag with just a few minutes of laser therapy.

“Being at the airport right now, I think I’m in the right place but the locals don’t know me and the visitors don’t know me,” she said. “I think that once people learn about it, it will work out.”

Feds Support Women-led Ventures

Small Business Minister Mary Ng

Small Business Minister Mary Ng

The federal government has announced almost $10 million for Atlantic Canadian companies led by women, or organizations in the region advancing women’s entrepreneurship.

On Monday, Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, was in Fredericton to announce the funding, which comes from the government’s $2 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. The funding includes direct grants for businesses and funding to support organizations that promote female-led businesses.

“Our government believes that women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the bottom line,” said Ng in a statement. “That’s why we launched the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a strategy that seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by increasing their access to financing, networks and advice.”

The following women-owned or -led businesses will each receive up to $100,000 through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund to help them grow their ventures and reach new export markets: Another 25 successful WES Ecosystem Fund and Women Entrepreneurship Fund recipients in the region were also recognized.

  • Fredericton-based SomaDetect, which will conduct marketing activities to promote its in-line sensor technology for detecting disease in cows;
  • iTacit, based in Fredericton, which will develop an integrated digital marketing program to reach, attract, and generate demand in new export markets;
  • Edmundston Truck Stop, located in Edmundston, which will open a second location in Moncton;
  • South Ridge Maple Co. Ltd., located in Knowlesville, which will partner with the Woodstock First Nation to collect sap and create maple products, while also developing strategic sales and marketing export plans;
  • And Moncton-based MASITEK Instruments, which will develop a strategic partnership with a large-scale packaging equipment and supplies organization to expand the company’s export activities.

Read about SomaDetect's recent US$2M funding round

In addition, Ng announced Moncton-based Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick as a WES Ecosystem Fund recipient. It will receive $1.2 million to develop an entrepreneurship support program for women from francophone communities. The project will prioritize women entrepreneurs in sectors where women are traditionally under-represented and will offer a range of tools while maximizing resources already provided by different partners in the ecosystem process.

QUBER’s $450K Raise Led by NBIF

QUBER, the Moncton company whose smartphone app helps people save money, has raised $450,000, in equity funding led by a $200,000 contribution from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

NBIF issued a statement on Monday announcing the round, which included investments from a number of angel investors and the company founders.

The company, which now has five employees, will use the money to support marketing efforts.

“Budgeting and saving are something that’s important for nearly everyone, regardless of age or financial status,” says QUBER Chief Executive Jen Leger in the statement. “Our app takes something that’s usually considered boring and unappealing and makes it easy, fun, and rewarding.”

The QUBER app encourages users to save money for their financial goals through a series of fun challenges. User goals can range from funds for a vacation to saving for gifts or a down payment for something expensive.

Similar to online bill payments, users provide their bank account number, and the app securely transfers money to personalized “savings jars” with automatic savings rules, allowing users to determine how they would like to save money.

“QUBER has a fun, innovative approach to a universal concern – saving money,” said NBIF Investment Associate Thomas Bird in the statement. “They’ve managed to grow their team, increase their revenue, and attract a significant number of customers in just three years since the company was established.”

Leger has built her career in tech and startup environments, having previously served in senior roles at BMM Testlabs, Medavie Blue Cross, and Spielo, among other companies.

A finalist in the 2017 Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, Quber has also gone through FinLab, a Singapore-based accelerator for global fintech companies.

The funding announced Monday marks the second time NBIF has backed QUBER. The funding agency also invested $200,000 in the company is its 2017-18 fiscal year. 

Now, the company aims to continue its growth, with plans to increase its users, revenue, and team members.

“QUBER has impressive potential and has proven to be very responsive to customer needs,” said Bird. “They have a sound business model and a product developed with customer input, not to mention solid user growth and retention.”

Jobs: 2 Openings at Dash Hudson

Our Job of the Week column today showcases a couple of openings at Dash Hudson in Halifax – for a Sales Development Representative and an Account Executive.

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 an excerpt from the headline postings this week:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Dash Hudson works with the best brands and publishers in the world to drive visual performance across all of their marketing channels. Our platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to get deep insights on their performance, create original content, discover user content, distribute to owned, influencer, and paid channels, measure and monetize.

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

About You

The most important thing we need from you is this:

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

You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out.

Must be hyper-organized. We'll be checking your Moleskin / Evernote wink

You will require equal parts diligence and creativity - with the ideal candidate excelling at both. Things move pretty fast over here.

You need to be able to have the confidence and intelligence to see eye-to-eye with some of the smartest marketers in the land (not our land, mostly in the US).

Describes you: humble, brash, focused, analytical, creative. With some swagger.

Responsibilities

What You Will Do

Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.

Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.

Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.

Review and qualify inbound leads.

Manage CRM and sales pipeline.

Assist in creation of custom marketing and sales materials.

Liaise between sales, product & marketing teams.

Read the full job posting here.

Sales Development Representative

Dash Hudson is a smarter way to market through photo and video. Our visual intelligence platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

Dash Hudson works with the raddest, most discerning brands and publishers in the world.

Your Role:

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

About You:

Super organized. To the point of compulsion.

Attention to detail. You lose sleep over typos.

Ability to work heads down and maintain high productivity.

A love for data, testing, and learning.

A uniquely creative mind.

Responsibilities

1. Manage Lead Generation

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.

Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

2. Custom Outreach Process

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.

Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.

Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

3. Performance and Tracking

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.

Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.

Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process.

Read the full job posting here.

German Firm Invests in Focus FS

Focus FS Co-Founders Jeffrey Brown and Jennifer West,

Focus FS Co-Founders Jeffrey Brown and Jennifer West,

St. John’s-based Focus Field Solutions Inc. has sold a stake to Germany’s Dräger Safety AG, which will help to sell the company’s digital industrial safety solutions in global markets.

Focus FS issued a statement this week saying Lübeck, Germany-based Dräger had invested in the company to extend its expertise in the area of digital worksites.  The parties did not disclose the terms of the investment, but did say the deal means Focus FS software will now be marketed with Dräger products internationally.

“We are very enthusiastic about having Dräger as a partner and investor,” said Focus FS CEO and Co-Founder Jeffrey K. Brown in the statement. “This investment shows Dräger’s confidence in our vision of creating connecting worksites. We believe zero-harm is achievable – and by aligning ourselves with Dräger, who also believes workplace safety is paramount, we can help our customers realize that ambition.”

Focus FS produces Software-as-a-Service solutions that help mining and oil and gas companies operate in remote, often harsh environments. Its digital worksite software is being used at oil and gas sites, metal mines, shipping ports, industrial warehouses, and construction worksites across North America. The company’s eMustering and Mine Rescue software is being used to locate injured workers and assist emergency responders during emergencies.

Focus FS’s customers can choose from a range of modules and create a solution that best fits their needs. There are three main use cases that can be addressed by the solution: worker safety, plant and asset safety, and incident safety.

“Behavior-based safety, situational awareness, and increased operational productivity are challenges our customers worldwide face on a daily basis,” said Dräger Vice President of Segment and Product Marketing Emergency and Rescue Services AnnMarie Edgerton. “With this partnership, we have the ability to offer effective solutions today. Our vision for tomorrow is also clear. We will ensure that not only do we offer technology for life to our customers, we will have an integrated offering that supports their ambitions of building safe and efficient worksites.”

Founded in 2012 by Brown and COO Jennifer West, Focus FS now employs 15 people. In July 2018, the company closed a $1.4 million funding round, dominated by a “quasi-equity” contribution from BDC Capital.

The capital markets arm of the federal government’s Business Development Bank of Canada did not define what it means by “quasi-equity”, though it is likely a form of convertible debt. It added that private investors also invested in the company in the 2018 round.

Innovacorp Invested $6.3M in FY19

Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency, invested a total of $6.3 million in 17 companies in its 2019 fiscal year, marking a decline in investment totals from the previous year.

The agency each summer releases its annual Accountability Report with little fanfare, and the latest edition shows Innovacorp is continuing to make direct investments from its Nova Scotia First Fund while backing other investment groups. In the previous fiscal year, Innovacorp’s main fund invested $7.9 million in 16 companies.

“A robust start-up ecosystem is key to achieving a strong economic future for Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada – and Innovacorp is helping build that ecosystem,” said the report.

Innovacorp in the last several years has made direct VC investments of about $5 million to $8 million annually in early-stage innovation companies. Meanwhile, there has been more investment from private funds, especially funds from outside the province, meaning Innovacorp is accounting for a smaller percentage of Nova Scotia’s VC investment than a decade ago.

Figures from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association show that startups in Nova Scotia raised a total of $64 million to $77 million in total VC investment in each of the past three years. So Innovacorp now accounts for about one-tenth of the total VC investment in the province.

Innovacorp has contributed to the growing role of private investment funds.  In the 12 months to March 31, 2019, it committed $15 million to the second fund of growth-stage investor Build Ventures and the same amount to the new early-stage fund Concrete Ventures.

Rimot Closes $1.2M Equity Round

The latest Accountability Report shows Innovacorp last year invested $2.9 million as follow-on funding in companies that were already in its portfolio: Spring Loaded Technology ($430,000); Ubique Networks ($2 million); and VineView ($500,000).

It invested $2.4 million in scaling companies that were new to the portfolio: BlueLight Analytics ($1 million); BoomersPlus ($350,000); Global Spatial Technology Solutions ($500,000); and Rimot ($500,000).

There were also 10 “emerging” companies that received investment of about $100,000 each in the last fiscal year: Axem Neurotechnology, Bereda Training, BioPolyNet, B-Line Analytics, Cribcut, Emagix, Graphite Innovation & Technologies, Nexus Robotics, Salient Energy and Trip Ninja.

The Accountability Report also shows the Nova Scotia First Fund received $2.3 million in “distributions” from exiting companies last year.

WoodsCamp Technologies, the Lunenburg, NS, company that helps woodlot owners manage their lands responsibly, was acquired by Washington, DC-based American Forest Foundation, and Marcato Digital Solutions, the Sydney company that provides administrative software for music festivals, was acquired by Pittsburgh-based Patron Technology. Neither WoodsCamp nor Marcato revealed how much they sold for.

“Overall, the value of the portfolio grew to $62.4 million, a net increase of $9.8 million (excluding the additional $6.3 million invested during the year), driven by distributions received and the net impact of unrealized valuation changes in portfolio investments,” said the report. It added that the fund still had $34.3 million left to invest as of March 31.

Innovacorp said the companies in its portfolio produced revenue of $35.5 million (slight decrease due to exits) and employed 688 people.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

NPC Launches 3 New Programs

Natural Products Canada is launching three new programs to help companies in its space grow to  become companies bringing in eight figures in revenue each year. 

Based in Charlottetown, NPC is an association that helps grow Canadian ventures that make products from natural substances. The organization recently launched new Proof of Concept and Executive Talent programs. Next week, it will launch a Go To Market program. All the programs have an ongoing intake, meaning companies can apply at any time. 

The Proof of Concept program is designed to help companies validate commercial applications of natural products or technologies.

“Our network has been telling us that proof of concept testing is a real challenge,” said the organization’s CEO Shelley King in a statement. “They need to validate their products, but it’s difficult to find the funds from either government programs or private capital.”

The new program offers up to half of the project costs to a maximum of $100,000. For companies, the funds are repayable based on gross revenues generated by the resulting product or technology. For research institutions, funds are conditionally repayable based on licensing agreements.

King said the goal is to help companies and institutions secure enough money to clear hurdles at key stages of the development process. Once they succeed, the borrowers can repay the money so NPC can re-channel the funds into other projects.

“The program targets projects that go beyond basic research or early product development,” said King. “We’re looking at things like preliminary animal, field, demonstration or human trials that verify the commercial potential of the technology.”

You can find more information on the program here.

The Executive Talent program is designed to help high-potential companies hire key personnel as they scale. The program will lend companies as much as $50,000 to cover half of the salary for one year of a key team member. 

You can learn more about the Executive Talent program here

The organization, which aids natural products companies across Canada, will release the details of its Go To Market program next week. 

Curv Health Raises $1.5M

The Curv Team

The Curv Team

Curv Health has closed a $1.5 million round of equity financing, which will help the company sell its digital healthcare product directly to health and educational institutions.

With offices in Halifax and Toronto, Curv uses machine-learning tools to analyze video of people in motion, then uses that information to develop fitness routines to prevent or cure injuries.

In its first round of funding, the company received investment from a range of backers from around the world. They include such venture capital funds as: Toronto-based Globalive Capital (which also invested in Fredericton-based Eigen Innovations last fall); Chicago-based NewStack Ventures; Newfund Capital, based in Paris and Silicon Valley, and ACICS Ventures of Japan. Curv also received funding from angel investors in Spain and an Angel List syndicate.

“Measuring human motion has traditionally relied on human eyes or costly hardware,” said CEO and Co-Founder Shea Balish in a statement. “Our bet is that the future of measuring human motion is computer vision combined with machine learning – which is far more intuitive, scalable, cost-effective, and in some important respects, more accurate.”

Balish, who recently held a Banting Fellowship at the University of Toronto, started the company that would become Curv in 2017, while he was doing his PhD studies at Dalhousie University. Since then, he and his team have bootstrapped their growth by licensing their technology and through a series of awards and research grants.

One award was the National Football League’s 1st and Future Competition in 2018. It allowed sports-related startups to pitch solutions that could help the pro football league. Curv won the first prize of US$50,000 and two tickets to the Superbowl in which the Philadelphia Eagles downed the New England Patriots.

Fredericton's SomaDetect Raises $2.6 Million 

The company’s Software-as-a-Service solution provides users with insights into musculoskeletal issues – that is, how muscles and skeletons work together.

“A lot of health insights can be extracted from how bodies look and move,” said Balish. “We're building a new suite of standardized and accessible tests for the body, which we believe will replace crude measures like Body Mass Index and others.”

The company now has a six-member team and has an opening for a senior software developer or engineer. The staff at the Halifax office in Founders Square carry out such duties as software development, R&D and sales.

“In Phase 1, we developed our core technology via annual recurring API licenses with large enterprise,” said Balish in an email. “We raised this round to go after Phase 2, in which we deploy our SaaS platform that functions as the vehicle for our core technology, allowing providers to integrate our tools within their workflow.“

The company now has annual recurring revenues of about $500,000 and Balish said it hopes to strongly increase sales as it closes out 2019.

The funding round was led by Henri Deshays, a partner at Newfund Capital, who focuses on seed-stage companies in a range of sectors with exceptional founder-market fit.

“The Curv team has deep experience across the engineering, scientific and operational aspects of the problem they're solving,” he said. “They’ve demonstrated this by securing impressive revenue and partnerships early on.”

Introhive Lands $1M ACOA Funding

Relationship intelligence company Introhive, which is one of the larger tech employers in Fredericton, has received almost $1 million in funding from the federal government to increase its foreign sales.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a press release Tuesday saying the company would receive a loan of $918,745 through the Business Development Program for international market expansion and product development. Introhive will also receive a grant of $50,000 from the Productivity and Business Skills stream for global sales training.

Based in Washington, D.C., and Fredericton, Introhive produces “relationship intelligence” software that helps enterprise clients and others improve the efficiency of their customer relationship, or CRM, systems. The company was founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneurs Jody Glidden and Stewart Walchli, who are based in Washington, and it has a large development team in Fredericton.

“ACOA has supported Introhive for years as we grew exponentially and opened offices around the world,” said CEO Glidden in a statement. “Introhive successfully entered European and Asian markets and [is] experiencing rapid growth globally.  We are investing in job creation and product innovation right here in Atlantic Canada. In 2018 alone, we were able to more than double our employee growth rate in our Canadian offices.’’

The ACOA statement said Introhive will use the money to expand in the United States and Europe, through product development to meet specific geographical and industry needs and global sales training for its employees.

Introhive employs 174 people, including 72 in Fredericton, 21 in Saint John, and 11 in Halifax. The company has additional staff in Vancouver, the U.S., the U.K., and India.

In June 2018, Introhive raised US$15.2 million (C$20.2 million) in equity and debt financing, led by Toronto-based venture capital firm Lake Bridge Capital. The funding included a loan from Espresso Capital, which was worth less than 20 percent of the total, meaning the equity portion of the round was worth as much as C$16.2 million.

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

SomaDetect Closes $2.6M Round

SomaDetect Co-Founders Nicholas Clermont and Bethany Deshpande

SomaDetect Co-Founders Nicholas Clermont and Bethany Deshpande

SomaDetect, which tests the quality of milk and collects data for the dairy industry, has closed a US$2 million (C$2.6 million) round of funding to help it build out its databank and technology.

The Fredericton-based company issued a statement Monday saying it received the equity investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the Western New York Impact Investment Fund, and New York Ventures.

SomaDetect last year launched its first sensor prototype, which has been installed in 12 pilot farms in Ontario, New York State, and Atlantic Canada, with the goal of collecting data and building algorithms. The new funding from these investors will allow the company to extend that work.

“Our company is growing and advancing thanks to their support, and strong support from the dairy industry,” said SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande in a statement. “Their investment will help build and grow our company as we expand to collect thousands of data points from farms in North America. It will help us build algorithms that matter for dairy farmers.”

Founded in New Brunswick in 2016, SomaDetect has designed and produced an in-line sensor that measures critical indicators of quality and health from every cow at every milking. The company combines the sensor readings with deep-learning algorithm and visualization software to assess the health of each cow 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.

SomaDetect is working with dairy farmers and industry partners across North America to enhance the sensor technology and build deep learning algorithms to provide dairy farmers with actionable data to help manage their operations, including several aspects of milk quality and herd health.

“SomaDetect is a local success story,” said NBIF Investment Associate Thomas Bird. “The fact that they’ve attracted attention plus investment from American venture capitalists are both indicators of continued growth.”

SomaDetect was the runner-up at NBIF’s Breakthru competition in 2017, then went on to win the US$1 million first prize at the 43North competition in Buffalo, N.Y., later the same year. It then opened an office in Buffalo and drew attention from American investors.

“The Western New York Impact Investment Fund is pleased to announce our partnership with SomaDetect, a truly innovative company that has the potential to revolutionize the dairy farming industry in our region and beyond.” said Thomas P. Quinn, Chief Executive Officer of WNYIIF.

“For generations, dairy farming has been an important and integral business in all eight counties of Western New York and our dairy farmers have been struggling. SomaDetect’s ground-breaking technology can provide dairy farmers with crucial data to increase productivity for the benefit of farmers today and for years to come.”

The company, which now has 25 employees, previously received investment from such groups as Cavallo Ventures, Dairy Farmers of America, Builders VC, and iGan Partners.

“They continue to grow with a strong presence in Fredericton,” said Bird. “They have a great team and a great product with interesting patented technology. Their growth is compelling, and we continue to have a lot of confidence in the company.”

Sustane Plant To Open Next Month

Peter Vinall

Peter Vinall

Sustane Technologies has received a $358,750 loan from the federal government to help build its capacity to convert garbage into synthetic fuels.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement last week saying it would lend the Chester, N.S.-based cleantech company the money under its Business Development Program.

Sustane, which won Innovacorp’s last I-3 Technology Start-Up Competition in 2016, is on the cusp of opening a plant in Chester that would convert household and commercial refuse into synthetic fuels. Sustane aims to have the plant, which is now half commissioned, fully operational by the end of September.

“Nova Scotia has long been recognized as a leader within North America for waste diversion,” said Sustane President and Co-Founder Peter Vinall in a statement. “Sustane and the Municipality of Chester are taking it to another level. This new process will divert over 90 percent of the Municipal Solid Waste stream that is being sent to landfill today.”

What the plant will do is take 90 percent of the stuff that goes into landfill and cook it with steam. The landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths. Through this process a few marketable byproducts are produced, most notably biomass pellets and synthetic diesel.

Smarter Spaces Lands $320K Loan from Ottawa

The company grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. He teamed up with Vinall and CFO Robert Richardson to form the Nova Scotian company. They believe the Chester plant will actually improve on the technology used in Spain because it will, for example, remove plastics from the biomass pellets, allowing them to be burned safely and increasing their value.

The ACOA statement said Sustane Technologies – which employs five people at its head office and 15 at the facility site – is working to enable customers to convert existing manufacturing facilities from fossil fuels to its synthetic oil. The switch could replace millions of litres of Bunker C fuel oil per year, resulting in lower emissions, said the statement.

In an email, Vinall said the company has recently raised equity capital but declined to provide specifics. Two years ago, the company received $2.6 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which supports Canadian companies aiming to bring early-stage clean technologies to market.

The ACOA funding will support project management, engineering services and the design, procurement, installation and testing of equipment to convert existing and future facilities.

“ACOA is contributing to our investment in lab, quality assurance, storage, and logistics equipment related to the sale of liquid synthetic diesel,” said Vinall. “These investments are necessary in order for the company to have direct access to industrial customers.”

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Smarter Spaces Lands ACOA Loan

Colin Gillis: 'We're about data and accuracy.'

Colin Gillis: 'We're about data and accuracy.'

A Halifax startup that specializes in large-scale, 3D scanning projects has received a $321,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Smarter Spaces CEO Colin Gillis said the funding will allow him and his co-owner, COO Dan MacIntosh, to hire more employees and grow the business.

The company offers customers a variety of related services that involve scanning and modeling buildings, as well as other large environments. The team uses the results to create either two-dimensional blueprints or three-dimensional computer models.

“We’re about data and accuracy. That’s at the core of everything we offer,” said Gillis in an interview. “(The loan) will let us scale up and expand what we’re doing.”

The company uses one of three scanning devices, depending on the requirements of the specific client: a handheld scanner with accuracy in the range of one to three centimeters; a tripod-mounted “terrestrial” scanner with one to four millimeter accuracy; and a specialized camera.

The 3D scanners use LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It employs laser pulses to sense how far away a surface is from the scanner, which can then be used to create a “point cloud”—a collection of millions of data points with vertical and horizontal coordinates.

Employees at Smarter Spaces’ Grafton Street office convert the raw data into two-dimensional blueprints or 3D models. Much of their work is done with tools from American architectural and engineering software company Autodesk.

Gillis estimated that about 20 percent of the time required for a given project is usually spent on the initial scanning, with the rest going to the processing and modeling work.

The camera equipment is used to create virtual tour-style models that are not accurate for measurement, but show the viewer what the interior of a structure looks like, such as for marketing purposes.

“What we’re trying to accomplish with the business model is that if they don’t need millimeter accuracy, we don’t give it to them, because it’s more expensive,” said Gillis.

An example of a possible application for the two-dimensional scanning is the World Trade and Convention Centre on Argyle Street. Smarter Spaces spent four days scanning the facility after its purchase by George Armoyan’s Armco Capital. The original blueprints were out of date and inaccurate, so Gillis, MacIntosh and their team created a fresh set of drawings.

The processes are not patented because the industry is evolving so rapidly that the costs associated with maintaining the patents would be unreasonable. Instead, Smarter Spaces employs a trade-secret model in which they rely on discretion, good judgment and information security to protect their methodology.

“We spend our effort on what’s coming out, what’s new, what’s being researched and how we can integrate those technologies,” Gillis said.

The company also offers 3D scans of outdoor areas and building exteriors as part of a partnership with AeroVision Canada, and is expanding into the emergency preparedness field. Gillis said the emergency-related business involves helping clients develop contingency plans suited to the layouts of their properties, such as helping emergency responders access floor plans during “aggressive shooter” events.

Founded in 2016, Smarter Spaces currently employs eight staff, one of whom is the company’s first “field team lead,” hired using the ACOA loan. His role will be to help the company expand into serving clients outside Halifax, including other countries.

Gillis also expects to spend a portion of the loan on hiring a staff member who will focus solely on sales and business development, probably within the next quarter. Smarter Spaces currently lacks dedicated sales staff, with the responsibility largely falling to its management team.

They have not yet accepted outside investment and have no immediate plans to do so, but are not ruling out the possibility in future.

“We’ve had the conversation that if we think it can scale up ten times faster, we’re not opposed to it,” said Gillis.

 

Disclaimer: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

NACO Calls Halifax Summit ‘Critical’

The National Angel Capital Organization is focusing its effort to develop angel networks in certain areas like Atlantic Canada and believes its Angel Summit in Halifax next month will be a “critical” step in achieving the goal.

The mission of NACO, as the Toronto-based organization is known, is to develop networks of angel investors across the country and educate them on best practices in sinking their money into startups. As part of this endeavor, the organization will hold an Angel Summit in Halifax on Sept. 16 and 17 in collaboration with the latest Invest Atlantic conference, titled Funding Founders. You can buy tickets for the two events here

In an interview in Toronto this week, NACO Chief Executive Claudio Rojas said there are various regions of the country – largely those outside the major cities – where more needs to be done to gather and educate angel investors. The effort is needed in order to bring early-stage capital to young companies and prepare them for larger investment rounds.

“Angel investors take a leap of faith on entrepreneurs every day – they’re the bedrock of any startup community,” said Rojas, who took over his position earlier this year from Yuri Navarro, who left to join Panache Ventures. “We’re especially interested in the parts of Canada with high-potential founders that would benefit from better access to early-stage capital.”

Angel investing is the funding of startups by individuals. It often involves local groups that can attract and vet young companies and bring them together with enough investors to raise a meaningful amount of capital. NACO is the Canadian body that supports these local groups by teaching angels best practice, researching the industry and broadening each group’s network.

Angel investing is a hot topic in the Atlantic Canadian startup community because several interests are coming together to form new angel groups. The First Angel Network, which had been the region’s first angel cluster, closed its doors earlier this year, which sparked interest in forming other groups.

Rojas estimated there could be three or four angel groups emerging in the region and, including family offices (which make investments for wealthy families) and other groups, there could be about 10 funding private bodies in the region soon.

NACO Manager of Education and Research Caroline Bracht added that there could be a wide diversity of groups, amplifying the support for specific groups. For example, the Atlantic Women’s Angel Investment Fund, which is one of the nascent organizations, should offer particular support to female founders.

The gestation of all these groups is one reason Rojas and his team believe the NACO Summit next month will be a crucial step in growing the angel community in the region. It will be an opportunity for potential angels and angel groups to learn the best ways to invest, how to diversify a portfolio and how to draw on the resources of groups in other parts of the country.

“I see it as critical,” said Rojas. “It’s an opportunity to collaborate with others in the region . . . and to do something on a level that hasn’t been seen before.”

New Innovation Awards for UPEI

Charlottetown-based commercialization group Synapse is playing a role in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the University of Prince Edward island by launching two annual awards that recognize innovators with a connection to the university.

"As the commercialization office for the university, every day we have the pleasure of helping a wide variety of UPEI innovators in the journey of moving their ideas forward," Synapse CEO Justin Moores said in a statement. 

“We're in the process of accepting nominations to identify award candidates from the university's past or present who have made a distinct contribution to their community through research, design and/or a service that addressed a challenge and made a tangible impact," said Moores from his office on the university campus.

The new awards are modelled on the existing Distinguished Alumni and Young Alumni awards currently administered through the university's Alumni Association.  Following that model, one of the new Innovator of the Year Awards will be presented to an individual 40 years of age or younger, and the second will go to someone over the age of 40.

The awards will be presented at the "Innovation Celebration" an informal evening event that Synapse will host on campus on Sept. 25, kicking off UPEI Homecoming Week activities.

Nominations for the awards can be made online through the Synapse website here until Aug.15. 

Purple Cow Aims To Cut Internet Rates

Bradley Farquhar, left, and Joe Power

Bradley Farquhar, left, and Joe Power

A new Halifax company is aiming to drive down internet prices in Nova Scotia.

Purple Cow founders Bradley Farquhar and Joe Power say they are undercutting the prices of other internet service providers, or ISPs, to encourage them to lower their rates.

“If we have lower rates and customers are with us, they benefit,” said CEO Farquhar in an interview. “And if they’re with the big guys, they still benefit because the big guys have to lower their prices. That’s our goal.”

The company buys access to the internet backbone—which is the infrastructure that ISPs use to route internet traffic between their respective networks—from a company in Toronto. It then uses two third-party-owned fiber-optic cables to transfer data between Toronto and Nova Scotia. Inside the province, it employs infrastructure belonging to larger, local ISPs.

Farquhar declined to name the local ISPs, but described them as “the big guys.”

A month of internet access from Purple Cow costs $60 and promises download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second—comparable to Eastlink Edge, which costs $95.95 per month after the 12-month promotional period ends. Bell Aliant charges $159.95 per month after the first year and offers download speeds of up to 150 megabits per second.

Farquhar said his company distinguishes itself from other budget internet options, such as CityWide’s $54.95 per month offering, based on the quality of its service. For example, customers can communicate with Purple Cow via texting and can contact support outside of normal business hours.

Subscribers are also not required to purchase a router. Instead, Purple Cow retains ownership of the equipment.

“In a couple of months, or a year, or two years, or five years, or whatever, the equipment’s kind of outdated and not really the greatest anymore,” said Farquhar. “You don’t have to then repurchase the equipment.”

When a customer purchases internet, they pay a $55 setup fee, according to the company website. But they can choose a specific time to have the router delivered, rather than being assigned a multi-hour window during which they must be at home.

An added benefit of the texting-oriented and flexible support strategy, said Power, is that it prevents the company from having to employ a large work force dedicated solely to providing over-the-phone customer support.

Employees can also work from home, and Power said that he and Farquhar hope to avoid relying on expensive storefronts for sales.

Instead, they’re focusing their efforts on zany marketing strategies, such as editing purple cows into photos from Toronto Raptors games and creating company accounts on dating apps.

Farquhar said Purple Cow’s customer base has been growing quickly, and the business is about to launch a television service it has been testing.

Subscribers will be able to watch a full suite of basic cable television channels via an app, and will have the option to upgrade to premium channels.

Farquhar and Power have not accepted outside investment, and don’t plan to in future. Instead, they said, they are funding their new venture with their own money.

Both men graduated from St. Mary’s University before founding solar panel businesses in the U.S. They returned to Nova Scotia last year and officially launched Purple Cow in May.

“Both Joe and I have been pretty fortunate in the business world,” said Farquhar. “We’ve both had past businesses and from that, we wanted to take that money and reinvest it in Nova Scotia.”

UNB To Launch I-STEM Program

University of New Brunswick in Fredericton

University of New Brunswick in Fredericton

The University of New Brunswick is partnering with George Washington University to provide I-STEM programing, which will help scientists and researchers turn their new technologies into businesses.

The Fredericton-based university put out a statement on Friday saying its J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, known as TME, would launch its first I-STEM cohort in October. The curriculum will be taught by GWU specialists, who will also train staff at UNB to teach future I-STEM cohorts.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has provided a grant of $218,250 through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program to help implement the programming.  

“We look forward to bringing our lean startup entrepreneurship training program to Canada for the first time,” said Jim Chung, Associate Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at GWU in Washington, D.C. He added that GWU has previously worked with the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps in the U.S. and the India Institute of Technology Madras, and now wants “UNB researchers to bring exciting new inventions out of their labs and into the market.” 

George Washington University is a core member of the United States National Science Foundation’s Innovation Network and I-Corps program, which has pioneered research-based entrepreneurship. The NSF launched I-Corps in 2011 and it has quickly become one of the world’s largest and most successful technology start-up accelerators.

UNB is launching the program at a time when several groups are working to increase the entrepreneurial education for Atlantic Canadian researchers and scientists so they can better understand how to turn their innovations into companies. Springboard Atlantic, which acts as a bridge between post-secondary institutions and industry, is launching a series of round-tables between researchers and private industry. The goal is to deepen academics’ understanding of the problems faced by industry so they can work on better solutions.

Meanwhile, Dalhousie University in April posted an opening for a part-time post-doctoral fellow to oversee the pilot project of the Lab2Market program. This will involve collaboration with several institutions across Canada to develop programing modeled on the I-Corps curriculum.  The Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic is also working to produce more science-based companies, holding “lab crawls” to develop links between researchers and the entrepreneurial community.

I-STEM uses a lean startup training program to enhance the ability of researchers and graduate students to bring their innovations to market. It encourages researchers to understand how their technology can solve real-world problems and how to develop a marketable product.

The I-STEM program is the second entrepreneurial collaboration UNB has launched in the past year with a leading American university. Last year, it partnered with Babson College of Boston, regarded as the country’s leader in entrepreneurial education, to present Scale Up Atlantic Canada, which aims to help scaling companies increase revenues.

“We are incredibly excited to be extending our three-plus decades of teaching innovation and entrepreneurship to include researchers across UNB,” said Dominic Blakely, the TME Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategist. “Partnering with George Washington University to help research teams discover the commercial viability of their intellectual property will not only benefit the teams, but also impact the region as a driver for economic growth.”

Barbara Named Kauffman Fellow

Rob Barbara

Rob Barbara

Rob Barbara, a veteran investor and General Partner with Halifax-based venture capital firm Build Ventures, has been selected for Class 24 of the Kauffman Fellows, a two-year program that brings together innovative minds in venture capital.

Barbara is one of two Canadians selected for the new class of the Silicon Valley-based organization, which includes participants from 21 countries.

“Being selected to the Kauffman Fellows is a great validation of what we’ve done at Build Ventures and the strength of the startup scene in Atlantic Canada,” Barbara said in a statement.

“The Kauffman Fellows program is at the forefront of the venture capital industry. Taking part will lead to valuable new relationships with other VCs and industry leaders that can be used to help startups in Atlantic Canada grow faster and succeed at a global scale,” said Barbara.

The Kauffman Fellows program emphasizes peer learning and mentoring by venture capitalists and global thought leaders. Mentors for Class 24 include Marc Benioff, Chairman and Co-CEO at Salesforce, Andrea Auerbach, Global Head of Private Investments at Cambridge Associates and Alex Crisses, Managing Partner at General Atlantic.

Build Ventures focuses on managing its $65 million Build 1 venture capital fund. It provides capital to early stage technology companies that have an established business model, a solid team, a large target market, some revenue generation, and need ramp-up capital. The priority is on companies in information technology, clean technology, life sciences and other high-growth sectors.

The Kaufman Fellows program began in 1995 and, when Class 24 is complete, will count over 650 people as Fellows. Together, Kaufman Fellows have taken part in nearly 8,000 investment deals since the organization’s launch.

Jobs: Three Openings at Sprypoint

Three openings at Charlottetown-based Sprypoint headline our Jobs of the Week column today. The company is looking for a Business Development Specialist, iOS Developer, and Development Team Leader.

SpryPoint was founded in 2011 to assist utilities with addressing the technological advances of the last decade. It has developed a cloud-based platform of enterprise solutions designed to help utilities improve customer service and operations through business automation.

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 posting this week:

Charlottetown

Sprypoint

Business Development Specialist

The Business Development Specialist is responsible for prospecting, qualifying and generating new sales leads to support the Sales Team. This individual will be a highly motivated, self-starter able to identify and develop new business prospects from multiple sources including inbound marketing leads, prospect lists, discovery and individual research. A dynamic personality with a drive to reach decision makers is essential.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities of the Business Development Specialist will include:

1. Lead Management:

Conduct research to identify potential prospects across several product lines.

Identify strong potential prospects using initiative and creativity.

Develop new business via telephone and email to introduce SpryPoint and identify opportunities within various segments of our target market.

Conduct needs analysis to determine prospects pain points and communicate how SpryPoint's solutions can help address those needs.

Assess and analyze a prospects requirements and buying process.

Manage, nurture and convert inbound leads into sales opportunities.

Provide engaging and articulate information about SpryPoint’s value proposition to potential customers.

Manage data for new and prospective clients within CRM, ensuring all communications are logged, information is accurate and documents are attached.

2. Sales Management:

Learn to manage complex enterprise sales throughout the sales cycle;

Build and cultivate prospect relationships by initiating communications and conducting follow-up activities in order to move opportunities through the sales funnel.

Participate in the preparation of proposals and the presentation of professional product demonstrations.

Represent SpryPoint at corporate events or sales meetings independently or with colleagues.

Meet personal targets and work towards SpryPoint’s sales goals and profitability.

3. Communication:

Demonstrates ability to interact professionally with potential customers via phone, email, telephone conferencing, webinars and face to face, to discover their business needs and develop a positive business relationship.

Work closely within a small sales & marketing team and develop cooperative working relationships with all SpryPoint staff.

Provide accurate and timely information as required to senior management;

Experience in the use of social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, SEO optimisation is preferred.

Adhere to company policies, procedures, culture and business ethics.

4. Product Knowledge:

Develop a strong knowledge of SpryPoint's products and services in order to facilitate the sales process;

Understand how the benefits of SpryPoint'’s products and services can meet customer’s needs across different products and verticals.

Travel and working at client sites across North America may be required to be successful in this position. The successful candidate must be able to travel outside of Canada with no known legal or immigration related impediments. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

iOS Developer

SpryPoint builds fantastic web and mobile applications using cutting-edge technologies. As a developer at SpryPoint, you will be building and integrating interactive web applications, services, and apps that real people will actually use. As a full-stack developer, you will work in a range of languages and environments from Java and C# to Scala, Akka, Swift, and JavaScript.

Responsibilities

As a big part of a growing development team, you will be called on to play a role in architecting, testing, and deploying mobile apps within SpryPoint's suite of enterprise applications. You will work with clients across North America from SpryPoint's Charlottetown office, and you will learn constantly.

Qualifications

Primary qualifications are a keen interest in learning and the ability to apply your knowledge to craft clean code.

Demonstrated fluency in developing clean, maintainable, testable code

Demonstrable experience in developing and maintaining iOS applications for iPad and iPhone using Swift

Understanding of relational databases & SQL

Experience working with web technologies HTML, Javascript, and CSS

Experience or knowledge on modern development and deployment methodologies including experience with AWS, GCP and/or Azure

Interest in expanding knowledge and applying knowledge to solve industry problems

Degree or study in computer science or a related discipline . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Development Team Leader

We are looking for a team leader and mentor to help our team grow - focusing talent, energy and creativity on achieving SpryPoint's business objectives. Founded by software developers, SpryPoint has successfully grown to a team of 20+ professionals with a focus on building enterprise software in the cloud. In our next stage of growth, we are seeking a visionary manager and mentor to provide hands-on, day-to-day management of our product teams.

As the Development Team Leader, you must have experience and education in effective management, particularly in the software development field. We hold our management to high expectations, and this is not a position where you can make it up as you go.

You must have experience in software development on production systems. While you won't be coding much day-to-day, you will need a complete end-to-end understanding of what it's like to develop software to effectively lead our team of software developers. It will be your job to ensure that we continue to apply clean programming practices and solid principles to get the job done. Our software development practices are centred around continuous delivery.

Above all, you will need a demonstrated experience in GSD -> G(etting) S(tuff )D(one).

To be clear, we are not looking for someone to rewrite our existing products or change the company's technical roadmap - we are committed to the principles and direction upon which we have based our successes to date. Rather, we are looking for someone to build upon our successes, apply continuous improvement principles, and help lead a talented, experienced, growing team through the next exciting phases of our company's future. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Startup Zone Launching Accelerator

Charlottetown-based Startup Zone is launching a new early-stage accelerator program to help high-growth companies with product development, branding and sales.

The Prince Edward Island startup house is starting the accelerator so that entrepreneurs will have in-person mentoring and benefit from a sense of community. It is looking for entrepreneurs with a sense of urgency, who will strive to build their products promptly and get them into the market.

“This is what the community has asked for,” said Startup Zone CEO Patrick Farrar in an interview on Thursday. “I think there’s a space here for any entrepreneur who’s super competitive and wants to grow really fast. So we’re creating that program for the entrepreneur who wants to have an MVP, branding and sales by the end of the year.”

The 12-week, in-person program includes all of the benefits of Startup Zone’s Resident Company Program, he said, and offers participants weekly workshops, accountability sessions, and other curriculum.

Farrar said the entrepreneurs will receive weekly meetings with Startup Zone Growth Coach Pat Sebastien, who previously held a senior position with Silicon Valley-based health and wellness startup 7 Cups.

Propel, which runs the pan-regional virtual accelerator Incite, will also help with the new accelerator by allowing participants to access LeanStack, a program devised by Ash Maurya, one of the creators of the lean canvas. Leanstack combines the lean canvas and traction model to make projections of a company’s success rate over three years.

You can apply here. The deadline for applications is Aug. 25. There is no application or admission fee, and the organizers expect the cohort will begin with about 20 teams.

“The Startup Zone is a great space for new and experienced entrepreneurs to learn, build, and grow,” said Farrar in a statement. “We've seen strong success from entrepreneurs over the past three years and we've listened to islanders to identify the gaps and barriers in the ecosystem. The community wants to learn, build, and grow faster which is why we've created the Startup Zone Accelerator. This accelerator program equips entrepreneurs with the knowledge and connections in product development, branding, and sales."

LaunchPad Celebrates Kilfoil, New Ventures

Mary Kilfoil

Mary Kilfoil

The 10 companies enrolled in Dalhousie University’s LaunchPad accelerator pitched their businesses to an audience at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Wednesday evening.

The pitching event marked the conclusion of LaunchPad, which is offered by Launch Dal, the group within Dal created to teach and support entrepreneurship. Each team in the cohort received $10,000 in funding for their business, as well as networking and mentorship opportunities.

“The Norman Newman Centre’s LaunchDal program is referred to as the flagship for innovation and entrepreneurship at Dalhousie,” said Director Mary Kilfoil during the event. “The LaunchPad accelerator is the apex of what we do.”

The event included a presentation from members of the entrepreneurial community thanking Kilfoil for her contributions to the local startup ecosystem.

Previous graduates of LaunchPad include automated construction flagging equipment-maker Site2020 and contact lens technology startup Coloursmith Labs.

Here’s a look at this year’s LaunchPad companies:

  • Arolytics is developing a software platform to help oil and gas producers—and other greenhouse-gas-emitting companies—comply with tightening methane emissions regulations. The platform collates and synthesizes data from sensor equipment, automatically generating regulatory compliance reports and suggesting steps to reduce emissions. The company previously received funding from Volta Cohort. 
  • Smart Design Systems, formerly Smart Engineering, is developing a cloud-based software package that will allow engineers to analyze the safety of structures they design. Unlike existing software, Smart Design Systems uses computer graphics cards for its calculations, which will significantly improve speed and allow engineering firms to quickly assess possible options.
  • Novaspectrum Analytics is creating SeaLogR, an online platform for business-to-business sales of individual lobsters, as opposed to by-the-pound sales. It aims to facilitate increased transparency about the quality and size of lobsters being sold.
  • Cohability’s platform will allow users to find roommates and living arrangements based not only on budgets, but on personal compatibility, using dating website-style matching algorithms. The company will vet users’ profiles, and offer interventions to roommates who don’t get along.
  • EcoPliance hopes to distribute reusable containers to food retailers on university campuses and other environments where single-use plastic and paper products are commonplace. Customers will be asked to discard the containers in designated bins for washing and reuse.
  • Foodona is developing technology to recycle paper into durable papers bags as an alternative to unsustainable plastic bags and expensive, potentially inconvenient canvas bags.
  • ViSUM Neurotechnologies is designing virtual reality software to perform cognitive assessments and rehabilitation for people with attention deficit disorders and similar conditions. The software will track users’ attention based on their eye movements and pupil dilation.
  • Light Me Local is a website that helps businesses and freelancers find each other based on their locations, scheduling restrictions and the style of the freelancer’s work. Other freelancing platforms exist, but they tend to be global in scale and don’t easily facilitate projects that are constrained by geography.
  • Big Talk Co. sells clothing with graphics designed to encourage conversation about “world issues that matter to you.” The clothes are made of recycled water-bottles, with the goal of creating a domestic market for the used plastics that can no longer readily be shipped to China.
  • Valued Option is developing a radio-frequency technology—as well as software and analytics tools—that will allow companies to transmit sensor data over longer distances (up to 20 kilometers) than is possible using existing solutions. One key application is the testing process for automotive manufacturers.

Leading Fitness Classes on Facebook

Tracey Gairns Brioux

Tracey Gairns Brioux

Shortly after the birth of her fourth child, Tracey Gairns Brioux decided the best thing she could with her career would be to teach an online fitness class at 5:30 am each day.

She launched her company Reset Breathe Fitness, whose cornerstone is the 30-minute class she leads every morning at 5:30 Atlantic time from her home on Prince Edward Island.  Gairns Brioux uses Facebook Live to broadcast the classes, so subscribers can join the class live or view them later in the day.

The story of Reset Breathe highlights the determination of Gairns Brioux herself, but it’s also an interesting case study in online, low-budget marketing. Her marketing channels have been Facebook, Instagram and direct email, and with these common tools she’s built up her paid subscriber list to 200, doubling it between Years 1 and 2.

“What I’ve learned since I started was the importance of community,” Gairns Brioux said in a recent interview in Halifax, where she was attending the Atlantic Venture Forum. “People can communicate on the Facebook Page or post pictures and that really helps.”

Gairns Brioux had been working as a fitness instructor for a decade when her fourth child arrived, but the challenges of managing four kids under the ages of 10 (the oldest today is nine years old) made it impossible to teach classes at the gym.

Her solution to the problem was to lead a 30-minute course on Facebook Live. Most of her clients live in Atlantic Canada, which means many are able to be awake early enough to join her live. She said about a quarter of her 200 subscribers join her each day in the wee hours for the live broadcast and the rest watch it through the day.

Her marketing includes a lot of Facebook and Instagram posts not just about fitness but also about herself, her family and life on P.E.I. She wants subscribers to know who she is and what she believes in, so they can be part of the Reset Breathe community. And her central message is that the health benefits of fitness are more important than appearance. Facebook, she said, is an ideal platform because of its ability to build a community, allowing subscribers to post their own content.

“What’s good about Reset is the lack of polish – people can relate to it,” she said. “There’s too much focus [elsewhere] on how you look and it’s really more about feeling good and being healthy.  My focus is not, ‘How am I going to look at the beach this summer?’ but, ‘How am I going to feel when I’m playing with my kids?’”

Gairns Brioux is now working out how to grow the company, debating such topics as whether to seek outside investment. She would like to build up a team, but wants to preserve Reset Breathe’s personal relationship with its subscribers. And she wants the company to continue in its central mission of helping people improve their health.

“What’s always on my mind is that I don’t want to lose our sense of community,” said Gairns Brioux.  “But having a bigger company may also mean that you have more support around you.”

Media Relations Talk in Sydney

On Thursday, Aug. 8, I will be in Sydney to deliver my talk on Media Relations for Startups.

I gave this talk at Volta a few weeks ago, and the response was really great.

So if you want to learn how to write a press release and identify which publications to target, come on out. We’ll discuss how to build relationships with journalists and publications to help promote your startup, and we’ll look at some common mistakes founders make.

The details:

Thursday, August 8, 2019

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Navigate Startup House

103 – 37 Nepean Street, Sydney

RSVP to Holly Chisholm at hchisholm@innovacorp.ca by Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Many thanks to Bob Pelley and Holly Chisholm at Innovacorp for making this happen.

T4G Wins Microsoft Award

Technology solutions company T4G is being recognized by Microsoft Canada for its innovative work with data.

The company, which has a headquarters in Saint John, has received the 2019 Microsoft Canada Data Innovation IMPACT Award. The annual Canadian awards recognize Microsoft partners that have focused on bettering the lives of Canadians and demonstrated excellence in sales, marketing, innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology. 

Microsoft Canada presented awards in several categories on July 14, 2019 at the Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Winners were selected based on the outstanding work the companies provided to their customers and community. Another New Brunswick-based company, Bulletproof Solutions, also took home an award for Modern Workplace Innovation Partner of the Year. . . . 

Read the full story on Huddle.  

Start-Up Yard Seeks Applicants

Innovacorp is calling for applications for the third cohort of Start-Up Yard, its incubation program for ocean technology companies.

Successful entrants must pay $2,000 to enter the program, but they then receive a grant of $22,500 in development capital as well as a place to develop their businesses. They also receive office space in the Start-Up Yard facility in Dartmouth as well as educational programming.

The Start-Up Yard team expects five companies will be accepted into the cohort, which will run until the end of March. You can find applications and information on the program here. The deadline to enter is Sept. 20.

Start-Up Yard is located at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship on the Dartmouth waterfront. That means its companies have both office space in an urban location and access to the harbor so products can be tested in salt water.

“Start-Up Yard is more than infrastructure and other resources,” said Innovacorp in a statement. “It is a community – an environment with a strong innovation culture that lets start-ups engage with like-minded entrepreneurs and organizations that can help them grow. It also partners with post-secondary institutions to help drive commercialization of ocean technologies.”

Start-Up Yard is targeting the following sectors: energy, marine transportation, fisheries and aquaculture, marine defence and security, and marine tourism.

Entrants must be startups based in Nova Scotia and must be pre-revenue or have sales of less than $1 million per year.

ACOA Helps Velsoft’s Sales Focus

Velsoft Preident Jim Fitt

Velsoft Preident Jim Fitt

New Glasgow-based e-learning company Velsoft Training Materials has received a $150,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to facilitate its focus on international growth.

Velsoft’s product turns written training materials into interactive, industry-compliant eLearning. The company exports to more than 160 countries and includes many global brands among its clients. The company has grown from 10 employees in 2010 to nearly 30 today and has offices in Halifax, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Guatemala.

“We’re competing in a $200 billion global industry from our headquarters in New Glasgow,” Jim Fitt, company Presiden,t said in a statement.

“This project will help us move forward with ambitious marketing and business development plans to take advantage of a significant opportunity to showcase our technologies to the world.”

Velsoft sells an array of online learning and training materials, from virtual campuses to learning management systems, or LMS.

The global need for online learning software is rising. In a previous interview with Entrevestor, Fitt said the industry is growing by 7percent each year and, by the end of 2025, is projected to be worth $3.25 billion annually. He said the rising cost of traditional universities is making online learning popular.

“E-learning is failure without fear,” he said. “If you’re sitting in a class and you fail, you’re done. You have to pay for it and take it all over again. When you’re doing it online, if you don’t understand something, you can jump back and do it again.”

In 2012, the company released Znanja, a software that automates the production of online courses. Velsoft’s tech cuts the time it takes to build an online training platform, which is important because nearly 50 percent of job training is now done online.

“It takes 200 to 260 hours of work to create one hour of e-learning,” said Fitt. “We have a technology where you drag and drop and artificial intelligence creates it for you.”

The ACOA loan was made through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Emtrevestor. 

New Oil, Oysters DNA Projects

Projects using DNA tools have been announced by Genome Atlantic, the non-profit corporation that helps Atlantic Canada reap the benefits of genomics technologies. 

In the first, L’Étang Ruisseau Bar Ltée, the oyster hatchery seed supplier located in Shippagan, NB, is teaming up with Université Laval scientists, Genome Atlantic and Génome Québec on a $3.8 million project to produce the first selectively bred Canadian strain of Eastern oyster. 

The project will create a breeding program that will select for traits such as improved growth, better flesh quality and resistance to disease -- traits that are difficult to improve using wild stocks and conventional methods, the partners said in a statement.

“Genomic tools offer the potential to greatly improve selective breeding of molluscs but unfortunately, the availability of genomic tools to enhance aquaculture production of the Eastern oyster has been lagging behind, compared to other oysters,” said project co-lead Dr. Louis Bernatchez of Université Laval.

The statement said the oyster industry in Eastern Canada is expanding, registering revenues near $31 million in 2017, a 25 per cent increase from 2016.  This growth cannot be sustained by relying solely on wild-caught oyster spat, the partners said. 

The second project examines oil exploration in Nova Scotia’s offshore. 

The $6.5 million project, Validation and Integration of Genomics Solutions for Offshore Oil Exploration in Nova Scotia and Beyond, builds on the work of a previous GAPP (Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program) in which genomics data and results were compared with petroleum geochemistry data to paint the clearest picture yet of petroleum deposits in areas of Nova Scotia’s offshore.

“This new project will allow us to explore sites that preliminary testing revealed as particularly promising, this time using AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) mapping, ROV (Remotely-Operated Underwater Vehicle) video-guided sampling, and higher density sediment coring,” said Dr. Casey Hubert, co-lead from the University of Calgary. 

“This allows us, for the first time, to detect ancient, deep water seeps that, while no longer active or infrequently active, nevertheless paint a more comprehensive picture of a dynamic petroleum system. said Dr. Todd Ventura, co-lead from Saint Mary’s University.

“Additionally, speed is everything – and with the development of a lab on a ship and AI-based data mining, we hope to greatly improve the turnaround time between sample acquisition, processing and data analysis – all of which will help exploration companies in their decisions.”

The project is managed by Genome Atlantic in partnership with Genome Alberta.

LaunchDal Demo Day This Week

When LaunchDal holds its annual summer Demo Day on Wednesday, it will be the latest chapter of Mary Kilfoil’s seven-year mission to launch more startups from Dalhousie University.

LaunchDal is the organization within Dalhousie that mentors early-stage companies, usually with students from the university and often with technology they’ve developed in their time at the Halifax institution. For the last few years, the group has offered a summer program called LaunchPad, in which 10 teams receive $10,000 each to develop their company.

The Demo Day for the 2019 cohort will be held July 31 at 6:30 pm at the Rebecca Cohn auditorium at Dal. You can register here.

“What you’re going to see is 10 new startups, many of them launched from within the university, ranging from social and environmental entrepreneurship to artificial intelligence ventures,” said Kilfoil in an interview last Tuesday. “Many of them have traction in sales, and are looking at international clients.”

Kilfoil is now wrapping up her seventh year of teaching entrepreneurial courses at Dal. Back in 2012, she started the Starting Lean course along with her husband, Professor Ed Leach. The course taught lean methodology at a time when a lean canvas was still a revolutionary entrepreneurial tool.

Since then, she has continued to grow the suite of programs operating out of the Collider, the space LaunchDal runs in the second floor of the Killam Library at Dal. She emphasizes that LaunchDal is not just a place where companies come for training, but a place where individuals can come with ideas and leave with a company. Such established companies as Spring Loaded Technology and Site2020 really came together as they progressed through LaunchDal programs.

“We feed the ecosystem,” said Kilfoil. “We are the critical early-phase start of the pipeline. The teams that emerge from LaunchDal are on their way to enter other programs and accelerators, both locally and internationally.”

She noted that the teams that have gone through the Dalhousie program have gone on to attend programs across Canada, in the U.S. even as far afield as the Hax accelerator in southern China.

“It’s been amazing to witness the potential that we perhaps never knew we had, and to witness the companies that are now competing on the world stage,” said Kilfoil. “I’m humbled by what has transpired … and to realize that we’re all part of something much bigger than ourselves.”

NACO, Invest Atlantic in Joint Events

The National Angel Capital Organization and Invest Atlantic are teaming up this year to present three days of programing in Halifax with sessions on raising various forms of capital.

NACO, the national body for angel investing in Canada, will host NACO Atlantic 2019 on Sept. 16 to 17, and that will bridge into Invest Atlantic’s new Funding Founders conference, which will run from Sept 17 to 18. Both events will be held at the Casino Nova Scotia and the Marriott Harbourfront. You can get your tickets for Funding Founders here

The unifying theme will be the raising of capital by entrepreneurs, though the events’ emphasis will differ. While NACO promotes direct investment by wealthy individuals, Funding Founders will focus on how entrepreneurs can raise non-dilutive capital – that is, grants or loans that do not dilute the equity position of founders or investors.

Bob Williamson, whose company Jameson Group launched Invest Atlantic 10 years ago, said the two events complement one another because angel investors benefit when the companies they invest in receive non-dilutive capital.

“If an angel finds that the company is actively going after non-dilutive funding, it allows the angel to come in at an earlier stage,” said Williamson in an interview. “It means the angels say, ‘We’re not the first ones in here and we like it.’”

He added that a company’s ability to raise non-dilutive capital can mean that the CEO is not on the road constantly trying to raise more equity funding. Even if the company raises debt, the interest charges can cost the company less in time and money than what it costs to fly off and meet potential investors, he said.

Funding Founders represents a bit of a homecoming for Invest Atlantic. The first six annual conferences were held in Halifax, then Williamson took it to Fredericton in 2016, St. John’s in 2017 and Charlottetown last year.

On bringing it back to Halifax, he was looking for a new theme. During discussions with Jeff Mullen at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, they realized that startup conferences always focus on equity fund-raising. No one ever focuses on non-dilutive.

The landscape for non-dilutive funding is changing, especially for the more successful later-stage companies, said Williamson. Business Development Bank of Canada is becoming more active in the space, and even private banks are more interested in lending to high-growth innovation companies.

NACO, meanwhile, has been working for the past few years to raise awareness among Atlantic Canadians of the potential and practices of angel investing.  After First Angel Network closed its doors this spring, there have been discussions about new angel groups opening in the region.

In an interview with Entrevestor in March, NACO’s then-CEO Yuri Navarro (who has since taken another job and been replaced by Claudio Rojas) said the organization wants local players to determine who operates these groups, but NACO will support them when they do emerge.

“NACO Atlantic 2019 will provide investors with the opportunity to connect with other passionate investors from across the Atlantic region and country, to leverage expertise, and exchange deep industry insights,” said NACO in an email. “Further, it is an opportunity for investors in the Atlantic region to help shape the future of the investment ecosystem in Atlantic Canada as we embark on the next stages of economic growth.”

BlueLight Names Nicolle as CEO

Steve Nicolle

Steve Nicolle

Tech veteran Steve Nicolle has been named the CEO of BlueLight Analytics, taking over from J.P. Furey, who is no longer with the company.

Halifax-based BlueLight, whose technology measures the light dentists use to cure resin in fillings, issued a statement Thursday saying Nicolle, who is the Chair of the company’s board, has become the full-time CEO effective immediately. A spokeswoman for the company said the board is conducting a search for “a leader ideally suited to the company’s evolving and long-term needs.”

The statement also said the change in leadership – which comes eight months after the company closed a $3 million funding round led by CIC Capital Ventures of Montreal – is happening to align with significant growth plans.

“BlueLight is at a different stage of growth now, and we are delighted that someone with Steve’s industry experience has agreed to become the company’s CEO,” said Nicola Urbani, a BlueLight board member and CIC Principal. “We’re in great hands with Steve and we know he will ensure a seamless transition with delighted customers.”

Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about nine years ago to solve the problem caused by the varying levels of energy released by the lights dentists use to cure resin. Each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.

BlueLight developed its checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. The company has partnered with 3M to distribute checkMARC to dental equipment sellers so they can check the curing systems in the dental offices they visit.

Life Sciences Dominated Second Quarter News

The company used recent financing – which including participation by Innovacorp – in part to develop checkUP, a new cost-effective data analytics product that ensures the optimal amount of energy for curing fillings.

Overseeing the new sales drive will be Nicolle, best known as serving as Chief Executive of STI Technologies Inc. from 2010 to 2014. STI sold for a reported $200 million in 2017 to Quintiles IMS, now IQVIA.

Before STI, Nicolle spent 10 years leading venture-backed technology companies, including time as the CEO of Tatara Systems and of Sigma Systems and the COO at March Networks. His is now a partner at Island Capital Partners, the investment group based in Charlottetown.

Furey had been named CEO in 2015, replacing Co-Founder Colin Deacon, who has since been named to the Senate. During his tenure, he closed the $3 million funding deal and signed the company’s partnership with 3M in the U.S. Furey had been the company’s CFO for a year before assuming the CEO’s role.  

“We thank J.P. greatly for his involvement in the business milestones that BlueLight has experienced under his leadership,” said Urbani. “He has taken the company through some key steps over the last few years.”

The BlueLight statement said the company plans to increases its workforce “significantly” in the next two years as it expands its market presence and rolls out new products.

BlueLight now employs 22 people and plans to grow to "north of 30", including some key executive hires.

ACOA Provides Venn with $476K

Federal Minister Carolyn Bennett with Brandon Bourgeois, CEO of Venn Garage participant Team Stripes.

Federal Minister Carolyn Bennett with Brandon Bourgeois, CEO of Venn Garage participant Team Stripes.

The federal government has given a grant of $475,685 to Venn Innovation to support its Venn Garage incubator.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement Wednesday announcing the grant, which was made through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. Carolyn Bennett, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced the contribution at a reception at Venn’s headquarters in Moncton.

Venn Innovation is a non-profit innovation hub and tech association focused on helping technology companies start and grow in New Brunswick.

“We want to create opportunities for our province and the region,” said Venn CEO and President Doug Robertson in the statement. “Supporting innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises as they grow their business and enter into new markets is critical to building New Brunswick’s - and Atlantic Canada's - economic capacity and success.”

Venn Garage is a program that helps New Brunswick tech companies validate their ideas. It also helps to prepare them for other accelerators in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere. Venn links companies to its network of more than 100 organizations to help them grow and reach international markets.

Since 2014, Venn Garage has supported 84 entrepreneurs, including the 15 teams that are now in the Garage. The organization estimates these companies have created 60 jobs in direct employment.

“We are currently working at capacity in the Garage with 15 companies,” said Alicia Grayeb, Venn’s Manager of Startup Services. “In fact, in the past couple of days, we have accepted four more entrepreneurs, out of which three are women. This means that, at present, around 40 percent of our teams are women-led. Similarly, 60 percent of our teams in the Garage are francophones.”

Said Robertson: “We see so many innovative, tech-enabled companies across the region that can compete on the world stage, and it’s exciting, because these are the companies that are going to help make sure our communities thrive.”

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

NL Genome Project Launched

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

St. John’s-based Sequence Bio has launched its NL Genome Project, which will collect genetic samples from 2,500 Newfoundlanders with the goal of improving the development of new drugs.

The company has spent five years preparing to launch the project, and has just received the green light from the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Research Ethics Authority.

Sequence will now spend eight months collecting saliva samples from 2,500 volunteers, who will also complete a questionnaire and give the project permission to access their medical records. By the end of this project, the company intends to be in talks with pharmaceutical companies that will pay for access to the data and computational research produced by this and subsequent projects.

“The NL Genome Project is a unique opportunity for Newfoundland and Labrador to lead the world in research that we hope will bring us closer to better treatments and medicines – and it all starts by simply spitting in a tube,” said Sequence CEO Chris Gardner in a statement.

“By returning benefits and findings from the NL Genome Project to the people of this province, Sequence Bio puts Newfoundland and Labrador first every step of the way.”

Sequence was formed with the goal of building up a databank on the genetic makeup of the “founder population” of Newfoundland – that is, people whose families have lived on the island for several generations. The idea is that by studying the genetic makeup of such a population, it is possible to develop drugs that are more effective in treating diseases.

In an interview, Gardner added that a recent study in Finland concluded that a genetic study of thousands of people in a founder population is as useful as a study of millions in a more diverse population.

“Newfoundland is one of the few founder populations in the world with the potential to discover genetic biomarkers that can be used to identify novel drug targets,” said Sequence Chief Scientific Officer Michael Phillips, the project’s lead scientist. “With the province’s high rate of localized, inherited rare and complex disease, large pedigrees, and health records with deep and complete phenotypic information, we have a unique opportunity to make important discoveries and contribute to genetics research from right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

These include medically actionable findings, such as a participant’s carrier status for certain conditions that won’t affect them personally, but could affect their child or children, said the statement. It could also include the presence of rare gene variants linked to life-threatening diseases with possible treatment or screening options.

Gardner said the company has already collected samples from 300 participants through an early soft-launch of the project. What’s more, it has begun to see some patterns emerging in the early data.

He congratulated the Research Ethics Authority on the thoroughness of its work on the project, which included forming a subcommittee on genetic issues. The resulting protocol approving the project amounted to more than 1,000 pages.

Sequence plans to help its volunteers by offering to let them know if their genetic makeup includes genetic mutations as identified by the American College of Medical Genetics. The company can notify each volunteer’s doctor in such cases, and let them know the best practice for addressing the problems.

The 2,500-member study will serve as a pilot project that will give the company the foundational information for conducting further studies with larger populations, said Gardner.

“That will mean we have and are developing one of the most advanced patient populations on earth for drug discovery,” said Gardner.

Rimot Closes $1.2M Equity Round

Rimot, a Dartmouth company whose technology monitors remote infrastructure,  has closed an equity financing round of $1.2 million, which it will use to help accelerate sales in Canada and the U.S.

The company issued a press release Wednesday saying it has received $700,000 from angel investors (including some it met through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic) and $500,000 from Innovacorp.

“This investment will allow Rimot to accelerate our growth at a much faster pace to meet the needs of our customers in the United States and Canada,” said Rimot CEO Andrew Boswell in the statement. “Innovacorp has been a great partner in helping us grow our business, and the private investment we received exceeded our targets by the exposure we received from the Creative Destruction Lab program.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Rimot announced it had borrowed $600,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, meaning it has recently added $1.8 million in capital to its balance sheet.

Boswell and Rimot CTO James Craig formed Rimot to address the problems that various companies or organizations have in monitoring their private wireless communications systems in remote locations. These systems are susceptible to outages, and repairing them is often costly because they are so far from corporate or government offices.

They devised a solution called RimotRF, which they describe as a turnkey solution, meaning that it can bolt on to any remote transmitter and work seamlessly with existing communications equipment.  RimotRF 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’s first service is for monitoring of wireless communication sites. A recent Motorola Solutions global benchmark study found that wireless systems that are continuously monitored 24 hours a day experience 50 percent fewer outages than sites that are unmonitored.

The company statement said the remote asset management market is undergoing 25 percent per year growth and MarketsandMarkets, a B2B research company, estimates it will reach US$27 billion globally in 2021.

In an interview two weeks ago, Boswell said Rimot is establishing more contracts and partnerships. For example, he said it is working with Motorola Solutions, and has secured a standing offer with the U.S. government and is working with a partner to secure its first government contract in the U.S.

Boswell said the company will likely raise money again in 2020. 

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Propel Brings in Maurya, GrowthX

Propel has struck partnerships with Leanstack and GrowthX, which will provide curricula to be used in the Atlantic Canadian IT accelerator’s programing.

Leanstack is a business model platform created by Ash Maurya, one of the creators of the lean canvas, and it combines the lean canvas and traction model to make projections of a company’s success rate over three years.

 GrowthX is a Silicon Valley-based partnership that works with startups, companies and countries to help them commercialize innovation.  Propel said these subject matter experts help to further increase the validity and value of the Incite program, Propel’s virtual accelerator. Propel’s entrepreneurs-in-residence will also receive intensive training from both organizations.

“These two partnerships are an incredible incentive for companies looking to fast-track their business growth through our accelerator Incite,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement.  “These two exceptional organizations are among the best in the industry – and we’re thrilled to bring their expertise to our companies and to Atlantic Canada.” 

Propel,  last year launched its Incite accelerator – a two-phase virtual program for early-stage tech startups across the region. Propel in April accepted 30 companies into Phase 1, which is for companies trying to determine whether they have a product-market fit. The Phase 2 program, which will begin in September, helps companies identify markets and develop repeatable sales programs. (Companies can apply for Phase 2 until July 31. Applications can be found here.)

Propel, Brilliant Labs Announce $5M in Public Funding. 

Maurya, author of the international bestseller Running Lean, already has some history with Propel, as he worked with some participants in Launch36, the organization’s first accelerator program.  In the renewed partnership agreement with Leanstack, Propel will use the platform and methodology for Phase 1 of Incite to help companies validate the concepts they’re bringing to market.  

“When we saw what Propel was doing, we knew there was an immediate fit,” said Maurya. “Good ideas can come from anywhere and Propel’s unique virtual mentorship model allows them to reach, nurture, and accelerate the next generation of world-class entrepreneurs.”

Under the partnership with GrowthX , the Silicon Valley organization will lend its Market Acceleration Program, known as MXP,  and its Venture Capital Workshop to Incite Phase 2.  There will also be the opportunity for other organizations in Atlantic Canada to book these workshops.  GrowthX was founded by Max Menke, Will Bunker, Sean Sheppard and Andrew Goldner – all pioneers in the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem and around the world.

“There are over 7,500 accelerators in the world – and Propel has really distinguished itself from the rest,” said Goldner.  “They stand out because they focus much of their time on helping their founders to market products and make money, which we think is a lot more sustainable than just the subsidy of venture capital.”

Eli Aims to Disrupt 911 Market

Peter Woodford, left, leads the team at Eli.

Peter Woodford, left, leads the team at Eli.

Aiming to revolutionize the 911 emergency call market, Halifax-based Eli Technologies is in discussions with three countries and some of the world’s largest companies about the release of its platform in the next nine months.

The company has developed technology that allows emergency responders to pinpoint the origin of a 911 call sent on a cell phone, allowing first responders to know exactly where they have to go. Eli also believes the platform will be a key ingredient in the coming development of smart cities.

Eli is working with Sweden’s emergency call operator  to finalize an agreement to roll out its technology across the country, likely early in 2020. The company is in talks about similar deals with Romania and Kuwait. This spring, 12 companies – including IBM, Apple, Amazon, Bosch and Ericsson – contacted  Eli about being resellers of the product and/or serving other roles. And four of these companies have broached the possibility of making a strategic investment in Eli.

“If you look at the response we have got in the last 90 days since our media launch, it proves we have something that people want, and are willing to pay for,” said CEO Peter Woodford in an interview Friday. “The market is massive and there is no competition.”

Woodford said 911 systems (or their equivalents in other countries) operate off switchers developed in the 1970s that are not designed for mobile phones. But about 80 percent of 911 calls today come from cell phones, and the current GPS-based system can only tell responders the approximate location of the caller to within 50 metres and it provides no information on units in highrise buildings or indoor locations.

The Eli platform takes its reading from the wifi systems surrounding the caller rather than GPS. That means the responders in an urban setting know instantly not only the street address but also the apartment number of the caller’s position. They can locate the caller more quickly, which could save lives. Eli’s system also works in rural locations.

“The problem that we solve is that most of the mobile locations for 911 today are absolutely unreliable,” said Woodford. “We’ve developed a way to give landline equivalency to mobile.”

With a deep background in Voice over Internet Protocols, Woodford came up with the idea two years ago, and began talking to potential clients and partners around the world. Last November, Eli launched a major beta test at Kista, a Swedish smart city that bills itself as the second-largest tech hub in the world.

Eli and Kista established the Kista 112 Development Centre, so called because 112 is the emergency phone number on continental Europe. That test proved that the Eli system works in a high-density urban environment, and drew the attention of the countries and companies that Eli is now in talks with.

Woodford added that the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. has set out the criteria for updating the American 911 system. The new system must verify addresses (including apartment numbers), be able to work off existing cell phones, and have its own IP platform. He said Eli meets all these criteria.

Woodford believes new infrastructures for emergency calls are only the beginning of the Eli story. There is a global movement toward smart cities, in which municipalities improve services by analyzing data and applying machine learning to the provision of services. The Eli platform can give greater precision in location services other than technology, he said, which can help with the advancement of smart cities.

With a nine-member team (three of whom are in Sweden), Woodford is now aiming to close deals with Sweden and the other countries, as well as the blue-chip corporations interested in becoming resellers. He expects the first Eli system will be live – likely in Sweden – in  2020.

Since its inception, Eli has raised $2.4 million, almost all of it from Nova Scotian angels. Woodford is now working on raising an additional $1 million. He said that money should see the company through its initial roll-out until it can negotiate a major strategic investment and produce revenue.

Coloursmith Moves into The Labs

Gabrielle Masone

Gabrielle Masone

Optical technology company Coloursmith Labs has a new home.

On Thursday, the developer of specialized contact lens filters held an opening ceremony for its new headquarters in The Labs at Innovacorp—a facility on the edge of the Dalhousie University campus that provides laboratory space to life science startups.

The opening of the new location comes on the heels of a $600,000 fundraising round that allowed founder Gabrielle Masone to hire five employees.

“The opportunity to have our own wet laboratory space is exactly what we need to complete our product, because it is so chemistry-oriented,” said Masone in an interview. “But beyond that, Innovacorp continues to be an inspiring place to work because, in The Labs, you are right in the medical technology sector of Halifax.”

Coloursmith’s product works by using “optical filters” to control which types of light pass through contact lenses. This determines what wavelengths the wearer sees.

The technology aims to help reduce the effects of colour blindness and guard against the negative health effects of excessive blue light exposure. Blue light is the light given off by computer monitors, for example.

Previously called the Innovacorp Enterprise Center, The Labs at Innovacorp are located near the intersection of Summer Street and University Avenue. The space offers access to specialized equipment and facilities not readily available to small businesses elsewhere in Halifax.

Coloursmith’s relationship with Innovacorp, which is Nova Scotia’s venture capital Crown corporation, dates back to Masone’s initial formulation and exploration of her business idea.

She went on to become one of the 2018 winners of Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge—a pitch competition—and participated in the agency’s Accelerate program.

Coloursmith moved into its new lab at the beginning of May, and after about a month of setup, Masone and her staff commenced normal research and development operations at the beginning of June.

Masone described the atmosphere of The Labs as highly collaborative, and added that the investors and other attendees at the grand opening reflected the supportive nature of Halifax’s business community.

She highlighted the support of local attorney Michael Argand, who was one of the final investors in Coloursmith’s recent $600,000 fundraising round and attended Thursday’s event with his family.

“It’s people like Michael that inspire us to continue striving to change the future of vision care,” said Masone.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Jobs: Venture Manager at CDL

Our Job of the Week column today showcases the opening for a Venture Manager at the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic in Halifax.

CDL-Atlantic is an accelerator that brings startups from the region and elsewhere together with some of Atlantic Canada’s most successful business people, who act as mentors and investors. It is part of the CDL organization, which began a few years ago at University of Toronto and now offers programing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, New York and Oxford, England.

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 posting this week:

Halifax

Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic

Venture Manager

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Atlantic, housed at the Rowe School of Business, provides startups with access to a network of accomplished entrepreneurs and investors. Originally conceived at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, CDL is one of the world’s premier seed stage programs for massively scalable science-based ventures. The program targets companies that have the potential to transform our social, industrial and economic landscape. Reporting to the Associate Director, CDL-Atlantic is looking for two Venture Manager positions, one with a focus on Ocean’s, to support the CDL-Atlantic operations including venture recruiting, business development support and leading initiatives to support the growth and continuous improvement of the program.

Responsibilities

- Identify and build relationships with venture capital funds, incubators and accelerators, and technology associations to secure a strong pipeline of high quality CDL-Atlantic applicants.

- Create analytical tools and evaluation frameworks to assess fit for early stage start-ups that apply for the CDL program.

- Provide business development support to program participants, including managing and directing the participants to receive feedback by their mentors.

- Support CDL-Atlantic operations, which includes event planning as required.

- Collaborate with counterparts in leading institutions across Canada, the US and the UK.

- Manage Junior Venture Managers (MBA students), including recruitment, supervision, evaluation and training.

Qualifications

Undergraduate degree in Business or related field with 5 years of experience (or equivalent combination of training and experience) is required. Experience in STEM/ technology related fields is preferred. Previous work experience or educational background in an Ocean related field would be considered an asset for the Venture Manager position with an Ocean’s focus. Demonstrated experience with start-ups, technology companies or venture capital is an asset. Required to use tact and diplomacy to build and maintain strong relationships with program participants and multiple levels of stakeholders. Must have strong analytical skills and understanding of business models and drivers of success in start-ups across several verticals. Ability to analyse and systematically evaluate participants, including a proficiency with financial modelling, conducting market analysis and strategic planning is a strong asset.

Read the full job posting here.

Brilliant Labs, Propel Get $5M

Two pan-regional programs for technology and entrepreneurship – Propel and Brilliant Labs – are receiving a total of about $5 million in funding from federal and provincial governments.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency said Thursday it would contribute a grant of $2.3 million over three years to Propel, which provides accelerator programs for startups across Atlantic Canada.

ACOA also announced a grant of $1.7 million for Brilliant Labs, a not-for-profit that brings together various groups to educate elementary and secondary school students in technology. Three of the four Atlantic provinces will also provide Brilliant Labs with an additional $1.1 million in funding.

Both federal grants were made through the federal government’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.

“Today’s investment will ensure that Atlantic Canadian startups in the technology sector have the tools, knowledge and partnerships they need to continue to innovate and grow, bolster the economy and create good-paying jobs,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains in a statement outlining the Propel grant.

Propel last year launched its Incite accelerator – a two-phase virtual program for early-stage tech startups across the region. Propel in April accepted 30 companies into Phase 1, which is for companies trying to determine whether they have a product-market fit. The Phase 2 program, which will begin in September, helps companies identify markets and develop repeatable sales programs.

“Propel’s ultimate goal is to help build successful global technology companies right here in Atlantic Canada,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson. “This funding enables us to continue working with the most promising startups in the region through our virtual accelerator Incite.”

Brilliant Labs is a not-for-profit community of entrepreneurs, non-profits, municipalities, and economic development agencies that aims to improve the digital competency of youth in Atlantic Canada.

The Nova Scotian government also contributed $400,000 to the project, while the Prince Edward Island government provided $160,000, and Newfoundland and Labrador provided $547,327.

Said Brilliant Labs Executive Director Jeff Willson: “We are incredibly excited and grateful to receive this funding in support of our work with educators, librarians, and community centre leaders as we empower young Atlantic Canadians to develop coding and digital skills.”

McGuire Aims to Aid Scale-ups

Francis McGuire

Francis McGuire

Editor's note: This is the second in a two part series on our interview with Francis McGuire.

Francis McGuire draws an analogy with baseball to describe the Atlantic Canadian startup community, saying a lot of young entrepreneurs have hit singles and now they have to progress toward home plate.

In a wide-ranging interview, the President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency said the support organizations need to find creative ways to help scaling companies – and in ways other than providing financing. The key, he suggested may be in helping these companies hire key personnel.

McGuire also highlighted the region’s strengths in key sectors like life sciences and ocean technologies, and said Atlantic Canada needs to think more regionally about the development of the startup community.

“We know how to get people to first base,” said McGuire. “We have to focus more on getting them to second base. The next step is helping them to find the right people.”

Asked what ACOA should do going forward, he said, “No. 1, keep doing what we’re doing.” He said the region has a good record of getting a lot of companies “to first base” and ACOA will continue to support these efforts.

However, he said there are challenges involved in helping larger companies – those that have validated their products in the market but need now to grow into bona fide corporations with international reach. Such companies often need millions of dollars of capital to develop sales teams and marketing programs – something McGuire says ACOA can’t and won’t provide.

“Some of these first-base companies, all they need is a bit more expertise,” said McGuire, mentioning they may need a sales exec with international experience or an expert in gaining regulatory approval for biotech products. ACOA can provide some financing to help these companies attract top-flight talent.

McGuire understands the risks of backing startups. (Over the years, he personally has invested in 20, and 15 have failed, which he figures is business at the earliest stages of startup life.) But he also said that ACOA by its nature is an economic development agency and there are risks inherent in economic development.

Entering his job at ACOA, McGuire said he had a good understanding of startups themselves, but he had to learn more about how the ecosystem worked. What he decided was that ACOA operated too much as four provincial siloes. So he has appointed vice-presidents to be provincial champions in eight specific sectors, such as IT, oceans, and life sciences. These execs are now encouraging a more regional approach to growing their sectors. Similarly, ACOA is encouraging local startup groups like Volta in Halifax, Venn Innovation in New Brunswick and Genesis in St. John's to think more regionally.

“We’ve made pretty good progress in allowing companies to bounce back and forth between them,” said McGuire.

Until two years ago, McGuire was best known as the President and CEO of Major Drilling Group International Inc., a Moncton-based industrial company that is now producing revenues at a $400 million annual clip.

Under McGuire’s stewardship, ACOA has increased its support of startups and high-growth innovation companies, which usually takes the form of loans and in some cases grants. In the year ended March 31, ACOA’s contributions to startups amounted to $30.7 million, an increase of 35 percent over $22.8 million in the 2016 fiscal year.

In terms of sectors where the region has excelled, McGuire said Atlantic Canada has made surprisingly fast progress in life sciences, a sector whose companies often take ten years or more to get a product to market. He believes more companies will choose low-regulatory segments such as pet medicine to get to market even quicker.

He added that the recent emphasis on oceantech and the development of the Ocean Supercluster is changing the way the region’s business people think about themselves and their strategic advantage in being a coastal jurisdiction.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

16 Pitch at UNB Summer Event

Dhirendra Shukla

Dhirendra Shukla

University of New Brunswick on Thursday held its annual summer extravaganza in Fredericton, showcasing the companies graduating from two of its programs, including an all-female cohort at its Summer Institute.

The UNB Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program began by staging the final pitches by 10 entrepreneurial teams who have completed their Masters in TME. Then, in the evening, TME hosted several hundred people at the Boyce Farmers’ Market to witness the graduation of six teams from the Summer Institute, the program’s 13-week summer accelerator.  

“Sixteen different companies will be presenting today and we’re really excited to see what they’ve brought together for you,” said Dom Blakely, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategist at TME

The year-long Masters of TME program is now wrapping up its second year, and has doubled in intake in the past year.

“Our cohort this year is 67 percent international students, 30 percent female,” said Dhirendra Shukla, the Chair of the TME program. “They’ve come to create some magic and that magic will continue for the rest of the day.”

The Masters of TME teams that presented Thursday were:

Canum Nanomaterials

 Kyle Woods (external: Alex Clarkin, Francois Michaud, Dr. Felipe Chibante)

Canum Nanomaterials is a manufacturing company that produces fullerenes, a cutting-edge material often used in flexible organic solar cells and as an anti-oxidant in health supplements.

Read our previous coverage of Canum.

Better Than Reality

Daniel Kane, Esther Sangodoyin and Ablie Foon

Better Than Reality is looking to revolutionize training in high-risk industries using virtual and augmented reality technological solutions.

Read our previous article on Better Than Reality.

APSUPPLY

Nurudeen Elegbede, Anupum Robby, Ikechukwuka Osuagwu

The members of AP are building a smart rectifier that will improve the performance of home-based generators in developing economies, such as Nigeria.

FMQ (Frequently Missed Questions).

Oluwaseun Adeyemo , Tolulope Awe and Ifeoma Aniagolu.

FMQ seeks to improve the customer service process by providing analytics, rankings and improvements for company’s FAQ pages.

Gravity Cage Industries

Aaron Power

Gravity Cage is creating a mechanical battery to help residential customers save money on their electricity bills.

Potential Motors Inc.

Sam Poirier, Isaac Barkhouse, Nick Dowling

PotentiaI Motors is improving driving safety in harsh conditions through advanced electric vehicle powertrains.

Realtr360

Noena de Leon and Shauntae Mitchell

This company is developing a digital ecosystem for real estate transactions, with virtual tours using virtual reality and smart contract.

WebSanctum

Akshay Yadav,  Dikshita Khichi and Samuel Freeze

The team is creating an online platform to connect post-secondary students and prospective employers.

OnRadar

Harpreet Kohli and Harsh Kohli

OnRadar is a hyperlocal social network that helps people connect on issues of concern in their communities.

Manchi Cinema

Anupam Maddineni

Manchi Cinema is working towards helping short and independent film makers to get better feedback from their viewers using emotion recognition and machine learning.

Now in its sixth year, the Summer Institute aims to teach entrepreneurs the human elements of launching a business. Like all accelerators, it teaches customer discovery and how to use a lean canvas. But whereas most accelerators focus on IT or innovation, the Summer Institute accepts a broad range of businesses – this year’s cohort included two fashion businesses, for example. Innovation is part of the program, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

The presenting companies were:

Scottage Cheeze (Harvey, NB)

Margaret Scott

The company produces dairy-free vegan cheeses dips and spreads.

JW Couture (Fredericton)

Jaclyn Wilson

JW Couture produces men’s and women’s bodybuilding competition suits.

Loran Olivia (Fredericton)

Megan Gallant

The company operates a full-service custom wedding stationery and design studio.

Queen of Cups Lingerie (St. Stephen, NB)

Abby Pond

Queen of cups specializes in high quality, individually tailored bras.

Upfront Cosmetics (Nackawic, NB)

Alicia Sharp

The company produces all-natural and environmentally friendly soaps to replace commercially made shampoo.

Luna Baby (Fredericton)

Courtney Larkin

The company aims to produce the world’s best breastfeeding pillow.

McGuire Eyes More Talent for Startups

Francis McGuire: 'We’re talking about 1,000 startups. Well where are you going to get the 5,000 bodies?

Francis McGuire: 'We’re talking about 1,000 startups. Well where are you going to get the 5,000 bodies?"

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on our interview with ACOA President Francis McGuire.

To Francis McGuire, the growth of Atlantic Canada’s startup community is above all a youth retention strategy, and he wants to accelerate the training of young people to support more high-growth companies.

In a wide-ranging interview this month, the President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency outlined his vision of the startup community and ACOA’s role in supporting it. He said the support organizations in Atlantic Canada need to continue doing what they’re doing to fund startups because the region has proven adept at financing early-stage companies.

But he returned repeatedly to the subject of human resources and to ensuring that successful startups can find the talent they need to grow.

“I’ve always thought that Atlantic Canada for early-stage financing is the best place in the world,” said McGuire, who assumed the senior role at ACOA two years ago. “If you can’t raise that first half-million here, then you have a really bad idea.”

What’s absolutely critical in the growth of new companies is ensuring they can find talented employees, he said, not just in technical areas like computer programing but also in business development.

McGuire noted that the most recent report by Silicon Valley-based Startup Genome ranked Atlantic Canada No. 4 in the world among “activation ecosystems” – that is, regions with fewer than 1,000 startups and lacking a deep history in startup development.

McGuire said the region has the capacity to raise the number of startups or high-growth innovation companies to 1,000 or more, from about 550 Atlantic Canadian startups at the end of 2018.

He called on universities and colleges to accelerate their efforts to produce more programmers and sales people who are badly needed in the burgeoning sector. McGuire said ACOA supports university programs – such as the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program at University of New Brunswick – that train entrepreneurs and the people they employ. But overall, the region’s institutions need to up their game, said McGuire.

“The institutions have to go faster,” said McGuire, who was previously President and CEO of Major Drilling Group International Inc. “We’re talking about 1,000 startups. Well, where are you going to get the 5,000 bodies [to staff them]? . . . We think the institutions are moving too slow.”

The subject of talent and human capital came up repeatedly in the interview – both what has happened and what’s needed. McGuire said Atlantic Canada has long had a problem in attracting and retaining young people, and startups have proven superb at offering young people challenging, well paid careers in the region.

“It’s the type of people they tend to employ,” said McGuire, referring to employees' technical capabilities and also their entrepreneurial attitudes. “If you can get a person into a startup so they can work at it for two or three years, whether they succeed or fail is almost secondary. They are the type of people that companies want to employ.”

He added that the 5,000 to 6,000 young people now working at startups tend to earn $50,000 or more within a few years, and that means they are paying significant taxes, which helps the region’s governments provide services.

 

Coming up tomorrow: McGuire’s views on helping scaling companies. 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Nautel Names Schmid CTO

Philipp Schmid

Philipp Schmid

Nautel Ltd., the Nova Scotia-based maker of AM and FM radio transmitters, has promoted Philipp Schmid to Chief Technology Officer.

Nautel said Schmid was most recently leader of the company’s digital systems team. In his new role, he will lead research teams in the development of new technologies for broadcast, navigation, sonar and high-power RF applications.

Schmid will remain active in select engineering projects and will also continue his industry role as a voice for the advancement of digital transmission technologies, said the company.

“Philipp has been instrumental in the development of Nautel’s industry-leading HD and DRM+ technologies,” said Nautel CEO Kevin Rodgers in the statement. “This new role both recognizes his contribution to Nautel and positions Nautel and Philipp to continue to lead the industry in digital radio technologies as they are adopted globally.”

Based in Hackett’s Cove, just south of Halifax, Nautel is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of AM and FM radio broadcast transmitters. More than 16,000 Nautel transmitters have been deployed in over 177 countries.

Schmid, who has been with Nautel for 14 years, holds a Masters of Engineering degree and has earned several patents. He was recognized in 2017 by the National Association of Broadcasters for “best paper” at the Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology Conference. The award-winning presentation covered research on single frequency networks for HD radio.

Cybersecurity Programs for Natives

Six First Nations students will graduate Friday from a Collėge communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick program in cybersecurity -- the first graduates in a new suite of programs to help indigenous youth participate in New Brunswick’s burgeoning cybersecurity industry.

The Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, said the six students with a background in information technology have completed the first cohort of a 20-week cybersecurity program. The statement added that a second cohort of students in December will graduate from a 68-week program for people without any formal IT training.

JEDI, which is an economic development agency for indigenous people in New Brunswick, developed the programs in partnership with CCNB, Bulletproof Solutions Inc. and the Department of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour.

“The Joint Economic Development Initiative is thrilled to be partnering with CCNB and Bulletproof Solutions on two leading-edge cybersecurity programs for Indigenous peoples in New Brunswick,” said JEDI President Alex Dedam in a statement. “The cybersecurity industry is growing and Indigenous peoples are ready to be part of it. These two programs have been designed and delivered with industry input and will launch our students into a robust industry that is in need of employees and is waiting for them to graduate.”

Both program curriculums were inspired by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The graduating students in the 20-week course will receive a Cybersecurity certification from CCNB, while the December cohort will graduate with an accredited diploma from CCNB and CySA+ certification. These programs also offer a variety of training and mentorship opportunities to ensure graduates leave with the tools and skills they need to be job-ready upon program completion, said the statement.

The New Brunswick government has identified cybersecurity as a pillar in its economic development strategy. A new Cybersecurity Innovation Centre is currently under construction to house the growing number of Cybersecurity companies and organizations in Fredericton.

“It was an absolute pleasure to work so closely with all the partners involved in this project,” said Darryl Esau, Bulletproof’s Vice-President of Learning Services. “The commitment for excellence in making leading-edge training available for the Indigenous community was unwavering and successful. From initial planning to student graduation, I think it’s safe to say the program successfully brought fresh enthusiastic cybersecurity professionals to the cybersecurity market.”

UNB Demo Day Thursday Night

We’re closing in on Demo Day for the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute.

The event will take place Thursday night at the Boyce Farmers’ Market in Fredericton. Doors open at 6 pm and the presentations begin around 7.

Now in its sixth year, the Summer Institute is a three-month accelerator for entrepreneurs with an innovative idea and the passion needed to turn that idea into a sustainable venture. Leading the program this year is TME’s new accelerator team consisting of Managing Director Joe Allen and Operations Coordinator Tanvir Kohli.

The entrepreneurs presenting on Thursday are:

  • Abby Pond with Queen of Cups Lingerie
  • Alicia Sharp with Upfront Cosmetics
  • Courtney Larkin with Luna Baby
  • Jaclyn Wilson with JW Couture
  • Margaret Scott with Scottage Cheeze
  • Megan Gallant with Loran Olivia

The event is free and you can book you place here.

Smart Skin in $4.5M Funding Deal

Kumaran Thillainadarajah

Kumaran Thillainadarajah

Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies has received about $4.5 million in funding to help develop new quality assurance products for the pharmaceutical and beverage industries and expand its markets.

The 11-year-old company has developed a product called Quantifeel – a pressure-sensitive container that can be fed through a production line and warn packagers of costly bottlenecks. It is now enhancing the product to allow greater quality assurance for customers, though it is releasing few details about the project.

“Smart Skin Technologies has established itself as the globally recognized innovation leader in our field with our patented Quantifeel line of products and services, which are designed to help packaging companies optimize their container handling systems,” said CTO Kumaran Thillainadarajah in a statement.

“This drives tangible benefits in productivity and waste-reduction throughout the supply chain, representing a multi-billion-dollar financial opportunity for producers as well as benefits in sustainability and environmental performance.”

The federal government on Tuesday said it would provide a grant of $3 million through the National Research Council’s IRAP program, and a $990,000 loan through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program. ACOA is also providing an additional loan of $55,000 for a marketing project.

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is making an equity investment of $500,000 in the company.

Smart Skin last raised funds in late 2018 when it closed a $3.1 million equity funding round led by Schott AG, a German maker of glass, glass-ceramics and packaging. NBIF also participated in that round.

A team led by Thillainadarajah started Smart Skin in 2008 to commercialize technology developed at the University of New Brunswick that can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or other device. After testing a few markets, the team hit on a product for the beverage industry.

Food and drink companies with huge production lines have problems regulating the flow of cans. If too many containers pack the lines at once, bottlenecks occur and the system must be halted and fixed, reducing productivity. By placing Smart Skin’s Quantifeel drones — fake cans lined with a pressure-sensitive skin — in the production line, managers can monitor pressure and motion in the lines and prevent bottlenecks. The product also helps to reduce damaged products.

A few years ago, the company realized there was also a huge opportunity in helping pharma companies improve the efficiency of their packaging operations.

The statement said the funding would help the company research new markets as it aims to expand in Japan and Southeast Asia.  

The company now employs about 20 people in Fredericton, mainly highly skilled engineers. It has about 10 more in engineering, customer support and sales in other regions.

“We already count several of the world’s largest food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies as clients and export to six continents of the globe,” said Thillainadarajah. “In fact, we have won two consecutive supplier of the year awards for innovation with one large bottling organization and that type of recognition doesn't come from your product alone. It takes a broad spectrum of dedicated people who are passionate about bringing new solutions to a customer’s most pressing problems.”

 

Disclosure: ACOA and NBIF are clients of Entrevestor. 

Bulletproof Wins Microsoft Award

Bulletproof, a Fredericton tech services company specializing in cybersecurity, has won the 2019 Microsoft Canada Modern Workplace Innovation Partner of the Year IMPACT Award.

The award recognizes a partner that delivers value to customers through innovative solutions built on Microsoft 365, enabling and empowering businesses to achieve more. Bulletproof said it won the award for its innovation, creative use of Microsoft 365, a competitive differentiation and customer value.

“We are honoured to be chosen for this award,” said Bulletproof CEO Steven Burns in the statement. “Our team has been committed to providing customers with secure solutions. By building Bulletproof 365 on Microsoft 365, we were able to meet both the productivity and security challenges of the modern business in one comprehensive offering.”

The award was presented at the IMPACT Awards ceremony on July 14 during the Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas.

Founded in Fredericton in 2000, Bulletproof has more than 18 years in the security business, protecting its clients’ privacy and data. The company, which was  bought in 2016 by GLI Group of Lakewood, N.J., also has offices in Moncton, Saint John, Charlottetown, Halifax, Austin, Las Vegas, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

3D Planeta Books Sales, Eyes Round

As it makes inroads into its key markets of defense and emergency response, 3D Planeta is prepping to approach investors late in the summer in the hopes of raising more than $750,000.

Fredericton-based 3D Planeta has developed an online platform that brings 3D maps to conventional computers and devices, bringing users a greater understanding of terrain and what view-planes would be available if they were on the ground.

The company now comprises a seven-member team led by tech veteran Norm Couturier, who has been president since last autumn. The team also includes Executive Chairman Chris Mathis, the former CEO of Springboard Atlantic, the organization that bridges academia and industry in Atlantic Canada.

 “We bring you accuracy right down to each individual tree,” said Couturier in an interview at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum, where 3D Planeta was an exhibitor. “We can tell you what the line of sight is around you based on the foliage and structures in the area.”

The company, which holds several patents and has mapped the entire globe, is the result of more than eight years of research at the geomatics imaging lab at University of New Brunswick, led by Prof. Yun Zhang. This lab produced technology that allows the functionality of Google Streetview, Google Earth and other such software.

Read About Norm Couturier's Work with Startup NB

The 3D Planeta software allows the user to choose a point on a map and instantly understand the terrain, the structures and obstacles, and the view planes in all directions. It can be used on a range of hardware, from virtual reality viewers to desk top monitors to 3D phones. It has military applications and can assist first responders in understanding the landscape they’re about to work in.

The company’s promotional material says its 3D images “provide unprecedented fidelity and depth of terrain, structures, and object of interest. Combined with our visualization tools, operations commanders can elevate their tactical assessment of terrain, providing the capability of faster and more accurate critical decision-making.”

Couturier said the company, which recently had a demonstration booth at the Canadian Defense and Security Association conference in Ottawa, has signed customers in the aerospace and defence segment and has $1.5 million of potential sales in its pipeline. As well as aerospace and defence and emergency response, 3D Planeta believes there are potential markets in such segments as tourism, real estate and geometrics and mapping.

“We’ve just signed another customer with the Health Authority of Canada to visualize the global spread of contagious diseases,” said Couturier.

He added that he’s working on a seed round of at least $750,000, which would be used to accelerate the platform’s development and expand the business development team.

Courturier has launched and headed tech startups since the 1980s, he was a Co-Founder of the Fredericton IT company Accreon, which was purchased in a management buyout in 2014. He was also a Co-Founder of iTacit, growing it to a market of 100,000 users before departing in 2017.

BioInnovation Challenge Opens

BioNova is calling for early-stage life sciences startups from Atlantic Canada to enter the 2019 BioInnovation Challenge, or BIC, which will take place Nov. 5 and 6 at Pier 21 in Halifax.

Now in its ninth year, BIC is the pitching competition held during BioPort Atlantic, the annual conference for life sciences and biotech in Atlantic Canada. The prize for the winner this year will be $25,000 in seed funding and a $30,000 advisory services package to develop the business idea.

The competition targets early-stage companies and helps entrepreneurs to develop and deliver their pitch.

“Some of the most successful companies in Atlantic Canada were past participants of BIC and benefited from that early support ecosystem that the competition provides,” said BioNova Executive Director Scott Moffitt said in a statement.

Anyone interested in participating can find entry details here and must enter before Aug. 9.

Since 2011, BIC has provided more than $300,000 in money and services to encourage innovation and supported the creation of over 50 new companies in the sector. The competition also provides participants with sessions from expert pitch training coach Linda Plano to help in honing their pitches.

Past participants of BIC include ABK Biomedical (which announced a US$30 million funding round earlier this year), NovaResp and Coloursmith Labs from Nova Scotia, along with New Brunswick-based Chinova Bioworks and Picomole.

BIC is supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Dalhousie University Industry Liaison and Innovation, Emergence and BioNB with in-kind services provided by Archway Insurance, Bereskin & Parr, Jennifer Cameron PR, Cox and Palmer, and Grant Thornton.

NATI To Release New Strategy

Paul Preston

Paul Preston

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation, with a new name and a new CEO running the show, is on the cusp of releasing a new strategy that will focus on home-grown companies and talent.

For years, NATI has been the umbrella group for all things digital in Newfoundland and Labrador, representing an industry said to be worth $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion annually. With Paul Preston taking over as CEO earlier this year, replacing longtime helmsman Ron Taylor, the organization is adjusting its focus somewhat to give more emphasis to helping NL-based companies to grow.

“We’re just about finished a strategic review to see how we can support the startup ecosystem,” said Preston in an interview.  “We still have the large companies that are members but our focus now is more on the companies based here that are growing here and will stay here.”

Preston said the association – which is in the process of changing its name from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries – will continue in its mission to support digital industries in the province. But there has been great success in the development of home-grown companies in Newfoundland and Labrador, such as: anti-fraud and money laundering software maker Verafin; Celtx, which makes pre-production software for the film industry; and marketing collaboration software producer HeyOrca. NATI wants the province to grow more of these companies.

Preston said there will be three pillars to the new strategy:

  1. Talent – There is a colossal need for the human resources to grow businesses, certainly in technical skills like coding but also in business development, sales and related fields. Preston said the province’s university and community college now graduate about 50 coders a year, but the Brookfield Institute has said the province will need 2,000 of these people in the next five years. “We’re going to need to get to about 200 [programmers] a year over the next five years,” said Preston. “We know we have to increase the tech talent.”
  2. Programs and support – NATI has always offered programs to improve and encourage the use of digital technologies, and will continue to provide them.
  3. Bringing technology to key segments of the economy – NATI for a while was known as being “IT-centric”, said Preston, but one of the goals now is to increase the use of digital technologies in all parts of the economy, including the resource-based industries like fishing and mining.

The priority among these three pillars is talent development, and Preston said that NATI already has developed proposals for multi-year programs to accelerate the output of programmers and business people. It would be unrealistic to expect institutions to change curriculum overnight, he said, but the community has to address this problem promptly.

While it wasn't listed in the priorities, NATI is also a strong partner in the move to develop more biotech companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a founding partner in Bounce Innovation, in which the startup and medical communities collaborate to produce new healthcare technologies. 

Preston brings an understanding to the CEO role of business conditions both in Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond the province’s borders. He spent 11 years with the Conference Board of Canada based in Ottawa and telecommuting from his home in St. John’s.

He understands how the St. John’s startup community has changed in recent years and that there is an increasing group of companies with global ambitions maturing in the city.

“There’s been a realization here recently that you can start a company here – a company with global reach – and grow it here,” said Preston. “You may have some overseas staff but that’s true of every multinational.”

Jobs : Protocase, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column today showcases openings for an R&D Software Developer at Protocase in Sydney and a Customer Success Team Lead at Dash Hudson in Halifax.

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 has more than 175 employees and 12,000 clients.

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.

Last week, this column featured Dash Hudson’s search for an Account Executive.

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

Here is an excerpt from the headline postings this week:

Sydney

Protocase

R&D Software Developer

Protocase is currently seeking two tenacious, organized Software Developers to join its Research & Development team in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. This is an exciting opportunity for individuals who are 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

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.

Qualifications

Essential Skills:

Experience in Java

Technical degree or diploma in Software Development (or related field), or 2+ years’ experience

Strong communication skills (verbal and written)

You have a goal-oriented personality and love to make things work!

Attention to detail

Excellent time-management skills

Strong analytic skills and problem solving

Enjoy working in a team environment

Ability to work independently

Experience working with legacy software a plus

CAD experience, mathematical ability, and/or database experience would also be considered assets, but are not required. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Team Lead

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

About Us:

Dash Hudson is a smarter way to market through photo and video. Our visual marketing platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

Dash Hudson works with the raddest, most discerning brands and publishers in the world.

Responsibilities

1. Customers

Assist with account setup, training, and specific requests.

Engage with customers to nurture existing relationships and gather feedback and intelligence.

Answer customer questions via Intercom and/or email in a timely manner.

Provide customers with solutions and advice by leveraging insights tools and features within the Dash Hudson platform.

Listen to feedback and report to the team to address customer needs.

Collaborate with the product, marketing, and sales teams to resolve issues and identify solutions.

Monitor for trends in activity levels and feature usage through CSM platform and communicate with team accordingly.

Actively seek opportunities to upsell and/or expand on current offerings.

2. Customer Success Team

Support the Customer Success Director and Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.

Help Dash Hudson create and run scalable processes as we grow.

Host Initial interviews for Junior Customer Success Candidates.

Onboard and Train Junior Customer Success team members.

Manage Bi-weekly 1:1s with Junior Customer Success team members.

Support Customer Success Director and Manager on building CSR support documents.

Support the Customer Success team with planning of travel schedule.

Plan and manage team building activities.

Read the full job posting here.

Motryx Wins Women’s Fund Grant

Franziska Broell

Franziska Broell

Halifax-based Motryx, which produces sensors that monitor the storage conditions of blood samples during transport, has been awarded a $97,500 grant from the federally funded Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

CEO Franziska Broell, who holds a PhD in oceanography from Dalhousie University, said in an interview that the money will go toward integrating GPS support into the Motryx sensors by the end of this year—a feature that several laboratories have expressed interest in.

“It’s a key part of the solution that we need to develop in order to be able to access that big private lab market in the U.S.,” said Broell. “It’s going to be integral to [scaling the business].”

The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is a $2 billion, federally funded program that aims to double the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025. Businesses with female CEOs, more than 50 percent female ownership or more than 50 percent female employees are eligible for funding from the program. Motryx meets all three criteria.

“Our government believes that women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the bottom line,” said Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion Mary Ng in a press release. “It’s a smart investment with an economic and social return.”

Founded in 2014 as Maritime BioLoggers, Motryx originally intended to manufacture tracking tags for marine life. The company pivoted to monitoring blood samples in late 2018 because the marine trackers had to be customized for each new organism, which was going to make the business difficult to scale.

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The current sensor product, called VitalTag, is the same size and shape as a blood sample vial. It is intended to be stored alongside vials of blood during transport to laboratories, and logs factors such as temperature and jarring impacts. The laboratories can then review the analytics data when they receive the blood.

The information gathered is useful because harsh transport conditions can damage blood samples.

The Motryx website says it’s estimated that as many as three-quarters of all laboratory errors are caused by mistakes in the “preanalytical phase of testing”—in other words, damage to the samples.

And a press release from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, responsible for distributing the grant money in Atlantic Canada, said that 1 to 2 percent of all medical samples are damaged by rough handling.

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, sets guidelines for multiple types of institutions, including medical laboratories, and is run by a group of representatives from163 members nations. It requires laboratories to monitor blood samples during transport.

There is limited consistency in how labs apply the ISO’s guidelines, creating a need for Motryx’s standardized system.

Design, testing and validation are performed by Motryx in-house, while the manufacturing of the sensors is outsourced.

The GPS tracking feature will allow laboratories to see where blood samples are located when they sustain damage, making it easier to identify and correct problems.

Motryx took VitalTag to market in an “early adopter” phase three months ago, and currently sells to nine laboratories throughout Europe and the United States.

Broell expects to begin marketing VitalTag to larger customers within the next one to two months, and Motryx is currently raising a $2 million round of seed funding.

Previously, the company also raised two rounds of angel investment—as well as a contribution by venture capital firm Concrete Ventures—totaling about $500,000. Counting Broell, it has nine employees, five of whom are women.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor. 

Panag Receives $500K ACOA loan

Panag Pharma Inc., which is developing cannabis-based pain treatments, has received a $500,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

The funding comes eight months after Panag was purchased for as much as $27 million in cash and stock by Ontario’s Tetra Bio-Pharma.

The biotechnology company is creating a family of both over-the-counter and prescription cannabinoid-based products that provide non-addictive pain management. The treatments act directly on the pain receptors in the body and are used for wound healing, treating irritated skin and relieving cold sores, among other applications.

“Today’s announcement reminds me of the expression that it takes a village,” said Bill Cheliak, the Halifax-based Chairman of Tetra Bio-Pharma. “With the ingenuity and innovation of our life sciences group Panag, the marketing expertise of Tetra Natural Health, the licensing skills of Tetra Bio-Pharma, assistance with facilities from Dalhousie University and the generosity and confidence of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, we are able to showcase what collaboration can accomplish and it is something we should all be justifiably proud of.”

Based in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Tetra is a drug discovery company that specializes in developing treatments based on cannabinoid-based drug discovery. The company, which is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, last November bought Panag to develop more natural healthcare products and sell them worldwide.

The Panag Team – which is led by healthcare professionals Mary Lynch, Melanie Kelly, Bill Cheliak, Orlando Hung  and Christian Lehmann – continues to conduct research into cannabinoid-based treatments for Tetra. It will receive full payment from the takeover contract if it hits specific milestones.

Panag Pharma is working on its first product, AWAYE, an over-the-counter medication for the temporary relief of various forms of muscle and joint pain. The product, which is manufactured in New Brunswick, has already been approved by Health Canada and has a Natural Product Number. It is currently undergoing clinical trials and will be available through online distribution, over the counter in pharmacies, and by prescription.

Panag said other treatments for cold sores, hemorrhoids, interstitial cystitis and corneal ulcers are in development.

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor. 

ACOA Lends Rimot $600K

Dartmouth-based Rimot, whose technology helps to monitor remote infrastructure, has received a $600,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to help with international sales and marketing.

ACOA issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing the loan which it granted under the federal government’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.

The company says it has paying customers across the U.S. and Canada in such key sectors as oil and gas, public safety, manufacturing and marine transportation. It is also in discussions with other potential companies that it hopes to sign soon.

“Our immediate priority is to turn some of those great opportunities we have in our pipeline into customers,” said Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Boswell in an interview. “We’re very focused as a company on turning them into happy customers and revenues.”

Boswell previously spent 14 years as the President of Nova Communications, a specialist in integrating wireless communications systems. During that time, he noticed that various companies or organizations have private wireless communications systems in remote locations, and no way to monitor the infrastructure. That means that these systems are susceptible to outages, and repairing them is often costly because they are so far from corporate or government offices.

ACOA Lends $925K to Beyond Food

Boswell and Rimot CTO James Craig devised a solution called RimotRF, which they describe as a turnkey solution, meaning that it can bolt on to any remote transmitter and work seamlessly with existing communications equipment.  RimotRF 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.

RimotRF users receive this information and the analytics on the mobile device of their choice. The system can set up alerts that can be sent by email or texts when certain thresholds are exceeded.

Boswell said that recent studies show that “communication systems that are monitored 24/7 experience 50 percent fewer outages. When you think about the criticality of those numbers, it shows how important this is.”

Rimot, which was one of 11 graduates in the recent Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic cohort, now has a team of about 10 people. Boswell says the company “is raising money and will be again” but declined to say more about equity investments.

The company is establishing more contracts and partnerships. For example, Boswell said it is working with Motorola Solutions, and has secured a standing offer with the U.S. government and is working with a partner to secure its first government contract in the U.S.

The growth of the oceantech segment in the region is a natural fit for Rimot, given that it can help to monitor communication systems offshore, said Boswell, adding it has brought the company added visibility and opportunities.

“Rimot has the unique combination of deep industry experience and expertise that really raises the bar in the industry, and they have already captured the attention of some of the world’s leading international companies,” said Jim Hanlon, CEO of the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, which has helped to support Rimot. “It is important to recognize that experienced entrepreneurs are still the largest source for successful start-ups globally.”

Startups Hired Strongly Last Quarter

Patrick Hankinson

Patrick Hankinson

According to data produced by LinkedIn, Atlantic Canadian innovation companies were on a hiring rampage last quarter.

Concrete Ventures CEO Patrick Hankinson posted an item online Tuesday night saying that LinkedIn data shows that Atlantic Canadian startups and high-growth innovation companies added about 600 jobs net in the April-to-June quarter. That was a gain of about 8 percent, bringing the total staff employed by these companies to about 8,000.

Hankinson is well known in the startup community as the founder and CEO of Complr, which he sold for more than $20 million in 2014. Last year, he was selected by the Nova Scotia government to oversee a regional early-stage venture capital fund, which he named Concrete. What’s less well known is that he is an absolute data junkie, and has built up his own databank on the Atlantic Canadian startup community that has grown to about 840 companies.

He uses data analytics on LinkedIn to assess how these companies are adding or subtracting employees, and he was so surprised by the numbers for the second quarter of 2019 that he posted them online.

“It’s LinkedIn data so the numbers aren’t 100 percent accurate,” Hankinson said in an interview Wednesday. “But I find it does paint a very good picture of what is going on in the ecosystem.”

LinkedIn can keep track of every person in a certain group who changes their job status. Trouble is, not everyone updates their LinkedIn profile each time they gain or lose a job. (A case in point: according to his LinkedIn profile, Stephen Harper is still the Prime Minister of Canada.) So the LinkedIn data indicates a trend but should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here are the specifics in Hankinson’s study: there was a net gain of 593 jobs among the startups or high growth innovators last quarter. The leaders in the hiring spree were: Charlottetown-based BioVectra Inc. (which added 33 employees to produce a LinkedIn total of 259); St. John’s-based Verafin (up 32 to 376); Fredericton- and Washington, D.C.-based Introhive (up 19 to 175), Mount Pearl, NL-based Genoa Design International Ltd. (up 15 to 123); Halifax-based Manifold (up 14 to 53) and Halifax-based Dash Hudson (up 10 to 94).

In the interview, Hankinson said that the job growth is coming in two ways. As shown in the previous paragraph, major companies (especially those that have accessed capital in the last few years) are adding employees at a strong clip. Meanwhile, the number of companies continues to grow. Though these new companies hire only a few employees each, the sheer number of new ventures can add to the overall picture.

Hankinson added that one surprising aspect of the employment picture is that not all companies are showing a net gain in employment. He was astonished by the number of younger or smaller companies that reduced their workforces by 30 to 50 percent in the last quarter. These shrinking companies were also taken into account when calculating the overall net gain.

NYC’s Watzan Expands in Halifax

Watzan is a profitable, fast-growing Software-as-a-Service company launched in New York in 2014 that is actively growing its development and sales teams – in Halifax.

Five-year-old Watzan offers a content-curation site for medical journals, and CEO Charles Benaiah says one reason it is succeeding is his decision in 2014 to place its operations in Nova Scotia.

“Halifax is the key to our success,” he said in a recent interview shortly after visiting Halifax for an EY Entrepreneur of the Year reception. “We wouldn’t be a company if it weren’t for Halifax. We do everything in Halifax – development, sales, design, data insights – every aspect.”

A former venture capitalist and graduate of Dalhousie University, Benaiah was just starting Watsan in 2014 when he visited his alma mater and learned of its burgeoning entrepreneurship program. He spoke to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and learned more about the community, not just at Dal but in the region.

He decided to grow the company in Halifax and began hiring here. Sixteen Watzan employees are now working away in Halifax, and Benaiah is hoping to hire two to three more over the summer. By the end of the year, he hopes to have a staff of 20 in the city.

What’s more, Benaiah also told a New York friend Libbe Englander about Halifax, and she began looking into it for her company Pharm3r, which specializes in healthcare analytics. Pharm3r now has seven people working in Atlantic Canada (most in Halifax) and hopes to hire as many as five more by the end of the year.

"Our research and development base is entirely in Halifax because of the quality of the people we have found here," said Englander in an email. "It has been an unqualified success; our team has built a world-class healthcare analytics and software platform." 

Think they’re here for the government grants? Think again. Benaiah said he has never taken public money for his company (nor venture capital, for that matter), and sources at ACOA said Englander has never applied for funding here. They are in Halifax simply because they can hire good people at a reasonable cost and are able to retain staff. 

Life Sciences Dominated 2Q19 Startup News in Atlantic Canada

“I think all of our people in Halifax are under the age of 30,” said Benaiah, correcting himself as someone may have had a birthday recently. “They’re all in their first or second job right out of school. What I think is the most exciting thing is that not only have we built a world-class company in Halifax but we’re doing it with, on average, people who are three years out of school. And they are doing a phenomenal job.”

What they’ve built is a product for the medical community that Benaiah says is like Spotify for medical publications. He said there are about 1 million peer-reviewed medical articles published each year – far too many for any doctor to follow on his or her own.

Just as Spotify can recommend music based on what someone has listened to before, Watzan uses artificial intelligence to figure out what each doctor would be interested in. If they read about the latest research on treating melanoma, for example, Watzan will make sure they see all the latest articles on the subject.

Watzan monetizes this service by selling ads to pharma companies, and the company last year had revenues of about $3.5 million.

Benaiah now lives in his native Toronto, dividing his time between that city and New York, but he says he constantly hears about the Nova Scotian capital in tech and investment circles in the two cities.

“I can’t go a week now without hearing the word ‘Halifax’ in my discussions with investment bankers,” said Benaiah. “There are companies that are going to come up from Boston or New York and like us they’re going to set up shop there.”

$4M To Aid Women Entrepreneurs

Centre for Women in Business

Centre for Women in Business

The federal government on Monday announced grants totalling $4 million to support the work of two Atlantic Canadian organizations that promote entrepreneurship by women.

The government said it would give $2.1 million to the Centre for Women in Business, which is based at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, and $1.9 million to the St. John’s-based Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, or NLOWE.

The government is making the donations through its Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, which includes a $2 billion fund and aims to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025.

“The women entrepreneurs and business leaders of Atlantic Canada make incredible contributions to our economy and community every day,” said Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan in a statement. “From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality, and that’s good for Canada and good for Atlantic Canada because when women succeed, we all succeed.”

The statement said the Centre for Women in Business, or CWB, will use the money to develop and deliver a management program called “Greater Heights for Growth.” It will target women-led, profitable businesses with revenues of $1 million or more, preferably in high-growth sectors where women are often under-represented, such as oceantech, agritech, advanced manufacturing and IT.

Founded more than 27 years ago, the CWB has worked with over 16,000 clients. Over the last two years, it has delivered programming to more than 250 companies in Atlantic Canada.

The NLOWE grant will create the Atlantic Canadian Women in Business Growth Partnership, which will include CWB, the PEI Business Women’s Association, and the N.B. Association of CBDCs Women in Business Initiative. This initiative will address gaps in the entrepreneurship ecosystem for women-owned businesses, said the statement.

Since 1997, NLOWE has helped women to establish and expand businesses and to participate in community economic development processes. It serves more than 1,100 women entrepreneurs annually.

“A solid business model gives businesses a critical foundation to innovate and grow,” said CWB Executive Director Tanya Priske in the statement. “The Greater Heights for Growth program will help women business owners build and improve this foundation, propelling their companies to even greater economic and social returns in Nova Scotia and beyond.”

Coloursmith Closes $600K Round

Gabrielle Masone

Gabrielle Masone

Contact lens technology startup Coloursmith Labs has raised $600,000 in seed funding and announced the first two members of its board of directors.

Founded in 2018 by Dalhousie University researcher Gabrielle Masone, the Halifax-based company is developing technology that aims to allow contact lenses to filter certain types of light before it reaches the eyes.

The two board members are Wade Dawe and Rhiannon Davies. Dawe is the president of Brigus Capital, and Davies is a former vice-president and board member of Dutch optometry retailer GrandVision,

“Wade’s dedication to the company all this time has been nothing short of perfect,” said Masone in an interview. “And Rhiannon has a real finger on the pulse of the contact lens industry, and the eyewear industry in general.”

Masone, who Dawe describes as a “true innovator”, met both board members while completing Creative Destruction Lab's accelerator program in the past year.

Coloursmith’s product works by using “optical filters” to control which types of light pass through contact lenses. This determines what wavelengths the wearer sees.

The technology aims to help reduce the effects of colour blindness and guard against the negative health effects of excessive blue light exposure. Blue light is the light given off by computer monitors, for example.

About one out of every 12 men and one in 200 women with Northern European ancestry suffers from colour blindness, according to the United States government’s National Eye Institute.

The science on whether or not blue light from digital devices harms the eye is not settled yet, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. But Harvard Health warns that it does cause sleep disruptions, and may contribute to obesity and other diseases.

Coloursmith is also considering other applications for the optical filters, including treating migraines and light sensitivity.

The company previously raised $200,000 from startup pitch competitions, such as Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge and the Volta Cohort Competition, as well as other programs that support early stage businesses.

Masone used the money to build a prototype and file patent applications in all major, global markets for contact lenses.

The latest $600,000 has been provided by investors that include St. John’s-based Killick Capital, PEI’s Island Capital Partners and Dawe’s Brigus Capital.

It will go towards research and development, creating more “robust” patent protection, and allow Masone to hire five full-time employees, including four scientists.

When the optical filter system is ready for commercialization, Coloursmith will license it to major contact lens manufacturers.

“It allows us to get into the market faster and help more people with this technology,” said Masone. “We get to work with companies that have been doing this type of work for years, and combine what it is that we’re both very good at: their expertise in manufacturing and care, and our expertise in light-filtering technology.”

Angels, VCs Back Securicy with $1.2M

Securicy at Techstars Boston last year: Laird Wilton, left, Darren Gallop, and Anthony McQuaid.

Securicy at Techstars Boston last year: Laird Wilton, left, Darren Gallop, and Anthony McQuaid.

Sydney-based Securicy, which helps medium-sized enterprises meet the cybersecurity requirements of larger customers, has closed a $1.8 million funding round, including $1.2 million in equity financing.

The company, which launched its Software-as-a-Service product three months ago, said late Monday it received a total of $1.2 million from:  Hub Angels, one of the oldest angel networks in the Boston area; Panache Ventures, a pan-Canadian, early-stage venture capital fund; Concrete Ventures, the Halifax-based early-stage VC fund headed by Patrick Hankinson; and the Nova Scotia government’s VC agency Innovacorp.

The remaining $600,000 is debt or non-dilutive financing from federal and provincial agencies.

"We are seeing many startups and SMEs struggle with information security compliance issues (security questionnaires, SOC audits, government regulations) without the internal capabilities to meet these new demands,” said Hub Angels Managing Director David Verril in a statement. “The Securicy leadership team has the unique experience of living in the startup space, feeling the pain of compliance and developing a simple, pragmatic, and automated approach to solving that pain.”

Co-Founders Laird Wilton and Darren Gallop started Securicy in 2016 with the idea that SMEs needed to meet certain cybersecurity thresholds to win contracts from major multinationals. But these smaller companies often don’t even know what the requirements are and lose business as a result. Securicy provides a roadmap of what they need to do and helps them implement cybersecurity policies.

“Securicy’s platform has navigated companies through the security requirements of large corporations such as Target, Netflix, Lyft, Salesforce, and National Bank," said Wilton in the statement. “It's deeply satisfying to see our customers efficiently tackling complex security assessments, building trust with their customers and winning big business.”

Last week, The Branham Group listed Securicy as one of their Top 25 Up-and-Coming ICT Companies in Canada. The list recognizes promising young companies based on creativity and innovation, rather than revenues, and is part of the Branham 300, a program that ranks Canadian tech companies in a variety of categories.

Verril added: “This is our first investment outside of the U.S., so we took our time assessing and determining that Securicy’s unique approach to the problem is the most innovative and efficient solution we have seen in North America." 

Gallop and Wilton got the idea for the cybersecurity platform when their previous company Marcato Digital had difficulty meeting the cybersecurity specs of major clients. Marcato was purchased in October by Pittsburgh-based Patron Technology for an undisclosed sum, allowing Gallop and Wilton to focus on the new company.

Said Gallop: “To go from losing the biggest deal of our careers less than three years ago at my previous startup to now closing the biggest deals of our careers with Securicy is an accomplishment I could not be more proud of.”

MedMira Ills Persist Despite Gains

An embattled Halifax medical technology company reported an improved performance in the three months ending April 30, but is still warning it may not survive.

MedMira Inc., which manufactures instant diagnostic test kits for contagious diseases, on June 28 issued the financial statement for the third quarter of its 2019 fiscal year. It revealed higher revenues and lower costs last quarter, despite the persistent liquidity issues.

The company’s most recent financial report warns of “significant doubt” that it will be able to continue its operations. It does not have enough cash to survive for another year, and executives are attempting to raise more funding, said the report.

Founded in 1993, MedMira has lost more than $90 million over its lifetime and has never turned a profit. It now has a negative amount of working capital—$13.1 million—and has defaulted on $8.2 million of debt.

Currently, about 88 percent of its revenue comes from just four customers.

The stock, which has been listed on the TSX Venture Exchange since 2000, is trading at less than one cent a share—down from two cents a year ago.

The most recent earnings report says progress is being made on lowering operating costs and increasing revenues.

The company has slashed its quarterly expenses by more than $140,000–down to $429,205, compared with $571,666 for the same period last year. Meanwhile, its revenue rose 88 percent to $143,387.

In all, the company reported a net loss of $512,558, a mild improvement on its $656,776 loss in the same period a year earlier.

In a press release, MedMira added, “All long- and short-term debts are currently under negotiation to restructure terms and conditions of repayment.”

Its Swiss subsidiary, MedMira International AG, is also undergoing restructuring to create a more “streamlined” organization, according to its website, but the process will “take considerable time and effort.”

MedMira Inc.’s chief financial officer, Markus Meile, was traveling in Europe and not available for comment.

Jobs: Account Exec at Dash Hudson

Our Job of the Week column today showcases an opening for an Account Executive at Dash Hudson in Halifax.

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 an excerpt from the headline posting this week:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Dash Hudson works with the best brands and publishers in the world to drive visual performance across all of their marketing channels. Our platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to get deep insights on their performance, create original content, discover user content, distribute to owned, influencer, and paid channels, measure and monetize.

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

About You

The most important thing we need from you is this:

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

You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out.

Must be hyper-organized. We'll be checking your Moleskin / Evernote wink

You will require equal parts diligence and creativity - with the ideal candidate excelling at both. Things move pretty fast over here.

You need to be able to have the confidence and intelligence to see eye-to-eye with some of the smartest marketers in the land (not our land, mostly in the US).

Describes you: humble, brash, focused, analytical, creative. With some swagger.

Responsibilities

What You Will Do

Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.

Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.

Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.

Review and qualify inbound leads.

Manage CRM and sales pipeline.

Assist in creation of custom marketing and sales materials.

Liaise between sales, product & marketing teams.

Qualifications

Experience: 1 to 4 years experience in a similar role. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

SucSeed Seeks Public Votes

A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed

A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed

SucSeed, a young company that makes hydroponic growing kits, is asking the public to help it win a chance to pitch for $100,000 in the upcoming Telus/Arlene Dickinson pitch competition.

St. John’s-based SucSeed has made the shortlist of 100 companies, and has recently cracked the top 20. It needs more public votes by this Wednesday, July 10, if it’s to make the final 10 and get to pitch in Toronto on July 30.

Why should the public vote for SucSeed? Because the young venture is proving itself a force for good and has a lot of potential. Its hydroponic systems allow users to grow fresh, affordable produce year-round, without soil or sun, for less than 30 cents per day.

Founder and CEO Emily Bland said winning the $100,000 would help bring to market SucSeed’s new and improved growing system, which can grow fresh produce 15 to 20 percent faster.

“It would also create an almost 100 percent waste-free process,” she said. “And make the system more robust in shipping and delivering, especially while being transported long distances to northern communities—we currently have about 180 systems across northern Canada.

“The money would allow us to scale quicker and reach more youth,” she added. “It would take about six months off our scalability track.”

SucSeed’s current focus is on educating youth about nutrition, sustainability and food waste. Its systems are made by homeless youth and are in schools across the country and in remote northern communities, where obtaining affordable and nutritious produce is particularly difficult. This issue motivated Bland to first launch the SucSeed Project while a student at Memorial University.

The system’s potential applications are diverse.

Bland sees it being used by aging populations to bring their back yards into their homes.  Some systems have already been sold to corporations--one local company is using it to foster community around office-grown salad days.

With regard to climate change, Bland said it’s estimated the world will need up to 70 percent more food by 2050. She thinks hydroponic systems can empower everyone to be part of the solution.

“SucSeed is one part of the big puzzle of how we create a sustainable agricultural sector for everyone,” she said.

It’s a busy time for SucSeed, which is raising $700,000 in debt financing.

“We have a great team (of four), we are growing, we are having an impact at the classroom level and the social enterprise level,” Bland said.

The company has benefited from a lot of support, including from Genesis, the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs and SheEO.

It has won a Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award and recently graduated from the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, an experience Bland described as “transformational” to the success of the company.

Access to the CDL network of mentors and investors was huge, she said, as was the format, which requires participants to accomplish three things every eight weeks.

“It allowed us to move quicker than we thought we could,” she said, “We will keep that mentality.”

Bland said it’s exciting to get kids excited about kale and lettuce.

“They see it growing, that connection with the food, they see the work and time that goes into it…When you have fresh produce it’s so much better. It’s more nutritious because it’s straight off the vine and there’s no need for preservatives and pesticides.” 

For Bland, who grew up on a family-owned egg farm in Grand Falls, NL, the work is personal.

“My parents and grandparents are some of the most hard-working people I’ve ever known,” she said. “They’ve been a huge support for me.”

As she pushes SucSeed forward, she is motivated by the memory of her big-hearted grandfather, Michael Bland, who did not live to see his granddaughter’s achievements.

“A big part of this is continuing his legacy,” she said.

Voting must be done by end of day July 10. Vote here 

Venn’s Dunnett Is TECNA Finalist

Jonathan Dunnett

Jonathan Dunnett

Jonathan Dunnett, Venn Innovation‘s Program Manager of Markets and Insights, is a finalist for the Technology Councils of North America‘s (TECNA) first-ever innovation awards.

“It’s a really nice recognition of the work that we’ve been doing as an organization,” said Dunnett in an interview. “We get to do really meaningful work in New Brunswick with clients, so I think to have recognition of that is a nice testament and much appreciated.”

Dunnett is in the running for an award in the Major Impact on Tech Community category. Six other people from Kansas City’s KC Tech Council, Palm Beach Tech Association, Illinois Technology Association and Greater Nashville Technology Council are also in the running. He’s being recognized for his delivery of the Moncton-based tech organization’s growth programming.

Aside from hosting various events and being a hub for technology and innovation in Greater Moncton and New Brunswick, Venn works with early-stage startups through its Garage program. It also helps small-and-medium sized companies grow through various workshops and programming related to sales and competitive intelligence, among other things. . . . 

 

Read the full article on Huddle. 

New Skills for Hire Program

A “Skills for Hire” program to address the ICT sector skills gap has been launched by Digital Nova Scotia, the industry association for the province’s ICT sector, and Bluedrop Performance Learning, a specialist in workplace e-learning, simulation and training management.  

The project will develop an online blended ICT skills program and carve out career pathways for recent graduates, incumbent workers and unemployed and under-served populations.

Spanning Nova Scotia and expanding into Newfoundland and Labrador, the project has received $2,496,082 in federal funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to deliver the project over three years, the partners said in a statement.

By working with local employers to understand their entry level ICT resource requirements, the Skills for Hire program will be responsive to their needs and provide program participants with different training paths to match their interests. 

“The exponential growth of the ICT sector and its fast-paced global impact continue to be a significant differentiator for our industry, country and province,” Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia said in the statement.

She said the program is designed to complement programs run by post-secondary institutions. “It will also enable us to upskill our workforce with technical and non-technical skills to meet the rapidly rising demand for talent and have a deep impact on our industry.”

Bluedrop, which is headquartered in St. John’s with an operating office in Halifax, will provide the system to manage program applications, develop and provide the online training for the different training paths and host them on their learning management system, Bluedrop360. The program will be delivered through its subsidiary Bluedrop Learning Networks.

“Addressing the ICT skills gap requires bold ideas and a multi-faceted approach – it is encouraging to have ESDC invest in research initiatives such as Skills for Hire and I am confident that the program’s success will benefit our ICT sector,” said Emad Rizkalla, Founder and CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning.

Life Sciences Dominated Q2 News

ABK Biomedical's microspheres.

ABK Biomedical's microspheres.

Two massive funding deals in the life sciences segment and a pair of companies moving to the public markets were the highlights of the Atlantic Canadian startup community in the second quarter of 2019.

The biggest news was the US$30 million (C$40 million) venture capital round announced in April by Halifax medical device maker ABK Biomedical Inc., with which it hopes to bring two products to market. The funding round, led by Cambridge, Mass.-based F-Prime Capital, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, was the largest VC round ever announced by an Atlantic Canadian company.

Then in late June, Charlottetown-based MicroSintesis, which has developed a revolutionary product to ensure gut health in animals, raised $16.4 million from Halifax industrialist John Risley’s Northern Private Capital. The company is working in a new area of research called proteobiotic, which aims to rebalance the good and bad bacteria in an animal’s or person’s gut.

When we also consider that shares of Halifax’s Appili Therapeutics began trading on the TSX Venture exchange in late June, it was easy to conclude that life sciences dominated the #startupeast news in the April-June quarter. Appili raised $3.6 million earlier in the year.

What these deals mean is that some of the leading companies in the life sciences sector have either found significant capital, or a route to further funding. That will help them build their teams and finance their journeys through the regulatory process.

“How do you bring in talent if you don’t know if you will be able to pay people over the long-term?” asked ABK Chief Operating Officer Bob Abraham at the Atlantic Venture Forum in June. “This money brings security and the ability to incentivize your team, so it makes a difference for sure.”

The other big piece of news was that materials maker Metamaterial Technologies Inc. said it would seek a Canadian Securities Exchange listing, likely in September, with the hopes of raising more than $10 million. The Dartmouth-based company makes synthetic materials that alter light as it passes through them, and its target verticals include healthcare.

Two Halifax-area medtech companies – Spring Loaded Technology and Densitas – received a slice of an $11 million equity funding exercise anchored by the Montreal-based health technology organization Medteq. The companies declined to say exactly how much they received.

The other sector that produced big news in the second quarter was the oceantech group, which is a specialty segment in Atlantic Canada. On the last work day of the quarter, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster announced it would contribute as much as $5.9 million to Kraken Robotics’ OceanVision  project, which will collect data from seabeds and store it in the cloud. The Supercluster is a regional R&D project that supports oceantech in Atlantic Canada.

Oceantech companies have been prevalent in the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, which graduated its second cohort in June. The organization said its 23 graduates over two years have raised a total of $7 million from the CDL-Atlantic mentors.

In IT news, Mysa Smart Thermostats of St. John’s raised $2.3 million, which will add fuel to its accelerating sales and help to finance new products. And the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation invested $200,000 in TurboPlay, an ambition Fredericton group that aims to revolutionize the independent gaming market.

 

Note: This is our first quarterly roundup on the Atlantic Canadian startup community, which we will submit to Startup Genome for its page on Atlantic Canada.

Kula Launches Synchrostack Product

After 16 years as an agency, Kula Partners of Halifax has launched a product called Synchrostack that helps manufacturers integrate the various components of their ecommerce systems.

Kula is a 15-person operation that 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.

“We realized if we were going to be effective with our clients, we need to be experts with one segment,” said Kula CEO Jeff White in an interview. “We decide to go all in on that segment [manufacturers] and it’s really allowed us to deepen our level of expertise and understand what these companies sell, who they sell to and how they sell it.”

Kula learned that one problem with WooCommerce is that it has difficulty synchronizing with other systems used by the manufacturers, so the Halifax company over the past year developed Synchrostack to ease the pain.

White explained that his company came to understand that many of their clients use the open-source WooCommerce plug-in, but couldn’t integrate it with the other software they were using. For example, they might use a Customer Relationship Management tool like Salesforce, a marketing automation platform like HubSpot, as well as other software for accounting, inventory control and logistics, and a point-of-sales system for their physical stores.

About a year ago, the Kula team began to work on an interface that would let all these platforms talk to one another. White said it can produce data from an ecommerce operation so that users understand better what their clients are buying and what they’re interested in. That means that, after time, the manufacturer can divide its clients into certain groups and offer them targeted promotions based on their needs.

Kula has developed products before, mainly for individual clients, but this is the first time it has put so many resources into a single product with the goal of selling it to a range of customers.

Launched last month, Synchrostack is currently being used by three or four clients, and Kula is in talks with other agencies that are interested in selling it to their own customers.

“I’ve got meetings booked all this week and next with agencies all over the world,” said White in the interview, which took place late last month. According to the Synchrostack website, the price of the product starts at $399 per month for the silver service, up to custom pricing for large enterprise installations.

“It has a lot of potential as an application for the companies we’re talking to, and it’s not restricted to our vertical,” said White, referring to the manufacturing sector.

He added that it is too soon to discuss whether Kula will spin off Synchrostack into its own company, and his team is now just working to get it into the market as part of Kula.

Co-founded and still led by White and Carman Pirie, Kula Partners in 2015 became the first Canadian inbound marketing agency to achieve HubSpot Platinum Partner tier status.

NovaResp Targets Sleep Apnea

Hamed Hanafi receiving a Mitacs award earlier this year.

Hamed Hanafi receiving a Mitacs award earlier this year.

A new medical startup from Dalhousie University PhD graduate Hamed Hanafi plans to use artificial intelligence to treat sleep apnea.

The condition causes patients to intermittently stop breathing in their sleep. It is usually treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or “CPAP,” machines that force air into the lungs to restart the respiratory process.

Hanafi’s company, NovaResp, is developing a combined hardware and software solution that can be attached to any CPAP machine to improve its efficacy.

“We have a proprietary add-on for these machines that would be able to predict an obstruction that’s going to happen and not let it happen,” said Hanafi in an interview.

Sleep apnea raises a person’s risk of heart attacks, strokes and other medical problems. In 2017, about 6.4 percent of Canadians had been diagnosed with it and nearly a third of the population was at risk, according to Statistics Canada.

Conventional CPAP machines are currently the preferred treatment, but they often provide too much or too little air, and may wake the patient.

They can also take up to 10 or 20 seconds to fully respond after the user stops breathing, during which time the person is deprived of oxygen.

Sona CEO on Halifax's MedTech Ecosystem

The inefficiency of this process contributes to very low compliance rates. Hanafi said that about 50 percent of patients who have the equipment do not use it.

NovaResp’s product is called CMAP, short for “Continuous Management of Airway Pressure,” because it will help regulate a patient’s breathing throughout the night and head off stoppages before they occur.

This will reduce oxygen deprivation and improve patient comfort, which may encourage users to wear the equipment more readily.

The technology will work via a combination of a physical add-on, which will be attached to existing CPAP machines, and machine learning.

Hanafi, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Dalhousie, developed the idea for the CMAP system in his spare time while completing a Mitacs-funded fellowship at another med-tech startup, DMF Medical.

“I not only did work for them, but I also learned how to navigate through the ups and downs of managing a startup,” said Hanafi.

His mentors from DMF, David Roach and Michael Schmidt, also offered him guidance in starting NovaResp, including by helping him secure financing from Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund.

Additional funding has been provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, investment by Hanafi’s friends and family, and Mitacs E-Accelerate, among others.

He credits Mitacs with making it possible for him to work at NovaResp full time by permitting him to draw a salary from the funding he received, which other sources explicitly disallowed.

“If you’re a recent grad, how are you going to work for yourself and pay your bills if nobody lets you pay yourself from the funding you apply for?” he said. “But Mitacs E-Accelerate let me pay myself … The focus came to NovaResp and everything started moving.”

The company employs eight people—three full-time staff and five consultants—and plans to hire more full-time staff in September.

Hanafi is currently raising a round of seed investment. He plans to start a patient study in July that will help train the machine learning system, augmenting the training data gathered from CPAP machines.

He aims to take the CMAP technology to market by 2022, following clinical trials, and added that it would likely have applications beyond sleep apnea, such as ventilator systems in hospitals.

Each new use will require a separate regulatory certification, but existing documentation and income from sleep apnea patients will speed the process for future approvals.

Mobia Places #111 in Branham 250

After increasing revenues by 22 percent last year, Mobia Technology Innovations of Dartmouth has been named the 111th biggest tech company in Canada, according to the Ottawa consulting firm Branham Group.

Branham on Friday released its ranking of the 250 largest tech companies in Canada and once again there was not a purely Atlantic Canadian company in the top 100. (The rankings list No. 21 Novanta as a Saint John company, though the company’s website indicates its main office and operations are in Bedford, Mass.)

A specialist in systems integration and tech consulting, Mobia is now listed as the top Atlantic Canadian company, claiming the highest position by an Atlantic Canadian company in the Branham Top 250 that we’ve witnessed. With 2018 revenues of $39.4 million, Mobia has risen four places since the 2017 rankings.

The Branham Top 250, which is based on annual revenue, included five Atlantic Canadian companies in 2018. Each year the Branham rankings give a snapshot of how the region’s largest IT companies stack up against their national competitors. (The top Canadian IT company in 2018 was BCE with $17 billion in revenue.)

The other Atlantic Canadian companies ranked in the Branham 250 are:

  • Bluedrop Performance Learning of St. John’s fell 10 spots to No. 136 as its revenues fell 15 percent to $20 million.
  • Fredericton’s PQA Testing advanced three spots to No. 177 with revenues of $10.3 million, up 1 percent from the previous year.
  • Concertia Technologies of Dartmouth made the list for the first time after its revenues jumped 36 percent to $8.5 million. It was ranked No. 191.
  • Kraken Robotics of St. John’s placed No. 198 after its revenues rose 90 percent to $6.7 million.

The Branham rankings, whose platinum sponsors are the Halifax Partnership and Nova Scotia Business Inc., also name 25 Up & Comers, and nine Atlantic Canadian companies made that list. They are: BreatheSuite, St. John’s; HomeExcept, Halifax; Kognitiv Spark, Fredericton; Mesh/Diversity, Quispamsis, N.B.; NodalBlock, Halifax; ReelData AI, Halifax; Securicy, Sydney; Sidedoor, Halifax; and The Lotto Factory, Fredericton.

“We’re really excited to be on the list,” said Mesh/Diversity CEO Mike Wright, whose company helps enterprise clients assess the diversity of their workforce and take action to improve it. “It shows people are taking notice of the work we’re doing and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace as a whole.”

Kraken Wins 1st Supercluster Deal

Unmanned submarine and sonar maker Kraken Robotics has become the first company to receive approval for an R&D project from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster.

The St. John’s-based company said it will oversee the $20 million development of the OceanVision system, which will allow clients to lease unmanned submarines to conduct seafloor surveys and store the data in the cloud. The Ocean Supercluster will contribute as much as $5.9 million over the next three years to the project.

The Ocean Supercluster is an Atlantic Canadian partnership between the federal government and the private sector that aims to fund technological advancement in the marine sciences and engineering. It was chosen last year as one of five innovation superclusters across the country that would divide $950 million in federal funding over five years.

“OceanVision is a unique business model, offering a combination of sensors, underwater robots, cloud computing and artificial intelligence,” said Kraken President and CEO Karl Kenny in a statement. “Under OceanVision, clients do not need to purchase expensive data acquisition hardware and analytics. Instead, they can lease the robotic devices to acquire the ultra-high-resolution subsea data that they need.”

OceanVision allows the data captured by robots across different locations to be stored in a cloud-based system where it can be easily accessed and used in decision-making processes.

Kraken still needs to finalize additional funding from both the private sector and government backers. It hopes to close the relevant deals by the end of September. The Ocean Supercluster issued a statement saying the OceanVision partnership includes Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador, The Nunavut Fisheries Association, Ocean Choice International and Clearwater Seafoods, as well as several smaller companies. 

Kraken Among Atlantic Canadian Companies Tapping Stock Markets 

While the Ocean Supercluster receives significant funding from the federal government, each research project requires a funding commitment from several companies or organizations that could benefit from the research.

“This project embodies what the Ocean Supercluster seeks to accomplish in the sustainable development of Canada’s ocean economy– bringing together multiple partners across different ocean industries to collaborate and strengthen the Canadian ocean supply chain,” said Ocean Supercluster CEO Kendra MacDonald in the statement.

“This is a level of synergy we haven’t seen before now, and it demonstrates that if we work together to leverage our collective expertise, we can transform Canada into a global hub for collaborative cross-sectoral ocean innovation.”

The news of the Supercluster funding came a week after Kraken said it received a $900,000 order from the U.S. Navy for sonar equipment, and it may lead to much larger purchases.

The Navy contract will require Kraken to deliver a downsized version of its existing sonar sensors for use on underwater robots small enough to be carried by humans. The order came through the U.S. military’s Foreign Comparative Testing program, under which companies from nations allied with the U.S. compete for small contracts, which could lead to larger deals down the road.

Kraken shares, which are listed on the TSX Venture exchange, closed Friday at 73 cents, up more than 300 per cent from a year ago.

“While OceanVision is still in an embryonic stage of development, it is already driving exciting domestic and international opportunities,” said Kenny. “With a growing focus on productivity challenges and a deep understanding of the operational environment, we expect OceanVision will help accelerate innovation and disrupt antiquated business models in many industries across the ocean technology community.”

EnergyX To Open Halifax Office

Toronto-based EnergyX Solutions, which recently graduated from the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, is establishing an office in Halifax with the help of a loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

ACOA issued a statement on Friday saying it will lend the company $500,000 through the federal government’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. The company has hired its first Halifax-based employee and expects to expand the office to six people by the end of 2019.

EnergyX Solutions’ software technology determines how a building is using energy and identifies ways it can improve its overall performance. The end result is less energy consumption, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and cost savings for businesses and home owners.

“We have one main mission, which is to get buildings to take action toward energy efficiency,” said EnergyX CEO Nishaant Sangaavi in an interview at the Atlantic Venture Forum last week.

EnergyX has created several online platforms that enable utilities and other stakeholders to engage with their customers. It helps the utilities to understand their customers’ energy use and provide ways to increase efficiencies and save money.

Sangaavi said utilities like the product because they save $4 in generation costs for every $1 of energy  savings on behalf of their customers.

He added that the Halifax office – which he hopes to continue to grow in coming years – will be a sales base for the East Coast and may provide product development for the company. 

“Halifax is becoming a hub for us in Atlantic Canada and the Northeastern U.S.,” he said, adding that about 40 percent of the company’s sales prospects are in these two markets.

Started in 2016, EnergyX in now increasing monthly recurring revenue by 10 percent month-on-month. The company has about 25 employees in Toronto, and has raised $2.3 million in equity capital.

"EnergyX has strong roots in Atlantic Canada, as evidenced by our work with organizations such as EfficiencyOne and efficiencyPEI that have licensed our technology to help buildings across the Maritimes become more energy efficient,” said Sangaavi in the ACOA statement. “The funding from ACOA will help us set up our second Canadian office out of Halifax, significantly grow our team and have greater access to utilities in the East Coast, with the eventual goal of helping homes and businesses take action towards energy conservation.”

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Job of the Week: Spring Loaded

Our Job of the Week column today showcases the opening for a Customer Support Manager at Spring Loaded Technology in Dartmouth.

For several years, Spring Loaded Technology has produced the Levitation brace, which not only stabilizes the knee joint but adds power to it, allowing people with mobility problems to move more freely. The Levitation line includes the world’s first tri-compartment unloader knee brace. It reduces pressure throughout the knee while enhancing strength to alleviate pain and improve mobility for people with knee arthritis and injuries.

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 posting this week:

Dartmouth

Spring Loaded Technology

Customer Support Manager 

The Customer Support Manager plays a pivotal role at Spring Loaded and serves as the connection point between the customer voice and all other departments within the company. As a customer-centric business, this position has the opportunity to use the customer voice to drive sales, marketing, and product development. Using the agility of a small company to one’s advantage, the chosen candidate has the opportunity to help steer the execution of medical products through data and subsequent analysis.

The ideal candidate will strike a balance of hard and soft skills, having the ability to distill and deliver data on medical hardware while designing and executing positive customer experiences.

Responsibilities

Focus on continuous improvement of department with emphasis on increasing efficiency and customer retention rate

Design, implement, and monitor data feedback systems to departments: Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Production, etc.

Design, implement, and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the department which directly correlate with company’s objectives

Develop, maintain, and improve Standard Operating Procedures for all processes handled by department

Understand company’s long term product goals and give insight on priorities for future customer-centric product development

Develop extensive knowledge of company’s products in order to troubleshoot technical issues with our medical devices via email, phone, and video

Effectively communicate with an aging customer base and use this to drive your strategic approach to growth

Remain aligned with the Sales and Marketing teams on communications to the customer base

Help develop supportive information and systems for clinics and dealers; ensure company culture is maintained through clinics

Willing and able to assist in day-to-day customer interactions

Hire, supervise and train new customer support employees

Handle difficult and/or demanding customers when necessary. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

AVF Names 4 Winners, Eyes 2020

The  Atlantic Venture Forum on Thursday named four winners of its annual pitching competition and unveiled plans to integrate the annual startup conference into a startup festival next year.

The AVF brought together founders from across the region with a range of investors and startup organizations. The event featured 21 companies in four streams that pitched for investors, and about eight companies that were exhibiting in the hallways.

The winning companies  in the pitching competition were:

ICT Section

R I D D L, Fredericton – The runner up of this year’s Breakthru competition, R I D D L has developed a platform that will help impact investors assess the social or environmental effects of their investments. It has arranged pilot tests with investment houses in Europe and the U.S., which will generate data and help prepare the platform for a general launch.

CleanTech Section

Canum Nanomaterials, Fredericton -- Fredericton-based Canum has grown out of UNB Professor Felipe Chabante’s research that has resulted in a new, cost-effective way of making fullerenes. These nanoparticles are spherical structures of carbon atoms that have a range of commercial uses, including in healthcare and solar energy. The company, which won Breakthru, is planning to set up its initial manufacturing facility in New Brunswick.

Read our Report on Canum and R I D D L Winning Breakthru

Life Sciences Section

Colorsmith, Halifax – Having set out to produce contact lenses that can assuage the effects of colour-blindness, the company now is working on contact lenses that can filter out the “blue light” produced by computer screens. By saturating colours, its lenses allow users to unlock a new level of beauty and utility in vision and enjoy the experience of sight.

OceanTech Section

Ashored, Halifax – Ashored 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. 

Read our Recent Report on Ashored

The 2019 AVF was the sixth year for the conference, and the organizers revealed some of their plans for Year 7, when the AVF will be a cornerstone of a Startup Week celebration.

J. Curry, representing the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and Jeff Larsen, representing the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, outlined how their two organizations will collaborate next year on a regional startup festival.

On May 5 next year, there will be a demo day for CDL-Atlantic, which is a half-year accelerator for leading pre-seed stage companies. Larsen said that next year, the 25-company cohort will be divided evenly between general startups and oceantech startups. In 2020-21, the cohort will have two streams – oceantech and general, of 25 companies each.

The demo day will be followed on May 6 and 7 by the 2020 AVF, said Curry, adding there may be other events as well.

“We’re going to have a lot of people coming from all over the world coming to Atlantic Canada,” said Curry. “They’ll be able to witness everything from pre-seed companies all the way up to Series A companies.”

Sona CEO on Why He Chose Halifax

Darren Rowles: For any life sciences startup, Halifax is the place to be.

Darren Rowles: For any life sciences startup, Halifax is the place to be.

Among the many positive headlines, facts and figures about Halifax contained in the latest edition of the Halifax Index is a particular statistic that caught my attention.

New research by the Halifax Partnership has revealed that the majority of funds raised by startup companies in Halifax over the last five years went to health care and life sciences companies – some US$64 million (C$84.4 million) in fact.

The report said: “Health care and life sciences companies have shown the strongest growth over the last five years in both value and number of funding rounds.”

While it’s not surprising that health care and life science startups are enjoying such success, being by their very nature forward-looking companies at the forefront of innovation, the significant amount of investment in this one sector is particularly noteworthy.

To put the figure into perspective, it’s US$11 million more than the amount invested in the second placed sector – energy, cleantech and natural resources – and four times more than the amount invested business and finance startups.

The company I run, Sona Nanotech Inc., is one of the life sciences startups to have benefitted from substantial investment during this period thanks to a private placement last year that raised C$2 million.

And, as a business that relocated to Halifax specifically to take advantage of all the Nova Scotian capital has to offer, we are uniquely placed to add some context to the findings.

Halifax is the hub of Nova Scotia’s booming life sciences sector, and for any life sciences startup it is the place to be, containing all the necessary infrastructure, support and academic links that a growing young business requires.

Read our Coverage of the Halifax Index

When it comes to support, BioNova, the life sciences body for Nova Scotia, is second to none.

BioNova aims to advance life sciences in the province and accelerate the commercialization success of its businesses and organizations by building relationships and by creating networking and educational opportunities.

Additionally, it offers programs that allow life sciences SMEs to apply for project funding or work with collaborators. As a member Sona Nanotech has made vital connections in the sector both inside and outside the province.

Then there’s Innovacorp, Nova Scotia's early stage venture capital organization, which is based in Halifax and includes life sciences among its target industries.

Innovacorp offers entrepreneurs access to world-class incubation facilities, expert advice and other support to help accelerate their companies.

When Sona was on the hunt for a new home in Halifax, Innovacorp had everything we were looking for, which is why we set up our laboratory facilities at the Technology Innovation Centre in Dartmouth (recently renamed The Bays at Innovacorp). We now have an excellent base from which to grow our business.

Halifax is also served by three academic centres of excellence for health care and life sciences; Dalhousie University, one of Canada’s leading research universities and one of the world’s best when it comes to scientific research, St Mary’s University, with its national leading program in chemistry, and the QEII Health Sciences Centre, the largest teaching hospital and adult academic health sciences centre in Atlantic Canada.

As well as the professional connections Sona is building with these institutions, the company has personal links with two of them. One of Sona’s founders, Dr. Gerard Marangoni, is a Dalhousie alumni, having completed his PhD there in 1992, and our business development manager, Anindita Gupta, completed her master’s degree in technology entrepreneurship and innovation at St Mary’s.

So, when all these factors are taken into account it should come as no surprise that life sciences startups in Halifax have been so successful in gaining investment in recent years. Sona Nanotech is proud to call Halifax our home, and to be part of the city and wider region’s thriving life sciences startup community.

Sona's pioneering work was recently recognized by the Startup Canada Awards when we won the Innovation Award for the Atlantic Canada region - the only Nova Scotian business to win at the awards. With the ongoing backing of the city’s fantastic support network, we look forward to continuing to grow and innovate with the sector and to put Halifax on the map as the leading life sciences hub of Atlantic Canada.

Darren Rowles is CEO and president of Sona Nanotech Inc.

A Look at the AVF Startups

The Atlantic Venture Forum is showcasing an interesting group of entrepreneurs this week – a young group that collectively says they are on the cusp of exponential revenue growth.

The annual conference is a meeting place between East Coast entrepreneurs, support organizations and a range of investors. Through the two-day event Wednesday and Thursday, 22 entrepreneurs are pitching to the crowd, and a further eight exhibiting companies are on hand to meet potential investors.

Their audience this week includes 40 investor groups or potential strategic partners, some of whom could be a key to helping the companies gain capital or secure links to valuable clients. The entrepreneurs have to convince the investors that they’re worth it. And the investors are looking for something special.

“The No. 1 thing I’m looking for is the big opportunity, so we’re looking for a global opportunity,” said Andrew Ray, the Vice-President of Investment at Innovacorp. “The No. 2 thing is the team, and whether they have a credible plan to solve a global problem.”

The process to become a presenting company at AVF was competitive, so these companies include some of the hottest young companies in the region. Here’s a 50,000-foot view of the 30 companies that Ray and other investors will meet this week at the AVF.

On average, they are 2.5 years old and only 13 of them say they had revenue before this year. They’ve raised a total of about $16.5 million in equity financing. Collectively, they expect a 5.2 times growth in revenue next year. All of them expect to have at least $1 million in revenue by 2021, with one anticipating revenue of $110 million.  

One thing I’ve come to look forward to at the AVF is getting the program, a booklet that this year runs to 145 pages packed with information on the presenting and exhibiting companies. All the companies that apply are asked for data on things like their revenues and funding.

Ideally, the list will show revenue history of the companies at the conference but that is foggy this year. A few of the companies declined to provide revenue data, and most of them had no revenue before this year.

But you’re still getting a really strong growth story from the companies that did provide a revenue history. Eleven of the companies showed revenues in 2018 and they expect their revenues will increase 3.6 times this year. Several companies expect revenue for the first time in 2019, then jumping in 2020. Overall, the companies providing revenue data expect their revenues will grow more than five times next year.

So okay, this is what young companies are telling investors, and they still have to execute, so it’s a good idea to take it with a grain of salt. But even if they’re off by 50 percent, it still means these companies foresee 260 percent growth in the next year. These entrepreneurs certainly have the ambition and global vision that Ray mentioned above, and it will be up to the investors to decide whether their claims are credible.

Stock Markets Lure Region’s Startups

The stock market is looming larger in the Atlantic Canadian startup community than it ever has before, as several leading companies are choosing public markets as the best option to secure long-term financing.

Just in the past week, Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Dartmouth announced that it will seek a listing on the Canadian Stock Exchange, with a goal of raising more than $10 million. And shares of Halifax-based drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics began trading on the TSX Venture exchange.

In fact, stock markets have been a fruitful source of funding for the region’s high-growth innovation companies for the past 18 months, and the moves by MTI, Appili and others will only add fuel to a growing trend.

Atlantic Canadian companies raised more than $24 million by selling shares and derivatives on the stock markets in calendar 2018. That’s almost as much as the $29.4 million raised from angel investors, which invested at record levels in Atlantic Canada last year.

There are not a lot of transactions by the publicly listed companies, but the recent ones have been noteworthy:

o            Last August, Halifax-based Sona Nanotech listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, choosing the alternative exchange rather than the TSX Venture exchange. The company raised $2 million during the listing.

o            Kraken Robotics of St. John’s closed a $2.3 million sale of shares and warrants to its customer Ocean Infinity in June last year. The company then raised further capital in December when it sold $6 million worth of shares.

o            In February 2018, Halifax-based IMV announced that it had closed a bought deal to raise $14.4 million. In March 2019, IMV closed another share sale, which raised an additional $26.7 million.

And other companies like BlueDrop Performance Learning of St. John’s and Exeblock, a Halifax blockchain company, are also listed.

The driving force behind this interest in public listings is the longevity and strength of the current bull market. Eleven years have passed since the financial crisis and the stock market seems like a dependable and profitable place to raise capital. Of course, a market crash and/or recession would likely put the brakes on further companies moving toward the public markets.

In recent years, Canadian tech shares have performed well and investors are looking for small tech companies the way they used to look for penny stocks in the mining and oil and gas sectors. And IMV, after years of a languishing share price, has finally been resurrected and is leading the way for other Atlantic Canadian stocks to test the markets.

For Appili Therapeutics, which has a market capitalization as of the close Monday of $25.2 million, the public listing is a crucial step in its mission to find cures for antibiotic-resistant diseases.

“According to both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there remains an increasing need for innovations to combat the mounting threats of infectious diseases,” said CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement. ”Our public listing marks an important inflection point in our ability to deepen our reach into this market and demonstrate that it is possible to invest in a compelling and attractive social mission and business opportunity in parallel.”  

MicroSintesis Closes $16.4M Round

Hannah McIver

Hannah McIver

Charlottetown-based MicroSintesis, which has developed a revolutionary product to ensure gut health in animals, has sold a minority stake to John Risley’s Northern Private Capital for $16.4 million.

 MicroSintesis is working in a new area of research called proteobiotic, which aims to rebalance the good and bad bacteria in an animal’s or person’s gut. The company has two products, which in total have been consumed by about 2 million animals.

Now the company has received funding from NPC, which is an investment vehicle for CFFI Ventures, which is controlled by Clearwater Fine Foods Chairman Risley.  MicroSintesis, which announced the funding at the Vet Health Global conference in Charlottetown, said it will use the capital to build out its research capabilities and platform to deliver a new generation of health products for livestock, pets, and humans.

“With the cost of fighting antibiotic resistance now reaching into the billions, we rapidly need a proven solution directed at preserving antibiotics for the future,” said MicroSintesis Founder and CEO Hannah McIver in a statement. “By partnering with NPC and a successful entrepreneur like John, we now have the funding and the support to grow our company into a global business. Our current technology is just the beginning of what we believe will be a new era of microbiome products and one where MicroSintesis wants to be a leader.”

The announcement comes as life sciences companies are dominating the funding landscape in Atlantic Canada. In April, Halifax medical device maker ABK Biomedical raised US$30 million in venture capital, the largest VC round ever closed by an Atlantic Canadian company. Earlier this month, Spring Loaded Technology and Densitas, both of the Halifax area, received a slice of an $11 million equity funding exercise anchored by the Montreal-based health technology organization Medteq.

MicroSintesis works in one of the newest areas of research – metabolites being produced by probiotics. Recent research has shown that probiotics are beneficial because they produce “signal molecules” that interrupt cell-to-cell communication, reducing the ability of harmful bacteria to attach, colonize and produce toxins in the gut.

Scientifically advanced probiotic products – called proteobiotics – contain metabolites naturally secreted by probiotic bacteria, and these ensure there is a proper balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the gut.

MicroSintesis uses patented formulations of these molecules to shift bacterial populations in the gut from unhealthy to healthy. The company’s research has been substantiated through 11 published papers, three clinical studies and more than 100 case studies, said the statement.

To date, MicroSintesis has a library of over 50 probiotic production strains and has developed a proprietary process optimized for this next generation of postbiotic and probiotic products.

Last year, MicroSintesis launched commercial products for both the pet and livestock markets in Canada.  The company’s Ygia brand for cats and dogs is carried in a growing number of veterinary clinics and its Nuvio brand for pigs and chickens is sold in six provinces.

Raised on a farm in England, McIver is a serial entrepreneur who studied biomedicine at the University of Guelph. She and her sister Alison founded, (and subsequently sold) Agribiotics, a company specializing in research and production of microbial products for agriculture.

“We are very excited to partner with Hannah and her team as they deliver products that reduce the use of antibiotics and become leaders in the production of postbiotics for animal and human health,” said Northern Private Capital CEO Andrew Lapham in the statement. “This is a very large, global market, and we believe MicroSintesis has a technology platform capable of delivering multiple products in the coming years to capitalize on this significant and sizeable opportunity first in the area of animal health and soon to follow in human health.”

SimplyCast Wins Security Certification

Dartmouth-based automated marketing company SimplyCast has been granted a high-level certification for cybersecurity, which is a necessity for landing business from a range of enterprise clients.

The company issued a statement Tuesday saying it has secured ISO 27001:2013 certification, which is an international standard for information security management systems. The statement said achieving the certification demonstrates SimplyCast’s dedication to maintaining its security program with a repeatable process that is continuously being improved.

“ISO 27001:2013 is a new standard that is recognized within the industry to be very difficult to achieve,” said SimplyCast President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali in the statement. “In fact, our third-party auditors said that only a handful of organizations in Eastern Canada and a few across Canada have been granted this certification. Earning this certification is essentially like passing phase three of clinical trials for the FDA; it’s that challenging and demanding.”

SimplyCast offers interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations in 175 countries. Providing both emergency and non-emergency communication technology, the company offers more than 20 communication tools and channels to help organizations maximize their efficiency. Its 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform combines marketing automation, inbound marketing, and interactive communication. All SimplyCast’s applications are now ISO 27001:2013-certified with the receipt of the certification.

ISO 27001:2013 certification is an essential component to conducting business with enterprise clients in the current technological climate. Winning this certification opens many doors for further growth for SimplyCast. Without the ISO 27001:2013 certification, SimplyCast’s prospects would have been greatly diminished, said the statement.

Established by the International Organization for Standardization, the ISO 27001:2013 is an international standard that is recognized globally for managing risks associated with information security. The certification encompasses an organization’s technological infrastructure, asset management, and human resources.

The announcement comes 15 months after SimplyCast said it was in compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The regulation requires stricter handling and processing of personal data belonging to EU citizens.

ACOA Lends $925K to Beyond Food

TJ Galiardi, left, and Darren Burke

TJ Galiardi, left, and Darren Burke

The federal government has lent Dartmouth-based Beyond Food Inc. $925,000 to develop a manufacturing plant and market its nutritional supplement made out of grocery store produce nearing its sell-by date.

The two-year-old company’s mission is to reduce food wastage, which now amounts to $49.5 billion a year in Canada alone, by finding supermarket produce that is about to be tossed out and using it to make a food supplement. It sells nutrition products under the brand TDF Sports, and the supplements are available nationwide.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement Tuesday saying Beyond Food is establishing a new manufacturing facility in Dartmouth to scale up its plant-based nutritional supplement production capacity. This will allow the company to rent its Nutrient Upcycle pods, which are repurposed shipping containers fitted with clean processing technology, to local grocers.

The pods will enable grocers to dehydrate and transform thousands of dollars worth of late-stage fruits and vegetables into nutrient-dense powders. The powders will then be used as ingredients in value-added supplements manufactured and packaged at Beyond Food’s new facility in Dartmouth.

“The issue of food waste and food insecurity is large and complicated,” said Beyond Food Co-Founder and CEO Darren Burke in the statement. “We have developed a unique technology that can have a significant impact on the environment, economy and for those in need. It is great to have the support from our government and trade partners locally and outside of the region. The involvement from multiple stakeholders including ACOA has helped us advance our business and will be instrumental in our success.”

ACOA has supported the company by making two loans to Beyond Food through the agency’s Business Development Program. The first, for $500,000, will be used to develop a marketing plan to grow awareness of the brand, establish distribution channels and increase sales.

The second loan is worth $425,000. It will be used to establish a production facility to manufacture and package nutritional supplements, to continue research and development on plant-based proteins, and to convert food waste into high-value products.

Burke is a serial entrepreneur, who sold his previous company Rivalus Sports Nutrition, Inc. in 2013. He linked up two years ago with former NHL forward TJ Galiardi to plot a business that would develop a product from food that would otherwise be wasted. The management team they assembled includes First Angel Network Co-Founder Brian Lowe, who previously held senior positions with such Halifax companies as Immunovaccine Technologies and ABK Biomedical.

The team raised $1 million in equity funding earlier this year from a range of investors, including several former National Hockey League players.

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Appili Starts Trading on TSXV

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Shares of Halifax drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics Inc. begin trading on the TSX Venture exchange today.

The company, whose long-term goal is to produce drugs that can combat antibiotic-resistant viruses, issued a statement Monday evening saying  the Toronto Stock Exchange had accepted its application for an initial public offering.

Appili is not raising new funds in the listing as it meets the TSX Venture requirements for capital, with enough money in the bank to last until mid-2020. The company raised $3.6 million earlier in the year via a sale of warrants. Since inception, the company has raised a total of $15.4 million in equity funding and $19 million in non-dilutive funds, and decided last autumn that its best long-term route to capital would be found in public markets.

“This public listing is an important part of our evolution as we look to continue to build our pipeline of products that treat the most serious threats to human health,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in an email Monday night. “It really is an exciting part of our life cycle/growth strategy that we are keen to show the markets.”

Just four years old, Appili has been working on promptly bringing out a drug with a fairly narrow market, so it can get revenue to help finance more ambitious projects.

Two years ago, it was allowed a fast-track regulatory process for its first drug candidate, ATI-1501, because the compound is based on a drug called metronidazole that had already been approved.

ATI-1501 treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children. ATI-1501 removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the existing drug.

Meanwhile, Appili is also working on a second compound, ATI-1503, which will take longer to develop but aims for a larger market in addressing antibiotic-resistant viruses. The company has added at least one other candidate to its portfolio of potential drugs.

In a recent prospectus, the company said it planned to spend $106,000 in the near-term in manufacturing and partnering activities with ATI-1501, and $1.2 million on chemical and biological testing for ATI-1503 with the goal of finding a clinical lead candidate.

“We’ve already built a sturdy financial foundation; recruited a strong base of investors; assembled a steadfast, smart, and diverse leadership team; and created a pipeline of three attractive assets with near-term milestones,” said Sullivan in the press release. “Taking the company public is expected to enable access to additional capital and resources, thus expanding our potential to address more unmet needs – and ultimately create more value for shareholders and solutions for patients.”

Propel Seeks Incite Applicants

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian tech support organization, has opened applications for the next cohort of Incite Phase 2, the virtual accelerator for scaling companies.

Incite is Propel’s accelerator for early-stage tech startups across the region, and Phase 2 is a program of up to nine months that focuses on building a repeatable sales engine. It is customized and adapted to fit each individual company’s needs. You can find the application form here

“We’re looking for companies who have fine-tuned their problem/solution fit and are now looking to build a sales engine,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “Phase 2 of Incite is really focused on customer success so the companies will transform their mindset to be customer obsessed.  In turn, they’ll see consistent growth in their sales pipeline.”

Propel in April accepted 30 companies into Phase 1 of Propel for this year and plans to begin the Phase 2 program in September. The deadline to apply is July 31 but a select few applicants may be granted early admission to the program.

Phase 2 culminates with an investor only demo day. 

In order to qualify for Phase 2, companies should:

  • Have an ICT component to their business model;
  • Have achieved “problem-solution fit”;
  • Have sales or are close to having sales;
  • And have full-time founders.

“You cannot create a successful business without being pushed outside of your comfort zone," said Laura Simpson, CEO and co-founder of Side Door. “Propel’s Incite encouraged us to analyze how we were doing things and to adjust in order to reach our goals more effectively.”

Side Door participated in the last Phase 2 cohort and was the inaugural winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize and the option for a $30,000 investment.

MTI Eyes $10M+ Raise During IPO

by Peter Moreira

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. plans to raise more than $10 million in fresh capital when it lists its shares on the Canadian Security Exchange later this year.

The Dartmouth-based company, which makes synthetic materials that can alter the properties of light, announced Friday night that it plans to merge with Continental Precious Minerals of Toronto and together they will seek a CSE listing.

In an interview Monday, MTI Co-Founder and CEO George Palikaras said his company is seeking the listing to help finance expansion and position itself to grow more aggressively in the future.

“This is not an exit,” said Palikaras. “This is the next chapter of growth for us. … We have a very aggressive growth strategy where we will consider M&A as long as it contributes to the company. We feel it [the listing] allows us greater opportunities for growth.”

The company has been raising capital and received commitments of about $3 million on its own. Continental Precious Minerals will invest as much as $4.8 million in the company through the merger, for a total commitment so far of about $8 million. Palikaras hopes now to generate further capital commitments this summer and that the shares will begin trading on the CSE in the fall.

MTI’s board is steeped with executives who have experience in public markets, said Palikaras, and they believe there is a greater opportunity for growth as a public company. As a deep technology company attacking several market segments, MTI can find more excitement among stock market investors than venture capital funds, he added.

“Consumers and industries adopt innovations at a much faster pace today than years ago,” he said. “MTI’s technologies and solutions are now meeting the tipping point: it meets our customer’s functional needs, provides additional value and the price is attractive to the industries we serve.”

MTI is a specialist in producing metamaterials – materials comprising compounds not found in nature – that alter light, either by enhancing, absorbing or blocking it. The company is best known for co-developing metaAIR with Airbus. The partnership is producing a transparent covering for airplane cockpit windows and eyewear that can filter out laser attacks.

MTI is now concentrating on four market segments in which its materials can improve performance: aerospace and defence; medical products; automotive (where Palikaras says there is increasing interest); and clean technology.

Palikaras wouldn’t say which of the segments he’s most excited about (“It’s like asking which of your kids is the favourite.”) but did say the business space is an exciting one. The Financial Times recently listed metamaterial science as one of 50 technologies that will change the world, and Palikaras believes it is has disruptive market potential.

The statement said MTI produced “development revenue” (which is payment it received from partners to develop products for them) of $1.6 million in 2018. Overall, revenues in the last few years have averaged growth of about 40 percent annually, and Palikaras added the company should receive revenue from selling products this year.

MTI reported a net loss of $5.1 million in 2018.

MTI now has more than 40 employees working at its offices in Dartmouth, London, U.K. (where it conducts R&D into healthcare products), and Silicon Valley. It gained its Silicon Valley operations in May 2016 when it bought a California company called Rolith to take on its ability to manufacture transparent films in large dimensions.

Metamaterial Tech To Go Public

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. is going public.

News of the Dartmouth-based company’s plan to go public broke Friday night when publicly listed Continental Precious Minerals Inc. issued a statement saying the two companies would merge and list on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

MTI, which makes products that can alter the properties of light, is one of a parade of Atlantic Canadian high-growth companies that are joining public stock markets to gain more firepower in raising capital. Sona Nanotech of Halifax listed on the CSE last year, and Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics has received conditional approval to list on the TSX Venture exchange.

MTI is a specialist in producing metamaterials – materials comprising compounds not found in nature – that alter light, either by magnifying, repelling or filtering it. The company is best known for its metaAIR venture with Airbus, which is producing a transparent covering for airplane cockpit windows that can filter out laser attacks.

The company last raised equity capital in April 2017 when it closed an $8.3 million venture capital round led by Radar Capital of Toronto. Since then, MTI has signed several deals in which funding organizations and/or its partners have helped to finance its projects.

Now, Continental Precious Minerals says it has signed a letter of intent to merge with MTI in an exchange for shares that will leave MTI shareholders with 84.6 percent of the combined company. The new company will be called Metamaterial Technologies Inc. and will preserve the MTI management team, led by President and CEO George Palikaras.

Read Our Recent Report on MTI's London R&D Operations. 

Continental is now listed on the TSX Venture exchange, and intends to delist from that market so the combined company can list on the Canadian Securities Exchange, an alternative exchange that is gaining traction with high-growth companies.

The statement said Lamda Guard Technologies Ltd., a company owned by some Metamaterial founders and Innovacorp, will probably own more than 10 percent of the listed company.

The statement said MTI produced “development revenue” of $1.6 million in 2018, resulting in a net loss of $5.1 million. At the end of last year, it had total assets of $13.2 million, total liabilities of $13.3 million and total shareholders’ equity of minus $177,000.

MTI now has more than 30 employees working at its offices in Dartmouth, London, U.K. (where it conducts R&D into healthcare products), and Silicon Valley. It gained its Silicon Valley operations in May 2016 when it bought a California company called Rolith to take on its ability to manufacture screens in large dimensions.

The big breakthrough for MTI came in 2014 when its Lamda Guard affiliate signed a deal with Airbus to produce cockpit windshield screens that would protect pilots from laser attacks.

The world’s largest aircraft maker is cooperating with the Nova Scotian startup on the development of a transparent, flexible film that can go over the aircraft windshields to block out laser beams. The shield is necessary because aircraft pilots are increasingly subject to laser attacks where lasers are shone into cockpit windows to blind the crew.

Since then, MTI has teamed up with: Mitacs and Dalhousie University to conduct a $1.6 million research project; global aerospace industry supplier Satair to produce goggles that can protect pilots and others from laser attack; and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to develop materials that enhance solar power and can be used on aircraft.

Resqunit Sets Up In Halifax

Resqunit Canada Inc., the North American subsidiary of Norwegian oceantech company Resqunit A/S, is setting up in Halifax as a base for its growth in Canada and the U.S.

The parent company has developed a floatation device that can be attached to lobster traps and other equipment to ensure these traps are not lost on the ocean floor. Resqunit has already sold 5,000 units of the product and will do a full retail launch in Norway this summer. 

The company issued a statement last week announcing Erik Nobbe will lead and co-own the Halifax operation. As well as a base for business development, the Halifax office will conduct research and development to help produce future versions of the product.

“Halifax is the epicenter for oceans technology companies, located literally halfway between west coast USA and Europe, and offers extremely supportive industry and governments alike,” said the statement.

Resqunit, founded in 2017, is addressing the global problem of “ghost fishing”, which is the all too common phenomenon of lobster traps, crab pots or other such gear getting lost on the ocean floor. These lost traps continue to ensnare marine life for long periods of time, needlessly killing animals and depleting stocks. When the gear eventually breaks down, it contributes to micro-plastics in seawater.

Resqunit says 3500 lost pieces of fishing gear were collected by scuba divers in the last two years off Norway alone.

The Resqunit solution is a small device that clamps on to the side of the fishing gear, say, a lobster trap. If the trap is in the water for an extended period of time, the unit activates the floatation buoy it encloses, and the trap floats to the surface where it can be collected. The fishers save money and an environmental hazard is removed from the ocean.

“Lost fishing gear (aka Ghost Gear) and Ghost Fishing is an enormous threat to marine life on the oceans floor, and by far the largest contributor to oceanic micro-plastic pollution,” said Resqunit CEO Helge Trettø Olsen in the statement. “In Norway the product is unanimously welcomed by fishers, environmental organizations and the Directorate of Fisheries, and will be in stores all over Norway in July.”

Nobbe is a 25-year veteran of ocean-related industries and for the last two years has headed Valhalla Business Consulting in Halifax.

“We are proud to have recruited Erik Nobbe as CEO of the company,” said Helge Trettø Olsen. “He will be a great addition to our team.”

Beauceron Partners with CIRA

Fredericton-based Beauceron Security, which helps clients improve their cybersecurity culture, has agreed to offer training services through the organization that oversees the .ca domain registration.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, or CIRA, issued a statement Wednesday saying it has launched its new D-Zone Cybersecurity Awareness Training platform. It will use the Beauceron solution to help enterprise customers train their users in how to protect themselves against a cyber-attack.

Growing out of the University of New Brunswick, Beauceron has developed a cloud-based risk-management platform that monitors the human elements in cyber-risk.  In other words, it helps companies and organizations make sure their staff are doing the right things to ensure they are protected against cyber-attacks.

“The responsibility for cybersecurity is no longer solely on the IT department; all users have a role to play,” said CIRA Vice-President of Product Development Dave Chiswell in the statement. “Employees who are cyber aware can be a company’s biggest asset in the escalating battle against cybercrime. Beauceron has created a platform that delivers cybersecurity training in a simple and engaging way. We are proud to have them as a partner in our growing suite of cybersecurity services.”

Beauceron has been gaining steam since it launched three years ago. Last year, it raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and was accepted into CyLon, a London, England-based accelerator for cybersecurity companies.

Partnering with CIRA will allow it to reach more customers.

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Based in Ottawa, CIRA manages the .ca domain, which is one of the fastest-growing country-specific domains in the world. It also oversees related services, such as a global Domain Name Server, or DNS, network, and one of the world’s most advanced back-end registry solutions.

The organization has been building up a suite of cybersecurity technologies and services to support its goal of building a better online industry in Canada. These services include the D-Zone DNS Firewall and D-Zone Anycast DNS, which together work within the DNS layer to defend against cyberattacks.

A DNS maintains a directory of domain names and translates them to Internet Protocol addresses.

CIRA is now broadening the scope of its cybersecurity offerings by helping its clients train their users in avoiding practices that would leave them vulnerable to cyberattacks.

CIRA’s 2018 Cybersecurity Survey found that 43 percent of all organizations still suffered business-impacting cyberattacks. Larger organizations tend to experience more attacks than smaller ones. This underscores the importance of adding employees to the defensive posture and not just treating them as a risk to be managed with technology, said the organization.

It added that organizations implementing D-Zone Cybersecurity Awareness Training, which uses the Beauceron technology, see an average three-times reduction in users being tricked by phishing emails.

The program includes industry-leading integration testing, simulation, gamification and reports to provide a fully automated platform that requires minimal IT management, said the statement. The platform automatically adjusts the frequency and level of testing and training based on user behavior.

“Beauceron is proud to be partnering with an organization that shares our goal of making a more secure online experience accessible to all Canadians,” said Beauceron CEO David Shipley. “CIRA is a trusted partner with a methodical approach to meeting the needs of their clients and community.”

GIT Team Plans Supercluster Project

Halifax-based Graphite Innovation and Technologies and three partners plan to apply to Canada’s Ocean Supercluster for support for R&D into GIT’s product, a coating that protects ships and equipment from the sea.

GIT, which uses the innovative material graphene as the basis of its coating, announced Wednesday that it had joined a partnership to assess how well its product works in ocean settings.  The other members of the partnership are:

  • St. John’s-based Horizon Maritime, an offshore marine services company;
  • Newfoundland Aqua Service, also based in St. John’s, a manufacturer and service provider of fish cages, boats, docks, and nets for the aquaculture industry;
  • And Millbrook First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community in the heart of Nova Scotia operating fishing vessels and industrial facilities.

Together, the four partners will apply to the Ocean Supercluster for funding to support their research into how well GIT’s product Graphene Coat can protect marine equipment and structures.

“Our project will evaluate our technology on ships and on other applications such as aquaculture equipment,” said GIT Chief Executive Mo AlGermozi in a statement. “We also expect to develop new graphene-based products as various applications are identified across Canada’s ocean economy.”

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GIT has developed a marine coating whose main ingredient is graphene, a carbon-based material that is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. Algermozi and his Co-Founder Marciel Gaier developed a new method for producing graphene while they were students at Dalhousie University, and have since used it as the base for a product that can coat and protect objects exposed to oceans.

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

The current project focuses on understanding the range of marine applications for GIT’s coatings to better protect marine equipment and maritime structures at risk of corrosion and “biofouling”. The partners also plan to examine the efficiencies that Graphene Coat can offer. These include reduced fuel consumption on vessels using GIT coatings and the replacement of toxic copper-based biofouling products currently in use across various maritime industries, said the statement.

The Ocean Supercluster is a partnership spanning the four Atlantic Provinces that aims to spend $300 million to $360 million on marine R&D over the next four years. The CBC reported this month that the Supercluster has signed its governance framework with the federal government, which means the group can begin to authorize research projects.

Private corporations that join the Supercluster organization can identify common problems that they’ve experienced and would like to find a solution to. They would each put up money, and approved projects can also receive financing from the Supercluster fund.

The Ocean Supercluster has not yet announced the approval of any of these research projects, nor the details of its agreement with the federal government.

Rise Gains B-Corp Certification

The Rise Team

The Rise Team

As Fredericton-based Rise prepares to monetize its online platform, it will do so with a newly acquired environmental certification.

Rise runs a website that offers home-building and renovation advice for environmentally conscious consumers. It has now been certified as a “B Corporation” by Pennsylvania-based nonprofit B Lab.

B Corporations are required to pass a stringent certification process that verifies them to be dedicated equally to environmental, social and fiscal responsibility.

“It’s about making sure your decisions are not just guided by making money, but also guided by… making sure that your community is well-served, making sure that people within the organization are happy, and also that the environment is respected at the same time,” said Rise CEO Matt Daigle in an interview.

The website, buildwithrise.com, allows visitors to read articles by staff and contributors, explore a database of green products, and identify financial rebates from governments and corporations.

It also includes interactive photos of green homes that can be moused over for more information, and will let users search for relevant retailers and contractors.

Daigle plans to monetize the site this summer by featuring vetted manufacturers in Rise’s product databases, in exchange for a fee.

He said that the B Corporation certification will help Rise demonstrate to its environmentally conscious customers—48 per cent of whom are planning a home renovation project within a year—that its values are aligned with their own.

“The reason that people are coming back to our site is that we’ve become a trusted source,” he said. “Rise won’t be able to enjoy the kind of success that it wants to have without having these values. The minute that we step out of that realm… the credibility and trust factor with homeowners starts to erode.”

According to the B Lab website, “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”

B Corporations must pass a multi-stage assessment process, file annual reports on their activities with B Lab, and implement an explicit human rights policy, among other requirements.

Other B Corporations include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Proctor & Gamble subsidiary New Chapter.

Rise’s certification has been planned since it was founded in 2015, with the actual vetting process occurring between May 2018 and May 2019.

“We’re in a time where the environment is at the top of everyone’s list and climate change is a real thing, and so many people are dedicating their lives to helping,” said Daigle. “So when you’re thinking of starting a company, you have to ask yourself, What are you really trying to do? Are you really just trying to make a buck?”

Proof Heads to Pitch@Palace Finals

Ben Sanders, left, Luke DeCoste and Wes George

Ben Sanders, left, Luke DeCoste and Wes George

Proof, whose SaaS platform helps governments make better decisions, can add another trophy to the cabinet, having won the Pitch@Palace event in Toronto last month.

The company, which is a resident of Volta in Halifax, has quietly been building a list of national programs that it has entered and excelled in.  The latest was the Canadian leg of Pitch@Palace, an international competition championed by Prince Andrew. Proof and another company were chosen the winners from 24 competitors from across the country last month, and will now travel to St. James’s Palace in London in December for the international finals of Pitch@Palace.

That’s in addition to other recent achievements like going through the Creative Destruction Lab and Techstars Toronto, closing a significant funding round and landing several sales.

The reason for the early success of this company is Proof solves a huge societal problem: the challenges governments face in making decisions.

“Governments make the most important decisions in the world but they don’t get access to the best software,” said Co-Founder Luke DeCoste in an interview Tuesday. “The fundamental thing that government does is make decisions, and many people are involved in every decision. That means there are hundreds of documents floating around every department so things get lost.”

Founded in 2016 and based in Halifax and Yukon, Proof set out to digitize the decision process for governments to remove paper and pens from the decision-making process. The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps government officials track and route documents digitally.

The dashboard allows officials to highlight matters that need urgent approval, follow the timeline of a specific issue, and track who has signed off on a matter.

Concrete Ventures Leads SalesRight's $250K Round

“Proof empowers public servants and government officials with technology designed specifically for the approval process of government,” said the company’s website. “We drastically lower friction, empower team members throughout the review process, and collect data to better understand operations and constituent issues.”

DeCoste said Proof has signed up 15 public-sector clients in Canada and aims to double that in the near future, then make inroads into the U.S.

And it has closed an equity funding round, led by the national early-stage venture capital fund Panache Ventures. The 15 investors included the new Halifax-based VC fund Concrete Ventures. DeCoste, whose title is Chief Governance Officer, wouldn’t say how much Proof had raised in the round, but did say it’s enough to hire 15 people in the next 18 months.  By that time, the company hopes to be cash-flow positive.

The six-member Proof team – which includes Co-Founders DeCoste, Ben Sanders and Wes George – is steeped in government processes and have used their contacts and background to sell to government departments at all levels. Governments are notoriously difficult to sell to, so Proof began with indigenous governments and municipalities, then provinces and recently landed its first federal departments.

To make the sales easy, they have designed a product that’s easy to install, is priced below government procurement thresholds, and has the certifications required by governments. DeCoste added that once government departments begin using the technology, they keep using it.

Proof will be one of 22 companies presenting at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax on June 26 and 27.

EChart Raises $800K, Led by NBIF

Amanda Betts

Amanda Betts

Fredericton-based eChart Healthcare, whose technology improves communication in long-term care facilities, has raised an $800,000 funding round that includes $200,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

EChart has developed an innovative digital patient-charting system that simplifies the way long-term care facilities track the health of their patients. The cloud-based system allows the facilities’ staff and the patients’ family members to all receive pertinent information in real-time.

CEO Amanda Betts – whose family operates the Autumn Lee Retirement Home in Moncton – started eChart three years ago to solve the problem of communicating vital information to staff and family members.

“The best technology companies solve a clear and growing problem,” said NBIF Director of Investment Ray Fitzpatrick in a statement. “That’s what eChart Healthcare does very well with its digital charting system. The long-term care software market is expected to grow to US$5.6 billion by 2026. eChart Healthcare is well poised to succeed in this fast-growing market.”

The investment will support additional product development as well as sales and marketing activities.

The statement said Betts drew inspiration for the functionality of eChart Healthcare through her experience operating a senior care home.

The software she developed created a way for staff and families to receive information readily available at the point of care with real-time data on things like medication, vitals, meals, activities and even a mood tracker. That led to pilot projects with long-term care facilities and pharmacies, and now a seed investment round, said the statement.

Betts will present her company at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax next week.

“Moving an aging parent or relative into a long-term care facility is never easy,” said Betts. “Our eChart platform is creating connected care that gives families and facilities access to all the important information about a loved one in a simple, easy-to-use way. This creates new efficiencies in care delivery and lets the staff of long-term care facilities focus their energies on caring for their residents.”

Halifax Index: Population Up Again

The Halifax Partnership unveiled its Halifax Index on Monday, revealing that surging population growth, especially among young people, has led to an increase in GDP.

The annual assessment of the economy of the Nova Scotian capital shows that the population increased by 2 percent in 2018, and the strongest growth was in the 25- to 39-year-old age group. That population increase contributed to a 1.6 percent gain in GDP. It was the third year in a row that Halifax’s population had increased, reversing a five-year period in which there were four years of decline.

“The results are very encouraging and consistent with the outcome that we hoped for and acted upon – getting more immigrants and youth here, and staying here,” said Halifax Partnership Chief Economist Ian Munro.

Though Entrevestor doesn’t usually cover general economic stories, there’s a huge overlap with the Halifax Index and what is going on in the startup community. During the launch of the Index at the Central Library in Halifax, several speakers alluded to the role startups are playing in creating employment, attracting skilled talent and creating office demand. About 36 percent of the startups covered by Entrevestor are based in Halifax.

Halifax Partnership Economist Chadwick Meyers – who based his calculations on Crunchbase data -- said Halifax-based companies raised a total of US$224 million in 2014-2018.

The Partnership in 2016 established a baseline for several metrics, set goals for a five-year plan and tracks the city’s progress in each metric annually. It also benchmarks the city’s progress against five cities of comparable size – St. John’s, Quebec City, Kitchener-Waterloo, Regina and Victoria.

The 59-page report said Halifax’s situation is improving in several of the metrics involving talent and population. With GDP of $19.2 billion, it is lagging in its goal to have a GDP of $22.5 billion by 2021.

One metric that is actually worsening is the goal of reducing commercial vacancy rates in the downtown. In three years, the vacancy rate has risen from 14.1 percent to 19.1 percent, said the report, though it added the vacancy rate has fallen for suburban offices.

Read the Full Halifax Index Report.

The 59-page report is thorough, so rather than go through it and cherry-pick certain bits of data, we'll let the Halifax Partnership point out the highlights. The following is an excerpt from the Partnership's press release:

PEOPLE

Halifax had its third straight year of strong population growth, a 2.0 percent increase (8,544 people) in population in 2018. Over the past three years, Halifax’s population has grown by more than 22,000 people.

For the third year in a row, international immigration was far above the long-term average with 5,405 new immigrants coming to Halifax in 2018.

There were 2,503 new arrivals to Halifax between the ages of 20 and 29 representing nearly one third of total population growth.

Halifax saw its labour force participation increase for the first time since 2009. As well, after three years of annual labour force growth below 1.0 percent, 2018 saw an increase of 8,000 workers, a 3.3 percent jump.

ECONOMY

Halifax’s GDP grew by 1.6 percent in 2018. Among the six benchmark cities. Halifax ranked fourth in terms of 2018 GDP growth, behind Quebec City, Victoria, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW), but ahead of Regina and St. John’s.

According to the Business Confidence Index conducted annually by Narrative Research, the shares of surveyed businesses expecting to increase sales, hire additional staff, make a major investment in facilities or equipment, and make a major investment in research and development remain significantly above long-term averages.

Halifax surpassed its record for cruise ship visits and total number of cruise passengers for the second year in a row in 2018, making it the most successful conference year in the city’s history. Total overnight room bookings grew by 14 percent, marking six straight years of growth in room bookings.

QUALITY OF PLACE

Construction on residential rental units reached a historic high in 2018, yet vacancy rates are still going down.

In 2018, Halifax’s average apartment rent grew by 2.1 percent, the third highest increase among the benchmark cities, but still below the Canadian average of 3.4 percent.

As of spring 2019, Halifax Transit charged the least (or tied for the least) for single tickets, monthly passes, senior fares, and child fares for all six benchmark cities.

Over the past decade, Halifax has experienced only 10 days of Air Quality Advisories, the second lowest figure among the six benchmark cities.

Disclosure: The Halifax Partnership is a client of Entrevestor.

Startup Genome Rates Atlantic Canada No. 4 in Activation Phase

Atlantic Canada has the world’s fourth best “activation stage” ecosystem for startups, says Silicon Valley think tank Startup Genome.

The organization each year ranks startup ecosystems around the world, and Innovacorp signed up Atlantic Canada to be included in the 2019 study. Startup Genome has classified Atlantic Canada as an “activation phase” ecosystem, meaning its support system is relatively young and its startup base small.  The organization found that we are No. 4 in the world at this phase, exceeded only by: Western Denmark;  Belgrade and Novi Sad (Serbia); and Taipei City.

“Overall, it you look at other ecosystems at the same stage as us, we’re No. 4 in the world – I get excited by that,” said Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser in an interview.

Late last year, Fraser stated publicly that Atlantic Canada should aspire to be one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world. That led to Innovacorp becoming one of Startup Genome’s partners, meaning the organization would begin to track our progress.

In its 2019 report, Startup Genome ranked the top 30 startup ecosystems in the world, and Atlantic Canada is not on that list. Toronto-Waterloo moved up three places in the latest rankings to No. 13 in the world, while Vancouver fell nine places to No. 24. For the first time, Startup Genome also ranked “lifecycle ecosystems”, meaning it ranked ecosystems in the various phases ecosystems must pass through to reach the top tier.

The most advanced of these is the “Attraction” phase, which is populated by jurisdictions like Amsterdam that are breaking into the top layer. Next is the “Globalization” phase, sort of a middle-tier group in which Montreal placed second to Paris. And finally the “Activation” phase is made up of younger ecosystems. Startup Genome assigns ecosystems to phases based on “growth in funding, exits and number of startups.”

Nine Win Atlantic Regional Startup Canada Awards

Startup Genome says Activation-phase ecosystems are “limited startup experience” in terms of founders, investors, advisers and mentors, have fewer than 1,000 startups, and face such challenges as losing resources to more advanced ecosystems.

That may seem like a bleak assessment, but Atlantic Canada has placed ahead of such other Activation phase members as Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City in Canada, and Estonia, Manila, Frankfurt and New Zealand internationally.

Atlantic Canada excels at early-stage funding, leading all ecosystems in the Activation phase by raising $382,000 per startup, said the report. It is also one of the top 15 ecosystems in the world in any phase in the “Bang for Buck” rating, which assesses costs.

“The piece of this that we’re interested in is that we’re now in a position where we can benchmark ourselves against other jurisdictions,” said Fraser. “We can look at what’s successful and what’s not.  . . . We can continue to do this because we have the data to help us make decisions.”

[For full disclosure, we should say that Entrevestor was involved in the Startup Genome initiative. Entrevestor is primarily a data company, and Innovacorp contracted us to provide data to Startup Genome – mainly the names and urls of startups across the region.]

In the interview, Fraser said he’s not put off in the ambition to grow a top 10 ecosystem. The important thing, he said, is Atlantic Canada now knows where it stands against other ecosystems and it has to continue to improve its capacity to develop high-growth companies.

“I think what’s really important for us at this stage is regional collaboration,” said Fraser. “Because of the success of our ecosystem, there are a lot of opportunities for students and others to get involved in various programs, and we need to think about that from a broader perspective.”

Lunch & Learn on Media Relations

On Wednesday, I will be delivering a Lunch and Learn talk at Volta on Media Relations for Startups – a topic a lot of startups should give some thought to.

I’m frequently asked about media relations by founders. How do we get our story in a certain newspaper or magazine? When is the best time to approach the media? How do you deal with reporters? What do you put in a press release? What problems should be avoided?

On Wednesday, I will be discussing these issues and fielding any questions you want to raise during the Lunch and Learn.

I have some pretty strong opinions on how startups should work with traditional media, and I’m hoping the talk will be both entertaining and informative.

The cost is $10 and lunch is included. You can purchase tickets here.

I hope to see you on Wednesday.

Site2020 Eyes Strong Sales Growth

Mitch Hollohan

Mitch Hollohan

Dartmouth-based Site2020’s traffic-control equipment was used on more than 200 construction sites last year, and CEO Mitch Hollohan expects to deploy another 1,000 units over the next two years.

The company’s product, the Guardian SmartFlagger, is designed to replace human “flaggers”—construction employees paid to direct traffic. It includes a portable stoplight and a barrier that can be lowered to block traffic flow.

“It increases the safety of flaggers tenfold, because you don’t have to have flaggers … in front of the road, possibly being hit by a car,” said Hollohan in an interview.

Site2020 was founded in 2015, in an alumni company at Volta and launched the Guardian in 2017 after 24 months of research and development.

A single worker can control up to four of the machines using an iPad and video-monitoring software provided by Site2020.

The Guardian is leased by construction companies, which pay by the hour. Customers are not billed for time during which the device is not in use, but they are required to pay for a minimum number of hours per month—usually about 80.

The typical hourly price is between $20.00 and $25.00, depending on which jurisdiction the construction site is located in.

“We provide the entire service,” said Hollohan. “We help them with every change that it’s going to take for their business to go from traditional flagging to automated flagging.”

Volta Presents Five Ecosytem Awards

Site2020 was initially funded by angel investors, but manufacturing of new equipment is paid for using bank financing.

Hollohan intends to fund future growth the same way, and has no plans to seek venture capital or other outside investment.

The physical Guardian equipment is not built by Site2020, but Hollohan said of the business’s manufacturing partner, “They’re connected pretty much directly to us.”

Site2020 directly employs 18 people, up from eight last year, with the manufacturing company raising the total to 36.

The technology is officially approved for use in forty-two American states and every province in Canada except Nova Scotia.

Businesses in the province have placed orders, but inflexible regulations and a complex bureaucracy have so far prevented Site2020 from fulfilling them on a consistent basis, said Hollohan.

Hollohan recalls one industry partner that spent $18,000 seeking regulatory approval to use the Guardian on a local construction site for two hours.

“We’re saving lives in the United States every single day,” he said. “But the Nova Scotia government is just too slow and too bureaucratic … to make change.”

Fuckup Nights Arrives in Halifax

A sold-out crowd gathered in Halifax last night to learn from, reflect on, even laugh at other people’s failures, and in doing so join a movement that has spread to more than 300 cities in 90 countries.

The Halifax chapter of Fuckup Nights held its first meeting on Thursday to hear three local heroes discuss the times they screwed up in business or their lives and how they learned from it. Fuckup Nights is an international organization that believes the best education comes from, well, fuck-ups. It holds get-togethers in which people openly discuss their mistakes and what they learned.

“Fucking up is a privilege,” said Lindsay MacPhee, the founder of the Floatation Centre Halifax and one of the presenters. “It means we’re alive. It means we’re going to grow. And it also means we keep on pushing forward and we come out the other side.”

The story of Fuckup Nights dates back to 2012 when five friends got together in a bar in Mexico City and began swapping war stories about their greatest failures. As the evening wore on, they realized they were learning from each other’s tales of the banana skins they had trodden on in their lives. They got so much out of it that soon they opened it up to the public, and the Fuckup Nights movement was born.

A while back, the Ottawa chapter of Fuckup Nights held its quarterly meeting in conjunction with its SaaS North conference. The attendees that night included Haligonians Mary Jane Leslie and Melissa Cooper, who decided Halifax needed a chapter of its own. So Leslie and Cooper – who work together at the Software-as-a-Service security company Liferaft – worked with the international Fuckup Nights organization to open in Halifax.

Well before the Raptors game started on Thursday, a crowd gathered at the Good Robot Pub on Robie Street, enjoying beer subsidized by Stewart McKelvey, to witness the trio of confessions. As well as MacPhee, the fuckers-up on stage were serial entrepreneur Shawn Wilkie and screenwriter Michael Amo, whose credits include TV series Pure.

All the speakers were funny, willing to laugh at the mistakes they’d made. They spoke of their own business mistakes, and the failures that the universe thrust upon them. Some revealed personal tragedy. They all spoke of the ups and downs involved in being entrepreneurs or creative people.

Wilkie, for example, joked about barely breaking even in college when he and a friend invested $10,000 on a scheme to sell office chairs to college kids. That was nothing compared to the $750,000 he lost in buying three video retail franchises early in the century. On a more positive note, he still owns half of Robotnik, a thriving business that sells computers to students, and has launched the Halifax startup Talkatoo.

The talks were instructive for entrepreneurs. MacPhee spoke of her over-arching goal to be kind and having to learn that as an employer she has to sometimes make unpopular decisions.

Overall, the upshot of the evening was that it is sure to be repeated.

“We sold this out in less than two days and that shows that there is a need for something like this,” Leslie told the crowd. “We hope to make it a quarterly thing.”

NBIF To Invest in Energia Companies

Energia Head Joe Allen, left, NBIF CEO Jeff White, and UNB President Eddy Campbell

Energia Head Joe Allen, left, NBIF CEO Jeff White, and UNB President Eddy Campbell

Companies going through the University of New Brunswick’s Energia Ventures will receive as much as $500,000 in total investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in the next two years.

Energia and NBIF announced Wednesday companies going in the program -- regardless of whether they're based in New Brunswick --  will receive an investment of up to $50,000 from NBIF. Adding in non-dilutive funding of $20,000 that is already in place, it means each company will receive up to $70,000 if they complete the program.

UNB’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program launched Energia two years ago to nurture companies in the energy, smart grid, cleantech and cybersecurity sectors. The accelerator is now accepting applications from companies based in New Brunswick or elsewhere for its next cohort, which will begin in September. Applications are open until July 14. 

“Energia has a great reputation for working with companies to help them realize their full potential and getting them to market,” said NBIF Investment Director Ray Fitzpatrick in the statement. “They play a key role in the New Brunswick innovation ecosystem by helping these companies establish relationships and by curating investible companies.”

An intensive 13-week program, Energia prepares startups for rapid revenue growth in these sectors. Ideal companies have previously raised funds and have a market-tested product. Energia prepares these companies as they move towards full-scale commercialization and raising follow-on funding.

“NBIF knows that the best accelerators in the world come with equity investments and by assisting Energia in making this level of commitment, we believe they will be on par with the best-in-class International accelerators in both programming and funding,” said Fitzpatrick. “We want to see Energia achieve International recognition as an accelerator with a highly competitive environment from startups to participate in the program.”

Added Energia Managing Director Joe Allen: “We’re so very pleased to have NBIF believe in the work we’re doing and demonstrate that by investing in the companies we work with. We strive to attract and work with the best companies in our sectors of focus, and this investment will go a long way in attracting these companies in the competitive space of business acceleration.”

Medteq Backs Densitas, Spring Loaded

Two Halifax-area medtech companies – Spring Loaded Technology and Densitas – have received a slice of an $11 million equity funding exercise anchored by the Montreal-based health technology organization Medteq.

Medteq, which nurtures Canadian health-technology innovators, issued a statement saying that its $14 million investment fund made its first investments, backing eight companies based in Montreal and Halifax. MEDTEQ invested alongside co-investors including: Anges-Quebec, Anges-Quebec Capital, Innovacorp, Real Ventures and others.

The target companies included Spring Loaded, which makes advanced knee braces, and Densitas, which assesses the density of breast tissue during mammograms. Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency, was already an existing investor in both companies.

“Medteq is seeking to financially support health-technology companies across Canada who share our vision that a collaborative approach de-risks health products and services,” said Jacques Milette, President of Medteq’s Board of Directors. “Starting in Quebec, we’ve branched out and found interesting partners and companies in other provinces. We are looking forward to developing opportunities in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the months to come.”

The statement said the eight companies raised a total of $11 million, though it did not specify how much of that came from Medteq nor provide a breakdown of its investment in each company.

Mysa Raises $2.3M Equity Round

Based in Dartmouth, Spring Loaded Technology has produced the Levitation brace, which not only stabilizes the knee joint but adds power to it, allowing people with mobility problems to move more freely. The Levitation line includes the world’s first tri-compartment unloader knee brace. It reduces pressure throughout the knee while enhancing strength to alleviate pain and improve mobility for people with knee arthritis and injuries.

Halifax-based Densitas has developed software that provides an automated mechanism for quantifying and recording breast tissue density, a risk factor for breast cancer in women. Dense breasts can mask cancerous cells. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of cancer.

The other six companies receiving investment, all based in Montreal, are: MIMs (My Intelligent Machines; My01; Optina Diagnostics; Saccade Analytics; Spinologics; and Thorasys. Thorasys, which aims to revolutionize pulmonary medicine by offering portable, easy-to-use devices for lung function screening, diagnostics and monitoring, actually started in Halifax before moving to Montreal.

Medteq said its investment philosophy is based on the belief that robust product validation exercises, completed in collaboration with such stakeholders as doctors, insurance companies, and eventual acquirers, drives fundamental value for health products and companies.

The funds seek out companies with maturing technologies and accelerating innovation. In addition to the investment fund, Medteq supports its clients’ projects by offering non-dilutive funding, helping to find other grants and securing validation partners.

StepScan Launches Military Product

The Stepscan team

The Stepscan team

Stepscan Technologies, the Charlottetown company that has developed pressure-sensitive floor mats, has launched a new product that helps the military train soldiers in combat techniques.

Primarily a medical device company, Stepscan has developed floor tiles that can analyze people's gait and footprints, which reveal such medical information as their balance, the health of their joints and how they are recovering from injury.

Last month, it launched a non-medical product, StepTracker, which covers a wider area and analyzes the movement of more than one person. Using StepTracker, military trainers can teach groups of soldiers how to move in a combat situation and analyze the performance of each trainee.

“When doing a patient assessment, you don’t do more than one patient at a time,” said CEO Crystal Trevors in an interview.  “Here, they’ll be looking for the position of individuals and the relative position of individuals within a group.”

Trevors said the company’s main market is still the medical sphere, in which Stepscan’s pressurized tiles can be used to assess health. She said that ideally her seven-person team would like to find a company to buy the military application because it is so different to the medical business.

With the medical device, buyers purchase a few pressure-sensitive tiles so the user has about 400 square feet of area to walk across. The sales are fairly straightforward. In fact, in the first five months of 2019, Stepscan has already sold as much of its core product as it did in all of 2018.

The military application can involve, say, 4,000 tiles over 15,000 square feet, covering two or three rooms in a mock building used for training exercises. Trevors said the trainers can use it to monitor a group of four soldiers entering a building, making sure each individual moves and faces in the right direction at the right time throughout the course of the exercise.

“The biggest challenge is in distinguishing what footprint belongs to which people and detecting which people were actually in which space,” said Patrick Connor, the R&D lead at Stepscan. “That’s the trickiest part, and then determining where each person is based on their direction and speed, and then where they’re facing and their posture.”

Selling 4,000 tiles would obviously be a big sale, but Trevors said the military sales cycle is about four to five years – far longer than for the medical devices. “It’s a different beast altogether,” she said.

Stepscan is also working on a security product that can be installed in important buildings and help identify anyone who breaks in. Everyone has a unique gait, so even someone wearing a mask or gloves could be identified with the Stepscan technology. Trevors attended the recent SecCan security conference in Ottawa, where she met with many security companies with a potential interest in the product. Again, the long-term goal would be to sell the IP to another company so Stepscan can focus on its medical device.

The company in the past has raised money from several angel investors, including East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond. Trevors is now working on a new funding round with a target of $3 million.

Ocean Sonics Expands to New HQ

Ocean Sonics' New HQ

Ocean Sonics' New HQ

Ocean Sonics, the Nova Scotia-based maker of equipment that listens to and monitors the oceans, has moved into a new headquarters in Truro Heights that will facilitate growth of staff, innovation and sales.  

Ocean Sonics designs and manufactures the icListen smart hydrophones and other products that improve the quality and analysis of underwater sound measurements.

The company has long been based in the water-side hamlet of Great Village and has expanded rapidly in recent years. It has 18 full-time employees and is advertising nationally and internationally for software developers, electronic engineers and sales people.

“We are constantly innovating.  When you have innovative people, you have to keep them interested and improving.  You have to keep them innovating and making products and selling,” said co-owner and operations manager Desiree Stockermans in an interview.

The company is looking to expand beyond its main markets of Asia, Europe and North America into South America and Australia.

“We believe we are the best in the world and we want to let everyone else know we are,” Stockermans said with a smile.

The company’s growth prospects are enviable as the monitoring and measuring of underwater sounds is a new and growing market with an increasing range of applications.    

Stockermans said the company has many research clients, and that Ocean Sonic products have real-time applications and can process the data they collect right away.

“The hydrophone has been around since World War II when the first submarines went in the water; hydrophones have mostly been used for that type of application,” said Stockermans. 

“Now, they are being used to increase understanding of the ocean and what’s going on in the water. We are in the right place with the right products and we can take advantage of that to grow.”

Marine engineer Mark Wood and Stockermans co-founded their first venture Instrument Concepts in Great Village in 2000. Ocean Sonics branched off in 2012 in order to focus on developing and selling its products. (Instrument Concepts remains the consultancy side of the business.)

Applications include the monitoring of the sounds made by whales, such as the endangered right whale.

“It’s possible one of the reasons they are getting caught in traps is because they are shifting north because their food source is moving north with changing water temperatures,” said Stockermans.  “We can tell things about changes in climate from changes in the behaviours of marine life.

“In the past, you could hear a sound, then you could tell where it was coming from. Now, you can tell where it’s coming from and where it’s going.  You can identify the whale and where it’s going.  If it’s toward a ship, you can notify the ship to slow down or alter course.”

The company is one of the providers contributing to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans network of hydrophones established in the Vancouver Harbour area to gauge the reaction of marine mammals to loud noises, such as construction noise and sounds made by shipping traffic.

Stockermans said it’s important to measure and understand these things before regulations on issues such as shipping speeds are made.  

The development of off-shore wind farms in the eastern U.S. is an area of growth. Sounds are studied before, during, and after construction to provide the full picture of the impact of human activity.

The company is proud that their new headquarters reflects their values. Ocean Sonics is a certified B Corp (a for-profit company pledged to provide positive impacts for their employees, communities and the planet). The new building has a low impact on the environment, with potential for a living green roof.  All materials and labour are either sustainably or locally sourced.

Ocean Sonics worked with partners from Business Development Bank of Canada, Architects Omar Gandhi and Eric Stotts, and Lindsay Construction to create the building.  The project was supported by the Government of Canada.

Nine Win Startup Canada Awards

Gary F. Keenan, the Co-Founder and Chairman of F6 Networks of Fredericton, was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Atlantic Region Startup Canada Awards on Tuesday.

Keenan, who last year was named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Atlantic Canada, captured the Startup Canada Award at a presentation event in Fredericton, where nine people or groups were recognized.

Created out of K-Line Construction, F6 Networks is the largest privately owned open access fibre network in Canada.

Startup Canada, whose mission is to promote and nurture startups and entrepreneurship across the country, holds regional awards across the nation in several categories. The regional winners in most of these categories then compete in the national finals.

“We are honoured to recognize vibrant entrepreneurs and disruptors across Canada,” said Startup Canada Chief Executive Director Anastasia Valentine in a statement. "Each recipient is highly contributing to build our nation’s economy and to strengthen the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.”

The other 2019 Atlantic Canadian Region Winners are:

  • Larry Shaw, the CEO of Ignite Fredericton, received the Entrepreneur Promotion Award;
  • The Joint Economic Development Initiative of Fredericton received the Entrepreneur Support Award;
  • ThermalWood Canada of Bathurst, NB, received the Global Entrepreneurship Award;
  • Sona Nanotech of Dartmouth received the Innovation Award;
  • SucSeed of St. John’s received the Social Enterprise Award;
  • HeyOrca of St. John’s received the High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award;
  • Natasha Dhayagude, the CEO of Fredericton-based Chinova Bioworks, won the Woman Entrepreneur Award;
  • And Noah Donovan of Quispamsis, NB, received the Young Entrepreneur Award for his company Port City Candy.

“The Joint Economic Development Initiative is delighted to be the Atlantic Region Winner for Entrepreneur Support,” said JEDI President Alex Dedam, whose group supports entrepreneurship in First Nations communities. “JEDI has been working in the field of Economic Development in New Brunswick for almost 25 years and we are happy to be recognized for our efforts in supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs and community economic development." 

Startup Canada has already held regional ceremonies in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Edmonton, Mississauga and Montreal. The finale event will take place in Toronto in October.

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