Leahy Revives 2 Zombie Startups

A Halifax entrepreneur is relaunching two “zombie startups” in a bid to revitalize the stalled businesses.

John Leahy is the co-founder of Imagine That and Patient Intelligence. Both were created several years ago, but failed to gain traction.

Now, with new technology and more scalable business plans, Leahy sees an opportunity to make good on his original hopes for the companies.

“How we’re relaunching these zombies is that the focus is one customer at a time,” he said in an interview.

Zombies are the walking dead of the startup world—businesses that are not insolvent, but also not growing. They are often a drain on the entrepreneurial economy, because they consume resources that could be used by other, more vibrant companies.

To be considered a zombie by Entrevestor, a startup must be at least two years old, have not made any public announcements in two years and have not raised capital in at least three years. Entrevestor estimated there were at least 66 zombies among the 550 startups in the region in 2018.

Leahy, best known as a the CEO of the web development company immediaC, founded Imagine That with Debra Fraser in 2010, and Patient Intelligence with dentist Garnet Worthen in 2015.

Imagine That was originally conceived as an enterprise service that clothing retailers would place in their stores. Customers would have posed in front of cameras, and screens would have displayed images of them wearing the store’s merchandise. The system cost about $30,000 to develop.

Read Entrevestor's Analysis of Failures and Zombies in 2018

Leahy and Fraser were in conversation with perspective customers that included Macy’s, Sears and a Walmart subsidiary. In some cases, the deals being negotiated could have been worth upwards of $100,000 each.

But talks fell through, and by mid-decade, the development of Imagine That had stalled. The software was not advanced enough to generate convincing images, and the 3D clothing models were prohibitively expensive to produce, at about $300 per garment.

The new incarnation of the company relies on iPhone and Android apps that use Apple and Google’s free augmented reality platforms. Instead of 3D models of garments, they use 2D photos that are readily available from clothing manufacturers’ online databases, which has helped slash costs.

Leahy and Fraser relaunched the brand this May at Toronto’s Collision Conference, a major tech industry gathering. The app is currently being beta-tested and will be available to the public in December, with subscriptions priced at $99 monthly.

“The quality of the experience, this idea of a ‘magic mirror,’ the demand is still there,” said Leahy. “My wife and daughter are constantly saying, ‘When can we do the try-on-clothing app? Because I want to be able to try things on.’”

Patient Intelligence, meanwhile, is a database of obituaries gathered from newspaper websites and other sources by an automated “crawler.” Dentists can cross-reference the database, which currently has about 150,000 entries, against their patient lists to identify customers who may have died recently. The service is meant to prevent family members from receiving potentially upsetting appointment reminders.

The business never made it to launch in its first incarnation, but the website is now operational, with three Nova Scotia dentist offices beta-testing the service.

Since neither Imagine That, nor Patient Intelligence have any employees, their day-to-day operations are handled by immediaC—the 10-person search engine optimization company that Leahy has owned for two decades.

Neither zombie has sought outside investment, and Leahy has no plans to pursue angel financing or venture capital.

“They’re developed products at this point,” he said. “The focus is, go get customers.”

Biotech Segment Continues To Grow

The staff at Halifax-based drug development company AGADA.

The staff at Halifax-based drug development company AGADA.

One of the strongest developments in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in recent years is the development of the life sciences segment – both the biotech companies and the ecosystem that supports them.

Five years ago, these companies made up 16 percent of the companies we listed in our Entrevestor databank, but that proportion rose to 21 percent last year. And our research shows that the number of people working at Atlantic Canadian-owned life sciences companies rose 25 percent in 2018 to almost 1,300, while the companies that provided us with sales data showed a 95 percent increase in revenues. There were 24 new life sciences companies in 2018 (up from six in 2014), so that one-fifth of the region’s biotech companies were launched in 2018.

Finding a theme in this sector is difficult because there are several initiatives taking place across the region. On Prince Edward Island, the PEI BioAlliance continues to build up its community with a special emphasis on pet health and natural products. The BioAlliance’s Emergence incubator is growing into a more regional initiative.

In Nova Scotia, BioNova last year produced its BioFuture 2030 report, which sets out a roadmap for doubling the sector or better. It plans to triple employment to 4,100 jobs and quadruple revenues to $1.1 billion. It is also calling for new ecosystem initiatives, such as an accelerator to teach sales to life sciences companies.

BioNB Leads Cannabis Development Campaign 

Newfoundland and Labrador is beginning to launch more life sciences companies as the Bounce Health Innovation initiative is nurturing partnerships between innovators and the medical community. BioNB is growing and becoming more active in developing a cannabis R&D cluster in New Brunswick.

These provincial groups are working together more than ever before, as the life sciences group of the Atlantic Growth Strategy is bringing them together to work on common goals. BioNB, BioNova, the Newfoundland & Labrador Association of Technology Industries and the PEI BioAlliance are all working together in the Atlantic Canada Bio-Industries Alliance. This group brought together 20 companies and organizations in early 2019 to attend the 2019 BIO International Convention and Trade Show in Philadelphia.

As well as the ecosystem changes, there are some great companies pushing forward. Halifax-based ABK Biomedical raised a US$30 million (C$40 million) venture capital round this spring, a record for the region. Drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics listed on the TSX Venture exchange in June. Adaptiiv, which 3D prints boluses for cancer treatment, and Densitas, whose software measures breast density during mammograms, are both growing revenues. Moncton-based Picomole is developing its cancer detection device and has made inroads in the Boston area. Mara Renewables is producing its Omega-3 food supplements from algae and now employs 60 people. Publicly listed IMV of Dartmouth will soon announce the results of clinical trials for its flagship drug candidate, DPX-Survivac.

Funding of life sciences companies rose to a new plateau of more than $20 million per year in 2017 and 2018. The US$30 million funding round announced by ABK Biomedical will ensure that life sciences funding will set a record in 2019.

BioNova Calls for Tax Credit Reforms

While applauding recent investment tax credit reforms in Nova Scotia, the province’s life sciences association wants further improvements, including offering the credits to investors outside the region.

BioNova, the group that supports the development of health, life sciences and biotech companies in Nova Scotia, has teamed up with the consulting group Grant Thornton and the law firm Cox & Palmer to produce a new paper on Innovation Equity Tax Credits, or IETCs. They released the report last week at the annual BioPort conference in Halifax.

Most of the report’s 13 recommendations are technical, but No. 6 strikes at the heart of an ongoing debate in the startup community about investment tax credits. These credits are now only available to Nova Scotians, but BioNova and its co-authors want them offered to investors living elsewhere to increase the money going into high-growth companies. 

“Limiting it to Nova Scotia restricts investors and, most importantly, limits access to significant pools of capital,” says the report. “Regardless of the method, expanding the program as suggested in this paper to investors outside of Nova Scotia would likely be the biggest benefit to Nova Scotia companies in accessing funds.”

Most provinces in Canada and states in the U.S. offer a tax credit to investors in startups and other high-growth businesses as a means of encouraging investment in these businesses. Canadian provincial governments offer them only to residents living in (or businesses based in) their own provinces.

There’s been a long-standing push in Atlantic Canada for the four East Coast provinces to open up their tax credits to one another’s residents, or to offer them to investors anywhere in the world.

Motryx Wins $55,000 BioInnovation Challenge at BioPort

The Nova Scotia government in January enhanced its program so its new IETC applies to investments in approved companies of up to $250,000, up from $50,000. Investors can receive a credit equal to 35 percent of their qualifying investment, or 45 percent in the priority sectors of oceans technology and life sciences.

But the credit is still offered only to Nova Scotians. BioNova is recommending the province consider measures in place in such states as Alabama or Arkansas, which offer tax credits to external investors. Some states allow investors to transfer their credits, so an external investor can sell a tax credit to a local taxpayer. Others will offer a tax credit directly to external investors. Minnesota, for example, gives cheques to people outside the state making approved investments in companies based in the state.

The BioNova report said the Nova Scotia government could examine other means to encourage inward investment into the province’s startups, such as a payment to the target company rather than the investor. For example, if an investor in Boston invests $85,000 in a Nova Scotian company, the provincial government could provide the company with a further $15,000 to bring the total amount of capital raised to $100,000.

Peter Hickey, a BioNova board member and the CEO of biotech company Adaptiiv, said the recent changes to the province’s tax credits have already helped innovation-driven companies in the province.

“We were encouraged to see local investors benefit from the new changes,” he said in the report. “We truly believe that these are the types of significant improvements that are needed to ensure the success of technology-based businesses like ours, so we look forward to this trend continuing.”

Safa in Plug and Play with 1st Client

Jason Trask

Jason Trask

St. John’s-based Safa, which uses an artificial intelligence solution to help companies retain employees, has launched its product Safa Insight and is already working with its first enterprise client in the U.S.

The company issued a press release last week that also said it has been accepted into Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley organization that runs a series of accelerators for business-to-business technology companies. As well as being the largest venture capital fund in the Valley, Plug and Play is often referred to as “the world’s largest innovation platform.”

Safa combines AI with industrial-organizational psychology in a single solution to help companies understand their employees’ sentiments and so better retain them. Safa said that companies have had to hire expensive consultants with long wait-times to gain insights into industrial-organizational psychology. Safa Insight aims to provide knowledge that allows employers to take immediate action to predict and reduce employee turnover.

“With declining unemployment rates and voluntary turnover rates at an all-time high, our team is passionate about improving the quality of life for others by making work better,” said Safa Co-Founder and CEO Jason Trask in a statement.

Trask, a long-time entrepreneur who has raised millions of dollars of startup financing and had a successful exit, started the company in 2018. After a pivot last summer, he was joined as Co-Founder by Mandy Woodland, a startup veteran and attorney. Trask and Woodland had worked together as entrepreneurs-in-residence at the Memorial University Centre for Entrepreneurship.

With its evidence-based approach, Safa reveals which employees plan to quit and why, and how to keep them.  Safa’s proprietary “Turnover Intention Index” was developed by its industrial-organizational psychologists based on validated academic research, and uses artificial intelligence so it continuously improves.

15 Teams to Pitch at Volta Cohort on Nov. 20.

The company also offers its “Safa Certification Process”, which provides employers with a structured, repeatable process to effectively plan and implement their employee retention strategy. Clients of Safa will become “Safa Certified,” a sign to their employees and other stakeholders that they adhere to the highest standards when addressing employee retention. 

“We source data from [human resources] IT systems, labour market research, and employee surveys,” said Woodland in an email. “Using algorithms we’ve developed in-house, we combine the expertise of industrial-organizational psychology with AI to provide employers with a simple method to measure the likelihood of turnover.”

The company then prescribes solutions and provides support processes for an employer to take specific actions.

Safa is focusing its sales efforts initially on hotels and private hospitals, and its first client is a Dallas-based company that is one of the largest professional employer organizations in the U.S.  Woodland said this company works “with the national healthcare industry to place full-time and temporary physicians into hospitals and clinical care facilities.”

The Safa team has grown to 12 people who have expertise in industrial-organizational psychology, computer engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, and business. Having bootstrapped so far, the co-founders are now raising their first funding round with a goal of $1 million.

As part of that effort, Trask will pitch Nov. 20 at the Volta Cohort pitching event, which will award $25,000 to as many as five teams. Safa is also pitching at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit 2020 in Los Angeles, the largest hotel investment conference in the world. And it will soon take part in Plug and Play.

“The Plug and Play network brings together the best startups and the world’s largest corporations,” said Trask. “As the most active and largest Silicon Valley venture capital firm, they provide the perfect ecosystem to raise investment and find partners and we’re thrilled to have their support.”

Halifax Opens Innovation Outpost

The startup ecosystem in the region’s largest city got a boost Thursday with the launch of two initiatives overseen by the Halifax Partnership – the Halifax Innovation Outpost and the Halifax Innovation District.

Located at Volta, the Halifax Innovation Outpost is a new office whose mission is to nurture innovation that can improve the lives of Haligonians and help the city’s innovators work with the municipal government.

The Innovation District, which has been in the works for a couple of years, is a designation for about five square kilometres running from the campuses of Dalhousie and St. Mary’s universities, through Volta and stretching to the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth. Its mission is to take advantage of the dense grouping of innovators based in the area and help them interact to enhance the capacity for new ideas and ventures.

“The goal is to create cohesion among the many organizations that are dedicated to increasing the fertility of our entrepreneurship ecosystem within those five square kilometres,” said Miriam Zitner, the Halifax Partnership Vice-President in charge of the Innovation District. 

Volta, the startup hub in downtown Halifax, houses a group of corporate innovation outposts, which are offices where corporations or other organizations can station teams to work on innovative projects. The kernel of the strategy is to locate a remote team outside corporate headquarters and within a community of innovators so they can come up with new products and services.

Groups like Atlantic Lotto Corp., Accenture and the Province of Nova Scotia have set up outposts in Volta, and now the Halifax Innovation Outpost is the latest addition.

Operated jointly by Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax Partnership, the Halifax outpost will be led by Karl Allen-Muncey, former lead of the Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab in Kitchener, Ont., and the Innovation Outpost for Postmedia, Canada’s largest media company.

Zitner said the new Innovation Outpost will initially focus on three things: first, executing a data transparency project with HRM that tracks and reports on council's commitment to open up the municipality's data; second, to promote social innovations, including using technology to help implement the city’s poverty-reduction strategy; and third, to “make the city a living lab.”

The third component will include finding ways that the municipal government can act as an early adopter for startups in the city. As examples, Zitner said the nautical coating being developed by Graphite Innovation and Technologies could be tested on the city’s ferries, or the city could work with B-Line, which uses data to find solutions for transportation problems.

“Civic innovation is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Mayor Mike Savage in a statement. “This lab is an opportunity to find answers to longstanding challenges, to deploy agile thinking and new technologies in pursuit of a more livable city, and to make a statement that historic Halifax is stepping decisively into the future.”

The Halifax Partnership is also overseeing the Innovation District with support from the provincial government. The aim is to increase access to innovation spaces and resources and create stronger ties between academia, corporations, risk capital, government and entrepreneurs. 

The Partnership describes the Innovation District as a concentrated area where entrepreneurs, companies and organizations are collaborating to generate and accelerate new ideas. It is home to five universities and colleges, several incubators and innovation labs, and more than 2,000 companies. 

Zitner said the goal will be to increase links between the groups so they can share lessons learned and increase the number and success of viable high-growth companies in the city.

 

Disclosure: The Halifax Partnership and Volta are clients of Entrevestor. 

Jobs of the Week: Dal, Dash Hudson

A pair of openings at Halifax-based Dash Hudson and an opportunity at Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

The Newman Centre is Dalhousie’s hub for entrepreneurship, assisting students and staff across the university’s faculties who are interested in pursuing business ideas. The centre is looking for an Associate Director of Commercialization and Startups.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing Software-as-a-Service company that helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software, called Vision, is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. The company has openings for a Senior DevOps Engineer and a Senior Full Stack Developer.

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

Here is an excerpt from the headline postings this week:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Senior Full Stack Developer

At Dash Hudson, we believe that in today's world, some of the most meaningful interactions between brands and consumers happen through photos and videos. We aim to make these interactions impactful for brands. Our visual marketing software provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

We work with the world's leading brands and publishers to drive visual performance across all of their marketing channels. The Senior Full Stack Developer role offers a unique opportunity to build products for the world's leading brands and publishers such as Apple, Nordstrom, Sephora, Unilever, and Hearst from our office in the heart of downtown Halifax.

In case you were wondering, here's a little bit more about our team and products:

We're a diverse and growing team from around the world.

We offer competitive benefits, a flexible work schedule, bi-monthly catered lunches, a kitchen stocked with snacks, quarterly wellness benefits, and an annual company trip (dependent on hitting our annual sales target).

We build best-in-class beautiful, functional products that our customers love.

Our marketing platform is competing with the biggest companies in the marketing software industry.

We have a big vision for the future of visual intelligence. We want you to be part of it.

Our current stack includes: Vue.js, Python, Flask, Celery, Docker, MySQL, Redis, AWS (Aurora, ELB, ECS and lots more).

And here's a few interesting details about our tech:

Over 30 million unique monthly visitors for tools we support

Our tools are used on many very popular websites

Hundreds of TBs of media processed

Over 1 million images / videos added every month

Tens of TBs of data in our databases

Over 100 EC2 production instances

99.999% uptime

Large ML compute clusters for real time feedback

Large ElasticSearch clusters for snappy searches

Full CI/CD pipeline, 100% containerized microservice architecture

Dash Hudson is a group of hard-working go-getters. We're energetic, lively, and fast-learning. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves. The Dash Hudson office isn't your conventional office-you won't find any cubicles here. We created a space for our team to thrive in, and made sure to invest in a space that promotes both productivity and pause. We should also mention that we're very fond of furry friends at Dash Hudson, and have many honourary mascots that double as occasional coworkers.

Responsibilities

You will be collaborating closely with our designers, product owners and other developers. You will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build/modify backend APIs, write front-end javascript code that integrates with back-end APIs, and be responsible for ongoing improvements once deployed. If you are interested in joining a team of passionate people who like to work hard and play hard, we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Design, build, test and maintain web applications and services

Implement APIs using RESTful conventions for integrating with web and mobile applications

Work closely with our product and design teams to customize user experience on the front-end

Analyze and optimize application code for efficiency and performance

Write clean and well-organized code in accordance with industry best practices

Participate in peer reviewing of code and share expertise with other team members . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Senior DevOps Engineer

[See the description of Dash Hudson in the entry above.]

As a Senior DevOps Engineer you will play a key role in the overall success of Dash Hudson by managing, and monitoring internal systems and infrastructure. You will be responsible for various engineering efforts related to automation, scalability and security. 

Responsibilities

Prototype, design, and implement build system components
Implement automation tools and frameworks (CI/CD pipelines).
Collaborate with team members to improve the company's engineering tools, systems / procedures, and data security.
Optimize the company's computing architecture.
Conduct systems tests for security, performance, and availability.
Develop and maintain design and troubleshooting documentation.
Troubleshoot production issues and coordinate with the development team to streamline code deployment.
Develop data, process and network models to optimize architecture and to evaluate the performance and reliability of designs
Assess, test, troubleshoot, document, upgrade and develop maintenance procedures for operating systems, communications environments and applications software

Qualifications

Qualifications & Experience

4+ years of experience as a DevOps Engineer or similar role(s)
Experience with Linux server environments
Strong working knowledge of containers and orchestration (docker + kubernetes)
Knowledge of primary AWS services (EC2, ELB, RDS, Route53, S3, etc)
Proficiency with APIs / microservices architecture
Knowledge of system/network security and data backup/recovery
Ability to create scripts using Bash, Python, Perl or other language
Resourcefulness and problem-solving aptitude
Excellent communication skills

Additional Information

We believe in building great products that solve real problems for marketers, and being unabashed about our unique ability to be the best at what we do. We believe that mutual support among the team, and a willingness for all to figure out the seemingly impossible are what will propel us forward. . . 

Read the full job posting here.

Dalhousie University

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Associate Director of Commercialization and Startups

The Norman Newman Center for Entrepreneurship is part of Dalhousie's Faculty of Management. The Centre offers assistance to students and staff across faculties who are interested in pursuing business ideas, and there are options for students in the Faculties of Management and Commerce to complete majors in the area of entrepreneurship.

The Commercialization and Startup Programs include four different programs which are outlined below:

• Lab Crawls: These one-day events involve inviting Principal Investigators and their graduate students and postdocs to a “Lunch & Learn” about Dalhousie’s commercialization and startup programming, and in particular Research2Innovation, Lab2Market, Ready2Launch Accelerator and Creative Destruction Lab. This is followed by visits to several laboratories during the afternoon to understand their research, and is followed by a social event.

• Researcher2Innovator: This two-day programme explores the value of entrepreneurial thinking as (1) a means of developing careers and research of leading graduate students, post-docs and faculty; and (2), advancing the research, innovations and ideas into impacts, whether that be scientific, economic, social, cultural or environmental. It will inspire academic researchers to become innovators, and provide a pipeline of teams for the Lab2Market program.

• Lab2Market: The new Lab2Market program will generate a pipeline of more and better science- and engineering-based startups emerging from post-secondary research which can accelerate their growth at university-linked incubators and accelerators and eventually the broader startup community. The Lab2Market program uses the Lean Startup model and Business Model Canvas, and is based on similar successful I-Corps program in the U.S. and I-CURE program in the U.K. The Lab2Market national pilot will be led by Dalhousie and Ryerson. In addition, the first cohort of I-INCLab2Market will occur in Halifax in Winter/Spring.

• Ready2Launch Accelerator: The Ready2Launch Accelerator will be a 3-month program during the summer. It will focus on “teams” of newly formed startups, and use MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship accelerator model. Up to ten teams would receive between $10k and $15k for the 3 months. The program will have three key components over three months: (1) Customer; (2) Product Value; and (3) Overall Economics. Each month there would be a 1-hour “board meeting”. The Launch Accelerator will include a Demo Day.

Responsibilities

Job Summary

Working with the Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Director of the NNCE, the Associate Director will be responsible for Commercialization and Startup Programs which prepare scientists and engineers to: extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and advance the economic and societal benefits of research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization; identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research; gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs; and accelerate their growth in building viable, sustainable innovation-driven ventures. In addition, there will be another Associate Director of NNCEresponsible for other NNCEprogramming.

Key Responsibilities

- Develop short and long-term strategic plans and related operational measures and benchmarks for the Commercialization and Startup Programs, in conjunction with broader Dalhousie and Dal Innovates strategies, ensuring that resources and systems are in place to achieve planned objectives; establishes and monitors milestones to measure success.

- Develop and implement the Lab2Market national pilot program with others in the I-INCnetwork. Collaborate with other I-INC network Nodes across Canada in delivering and overseeing the Lab2Market programming nationally. Develop and maintain a comprehensive understanding of Lab2Market and I-INC and the resources and support available.

- Develop and implement the Ready2Launch Accelerator.

- Create all business processes and workflows to ensure the appropriate level of organization and service for Commercialization and Startup Programs, in accordance with Dalhousie policies and procedures. Work to establish metrics and a reporting structure for the metrics, as well as prepare an annual report of results (including economic impact) for Commercialization and Startup Programs.

- Manage the day-to-day operations of Commercialization and Startup Programs, ensuring the office operates in compliance with Dalhousie policies, procedures, and standards and is a model for operational best practices across the University.

- Manage stakeholder relationships including liaising and reporting with donors, corporate partners, senior Dalhousie employees, and government officials. Resolve conflicts between stakeholders, while ensuring strong cross Faculty relationships are maintained and strengthened. . . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Remembering a Soldier through his Letters

Harry MacKeen, a newly commissioned officer in 1915

Harry MacKeen, a newly commissioned officer in 1915

One of the highlights of 2019 for me was transcribing a bunch of old family papers, including correspondence from the First World War when my grandfather and his brother were artillery officers.

Each Remembrance Day, I always think of my grandfather H.P. MacKeen, and his service in the Great War. This year I know more about his time overseas than ever before because I went through his letters from the front.

I already knew Harry, as he was known, fought at such battles as Ypres and Passchendaele as a Major with the Royal Canadian Artillery, and that in 1916 he suffered shell shock so severe he had to be hospitalized in England. But this year I went through his papers and found what’s survived of his letters from the front.

Only about a half dozen of his letters from the war survive, as well as one or two from his brother David. As most soldiers do, he edited what he wrote to his mother. He was more candid to others, like his sister Marjorie. Though his letters to her are lost, we have her response of July 8, 1916 after he’d written her. “I cannot tell you how thrilling your last letter was – I mean the one written to me with such graphic descriptions of that ghastly battle,” she wrote. “It simply made my hair stand on end while reading it.”

He had told her his letters to their mother were less graphic, and she agreed he had to protect their mother from the truth of his ordeal. They both agreed he should tell her just enough about the battles that she would not suspect he was holding anything back, but he should spare her grisly details.

The main thing I learned from his letters was his role in the gun crew. I remember once in the late 1960s Harry explained to me the different jobs everyone had within a gun crew, but I was too young at the time to take it in.

In one letter home (undated as the first page was missing), Harry explained that he was a F.O.O., or a Forward Observation Officer. The gun crew set up behind the trenches, where they would shell the German positions, often without being able to see their targets. The F.O.O. (viewing the field of battle through binoculars) and a signaler would be located in the trenches, ahead of the gun battery, to monitor where the shells were landing. Once he saw the shells land, the F.O.O. would have the signaler radio back to the gun crew telling them how to adjust their aim to zero in on the objective.

Harry included a little cartoon at the bottom to illustrate the positioning of the F.O.O. Throughout his life, he continued to include cartoons in the margins of his letters, usually amplifying some joke in the text.

Early in the war, Harry gave the impression he enjoyed being a F.O.O. and witnessing the explosions, but it was dangerous work and Harry saw too many signalers die.

“I lost my best signaler the other day, Sgt. Oakes,” he wrote to his mother on Nov. 17, 1917. “He was on O.P. duty at the time. He was a fine fellow and the last survivor but one of all the signalers [who] were brought from Halifax. They are a very hard lot to replace. They were a dare-devil crowd and absolutely the last word in anything to do with signaling or O.P. work and the best lot in the world to work with.”

Harry survived the war, but he suffered from PTSD well into the 1920s. He overcame it and had a successful career as a trial lawyer, becoming Lieutenant-Governor in 1963. I was only 10 when he died, but his impact on me was huge.

A few cartons of his papers had been sitting in a crawl space in my house for years, and this year I finally went through them and took them into the Nova Scotia Public Archives. They’re now preserved for posterity. It seems fitting to remember Harry on the day when we salute the heroism of the millions of people who served. 

Introhive Hits No. 10 in Tech Fast50

Jody Glidden

Jody Glidden

Relationship intelligence company Introhive has placed No. 10 in the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast50, the first Atlantic Canadian company to break the top 10 in the prestigious pan-Canadian competition.

The global consultancy Deloitte on Thursday announced the winner of the Canadian program, which ranks tech companies based on four years of revenue history. Introhive, based in Fredericton and Washington, D.C., placed 10th with revenue growth of 1,700 percent over four years.

In an interview, CEO Jody Glidden said the company continues to experience high growth and is planning to raise its third funding round next summer with a target of US$50 million to $70 million (C$66 million to $92 million.)

“We had been told by a lot of our investors that we were the fastest-growing company that a lot of them had seen, so we decided to enter,” said Glidden, when asked why Introhive took part in the Tech Fast50. “We’re growing at an extraordinary pace. This is the fastest- growing startup that I’ve certainly been involved in.”

Glidden and his co-founder Stewart Walchli have been involved in a few companies, and sold two to Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) early in the century. In 2012, they launched Introhive to help corporate sales teams increase their connections by understanding who their colleagues knew. From there, Introhive grew into a company that helped sales teams use customer relationship management tools more effectively.

“Every company needs a CRM but it’s a difficult thing to get people to use effectively,” said Glidden. “Our software does almost all of the work for you, and we’re getting all the great insights of the CRM into the hands of the right people.”

Introhive’s sales have grown steadily and Glidden said there is no sign of them slowing down. The company’s strategy has been to enter one vertical (or market segment), focus on growth in that vertical, then move on to another segment. It started with the accounting market then moved on to global systems integration, law firms, finance, commercial real estate, and most recently tech companies.

Through it all, the company has been successful at raising capital. In June 2018, Intohive raised a US$15.2 million equity and debt round led by Toronto-based venture capital firm Lake Bridge Capital. Its Atlantic Canadian investors include Halifax-based Build Ventures, and Fredericton-based New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Introhive now has more than 200 employees, and more than half of them are in the company’s Atlantic Canadian offices in Fredericton, Saint John and Halifax.

Introhive is the first Atlantic Canadian company since 2015 to be named to the Deloitte Tech Fast50. STI Technologies of Halifax claimed 41st spot on the list in 2015. Then in February 2017, the company was purchased, reportedly for more than $200 million, by American multinational QuintilesIMS.

St. John’s-based Verafin was named to the Fast 50 in both 2011 and 2012, and it recently received $515 million in debt-and-equity funding, the largest VC round ever in Canada.

The next funding round will certainly be a key focus for Introhive execs in 2020, but Glidden said the big thing for the company will be simply to concentrate on basics.  

“This year that’s coming up, we’re focusing a lot more on becoming a more efficient company – everything from growth rate to retention rate with customers to all the SaaS metrics,” he said. “We have goals set for all SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] metrics and want to be best of breed in all these metrics.”

15 To Pitch at Volta Cohort Nov. 20

Fifteen Atlantic Canadian tech startups have been selected to pitch at the fall 2019 Volta Cohort Pitch Event on Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Halifax.

As many as five companies will receive $25,000 in investment as well as mentorship, office space and other benefits.

Volta Cohort launched in 2017 to address the lack of early-stage investment and resources available to young tech startups in the region. In its four previous pitch events, the program has awarded $475,000 in investments.

“Volta Cohort launched two years ago as an experiment to see if funding high-calibre, early-stage startups would lead to more venture-path companies in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. "The program has exceeded expectations, with Cohort companies collectively raising a total of more than $6 million in received and pending investments, and we continue to see a wide range of innovative applicants across sectors."

The pitching competition will be held at the event space at Volta on Barrington Street in Halifax begiinning at 5:30. You can register here

The finalists are:

Bloxo Inc. (Halifax) – Bloxo is a mobile and web-based platform that simplifies the process of organizing and participating in sports, by connecting organizers, players and facilities.

Bookt (Halifax) – bookt.ca is a consolidated, just-in-time appointment booking platform that connects on-the-go customers with in-demand beauty professionals.

Bursity Inc. (Halifax) – Bursity.ca is developing a web platform that helps post-secondary students pay their tuition by finding and applying for financial awards in a few easy steps. Its platform uses one universal form to connect students to more than 2 million funding opportunities.

Clever Fruit (Bridgewater, NS) – Clever Fruit manufactures a fermented nutraceutical ingredient to manage cholesterol naturally.

Electric Owl Solutions Ltd. (Halifax) – Electric Owl is developing subscription-based software solutions for community gardens, urban gardeners and small-scale farmers.

Hyke Technologies Inc. (St. John’s) – Hyke Technologies is developing a customer acquisition, retention, and expansion platform to revamp B2C's engagement with millennials.

JellyGood (Cole Harbour, NS) – Jellygood makes a collagen protein bar that delivers better nutrition.

Legal Innovation Lab (Charlottetown) – Legal Innovation Lab collaborates with specialist lawyers to create premium, do-it-yourself legal solutions for families and entrepreneurs, to offer solutions that cost 60 to 80 percent less than a lawyer’s typical rate.

Let’s Glo (Halifax) – Let’s Glo is a personalized employee engagement software for millennials and the companies that they work at.

Macro Movements (Sydney) – Macro Movements uses artificial intelligence to track, analyze and perfect human movement patterns.

Placebuilder (Halifax) – Placebuilder is developing a platform that will allow like-minded collaborators to capture and display their efforts for better outcomes.

RIDDL (Fredericton) – RIDDL provides proprietary data to impact investors to guide better investment decisions.

Roadblock (Halifax) – Roadblock uses computer vision and machine learning to give cities a complete view of their road infrastructure’s condition.

Safa (St. John’s) – Safa is creating an AI-powered employee retention solution for companies.

Sparrow Acoustics (Halifax) – Sparrow Acoustics is making it possible for healthcare professionals to triage a cardiac patient in less than 10 minutes using only software and an electronic stethoscope. The company combines a decade of auscultation research with computer visualization, proprietary acoustic algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

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

Volta Cohort receives funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BDC Capital, and Innovacorp.

Kognitiv Spark Makes Companies-To-Watch List

Yan Simard

Yan Simard

Fredericton-based augmented reality company Kognitiv Spark has been named to the Companies-to-Watch list as a part of Deloitte’s 2019 Technology Fast50 Awards.

The Companies-to-Watch award highlights emerging Canadian tech companies that exhibit strong growth and show potential to be a future candidate for the Technology Fast50 award.  Like the main Fast50 list, the results are based on revenue growth, though the Companies to Watch have a shorter revenue history. To be eligible, companies must also devote a significant portion of their operating revenues to creating proprietary technology or intellectual property.  

“We’re excited to be receiving this recognition from Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 Awards,” said Kognitv Spark CEO Yan Simard in a statement. “It stands as a testament to everything we’ve built here at Kognitiv Spark and the efficiencies our customers have been able to achieve using our product.”

The Fredericton company uses augmented reality and mixed reality to assist remote workers using complicated equipment. If a remote worker needs instruction in using equipment or repairs are needed, a supervisor in a main office can use augmented reality to walk him or her through the steps to make sure the equipment works properly.

Simard attributed the win to the technical innovations achieved by his team to create a secure and reliable augmented reality remote support tool. He also cited the expertise of company leadership in tandem with a supportive network of industry partners. 

“Companies-to-Watch winners deserve recognition for their early-stage growth, bold entrepreneurship and forward-thinking,” said Erica Pretorius, Partner and National Leader for the Technology Fast50 program at Deloitte Canada. “By demonstrating courage, seeking opportunities, and taking calculated risks, these outstanding companies are key to the success of the technology sector.” 

Motryx Wins $55K BIC Competition

Franziska Broell

Franziska Broell

Motryx, the Halifax company whose technology improves the transportation of blood samples, has won the $55,000 BioInnovation Challenge, Atlantic Canada’s top pitching competition for life sciences companies.

Co-Founder and CEO Franziska Broell pitched the company at the finals on Wednesday at BioNova’s Bioport Atlantic competition. The other finalists were Charlottetown-based AgTech company Fieldetect, and Halifax-based SeeChange BioChemistry, which will manufacture high-value compounds from biomass.

Now in its ninth year, BIC is designed to support young life sciences companies by teaching contestants how to pitch for investment. As the winner, Motryx will receive $25,000 in seed funding and a $30,000 advisory services package to develop its business idea.

Because hospitals and healthcare systems are becoming bigger and more centralized, blood samples are often shipped to labs over great distances, sometimes including air shipment. About 3 percent of samples end up being unusable because they are ruined due to the time, temperature or vibrations involved in the trip. Motryx has developed blood vials with sensors that transmit to labs data on the conditions during the trip, allowing lab officials to identify problems and solve them.

“In the last six months, we’ve secured eight early adopter clients in Europe and the U.S., and we’ve been able to convert two into paying clients,” Broell told the panel of judges.

The company is also doing a pilot in Africa in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The company so far has raised $1.5 million, including investment from Killick Capital and Concrete Ventures.

BioNB Leads Campaign for Seeking Alternative Markets for Cannabis

SeeChange BioChemistry is using a new bio-refinery process to produce high-value compounds from sustainable sources.

Co-Founder Chris Rafuse said the company, which was founded this year, has found a method to use a form of biomass to produce three industrial compounds: polyphenols, which are used in pharmaceutical industries to help with obesity and Type 2 diabetes; lactic acid, which can be used in 3D printing, plastics and other industrial uses; and another compound that Rafuse declined to name.

Refuse said the company is attacking a $4 billion global market opportunity, and current methods of producing these materials involve extraction from petrochemicals and result in a lot of waste. There is no waste with the SeeChange process, he said, and users demand more sustainable sourcing.

“We’ve never made an outside call,” said Rafuse, adding that the company’s six prospective clients all contacted SeeChange. The company will soon be ready to start selling. “We want to hit the market hard and fast so no one sees us coming and we think we can gain a lot of market share very quickly.”

Operating under a licensing agreement with the University of Prince Edward Island, Fieldetect is developing a hand-held device that will allow farmers to detect disease in their herds fast enough to prevent a large outbreak.

President and Co-Founder Andrew Trivett said the company is beginning with hog farmers, who now have to take samples from their herds and send them to a lab to be tested. In the day or two it takes to get the results back, a disease could spread, possibly leading to a cull of the entire herd.

“What if we could take that test and have the farmer do it themselves, have it take less than an hour and get the result immediately?” asked Trivett.

Fieldetect has developed LabAnywhere, a handheld device that will test a sample from the animal and give farmers the results on their smartphones in about 40 minutes. The team expects to begin shipping the product in late 2020 and sell about 500 units in the subsequent 12 months.

Startup Metrics Talk in Fredericton

Please join us Nov. 13 for Entrevestor's State of the Startup Community presentation at the Wu Centre at University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

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

The Fredericton presentation will take place at 1 pm on Nov. 13 at Room 204 of the Wu Centre. You can find tickets here.

We’d like to thank the following organizations for making this presentation possible: the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship; Ignite Fredericton; and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

We’re lining up more of these presentations. I will be delivering the presentation at Volta in Halifax on Nov. 27 at noon. And we hope to announce a few others in the coming weeks.

Dahn, Guida To Headline NBIF’s R3

Jeff Dahn, showing off a Tesla.

Jeff Dahn, showing off a Tesla.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has announced the keynote speakers at its R3 2020 gala will be Jeff Dahn, the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair at Dalhousie University, and Vincenzo Guida, research fellow for Procter & Gamble.

First held 11 years ago, R3 is a biennial event that recognizes leaders in applied research at New Brunswick universities and research institutions. NBIF holds the event in the years when it does not hold Breakthru, the biennial competition for startups.

“The calibre of these speakers underlines NBIF’s growing profile as a research partner and investor,” said NBIF Director of Research Laura Richard. “Prof. Dahn and Dr. Guida are both highly accomplished researchers, and we think their expertise and experience will be of significant interest to our event attendees.”

The R3 gala will take place April 2 at the Fredericton Convention Centre, and tickets can be purchased here. The event will feature a formal R3 luncheon to honour New Brunswick’s Top 25 Star Mentors – those from the province’s colleges and universities who have done an exemplary job of training the next generation of researchers.

Jeff Dahn is a research pioneer of lithium-ion batteries and has held a research chair position at Dalhousie University since 1996. In 2016, he began a research partnership with Tesla Motors as the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair. His group is focused on improving lithium-ion cells through increased energy density and battery life, along with reduced costs.

His lithium-ion battery research has received numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Innovation Award in 2016 and the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal in Science and Engineering, Canada’s top science prize, in 2017.

Vincenzo Guida’s projects have run the innovation gamut, from early stage to market implementation. With particular expertise in bleach chemistry and surfactant science, he has developed the manufacturing process for many new innovative and sustainable products in the fabric and home arenas.

He has authored more than 50 publications, including patents and articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and spoken at physics and engineering conferences around the world.

H.I.G. Closes BioVectra Purchase

The American private equity group H.I.G. Capital said it has completed its US$250 million purchase of Charlottetown-based Biovectra, which makes ingredients for drugs.

The private equity fund, which has $34 billion under management, issued a statement on Monday saying one of its affiliates completed the purchase from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, of the U.K. Mallinckrodt said in September it had agreed to the sale, which would feature a fixed payment now and a deferred payment that will depend on the company’s performance.

BioVectra Inc. is a leading contract development and manufacturing organization, or CDMO, which means it manufactures drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates for pharmaceutical companies.

“We are excited to enter into this new chapter with H.I.G. Capital,” said BioVectra CEO Oliver Technow in the statement Monday. "We have been fortunate over the last few years with the support of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to execute on our strategic growth plan. We look ahead to continuing on this path with H.I.G. Capital, an experienced investor in the CDMO space. H.I.G. is committed to our strategy and management team, and we look forward to continuing to pursue the company’s various growth initiatives."

Under the new ownership, BioVectra plans to continue to develop its plants in Charlottetown and Windsor, N.S., which together will add 150 employees. The company now employs 350 people and since 2015 has averaged almost $25 million in capital investments each year.

"We are very pleased to partner with Oliver Technow as well as his exceptional leadership team and dedicated employees," said Mike Gallagher, Managing Director at H.I.G. Capital. "Oliver and his team have expanded BioVectra’s presence by pursuing strategic capital expenditure programs to significantly expand capacity. We believe the company is well positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for its broad set of technical capabilities and exceptional quality track record."

NBIF in 19 VC Deals in 2018-19

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation increased its applied research funding about 150 percent in its most recent fiscal year, though its direct venture capital investment dropped.

The Fredericton-based innovation and venture capital group has issued its annual report for the 2018-2019 fiscal year (which ended March 31). It shows the foundation invested a total of $5.2 million in 19 VC investments, including three commitments that had been committed but not closed at year-end. That’s a drop of 16 percent from $6.2 million in the previous fiscal year.

The annual report also outlines the foundation’s contributions to applied research and R&D. It funded $9.7 million in applied research, more than double the $3.9 million figure of the previous year. And its Innovation Voucher program – in which private companies can work with approved researchers to conduct R&D – received $1.7 million, compared with $2.1 million a year earlier.

NBIF participated in a range of transactions in which other parties invested a total of $90.1 million – an increase of almost three times over $32.6 million in the previous fiscal year.

“We know that innovation is a continuous cycle of iteration and experimentation,” said CEO Jeff White, who assumed his role in October 2018, in his comments in the report. “It takes time, and resources, to get it right. But when you do, the impact can be significant, as we have seen repeatedly here in New Brunswick.”

NBIF has a dual function. It invests in and nurtures early-stage innovation companies, and it helps to finance research that can help New Brunswick companies. Its two VC funds nurture startups and it also helps New Brunswick companies fund R&D in the province’s research institutions through its Innovation Voucher and Applied Research programs.

NBIF’s Venture Capital Fund, which invests in scaling companies, invested a total of $4.62 million in the following companies:

Anessa                               $250,000

Avrij                                   $250,000

Beauceron Security           $750,000

EhEye                                $150,000

Gemba                              $250,000

Kognitiv Spark                  $500,000

Loft1                                  $50,000

Populus                             $250,000

Porpoise                           $100,000

Repable                             $100,000

Resson Aerospace           $227,368

Rise                                    $250,000

Smart Skin                        $500,000

Sonrai Security                $334,787

Soricimed                         $250,000

Stash Energy                    $250,000

The Startup Investment Fund invests in new companies, and it committed a total of $550,000 as follows:

Canum Nanomaterials      $250,000

RIDDL                                $100,000

TurboPlay                         $200,000

The report noted that NBIF received an internal rate of return of 96 percent from its two-year, $513,000 investment in Envenio, a Fredericton-based company that specializes in fluid dynamics. It was purchased last fall by California vaping company Juul for an undisclosed price. In June, the CVCA presented NBIF with a 2019 Private Capital Regional Impact Award for its investment in Envenio.

The 2018-19 fiscal year covered one of the strongest periods ever for venture capital investment in New Brunswick. The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, or CVCA, stated that VC investment in New Brunswick in calendar 2018 amounted to $78 million, almost four times as much as the previous year.

Most of the funding came in three deals, all of which featured NBIF participation: Cybersecurity company Sonrai Security raised US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million); relationship intelligence company Introhive raised US$15.2 million in an equity-and-debt round; and AgTech data company Resson raised $14 million.

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

Passiv Eyes US with Alpaca Deal

Passiv Co-Founders Brendan Wood, left and Brendan Lee Young

Passiv Co-Founders Brendan Wood, left and Brendan Lee Young

Passiv, whose technology helps passive investors manage their portfolios, has partnered with Silicon Valley-based Alpaca, which should help the Fredericton company expand in the all-important U.S. market.

Alpaca is a stock brokerage that operates an application program interface, or API, that allows users to program their own “robo-advisor”, or a program that will automatically balance a passive stock portfolio.  

Passiv aims to help passive investors who don’t know computer programing. It is developing a new solution based on the Alpaca API to give Alpaca clients the option of replicating robo-advisor portfolios without having to write a line of code.

“We’re excited to partner with Alpaca because their robust API will enable us to build more powerful features, create amazing user experiences and help more people to invest,’‘ said Passiv CEO Brendan Lee Young in a statement.

Passiv announced the new partnership at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, which it attended as part of the Atlantic Fintech Mission organized by Venn Innovation.

Passive investing is the practice of investing money in low-cost assets like ETFs and holding them for a long period of time so that transaction fees and other costs don’t eat into the holder's ultimate returns. The problem is that different assets appreciate (or depreciate) at different rates. So, to maintain a portfolio at the proper balance between stocks, bonds and other assets, the owner has to keep monitoring and tinkering with the portfolio. It takes time.

Robo-adviser services do this automatically, but they cost money. What Passiv does is help passive investors rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily. It notifies users when cash comes into their account and when their portfolio drifts out of alignment with their target.

Moncton-based SnapAp Wins Channel Innovation Award

“We’re very excited to see Passiv building a robo-advisor product on top of our platform,” said Alpaca CEO Yoshi Yokokawa. “This proves Alpaca’s community-driven approach and brings us one step closer to our vision of creating a developer-first investing infrastructure.”

Passiv now has three employees and its product is used to manage more than $250 million of funds in Canada. Lee Young, who co-founded Passiv almost three years ago with CTO Brendan Wood, said in an email that Passiv’s revenues have been increasing by four times annually, and the agreement with Alpaca should accelerate the growth.

“With this announcement and a push into the U.S. market, we expect for it to grow by 10x in the next year,” said Lee Young. “This will allow us to demonstrate how we can improve the investing experience for other brokerages in the U.S., U.K. and other parts of the globe.”

Passiv, which already has a partnership with Canadian online brokerage Questrade, said that major American online brokerages like Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, and Fidelity are dropping their trading commissions. This raises the question of how these brokerages plan to differentiate themselves. Lee Young believes that having open APIs and faster processes for vetting and partnering with companies like his could be one part of the solution.

“It’s really hard to get access to online brokers’ APIs and not all APIs are of good quality,” he said. “In my opinion, brokerages will need to get better at partnering, improving their APIs and also curating the right tools for clients if they want to compete.”

He added he was impressed with Alpaca’s openness to making changes to its API to accommodate Passiv, and that the New Brunswick company’s developers were elated by how easy it was to integrate with Alpaca.

Lee Young said his company is eager to find more partners: “We are going to be supporting and seeking more partnerships with U.S. brokerages, as well as raising capital.”

Startup Failures & Zombies in 2018

When we produce our annual Atlantic Canada Startup Data report, there are two sets of statistics that people usually find interesting because they're stark reminders of the perils of entrepreneurship: zombies and failures.

We found that 66 Atlantic Canadian startups failed in 2018, and we estimated there are the same number of zombies.

To put that in perspective, we were following 486 startups at the end of 2017, and in the coming year more than one-quarter of them were either out of business or raising questions about their prospects. And we think we may have been conservative on the number of zombies.

Failures

As the above chart shows, the number of startup failures in the past few years has risen, with 66 recorded in each of the last two years.

Most interpret this as good news. In fact, when we delivered presentations on our data report in 2018, no audience member expressed any shock that the number of failures is rising. When these companies close down, they free up human talent for other companies, and ease the demand for financial resources from funders and support organizations. Failures allow the stronger companies better access to scarce resources.

One third of failures – 22 companies – had launched in 2017, so they never really got off the ground. Many of these were university projects with which the founders simply chose not to continue.

We counted six failed companies in 2018 that had raised equity capital. The most notable failure was AIOtv, a Halifax- and Denver-based IT company that had employed 20 people in 2016. The company received $1 million in funding from Innovacorp, and a year later sold 44 percent of the company to China’s UTStarcom Holdings Corp. for $8 million.

Zombies

We label a startup a zombie company if it meets three criteria: the company has to be at least two years old, hasn’t made a public announcement in two years and hasn’t raised capital in at least three years. Sure, there are some companies silently forging ahead, but generally prolonged silence is a sign of trouble.

We found there were 66 zombies at the end of 2018. It’s a noticeable drop of about one-quarter from the previous year, but it would be imprudent to conclude that things are improving. Many of the zombies from 2017 made their way into our failure list in 2018.

People often ask what factors create zombies. We can’t establish cause and effect, but we can identify some concentrations and patterns in how companies develop.

Where Zombies Lurk in Atlantic Canada
Province Zombies Concentration*
Nova Scotia 44 15%
New Brunswick 11 8%
Newfoundland and Labrador 3 4%
Prince Edward Island 8 17%

Source: Entrevestor Databank. (*Concentration is the number of zombies expressed as a percentage of the total startups in the province in question.)

As a side exercise, we carried out another test to indicate the number of zombie companies. We took all 326 companies that were more than two years old and researched how many had grown to more than two employees. The rationale was that if a company is truly growing, it will be hiring people, and that increase will be visible. We found 97 companies had zero-to-two employees – 30 percent of the total. We will stick with our headline figure of 66 zombies, but the examination of staffing again shows we may be underestimating the prevalence of the undead.

Startup Data Presentation at Volta

If you’re in Halifax on Nov. 27 and are interested in learning about The State of the Startup Community, go to Volta at noon.

I will be presenting our 2018 Atlantic Canadian Startup Data report in a Lunch and Learn presentation at Volta. You can find tickets here.

We published our sixth annual data report a few weeks ago. It’s available to everyone this year because of the support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Volta and our other partners. There’s a lot of interest in our findings, and this is your chance to come out and discuss them.

You can access the full report by clicking the black box at the top right of this screen.

Many thanks to the crew at Volta for making this possible.

Cove Kombucha Backed by $1.2M

Halifax-based Cove Kombucha has closed a $1.2 million equity funding round, which the maker of healthy drinks hopes will go toward upgrading its facility, increasing production and reaching new markets.

The company said in a press release last week it attracted the investment from Vancouver-based Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, after a one-month search.

Cove is now selling its kombucha – a fermented tea drink that boasts various health benefits – at the Eastern Canadian outlets of such chains as Costco, Sobey’s and Whole Foods Markets, as well as in numerous convenience and health food stores. In December, it will launch a new product line that contains CBD, a cannabis derivative known as cannabidiol. It will be the first CBD kombucha sold in Canada.

“The kombucha market is quickly maturing and transitioning from a specialty food and beverage product to fridge staple for many Canadians,” said CEO John MacLellan in the statement.

From humble beginnings at a farmer’s market just three years ago, Cove has become an industry leader in the rising Kombucha market. The statement said the company is Canada’s fastest-growing kombucha company, and that its $1.2 million funding round is the largest seed round raised by a Canadian beverage startup in 2019.

Chief Strategy Officer Ian Whytock said in an interview the startup will be entering into a close and long-term partnership with Canaccord, ensuring the development of Cove’s next generation of health drinks.

MacLellan said Cove reached out to work with Canaccord on account of the investment group’s strong marketplace reputation, and he has high hopes for the two companies working together. This seed money will help Cove further its mission of providing healthy and delicious drinks to a growing consumer market. It has already allowed Cove to purchase more advanced bottling equipment which uses less plastic, furthering the company’s mission of sustainability.

The investment will also allow Cove to expand from its existing product line to manufacture and market CBD kombucha, which will be sold through designated retailers like the NSLC. “It’s the non-psychoactive part of cannabis, providing lots of wellness benefits,” said MacLellan in the interview. “It’s part of the New Wave 2.0 of health beverages.”

Though they set out to build a consumer product company, MacLellan and his brother Ryan (now the Chief Marketing Officer) adopted the “lean startup” model, most commonly seen in the tech sector. Where traditional companies spend years on product development, lean methodology requires the entrepreneur to interview a swath of potential customers to learn what they want and will pay for. The goal is to find a market before investing in the product.

Whytock also said Cove’s earlier success has attracted substantial venture capital funding, even though it is a beverage company. It shows a shift in the VC market, he said, adding: “You didn’t see venture-funded consumer products a decade ago.”

Whytock says the company’s goal is to have its products in stores coast-to-coast by 2020, and Cove is already investigating potential exports of its new CBD kombucha to the growing number of U.S. states where cannabis is legal. Cove now employs four people, and hopes to double staffing in the near future.

The new investment vindicates Cove’s strategy and business model, said Whytock, which shows the strengths of the region’s development and entrepreneurship. “Cove is proving that you can produce a successful consumer product company in Atlantic Canada.” 

32 Named to Propel’s Incite Phase 2

Propel has named 32 companies to Phase 2 of its Incite program – its biggest intake yet in the virtual tech accelerator.

The chosen companies span Eastern Canada.  Eleven companies are from Nova Scotia, nine from Newfoundland and Labrador, seven from New Brunswick, and four from P.E.I.  There is also one company from Quebec.

Because the Incite curriculum is delivered online, there are no restrictions on where the participants are based, and mentors from all over the world are able to interact with the attendees. Each company also receives a dedicated coach to give the entrepreneurs individual attention.

 “The momentum of Incite is building and we are thrilled that a number of the companies were referred to us by our alumni,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “We are confident this cohort boasts many of the most promising startups in our region and we cannot wait to work with them.”

Phase 2 of Incite runs for seven months and aims to help the founders build a scalable and repeatable sales process using the GrowthX methodology for market development.  Silicon Valley-based GrowthX helps people to commercialize innovation through an online platform that allows companies to access the content as they need it. Propel has regional exclusivity agreements to use GrowthX’s programming.

Companies enrolled in Phase 2 will have a chance to receive funding by several means, including a $50,000 investment commitment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp, a $25,000 cash prize, and a $30,000 investment for the winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award.

The following companies were selected for Phase 2:

AGILE, Érik Lebrun, New Brunswick.

Alibee, Axel Lecomte, Quebec.

Bench Boss, Dave D'Entremont, Ian Coultas, Newfoundland and Labrador.

CareCrew, Abdel Moslih, Nova Scotia.

Cyno, Peter Barbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

eChart Healthcare, Rivers Corbett, Amanda Betts, New Brunswick.

Flip the Page, Alex English, New Brunswick.

FoodByte, Matthew Winchester, Douglas M. Armour, Jessy Gervais, Nova Scotia.

Gibli Tech, Ben Bschaden, Mark Ernsting, Nova Scotia/British Columbia.

Hanatech, Chuck Lienaux, Nova Scotia.

Hyke, Sid Eskand, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Inspectar, Liam Cadigan, Daryll Day, Matthew Noseworthy, Nicholas Warren, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Invisible Agents, Stuart Boyd, Nova Scotia.

JellyGood, Cole Turner, Eric Gelineau, Nova Scotia.

Jobsite360, Peter Douglas, P.E.I.

Milk Moovement, Robert Forsythe, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Motryx, Franziska Broell, Nova Scotia.

Oliver POS, Mathias K. Nielsen, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Peri CRM, Harsh (Gary) Kohli, New Brunswick.

Rally, Daniel Joseph Di Maria, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Reset Breathe Fitness, Tracey Gairns Brioux, P.E.I.

RIDDL, Jess Peters, Jenelle Sobey, New Brunswick.

Septicsitter, Kelly Galloway, P.E.I.

ShopLaw, Randy Campbell, Devon Ross, P.E.I.

Simbi, Alexander Gillis, Aaron Friedland, British Columbia/Nova Scotia.

SnapAP, Sionne Roberts, New Brunswick.

SpreeSpot, Jason Bernard, Kevin Hebert, New Brunswick.

totaliQ, Andrew Sinclair, Newfoundland and Labrador/Ontario.

Tranquility Online, Joel Muise, Nova Scotia.

Universal Cognitive Solutions, Mark Gauci, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Union.dev, Randy Ansems, Kevin Ansems, Marisa Ansems, Nova Scotia.

Venture 2 Impact, Fadi AlQassar, Nova Scotia.

Swarmio Plans TSX Venture Listing

Vijai Karthigesu: 'We need to inject capital to scale.'

Vijai Karthigesu: 'We need to inject capital to scale.'

Sydney-based Swarmio Media, which helps reduce lag times in video gaming, has begun the process of listing on the TSX Venture exchange and raising about $6 million in development capital.

Formerly called Ubique, Swarmio earlier this month filed documents with regulators outlining how it will gain the listing through a capital pool company, or CPC, transaction. Swarmio will do a reverse takeover with a publicly listed shell company called Cairo Resources to secure its listing on the TSX Venture Exchange. Leading up to and during the transaction, which is expected in the first quarter of 2020, Swarmio intends to sell $6 million in shares to fund future growth.

“We are at the stage where we need to scale,” said CEO Vijai Karthigesu in a phone interview on Monday. “There are 2.5 billion gamers in the world and two-thirds of them live in Asia and Latin America. . . . We need to target these regions so what we need is a lot of money. We need to inject capital to scale.”

One of the company’s largest shareholders is Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia early-stage VC agency, which has invested $2.5 million in the company. Innovacorp Vice President of Investment Andrew Ray said in an email it intends to hold on to its Swarmio shares after the listing, though he added the public listing will make an exit easier when the time to sell does come.

Swarmio aims to solve a huge problem with multi-player online games. When players in different parts of the world are playing one another, the system is much faster for the player closest to the server, giving that player an unfair advantage. Swarmio’s solution is to develop a network of remote servers, so the players are always playing on a server based roughly equal distances from each of them. Swarmio is a decentralized eSports platform with an automated tournament management system. Today, Swarmio's platform connects more than 170 data centers in more than 70 regions globally.

Atlantic Canadian Startups Eye Stock Market Listings

Video gaming has become the world’s largest entertainment market with US$139 billion in revenue, and esports have grown dramatically, among both players and spectators.

“When we started in 2015, every time I talked about esports, nobody even cared,” said Karthigesu. “We told them, ‘This is coming, this is going to be big,’ but no one listened. But in 2018, 2019 things changed and now it is huge and it’s a good thing for us.”

As well as its market changing, Swarmio’s sales focus has evolved. It began by targeting gamers themselves but realized the more efficient go-to-market strategy lay in targeting telecom companies.

Karthigesu said the company chose a stock market listing because there is a dearth of venture capital funds in Canada that engage in Series A funding, which he described as a $6 million-to-$20 million range.

Karthigesu admits that he’s personally in “uncharted territory” in heading a listed company and that there are risks involved in a public listing. But he’s confident his company will be able to generate revenue growth and that there are unappreciated benefits in a public listing. Above all, he said, it’s easier to raise capital for acquisitions as a public company, which can boost growth.

The fund-raising will mean growth in the company’s Sydney and Halifax offices. With six employees, Sydney is now the company’s operations centre and Karthigesu envisions hiring more junior engineers and technicians who can help clients around the world implement the system. Swarmio is now looking for office space in Halifax as it grows its three-member development team in the city.

Karthigesu is already looking beyond growth in Latin America and Africa and setting his sights on larger markets.

“As soon as we raise the money, we are putting all our efforts into expanding,” he said. “Once we have Asia and LatAm taken care of, we are making plans to look at Africa and Australia.”

Bill Gates Backs CarbonCure in Blog

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

Bill Gates has thrown his support behind CarbonCure Technologies, the Nova Scotia company that is reducing carbon emissions in the production of concrete.

The Co-Founder of Microsoft on Monday posted a blog that highlighted Dartmouth-based CarbonCure, including a video that features interviews with CEO and Founder Robert Niven.

Last year, CarbonCure was one of nine companies in the world to receive funding from Breakthrough Ventures, an impact fund backed by Gates, along with other billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Jack Ma.

In the blog, Gates notes that the world is estimated to add 2 trillion square feet of buildings by 2060 –

the equivalent of putting up another New York City every month for the next 40 years.

“Many of these buildings will be made using cement, a massive emitter of greenhouse gases,” says Gates on the video. “But a company in Canada discovered an innovative way to reduce cement’s carbon footprint.”

Concrete is the second most abundant man-made material in the world, and cement, its key ingredient, is responsible for an estimated 7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. CarbonCure cures concrete by injecting CO2 into it, which produces a stronger concrete while reducing carbon emissions.

CarbonCure’s technology is already being used by more than 120 concrete producers across North America and recently expanded into Asia. The company is also one of 10 finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge.

“CarbonCure is on a mission to reduce 500 megatonnes of CO2 emissions per year,” said Niven in the video. “That is the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off the road or the equivalent of the CO2 reductions from 500 million acres of trees annually.

Earlier this month, Jennifer Wagner, CarbonCure’s Executive Vice-President of Corporate Development, was named to the Clean50, which each year recognizes 50 Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to clean capitalism.

Women’s Fund Seeks Manager

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund is seeking an investment partner, someone who can identify target companies and negotiate investments for the fund expected to launch next year.

The Women’s Venture Fund is one of the most highly anticipated additions to the region’s ecosystem, and is set to launch next spring or summer. The founders are hoping to establish a for-profit fund amounting to about $20 million that will back high-potential ventures led by women.

It is now looking for a venture partner to join the fund’s investment team. This partner will help run the day-to-day operations of the fund, source and lead new investments, and assist in all aspects of fundraising. The position also demands the candidate manage the fund’s relationship with portfolio companies after investment, and take board seats where appropriate.

“This person will be expected to bring relevant experience and thinking to our discussions about the evolution of our fund thesis, composition and structure,” said the fund in its job posting. “Candidates must have both extensive venture investment experience and work experience in the tech sector itself.”

Though the fund would prefer someone with previous experience as a tech entrepreneur, what they are really looking for is someone with a strong, attributable track record of technology investing, either with established venture firms or as an angel investor.

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund began to take shape early this year when a group of business women from around the region came together to plan a way for women investors to work with women entrepreneurs.

Cathy Bennett, the former Newfoundland and Labrador finance minister and one of the founders of the fund, said that only 2 percent of the angel investors in Canada are female and the number may be even lower in Atlantic Canada. She added that the average female-led startup receives $900,000 in funding while the corresponding figure for companies led by men is $2.1 million.

Yet there are entrepreneurial opportunities that female entrepreneurs can pursue successfully – especially in the healthcare space – that male entrepreneurs may be unaware of. And a group of female investors would understand the opportunities better and therefore be more willing to invest and help grow these companies.

Anyone interested in the position should contact Rhiannon Davies, one of the founders of the fund, at rhdavies@gmail.com.

Ashored in Top 3 at MassChallenge

The Ashored founders: Aaron Stevenson, left, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.

The Ashored founders: Aaron Stevenson, left, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.

Dartmouth-based Ashored Innovations has graduated from MassChallenge with one of the top three prizes at the international accelerator.

Ashored, which is developing fishing equipment that reduces risks to marine life, was one of two companies to receive a US$75,000 (C$98,000) platinum award at the MassChallenge demo day Thursday night. They were exceeded only by North Carolina-based Tellus Therapeutics, which won the US$100,000 diamond award.

The Boston-based support organization had accepted just over 100 startups out of 3,000 applications for its 2019 cohort. In total, MassChallenge handed out about US$1 million in non-dilutive funding to 12 graduates, including Ashored.  

“Last year, we were one of the finalists in [the U.S. oceantech conference] Ocean Exchange, and looking back on it, that competition validated our solution,” said Ashored Co-Founder and CEO Aaron Stevenson in a phone interview Monday. “But MassChallenge, with its mentors and everything that it has done for us, I would say that being in the top three at MassChallenge has validated the business model.”

Ashored, which was the only Canadian company in MassChallenge this year, is developing fishing equipment that reduces the risk of animals such as whales becoming entangled in ropes and the risk of lost equipment littering the ocean floor. Its first product, the Modular Ocean Based Instrument, or MOBI, is a lobster trap buoy that is positioned near the ocean floor and released only when the fishing boat approaches.

Stevenson, who last year took the company through the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary’s University, said the team conducted its first sea trials of MOBI last fall. That product had a timer for unraveling the spool and it established the basic functionality of the product in the open ocean. Working with the Halifax engineering company Enginuity, Ashored this autumn tested an improved product in which the spool unwinds on command via a radio signal as the fishing boat approaches.

Now, he said, the company has a few more pilots planned for this autumn. Then it plans to take what it has learned in the past year or so and re-engineer MOBI to come up with a product it can take to market. It is planning more extensive pilot projects and possibly some early sales next summer, and then a full release in 2021.

The company has just completed a “family and friends” round of $260,000. With that money and the roughly C$100,000 from MassChallenge in the bank, Ashored is hiring two more people to expand its six-member team.

Stevenson has his sights set on raising a seed round of $1.2 million to $1.5 million, and hopes to close the round in the first quarter of 2020.    

One advantage he will have as he courts investors is that Ashored has the validation of competing with 3,000 startups to get into MassChallenge and ending up in the top three in the program. What’s more, he said the program was a great stepping stone into a key strategic market with a major knowledge base and customer base.

“We had identified New England and Boston as a strategically important region for us as a company,” said Stevenson. “But we didn’t know anyone there, didn’t know where to go. One of the biggest things that we walked away with was an instant community. . . . Just to be handed the opportunity to walk into this ecosystem has allowed us to benefit more from MassChallenge perhaps even than some of the other companies based in Boston.”

Passive Design Eyes New Markets

Natalie Leonard in front of one of the homes she designed.

Natalie Leonard in front of one of the homes she designed.

A Nova Scotia engineer is aiming to take energy-efficient housing mainstream.

Natalie Leonard is the founder of Passive Design Solutions, which sells ready-made building plans for energy-efficient houses.

The company originally specialized in custom, one-off projects. But with $100,000 of federal funding, Leonard is looking to scale the business and sees standardized designs as a way to expand outside of Nova Scotia.

“It’s a product rather than a service, so it doesn’t matter so much where we are,” she said during an interview. “We don’t have to meet with clients so much, because the customer is doing their own work.”

Her “passive houses” follow a set of standards created by the Passive House Institute—a German nonprofit that researches ways to improve the energy efficiency of residential buildings.

She said that a typical passive house uses about 75 percent less energy than a conventional home. About half the savings are achieved through higher-quality materials, and the other half through better design and building practices, such as reducing uncontrolled airflow into and out of the building.

The client can also apply to have the building itself certified. The process involves a questionnaire of more than 100 pages, sometimes several rounds of re-assessment, and costs about $10,000. Most clients choose to buy solar panels instead.

“For us, energy bills are really the certification,” she said, adding that customers are contractually obligated to share their power bills with Passive Design Solutions for a year after their home is completed. The data is used to track the effectiveness of the designs.

The engineering details of passive houses vary depending on a region’s typical weather conditions, but Leonard’s plans are meant for buyers in “heating dominated climates”. They often use walls built from floor joists, which adds about 10 inches of extra space that can be filled with insulation.

So far, Passive Design Solutions has sold 30 sets of plans, most of them in Nova Scotia. Leonard is spending a portion of the $100,000 her company received from the federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Fund on expanding into central Canada, and is planning a public relations blitz in the northeastern United States.

Part of the funding has also been spent hiring consultants to help develop a more cohesive online marketing strategy, including video content, which Leonard said has been popular with prospective customers.

“We know that once people become aware of us, they tend to think it’s a good idea,” she said. “We’re very successful in closing leads.”

The company’s five full-time employees and one part-time employee all work remotely in locations ranging from downtown Halifax to Germany. In the next year, Leonard plans to hire two more staff to help her with the design process, and possibly a salesperson.

BioNB Leads Cannabis Campaign

A year after the legalization of cannabis in Canada, New Brunswick is making a push into developing innovation into the sector.

The province is in the midst of a two-week campaign to draw attention to the potential of the field – especially the opportunity to do more with cannabis than just growing it and selling it on the retail market. BioNB, the provincial life sciences organization, and others want to deepen the province’s involvement in research and development and find what ancillary economic benefits can be derived from the plant.

“To me, it’s fascinating that it was illegal to do any research on this plant for a very long time,” said Jennifer O’Donnell, Executive Director of BioNB, speaking in an interview with the TheFutureEconomy.ca. “That makes it different from any other biomass we currently explore in Canada.”

BioNB, the life sciences umbrella group in New Brunswick, has teamed up with The Future Economy, a national organization that promotes innovation industries, to try to raise awareness about the cannabis industry in the province.

New Brunswick has developed a strategy on cannabis that’s similar to its policy on cybersecurity. The provincial government and other stakeholders want to develop a cannabis cluster in the province that goes well beyond simple production of the plant. Certainly, it wants to grow and harvest the plant, which has huge economic potential, but it also wants to be a leader in R&D into cannabis, looking into its medical potential and other ways to extract value from cannabis production.

As part of the initiative, BioNB and other organizations recently appointed Brennan Sisk, a veteran of the bio-sciences sector in New Brunswick, as the Provincial Cannabis Coordinator.

The two-week campaign features recorded interviews on TheFutureEconomy.ca with such officials as: Stephen Lund, the CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick; David MaGee, a University of New Brunswick researcher into cannabis; Greg Engel, CEO of Moncton-based cannabis producer Organigram; and Meaghan Seagrave, CEO of 1812 Hemp.

Seagrave was previously the Executive Director of BioNB but left this year to head Fredericton-based 1812 Hemp, which grows strains of hemp high in CBD, one of the most active ingredients in cannabis. She was replaced by O’Donnell.

In her interview with The Future Economy, O’Donnell called for more research into uses for the cannabis plants, including looking into how to use the parts other than the buds that produce THC and other bioactives.

“If the purpose of the bioeconomy is to unlock the hidden value of biomass resources that would otherwise be wasted, then the cannabis plant has yet to be explored,” she said. “Already, the science community knows that the cannabis plant contains many applications that can be used to create biomaterials and bio-plastics.”

These sorts of biomass resources, she said, could be transformed into: energy, such as electricity and transportation fuels; biomaterials, which are often used for medical purposes; and biodegradable plastics and composite materials.

Most of these biomass resources are not currently used commercially, but steady improvements in technology and agricultural practices are paving the way for the bioeconomy to become an important segment of Canada’s economy, she said.

“The federal government should focus on developing a cannabis cluster of expertise, or clusters across Canada, so that we can start to create a network that has fluid communication and support, linking industry to government, government to research, and research to industry.”

Alpha Dog Acquired by Bethesda

Bedford-based Alpha Dog Games, one of the leading mobile-game developers in Atlantic Canada, has been acquired by Bethesda Softworks of Maryland for an undisclosed price.

Founded by Jeff Cameron and Shawn Woods in 2012, Alpha Dog has developed such games as the MonstroCity series (most recently, MonstroCity Rampage) and Wraithborne. The company has made a name for itself in the development of mobile games, with its 2012 Wraithborne mobile game being downloaded by more than 1.5 million players.

"We are impressed by the team at Alpha Dog's commitment to quality and depth of experience in mobile," said Bethesda Senior Vice-President of Development Todd Vaughn in a press release. "We're excited to have them join the Bethesda family."

Based in Rockville, Maryland, Bethesda Softworks is a 33-year-old video game publisher whose ultimate owner is ZeniMax Media. According to Wikipedia, Zenimax was valued at US$2.5 billion in 2016, and employs 1,500 people. The Washington, D.C.-area company owns a portfolio of game development studios, including ZeniMax Online Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, MachineGames and Tango Gameworks.

The companies issued a press release late last week saying that Alpha Dog will support Bethesda’s expansion in mobile games, which Bethesda says includes the development of new iOS and Android games down the line.

“I couldn't be more proud of my team today as we join the Bethesda family,” said Woods in a post on LinkedIn on Friday. “What more can I say? The past eight years have been filled with hard work, determination, persistence, perseverance, and simply the love for making games has turned into something awesome for Nova Scotia.”

In an email, Woods added that the company, which now has 12 employees, will be growing its operations in Halifax now that it is part of the ZeniMax group. He and Cameron have become Co-Studio Directors heading the Halifax operation and report directly to the headquarters in Rockville. The business will retain the Alpha Dog name.

“We are very excited about the opportunity moving forward,” he said. “We will be looking for new office space in the first quarter next year that can handle long-term growth.”

MCE Finalist in Global Awards

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship was named one of five finalists in the emerging entrepreneurship centre category of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Center’s annual awards.

Though the St John’s-based organization didn’t win, the MCE was the only Canadian centre, and one of four outside the U.S., to be recognized as a finalist in any of the eight award categories

The Houston-based GCEC presents awards each year in the hopes of celebrating the best of university entrepreneurship. The GCEC is now made up of more than 225 university-based entrepreneurship centers ranging from well-established and nationally ranked to new and emerging centers.

“This award is a celebration of entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Atlantic Canada in general,” said MCE Director Florian Villaumé in an email. “We are celebrating it today, and we will continue to focus on increasing MCE’s impact starting tomorrow."

The award for emerging entrepreneurship centres recognizes those that are no more than five years old and considers the centre’s objectives, campus and community engagement, program portfolio and metrics to date.

The dual winners of the category were the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth College and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown University. The other finalists were the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Rice University; HUJI Innovate at the Hebrew University Jerusalem; and the MCE.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship supports student-led entrepreneurship projects at Memorial University of Newfoundland. The centre’s major event each year is the Woodward Cup pitching competition, which awards tens of thousands of dollars in development capital to young companies.

BreatheSuite Closes $550K Round

Brett Vokey

Brett Vokey

St. John’s-based BreatheSuite Inc., which helps people to use inhalers properly, has raised a $550,000 round of equity financing led by Venture NL, the Newfoundland and Labrador fund overseen by Pelorus Venture Capital.

The company issued a press release on Thursday saying that Venture NL – which is backed by the Newfoundland and Labrador government, BDC Capital and others -- has invested $250,000 in the medtech company. The rest of the investment in this round came from angel investors based in St. John’s and elsewhere.

Founded last year, BreatheSuite has developed software and hardware that aim to correct the improper use of inhalers. Its goal is to improve treatment for the millions of people who suffer from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, most of whom use their inhalers improperly.

“This funding will be incredibly influential to BreatheSuite's success,” said CEO Brett Vokey in an email. “This allows us to grow our team, pursue several exciting pilots with big-name clinical partners and start getting as many asthma patients using the BreatheSuite platform as we can.”

BreatheSuite is a small device that attaches to the inhaler and connects directly to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The software includes educational material on how to use inhalers, and a smartphone dashboard to show the user how he or she is doing in taking the treatment.

It began early in 2018 in Bounce Innovation, the Newfoundland and Labrador group that brings together a range of people from the medical and innovation communities to develop medtech products. Doctors involved in the project were explaining the difficulty in getting patients to use their inhalers correctly, which prevents medicine from reaching the lungs.

Vokey headed a team that developed the product within nine months and began tests on it late last year. The company now has five employees, has openings for software developers and hopes to increase its sales and marketing team in coming months.

BreatheSuite is pursuing several pilots with “world-renowned clinics”, said Vokey, and it hopes to officially launch in the U.S. in 2020.

“At Pelorus, we look for strong entrepreneurs with innovative ideas at the earliest stages of development,” said Pelorus Director Chris Moyer. “We lead the investment and bring together a strong syndicate of co-investors. Our investment in BreatheSuite is another example of our model in action as our $250,000 investment attracted local and international angel investors.”

The closing of this pre-seed round shows that the St. John’s startup community is attracting investment across all phases of companies’ growth. In the last month, St. John’s-based anti-fraud-software-maker Verafin has announced the closing of a $550 million debt-and-equity round, the largest venture funding round in Canadian history. Then CoLab Software, which makes advanced design and manufacturing collaboration software, closed a $2.7 million financing round following its participation in Silicon Valley’s prestigious Y Combinator accelerator.

BreatheSuite has been supported by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship and Genesis’ Evolution program, both of which nurture early stage companies. The fact that it has now closed its first funding round shows there is a new wave of young “investment-ready” companies emerging in St. John’s.

3 Win Retail Innovation Awards

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is one of three Canadian innovation companies to be honoured at the upcoming National Retail Innovation Awards in Halifax.

The David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services, located at Saint Mary’s University, announced Wednesday the three winners for its annual awards luncheon. It will take place at the David Sobey Centre on Nov. 1.

“As the largest private-sector employer in the country, retailers in Canada hold a critical role in our economy,” said Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO of Retail Council of Canada and a member of the David Sobey Advisory Council. “And to grow and prosper in a competitive global environment, our retailers are innovating in technology, customer loyalty, store and product design and much more.”

The three category winners are:

Sustainable Retailing Innovation: Edmonton-based Poppy Barley works with family-owned factories in Mexico and Brazil to develop a sustainable supply chain and an ethical product line.
Retail Technology Innovation:  Dash Hudson’s software helps some of the world’s largest brands to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. So far Dash Hudson has been known for monitoring Instagram and now its tools can be used to measure the success of Pinterest campaigns.
Retail Customer Experience Innovation: Vancouver-based Six Hundred Four creates limited edition art shoes. Its in-person Sneaker Gallery elevates sneaker buying to art immersion, and a virtual reality online store mirrors the unique experience.

The David Sobey Centre, founded in 2014, funds research projects relevant to the retail sector, sponsors retail innovation and student competitions, and offers executive education for the retail sector.

 “The David Sobey Centre's mandate is help build a vibrant retail sector in Canada,” said Director Ramesh Venkat. “We engage in applied research that guides retailers and support innovation that solves problems or creates new opportunities for retailers.”

SnapAp Captures National Award

Sionne Roberts

Sionne Roberts

When the Channel Innovation Awards were held last month, one of the big winners was Moncton-based SnapAp, a small-but-growing company that makes payment software.

In the national competition organized by Channel Daily News, SnapAp captured the Gold Award in the Next Generation Channel Innovator category. The SnapAp founders believe it is a validation of their company’s technology and ability to bring it to market.

The three-year-old company has developed a solution that automates the accounts payable process – that is, the process a company uses to pay the money it owes to customers and lenders. SnapAp helps businesses pay their bills electronically in a paperless manner.

“Winning this award has meant several things for SnapAP – firstly, some external industry-level validation and credibility, which is always important for an emerging business,” said Sionne Roberts, SnapAp’s Vice-President of Business Development. “In addition, it's also a nice boost mentally for the founders, to offset the typical ‘roller coaster’ of operating a technology startup.”

The SnapAp product has attracted customers in six continents, and its list of clients includes the likes of Suncor Energy and Canadian Freightways. Roberts attributes the success to the small team of five employees (including himself and Chief Executive J.D. Drapeau) being able to develop a product the market needs. Drapeau is a developer who has worked previously for a multinational in procurement and finance department optimization, and Roberts has deep business development experience.

With a small staff, SnapAp is being strategic in seeking new clients. It has invested in upgrading its infrastructure to allow the rapid onboarding of new customers and is developing partnerships that can help bring in new business.

Venn Innovation Leads Mission to Money 20/20

“One of these [partnerships] is just around the corner, where we will soon be announcing a reseller relationship with the world's largest distributor of a mid-market accounting software platform,” said Roberts. He added the relationship will give “us immediate access to at least 5,000 customers within a very short period of time.”

Once this partnership is announced, SnapAp will undertake a five- to six-city roadshow across Canada to meet the partner’s clients and demonstrate the product for them.

SnapAp will also attend the Money 20/20 convention in Las Vegas next month, in a trade mission organized by New Brunswick tech support group Venn Innovation. Roberts said he hopes to develop links with some of the world’s biggest fintech companies at the financial services convention. “I already have meetings booked with senior contacts at Visa, Citi and Chase, which would have been nearly impossible for us to make happen without Money20/20 as the catalyst,” said Roberts.

The company has so far not raised equity funding but has taken on a six-figure loan from Business Development Bank of Canada. Drapeau and Roberts are willing to consider an equity round, but want to increase revenues first to improve their valuations. They also aim in the coming year to further develop the product.

Said Roberts: “Our main goals coming up in the near future include adding a couple of really exciting new features to the software platform, and of course just continuing the current momentum and taking SnapAP to higher levels of success.”

Densitas Joins Nuance Marketplace

Halifax-based Densitas Inc. whose software helps assess the density of breasts during mammograms, announced this week its densitas densityai software will soon be available on the Nuance AI Marketplace.

In a statement, Densitas said the Nuance marketplace provides access to more than 70 percent of all radiologists across the largest network of connected healthcare facilities in the U.S.

"AI can play an important supporting role for radiologists by automating routine, time-consuming, subjective and fatiguing tasks so that they can focus on more challenging interpretive tasks," said Woojin Kim, chief medical information officer at the Healthcare Division of Nuance Communications.

"What sets densitas densityai apart is that it has been thoughtfully designed to process routinely archived mammograms so that breast density assessments can be obtained from historical studies when comparing current with prior exams."

Densitas densityai delivers automated breast density assessments from standard digital imaging in the medical community. The Densitas software 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.

As well as speeding and simplifying the process of quantifying breast density, the Densitas technology standardizes the density measurement and enables stratification of women to ensure those who need more aggressive follow-up receive it.

The densitas densityai solution rapidly generates reproducible and standardized breast density assessments.

Densitas recently announced that densitas densityai has also been selected for use in a major breast screening trial in Germany.

Rising Number of Startup Launches

One of the changes that have taken place in the East Coast startup ecosystem in the past four or five years is the region has ratcheted up its capacity for launching new companies.

As part of our mission to chart and analyze data on the startup community, we track the new companies that appear each year. As the chart above shows, the region’s ability to crank out startups underwent a steep change between 2015 and 2017. It wasn’t an overnight change, but in three of the last four years the region has launched more than 100 startups a year.

We have catalogued 115 companies that were formed in 2018, up by one over the record level of 2017. We should add that this is the best information we have at this time. Startups often form quietly and then announce their presence a year or two later. Every year we add companies to the data bank that are more than one year old. But we are aware of 115 startups that were born in 2018.

There is no single reason for the improvement – rather it is a lot of little changes that have taken place over the past seven years. Several universities now have dedicated entrepreneurship programs, including Memorial University, Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University and University of New Brunswick. In Nova Scotia, there are nine “sandboxes”, which encourage student entrepreneurship. Propel offers a virtual, two-phase accelerator called Incite, the first phase of which establishes product-market fit for early-stage companies. There are startup hubs in most cities and other centres like Mahone Bay and Yarmouth. Most important, the startup culture has spread throughout the region, enough that anyone who aspires to launch a company can be directed to a group that can help.

An examination of where the companies formed in 2018 reveals an interesting development: St. John’s has become a hotbed of company formation. The Newfoundland and Labrador capital has almost doubled its number of new innovation companies -- up to 24 in 2018 from 13 in 2017. What’s more startling is that nine of these St. John’s-based companies – more than one-third of the total – are in the life sciences sector. That’s about 40 percent of the rookie life sciences companies in the region.

The reason for the explosion of healthcare startups in the city is the launch of the Bounce Health Initiative, and the support of Memorial Centre of Entrepreneurship Director Florian Villaumé for healthcare innovation. Bounce is a collaborative effort between MCE, Eastern Health, the MUN Faculty of Medicine and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries, or NATI.

Aside from healthcare, MCE has been crucial in generating new companies, and its Woodward Cup has become a vehicle for giving funding to young ventures. Meanwhile, the Genesis Evolution program provides eight weeks of intensive instruction for companies with less than $1 million in revenues.

The fact that Halifax and Fredericton are Nos. 1 and 3 in company formation should surprise no one – they have been the strongest centres in the region for startup development in the past few years.

As we look ahead to the next few years, we believe the driving force for new startups will be growing entrepreneurship among researchers at the region’s universities and community colleges. This is happening already, with promising companies like Axem Neurotherapy and Canum Nanomaterials coming out of university research. But the structures for bringing research to market will be stronger in coming years.

There is one other thing that’s interesting about new companies – more and more of them are oceantech companies. In 2017, we finally began to see oceantech companies launching in meaningful numbers, and that continued in 2018 with 11 of these companies being formed. We now track 47 companies whose products have marine applications, and 23 of them started in the last two years.

Jennifer Wagner Named to Clean50

Jennifer Wagner

Jennifer Wagner

CarbonCure Technologies' Jennifer Wagner has been named to the Clean50, which each year recognizes 50 Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to clean capitalism.

As Executive Vice-President of Corporate Development at Dartmouth-based CarbonCure, Wagner has helped shepherd the company through 10 years of growth, roughly doubling sales of its clean technology each year. Worldwide, there are currently more than 100,000 concrete plants in operation and CarbonCure’s product is used in over 150 of them.

Last year, Wagner was the only Canadian chosen as a Climate Trailblazer participant in the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. This year, she attended the Clean50 summit in Toronto, where she engaged with other Canadian nominees in workshops and seminars.

She said highlights of these sessions included time spent with Linda Swords, who leads a project making the town of Eden Mills, Ont., carbon neutral, and a duo from Raven Indigenous Capital Partners who focus on renewable energy projects in Indigenous communities.

The goal of the Clean50 summit is to bring together clean leaders from across the economy to help launch a collaborative assault on the environmental problems facing Canada.

"When you look around, everyone is working on the same goal: reducing carbon emissions,” said Wagner. “It felt like we were all in this together."

Wagner has now been with CarbonCure for a decade, during which time the company’s technology has prevented more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted. CarbonCure's eventual goal is to reduce carbon emissions by more than 500 million tonnes per year. That figure would represent a roughly 23 percent CO2 reduction in an industry responsible for 6 to 8 percent of all global CO2 emissions.

CarbonCure sequesters CO2 into concrete with a process called carbon mineralization, a sub-branch of carbon utilization. Recycled CO2 is injected into wet cement and reacts with calcium ions within the mix to create a hard calcium carbonate, strengthening concrete. Calcium carbonate is already a key ingredient of cement, usually derived from grinding and superheating limestone in a process that creates greenhouse gases.

CarbonCure's signature microwave-sized product is a one-day installation and reduces the carbon footprint of concrete by 5 to 10 percent.

"The key to our success so far has been how easy it has been for producers to adopt our technology,” said Wagner. 

The company has now proven its technology and feels less need to educate industry insiders. Wagner believes that CarbonCure has reached a tipping point in industry adoption. About 80 percent of its customers are now located in the U.S., with almost all the rest in Canada and a few in Singapore.

CarbonCure currently employs 36 people, based mostly in Dartmouth, and is looking to leverage international partners within the cement and concrete industry in order to grow internationally.

"Every yard of concrete that gets poured without CarbonCure is a missed opportunity to reduce carbon emissions," Wagner said.

Startup Weekends Set for CB, PEI

Startup weekends are being planned for Sydney and Charlottetown in the coming month, giving aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to learn how to develop a business idea in a single weekend.

Techstars Startup Weekend, the international organization that oversees the 54-hour events around the world, said there are six events slated for Canada in the coming weeks, including the ones in the Maritimes.

The Charlottetown event will be held Nov. 1 to 3 at Startup Zone, and you can find tickets for it here. The Sydney Startup Weekend will be held Nov. 15 to 17 at Cape Breton University. You can register for the Cape Breton event here.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event starting on a Friday evening with any of the participants pitching startup ideas. The crowd of 50 or more attendees then vote on the best ideas to work on. The crowd breaks into several groups formed around the best ideas, and these teams work on their ideas for two days. The event is open to anyone interested in the local entrepreneurial community and it puts them in a setting where anything is possible.

“Perhaps we’ll see the start of the next Marcato Digital,” said Darren MacDonald, Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurial Centre at Cape Breton University. “That company started through the development of software specifically for the Celtic Colours International Festival and now they have some of the largest festivals in the world, like Coachella, as their clients.” 

The Startup Weekend in Sydney is tourism themed, an industry that is ripe for disruption. “We have an established and growing tourism industry in Cape Breton, which creates opportunities for new startups, both within the industry or to service the industry,” said Terry Smith, CEO of Destination Cape Breton, a partner in Startup Weekend Sydney.

The Startup Weekend facilitator in Sydney will be Sally Ng, a familiar face to the East Coast startup community. A long-time businesswoman in Fredericton, Ng this summer joined Toronto-based Highline Beta as a New Ventures Manager, yet she still finds time to facilitate Startup Weekends.

The theme for the Charlottetown event is sustainability, and the Startup Zone team is hoping for a large crowd

“It's one of our bigger events of the year,” said CEO Patrick Farrar in an email. “I believe we had around 40 people last year and can expect the same this year.”

Isenberg Details Scalerator Success

Daniel Isenberg

Daniel Isenberg

When the University of New Brunswick hosts its Future of Innovation conference on Saturday in Fredericton, one of the highlights will be Daniel Isenberg speaking on his Scalerator program.

In particular, he’ll be able to give a recap of Scale Up Atlantic Canada, the program he oversaw last winter that helped about 10 Atlantic Canadian ventures increase their sales dramatically.

The UNB Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship group teamed up with Babson College of Boston to offer the program for the last winter, and it is considering holding a second cohort. The data shows the benefits.

“The cohort’s sales grew in just under 12 months by just under $11 million, or about 15 to 16 percent growth,” said Isenberg, speaking as he drove from Boston to Fredericton for the Future of Innovation conference.

He said the businesses added 116 new jobs as they went through the one-year program.

For decades, Babson has been named the top school in the U.S. for teaching entrepreneurship, and Isenberg has become its expert in scaling companies, with his trademarked program Scalerator as the basic curriculum. The cohort at UNB was the first time Scalerator was offered in Canada.

“There’s not a program in the world like it,” said Isenberg. “No. 1, we drill them on the basics, and No. 2, we have a huge emphasis on quick wins. Because it’s with quick wins that you get into the virtuous cycles.” These, he said, involve building momentum that projects an aura of success with staff, customers and stakeholders.   

The program’s foundation is what Isenberg calls the three C’s – Customers, Capacity and Cash. He went into depth on each subject in the interview:

Customers: Most programs encourage entrepreneurs to go out and find new customers. Isenberg is fine with that, but these can prove to be the most expensive customers to attract. It’s better, he said, to draw more money from existing customers, or even switch a rejection from a prospective client into an acceptance.

Capacity: Isenberg places a huge emphasis on getting the full team working at maximum capacity. That means the CEO may have to get rid of “toxic” employees, even if they personally are high performers. “It’s hard, because there’s always a reason that toxic employees are there,” he said.

Cash: Most entrepreneurs fret about raising capital or seeking investment, but Isenberg says it can be more important to do more with the cash the company already has. That means better cash flow management and cost controls, for example.

He added that once a company improves its performance, it’s vital that it communicate the success to employees, customers, bankers and other stakeholders. It could be something as mundane as expanding warehousing by 10,000 square feet, he said, but that expansion is a sign of success and should be part of a methodical series of good news stories.

Isenberg said experience with other cohorts has shown that the increases in revenue continue for at least two or three years after the program ends. He is now talking to UNB TME about whether the program will be offered again next year, but he hopes the program is repeated and once again attracts companies from several different sectors.

“We’ve been doing this thing for 10 years now,” he said. “We’ve found the benefits of people talking across sectors outweighs the benefits of people talking within their own sector. It’s a kind of cross-pollination.”

The Future of Innovation conference will be held Saturday at UNB. You can register here.

Disclosure: UNB is a client of Entrevestor. 

Puddister Wins EY’s EoY Award

Larry Puddister

Larry Puddister

Larry Puddister, Executive Chairman of St. John’s-based integrated solutions provider Pennecon, is this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Atlantic winner.

Puddister’s entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 12 in his hometown of Bay Bulls, Newfoundland and Labrador, cutting out cod tongues to sell to the local grocery store for some extra money. He later found success as a project manager in the engineering sector and then began his own business, Northland Contracting.

Northland merged with Pennecon in 2005. Under Puddister’s leadership, it has evolved into a multi-disciplined organization employing over 2,000 people across six Canadian provinces. It is now a leading provider of integrated solutions across a diverse portfolio, including heavy civil, industrial, services and maintenance, and marine.

 “Under Larry’s leadership, Pennecon experienced many years of growth through savvy business decisions and strategic acquisitions,” said Gina Kinsman, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic Program Director. “Whether it’s difficult weather conditions, tight deadlines, red tape or unforeseen circumstances, working in the construction industry hasn’t always been easy. Yet, Larry has developed a culture where innovation is a seamless aspect in the way they do business to help mitigate issues and overcome challenges.”

Also recognized at the gala was Brendan Paddick of Columbus Capital Corporation with a Special Citation Award for Master Entrepreneur for his success and innovation in the telecommunications sector, and leadership and support in the Atlantic business community.

As the Atlantic region’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019, Puddister will compete with top entrepreneurs from the Pacific, Prairies, Ontario and Québec regions for the national honour of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Canada. It will be presented at a celebration on Nov. 28 in Toronto. In June 2020, Canada’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 will compete with more than 50 country recipients for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2019 Atlantic category award recipients are:

 Business Services

Pennecon  | St. John’s

Larry Puddister

Consumer Products & Retail

Action Car & Truck Accessories Inc.  | Moncton

John Chamberlaine

Emerging

Backman Vidcom | Halifax

Laurie MacKeigan

Health & Wellness

Nova Leap Health Corp.  | Halifax

Chris Dobbin

Professional Services

Archway Insurance  | Amherst

Gina McFetridge, Michael Stack

Real Estate & Construction

Progress Homes Inc. and Chancellor Park Inc.  | St. John’s

Gloria Parsons

Technology

Proposify  | Halifax

Kevin Springer, Kyle Racki

Special Citation: Master Entrepreneur

Columbus Capital Corporation

Brendan Paddick

ShiftKey, Dal CS Grow Together

Akram Al-Otumi

Akram Al-Otumi

With computer science enrollment soaring at one of its key constituencies, ShiftKey Labs is developing programming to encourage tech entrepreneurship among students.

ShiftKey Labs is housed in the Goldberg Computer Science Building at Dalhousie University, which is a boon for a few reasons. One is that Dal’s Computer Science faculty is witnessing strong enrollment growth. The total number of students enrolled in the faculty is 1,700, up 20 percent from a year ago.

The rising student enrollment in its home base is providing more human capital for ShiftKey, meaning that the group has a better attendance than before for its programs. It’s allowed ShiftKey to increase its programing, including sector-focused hackathons, to give students experience in assessing a problem and developing a solution.

“The courses are very practical in nature,” said Akram Al-Otumi, who joined ShiftKey as its manager this past summer. “We design challenges that impact our community and the international community, like how to solve wait times in hospitals and foreign interference in elections. . . . [The participants] need to come up with innovative solutions that are scalable.”

ShiftKey Labs is one of nine “sandboxes” sponsored by the Nova Scotia government. These are collaborative projects involving groups of post-secondary institutions, which aim to encourage entrepreneurship in certain fields. ShiftKey – which is a joint project between Dalhousie, St. Mary’s, and Mount St. Vincent universities, and the Nova Scotia Community College – targets digital technologies as the focus of its work.

ShiftKey is overseen by Al-Otumi, a multi-faceted entrepreneur who has previously taught at NSCC as well as at Dal. He carried out these duties while building his own company, Spritely Technologies, which introduces newcomers to a city they’ve just moved to. 

The highlight of the programming at ShiftKey has been a series of hackathons. Last month, the group hosted what it called the Atlantic Health Datapalooza, in which teams were challenged to devise IT solutions that could solve problems like hospital wait times. The Nova Scotia Health Authority participated, bringing in actual data on wait times that the tech teams could dive into to work on their solutions.

This coming weekend, Shiftkey and other local organizations will host the Space Apps Challenge hackathon, which uses data provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, as the basis of the projects.  Next month, ShiftKey is partnering with Venture for Canada to hold a government technology hackathon, in which different levels of government will bring problems to the event and participants will set out to find solutions.

The overall goal of the hackathons and other programs is to inspire students to find problems and use technology to devise solutions. ShiftKey is working with students on turning these solutions into businesses. Once they reach a certain stage, the group can help students move on to seek mentorship from other groups, like Volta.

“My vision for [ShiftKey] is to be one of the big hubs of technology in Canada,” said Al-Otumi. “I want to take it to that level. The location is golden because about 92 percent of university students in Nova Scotia in the IT field graduate from that building.”

Arolytics Preps for Oil Patch Change

Emmy Atherton, Product Development Lead at Arolytics

Emmy Atherton, Product Development Lead at Arolytics

The founders of a startup that aims to help oil and gas companies track their greenhouse gas emissions believe their business is poised for rapid growth.

Arolytics was developed at St. Francis Xavier University, where co-founders Liz O’Connell, Emmy Atherton and Dave Risk were developing technology to measure methane releases. Now, they are preparing to help for-profit businesses document those same emissions ahead of looming regulatory changes.

"We were developing a mobile method of detecting methane emissions, and through our projects with industry, we started to recognize a need for data management help,” said product development lead Atherton in an interview.

The creation of Arolytics in February of 2018 was inspired by impending legislation in Canada, Mexico and the United States requiring fossil fuel producers to track how much methane their properties release and file reports with government.

The Canadian legislation was passed in April of the same year, and will take effect in January 2020.

In August, the Trump administration rolled back plans for American federal regulations, but several states have passed laws with similar content.

Meanwhile, according to industry publication Natural Gas Intelligence, Mexico plans to ratchet up enforcement of its own new rules in 2020, despite budget cuts to its fossil fuel regulator.

In addition to serving as Arolytics’ science and development lead, Risk is a professor of earth sciences at St. Francis Xavier and leads its Flux Lab, where the co-founders first worked together.

O’Connell serves as Arolytics’ president and is based in Calgary, which allows her to be closer to major industry players.

“I’m able to have my boots on the ground, knocking on customers' doors and really understanding the pain that these operators will be facing in January,” said O’Connell.

When the software is ready, clients will usually hire third-party contractors to capture raw emissions with handheld scanners, satellite imagery or other techniques.

The data will be forwarded to Arolytics and uploaded to the digital platform for collation and analysis. Future updates may also allow customers to input the data themselves.

The platform will automatically compile reports that can be sent to regulators. Eventually, O’Connell said, Arolytics also hopes to be able to identify trends within the data and suggest steps to reduce emissions. For example, it could identify leaking equipment.

Atherton added that customers will probably pay a yearly subscription fee, but that the details may still change as a result of ongoing conversations with industry.

While the system is under development, Arolytics is consulting with several oil and gas companies to help the team prepare for the new regime.

“We’re building relationships with these large oil and gas operators so we can then onboard them as customers,” said Atherton. “We’ve been told by people in the industry to be prepared to scale.”

The company recently hired a software developer, bringing its employee count to three, including O’Connell and Atherton -- Risk is not a full-time employee. Arolytics won $25,000 at the Volta Cohort pitching competition in May, and went through Dalhousie University's Launchpad accelerator this past summer. 

The founders are preparing to raise a round of seed funding within six months, which will be used to hire more staff, and are aiming to begin customer trials in late fall.

Venn Leads Mission to Money 20/20

Venn Innovation will lead a group of 10 technology companies to the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas from Oct. 27 to 30 with the goal of increasing sales within the financial services space.

The Atlantic Fintech Mission will travel to Money20/20, which attracts the entire payments, fintech and financial services industry. Billed as the world’s largest fintech and payments event, the conference is an opportunity to meet potential partners and clients to explore the disruptive ways in which consumers and businesses manage, spend and borrow money.

“Both Atlantic Canada and our financial technology industry are positioned for growth," said Venn President and CEO Doug Robertston in an email. "We have innovative companies that can compete on the world stage, and Money20/20 is the conference where we showcase the region and our capabilities. . . .  With the largest venture deal in Canadian history, Verafin has proven to the world that Atlantic Canada is a great place to build a world class fintech company.”

Moncton-based Venn, which offers programs and support for New Brunswick technology companies, is helping to prepare the companies for the conference and develop connections before the show. Once on-site, the participating companies will have access to workshops, networking opportunities and AI-powered matchmaking technology to maximize the value of the event.

The 10 companies and their senior execs joining the mission, are:

Black Arcs, Fredericton, Jake Arsenault, CEO – Black Arcs is a civic technology company allowing users to explore the tradeoffs being made around land-use. Its cloud-based scenario tool CitiSketch allows citizens and policy makers to visualize possibilities and test different strategies and planning decisions that shape neighborhoods and cities.

CreditCardGenius, Moncton, Maria Weyman, CMO – This is a personal, simple, and accurate credit card comparison engine using a proprietary algorithmic scoring system. The product tracks hundreds of credit cards in the U.S. and Canada to help consumers choose smarter and get rewarded faster.

DPL, Moncton, Marc Albert, CEO – DPL designs and manufactures purpose-built wireless modems and security accessories. DPL primarily serves independent ATM deployers, ISOs, and financial institutions. Founded in 1974, DPL manages over 40,000 wireless devices and processes over $10 billion in financial transactions per year. 

Four Eyes Financial, Saint John, Lori Weir, CEO – The company builds adoptable wealth technology that deepens mutual understanding of risk between regulators, firms, advisors and investors. The team consists of seasoned executives with extensive experience in business transformation, data integration and analytics, and financial services.

Gray Wolf, Fredericton, Dhirendra Shukla, CEO – Gray Wolf focuses on blockchain intelligence. It offers specialized tools to integrate, analyze and maximize opportunities and value of any Blockchain at scale.

InteliSys Aviation Systems, Saint John and Moncton, Kayln Galloway, Product Manager – InteliSys provides airlines around the world with customized, secure, and scalable software solutions in a cloud-based, open-data platform. Its passenger service system ameliaRES boosts airlines' bottom lines, precisely handles IT needs, and delivers customized experiences to passengers.

Passiv, Fredericton, Brendan Lee Young, CEO – Passiv offers a new investing experience for retail brokerages that lets users focus on their portfolio instead of individual trades. Users can run their own personal robo-advisor and skip the wealth management fees, growing their wealth faster.

ProcedureFlow, Saint John, Wade McCallum, Enterprise and SMB Sales – ProcedureFlow is a re-imagined contact center knowledge base. It makes the most complicated information easy and intuitive to create, maintain and use, even in highly regulated and complicated industries.

SnapAP, Moncton, Sionne Roberts, Vice-President of Business Development – SnapAP is a SaaS platform providing proactive control of the entire accounts payable process, from initial requisition through completed payment. Connecting seamlessly with all financial systems, SnapAP actively reduces a company's purchase-to-pay cycle overall.

StockCalc, Miramichi, Brian Donovan, President – StockCalc values 8,000 stocks every day and 800 ETFS, and 146 industries every week. It can quickly value companies and ETFs, to find fundamentally undervalued stocks and view the detailed reports with your clients to help them understand your recommendations.

Region’s Startups Eye Stock Market

Much has been written about the record year in funding for Atlantic Canadian startups last year, but one facet of startup fundraising in the region has been largely overlooked: the growing role of the stock market.

For the first time, high-growth innovation companies in Atlantic Canada are turning in a meaningful way to the stock market as a source of capital. Several forces have converged to make publicly listed companies a more important component of the community.

Atlantic Canadian companies raised more than $24 million by selling shares and derivatives on the stock markets in calendar 2018. Aside from that, Entrevestor recorded $166.6 million raised last year from private capital sources, including founders, friends and family, angels, venture capital and strategic partners. That means the stock market accounts for 12.5 percent of the total capital raised by Atlantic Canadian high-growth companies last year.

There are not a lot of transactions by the publicly listed companies, but several deals since the beginning of 2018 have been noteworthy:

  • In August 2018, 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.
  • Kraken Robotics of St. John’s closed a $2.3 million sale of shares and warrants to its customer Ocean Infinity in June, 2018. The company then raised further capital six months later when it sold $6 million worth of shares.
  • In February 2018, Halifax-based IMV announced that it had closed a bought deal to raise $14.4 million. The share sale was successful and the financial groups working on the deal exercised their over-allotment options in full. In March 2019, IMV closed another share sale, which raised an additional $26.7 million. CEO Frederic Ors told Entrevestor the company now has enough capital to last it through to late 2020.
  • Appili Therapeutics, a fast-growing drug discovery company based in Halifax, listed on the TSX Venture Exchange in June. As it announced the pending listing, the company raised $3.6 million from investors. 

Barring a stock market crash (which is a real possibility at this point in the economic cycle), the stock market will become an increasingly important facet of the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. is planning a CSE listing this year., and other companies are known to be considering listing. 

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 to some like a dependable and profitable place to raise capital.

The Canadian tech sector has 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.

There is a cautionary note about the stock market listings. At the Mentorcamp event in Charlottetown last month, Surepath Capital Partners Founder Mark MacLeod was discussing large exits when he was asked whether he considered a stock market listing a viable exit for tech companies.

He responded that the companies he worked with weren’t “masochistic” enough to consider stock market listings. The TSX-Venture exchange is notable for its lack of liquidity, he said, and companies that list on the public markets are burdened with excessive compliance duties.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, Protocase

Our Jobs of the Week column today features openings for a Quality Systems Manager at Protocase in Sydney and a Junior Project Manager 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.

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:

Sydney

Protocase

Quality Systems Manager

Protocase is currently seeking a Quality Systems Manager to join its team in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We are growing rapidly and continually improving our capabilities and procedures to ensure we are offering our customers the very best in custom manufacturing in terms of speed, simplicity, and service.

In 2017, Protocase officially became ISO 9001:2015 registered and AS9100D certified, after more than a decade of deploying its own ISO-like quality standards system. To uphold our quality standards and procedures, we need a Quality Systems Manager to oversee and lead all aspects of maintaining our quality standards and certifications that we have achieved.

To thrive in this position, you must never lose sight of our goal to consistently make exactly what our customers require. The key to your ongoing success will be your ability to continually sort through data and details in a high-paced environment, and yet take a big-picture view to spot trends and deficiencies without getting too lost in the details. You must then come up with effective plans to fix deficiencies systemically and execute those plans.

Responsibilities

As Quality Systems Manager, your core duties will include:

Making sure that our operations run smoothly and in compliance with all of the requirements of the AS9100D and ISO 9001:2015 standards

Working with Process Owners to monitor and control QMS Key Performance Indicators

Keeping an eye on emerging quality trends

Making plans to fix quality issues systemically

Executing plans to fix quality issues systemically

Above all else, you need to be proactive and communicative with all departments within the company to successfully maintain Protocase’s quality standards, as they are essential to our continued growth.

Qualifications

Bachelor’s degree preferred (Engineering, Business or a related field)

Experience working within a manufacturing environment will be considered an asset

Experience supervising others

Ability to identify patterns in data which you can then use to develop procedures, implement action plans, and manage the execution of plans

Ability to see and solve problems from both a high-level and low-level perspective (a “big-picture” thinker who isn’t afraid to get dig into details from time to time)

High levels of energy and enthusiasm with common sense to match . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Junior Project Manager

Dash Hudson works with the raddest, most discerning brands (Apple, Kylie Cosmetics, Revolve, Estée Lauder) and publishers (Condé Nast) in the world to drive visual performance across all of their marketing channels. Our visual intelligence platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

As a Junior Project Manager, you will work with our incredible dev team to manage the delivery of products used by some of the best companies in the world.

In case you were wondering, here's a little bit more about our team and products:

We're a diverse team from around the world.

We have a very productive engineering team based in Halifax. We build beautiful, functional products that customers love.

Our marketing platform is best-in-class competing with the biggest companies in the marketing software industry.

We have a big vision for the future of visual intelligence. We want you to be part of it.

Our development methodology is a hybrid of Kanban and Scrum.

Responsibilities

You will be collaborating closely with our Product and Engineering teams in managing the delivery of features in a SaaS/cloud platform environment.

Are you a detailed-oriented person who enjoys problem-solving?

Are you passionate about project delivery and collaboration?

Responsibilities:

Working with Product Manager with maintaining the product backlog

Scoping technical tasks based on business requirements for the new features

Working with teams to obtain estimates on the features timelines

Making sure that dev team delivers successful projects and products that are on-time, on-budget, and high quality every time

Working with teams to ensure that Scrum meetings are happening

Coaching Scrum Masters on Kanban and Scrum best practices

Reporting on project status - Updating CTO and product manager on timelines and progress

Performing Risk Management - identify, evaluate and mitigate project risks

Assisting in team development while holding teams accountable for their commitments, removing impediments and roadblocks to their work; leveraging organizational resources to improve capacity for project work; and mentoring and developing team members

Suggesting and helping to implement process improvements

Assisting with the development of IT policies and ensuring compliance

Assisting in the collection of metrics

Qualifications

Required Qualifications & Experience:

Post-Secondary Education (or equivalent experience) in a discipline such as Business Administration, Computer Science, Information Technology Systems

Strong critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills

Significant attention to detail

Strong writing and communication skills

Great adaptability to change and flexibility in a fast-paced, dynamic environment

Strong drive for action, results-oriented

Outstanding organizational skills, including multitasking and time-management

Ability to handle multiple projects, deal with changing priorities and ambiguity

Team player, supportive of a collaborative team environment and culture

Desired Qualifications & Experience

Proven work experience as a Project Coordinator or similar role

Experience with Agile software development methodology

Any Project Management Institute (PMI) certification

Any Scrum Master certification

Hands-on experience with project management tools like Clubhouse or JIRA

Experience with creating and ensuring compliance with IT policies or at least familiarity with industry-standard IT policies

Familiarity with industry-standard IT metrics . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Squiggle Park in Florida Accelerator

Squiggle Park Co-Founders Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard

Squiggle Park Co-Founders Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard

With its latest product generating weekly growth of 10 percent, Dartmouth-based edtech company Squiggle Park is attending the Rally accelerator in Orlando, Fla., to improve its performance further.

Co-Founder Julia Dexter was accepted this summer as a fellow at the Florida accelerator, which helps social ventures with their dual mission of producing social change while developing a profitable business.

It’s the sixth accelerator that has accepted Squiggle Park, which produces games that help teach school children to read. Its most recent product is Dreamscape, a game for children in Grades 2 to 8 that has amassed 500,000 users since it was launched in January, 2019. 

"This is the first time I've felt like we are in a position where the market is pulling,” said Dexter, who has led several ventures and is currently heading a team of fifteen.

Squiggle Park addresses the rampant problem of illiteracy. It’s estimated half the adults in the U.S. lack the literacy skills necessary to operate well in a modern environment. This ‘functional illiteracy’ is estimated to hold world economies back by $1.2 trillion per year. Illiteracy also creates such problems as an inability to understand health care contracts and materials, which creates an estimated $230 billion per year in unnecessary health care costs in the U.S. alone.

“We are limiting kids because we’re only giving them what we know,” said Dexter. “Historically you are only as good as the education and systems you have access to, but we don’t need to be bound by these borders anymore. The best learning should be available to everyone in the world. Curriculum and relevant subject matter is moving too fast and it is unreasonable to expect teachers and schools to be experts in everything while also delivering learning in a way that engages every type of learner.“

Founded by Dexter and her co-founder Leah Skerry, Squiggle Park has developed games to improve literacy by allowing children to work through material at their own pace, keeping them engaged and advancing their reading. This takes the pressure off teachers to tailor the course materials.

Dexter sees this as freeing up teachers to spend less time with the curriculum and more time in their coaching and mentorship. The Squiggle Park and Dreamscape games are being used by roughly 20,000 schools, and this method of education is working its way quickly into the mainstream.

The Rally accelerator is focused on social impact, and is run by Kyle Christian Steele, a serial entrepreneur himself with a strong history in childhood education. Squiggle Park was scouted by a Rally board member who watched the company win the Future of Educational Technology Conference Top Innovative EdTech program in Florida early this year, and invited Dexter to attend.

The Rally board is full of people like Mark Brewer, who is also the President and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation – a ‘high-impact philanthropy’ organization which created Rally - and a mentor for Dexter in the Social Impact Model. It was from Brewer and the other Rally mentors that Dexter came to appreciate that Squiggle Park can impact people’s lives while building a scalable and profitable business, with neither goal taking precedence.

Going forward, Squiggle Park will be focused on unlocking potential in target markets across the globe.

Rally's final Pitchfest and Public Presentation will be held on Oct. 28 and more than 200 social impact investors have been invited.

Clockk Launches Time Record App

Performing like Clockk-work: Paul Doerwald, left, Eric Froese, and James Summerby-Murray.

Performing like Clockk-work: Paul Doerwald, left, Eric Froese, and James Summerby-Murray.

Almost two years after winning $25,000 at the first Volta Cohort pitching event, Paul Doerwald has launched his product Clockk, an automated time-tracking app for freelancers and small agencies.  

Doerwald not only launched the product Wednesday but also demoed it that night at the DemoCamp at Volta. The product helps freelancers, such as software developers or graphic designers, to keep track of the billable hours they can claim for each project, even if they jump from project to project throughout each day.

In November 2017, Doerwald entered the Volta Cohort pitching competition with an idea for an app that would use machine learning to keep track of billable hours for busy multi-taskers.  He ended up one of five winners, each of whom received $25,000 in development capital.

“Winning Volta Cohort was a life-changer,” said Doerwald in an interview Wednesday. “It wasn’t that I wouldn’t have continued to work on Clockk without Cohort, but winning Cohort gave me such encouragement. To be included in the community of Volta founders, as well as getting a bit of money, it gave me the faith that I could do this.”

After the win, Doerwald received guidance from the crew at Volta and reached out to as many freelancers as he could to find out what problems they had with time sheets.

The big problem is that their days are scattershot – working for a few minutes on a project, for example, before answering an email, then remembering to do something for another project. What it means is that it becomes impossible to track how much time has been given to each project and some billable time is eventually lost.

What Clockk does is keep track of all these fragments of time. It uses machine learning to automatically label and assign the work a freelance does. The technology securely and privately tracks the files and web applications the freelancer uses throughout the day and learns which files or apps relate to which project. For example, once the user begins emailing someone for a certain project, each time he or she exchanges an email with that person, Clockk will automatically assign the work and files to that project.

The user has full control over all data collection and can access their data, ensuring complete privacy.

Some clients are now using Clockk, and Doerwald said they’re finding the tool is generating about a half-hour each day of additional billable time for each user. That can work out to about $15,000 to $18,000 of additional revenue for a freelancer in a given year.

Now that the product has launched, Doerwald plans to push it out through such means as freelancers’ meet-ups and social media groups, reaching out to key influencers in these communities. As the product develops and becomes more suitable for larger firms, he expects there will be more sales opportunities at professional conventions and other such gatherings.

So far, the Clockk team includes Doerwald and two full-time developers. Other than the Volta Cohort winnings, he has financed the development of the product with his own money. The plan now is to generate some revenue, and use that momentum to attract outside investors.

Tickets Available for Manning Event

Travis McDonough

Travis McDonough

Tickets are now available for the reception honouring the Atlantic Canadian nominees for the 2019 Ernest C. Manning Innovation Awards, which present cash prizes totalling $145,000 to winners.

The Manning Awards are among the most prestigious competitions for innovation companies in Canada because of the size of the prize package and the rigorous selection process across the country.  

The Atlantic Canadian reception, which will feature a keynote address by Emera CEO Scott Balfour, will be held Oct. 28th from 5 to 7 pm at Emera Place in Halifax. You can register for free tickets here

The Manning nominees from Atlantic Canada are:

  • Tony Chedrawy, President and CEO of MetOcean Telematics, Dartmouth – MetOcean Telematics develops state-of-the-art data acquisition and end-to-end telematics solutions. Telematics is the segment of IT that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information.
  • Travis McDonough, Founder and CEO of Kinduct Technologies, Halifax – Kinduct’s Athlete Management System is used by well over 100 professional and elite sports organizations to gain information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data on one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. 
  • Jordan Kyriakidis, Founder and CEO of QRA Corp., Halifax – QRA has developed design verification technology that helps manufacturers identify problems with sophisticated machinery while still in the design phase. The company builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements at crucial stages of development. 
  • Bethany Deshpande and Nicholas Clermont, Co-Founders of SomaDetect, Fredericton and Buffalo, N.Y. – Just a little more than two years old, SomaDetect provides dairy farms with hardware and software that can scan a cow’s milk and provide instant data regarding the cow's health. Currently, farmers rely on monthly data to make management decisions.

Past Atlantic Canadian winners of Manning Awards include Robert Niven, Founder and CEO of Dartmouth-based CarbonCure Technologies, and Glenn Cox, Founder of Charlottetown-based Rupture Seal. They won Innovation Awards in 2016 and 2014 respectively.

Talkatoo Raises, Preps for Launch

Shawn Wilkie: 'We’re doing all of it because we truly hate keyboards.'

Shawn Wilkie: 'We’re doing all of it because we truly hate keyboards.'

Halifax-based Talkatoo has raised $700,000 in equity funding and is on the verge of releasing its new voice-recognition software that can eventually be used across a range of platforms.

There’s been a bit of buzz about Talkatoo in Halifax tech circles recently, partly because of Wilkie’s track record as a serial entrepreneur and partly because of its potential as a Software-as-a-Service product that works on a variety of operating systems.

Wilkie’s $700,000 equity investment round includes a contribution from Concrete Ventures and the company has received additional funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

He will present the new product at DemoCamp at Volta on Wednesday night, after which his team is preparing an initial launch of the new product on Oct. 23.

“A while ago, we started chewing on the idea of a voice-recognition product that would work across platforms,” said Wilkie in an interview last week. “We’ve been steadily working on it for four months and we’ve almost cracked it. We’ve been quietly developing it behind a curtain, and building a product. We’re close to releasing a product for both Windows and Mac that will take your speech and turn it into text.”

Wilkie’s career as an entrepreneur began when, as a frosh at St. Francis Xavier University, he began selling computers to students. More recently, he was a co-founder of Dragon Veterinary, which provides voice recognition software for veterinarians. Wilkie sold his share in the company earlier this year to Co-Founder Tomek Obirek, in what he described as a fair deal for both parties.

While at Dragon, Wilkie grew frustrated with what he saw as the outdated technology surrounding a lot of voice-recognition software, some of which works off obsolete platforms. He set out to develop a SaaS product that can operate off both Apple and non-Apple hardware.

Teaming up with long-time CFO Aly G. Mawji, Wilkie is now working toward a launch for a Windows-based product, to be followed shortly by a Mac-based product. They will follow up with mobile products for Android and iOS.

The initial pricing will be for individual users, and Wilkie believes it will greatly improve the productivity of professionals and others. It will especially help someone who has, say, a PC at work but owns a personal iPhone or iPad.

“We’re doing all of it because we truly hate keyboards,” he said. “We don’t think that they have a place in the future. We think that by creating a multi-platform voice recognition product, we’ll able to be part of this in the future.”

Wilkie admits that voice-recognition products are known for garbling people’s instructions, but he added that technology has improved and is more accurate than before. He said that with the proper hardware, Talkatoo will have a 90 to 95 percent accuracy. That percentage will improve as users add words to their personalized vocabularies.

Wilkie is confident there will be enough take-up of the new product that he can drum up a follow-on round of investors and continue to grow the company.

“We’re just coming out of our shell,” said Wilkie. “We have nine people working on this now and that could triple by this time next year. We have some Silicon Valley investors watching us, and we know what we need to do to raise a seed round.”

Atlantic Tech Summit Set for Nov 20

The first Atlantic Technology Summit is slated for next month, to provide a one-day conference for people who work in the IT field and showcase some of the region’s growing companies.

The goal of the conference is to bring together people who work in the digital technology field and provide talks by specialists, both reps from some of the world’s biggest tech companies and home-grown talent.

The organizers are hoping for about 250 attendees, and are inviting guests from around the region. The event will take place Nov. 20 at Park Lane Cinemas in Halifax. You can buy tickets here.

“The goals of the Atlantic Technology Summit are to foster our region’s technology community by bringing globally recognized thought leaders and technology companies together while showcasing some of our home-grown, world-class technology leaders and innovators,” said organizer Calvino Anderson in an email.

Anderson, who has held a range of sales and business development roles for several companies, said the Atlantic Technology Summit is being organized by a committee of seven volunteers, each from a different segment of the tech community. He said they decided to stage the conference simply because there is a demand for it.

In the past four years, the Halifax IT/Technology Meet Up Group has grown to more than 1,000 members and many have asked for a full-day conference, he said.

He added the city and region currently offer conferences aimed at specific fields like cybersecurity, project management, dev-ops, and marketing.

“But the current general IT/Tech events are all re-seller or vendor driven, tend to ignore other sections of the community and they have a clear agenda to sell products or services,” said Anderson. “We are building a general technology event that encompasses traditional IT as well as emerging tech and dev-ops.”

He added the thrust of the event will be core to the community’s values in that “it provides a completely unbiased open forum for the sharing of ideas, learning, discussion and networking.”

The program features 19 presentations and panels, including a CIO panel, an IT vendor panel, and discussions on women in tech and artificial intelligence.

The keynote address on Canada’s digital economy will be delivered by Namir Anani, President and CEO of the Ottawa-based Information and Communications Technology Council.

The local speakers include Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, and Travis McDonough, Founder and CEO of sports health data provider Kinduct.

Kraken Lands $35M-$40M Contract

St. John’s-based Kraken Robotics announced last week that it had secured a contract with a foreign navy to supply it with mine-hunting sonar systems at a value of about $35 million to $40 million.

The maker of unmanned submarine and sonar equipment released a flurry of news in the past month, capped off by the statement last Tuesday about the sonar contract with an unnamed foreign navy.

“Under the program, Kraken will deliver the Katfish towed synthetic aperture sonar as well as autonomous launch and recovery systems to the customer,” said the statement. “The total contract value is expected to be approximately C$35-$40 million, with the majority of that received over a two-year equipment acquisition phase.”

Kraken said it still has to complete an industrial offset agreement with the buyer.

Listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, Kraken offers several underwater products and is involved in several projects. In late June, the 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. It was the first project approved by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, which will contribute as much as $5.9 million over the next three years to the project.

Last month, Kraken launched the initial phase of OceanVision.  This involved deploying sensors and unmanned underwater platforms to conduct ultra-high definition seabed imaging and mapping on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and other areas of Atlantic Canada.

“OceanVision will result in an end-to-end digitalization solution offering advanced sensors, robots and data analytics as a turnkey service for imaging and mapping of the seafloor as well as seabed assets and infrastructure,” said Kraken CEO Karl Kenney in a statement. “Today, high fidelity data is an absolute requirement for coherent input to machine-learning algorithms – otherwise it’s garbage in, garbage out. We are uniquely positioned in the underwater industry as Kraken will build, own and operate the sensor-laden drones; Kraken (and partners) will run the missions; and Kraken (and partners) will analyze the data for our customers.”

Last week, Kraken said it had received $750,000 from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to help finance ThunderFish, the company’s autonomous underwater vehicle.

Kraken said its ThunderFish AUV is an innovative marine robot designed for ultra-high-resolution seabed imaging and mapping applications. Its functions include underwater surveys, environmental monitoring, habitat mapping, marine archaeology, inspection of submerged structures, searching for downed aircraft and naval mine countermeasures.

ThunderFish carries an array of sensors and modules, including Kraken’s AquaPix Synthetic Aperture Sonar. The company said the platform is ideal for monitoring or surveillance tasks that demand cost-efficiency, ease of deployment and operational simplicity.

Kraken showcased a scale model of its ThunderFish XL last week at the Canadian Defence Security and Aerospace Exhibition Atlantic in Halifax.

Crowell Named Startup Genome Rep

Chris Crowell

Chris Crowell

Startup Genome, the San Francisco-based organization that assesses and ranks startup ecosystems around the world, has named Chris Crowell its first ambassador in Atlantic Canada.

Crowell is the former Vice-President of Corporate Innovation at Halifax-based Volta, having previously worked at Waterloo, Ont.-based OpenText and Saint John-based Mariner. He has a long history of connecting and promoting Atlantic Canada outside of the region having founded East Coast Connected in 2007 while living in Toronto.

Startup Genome releases an annual report categorizing and ranking startup ecosystems globally.  Atlantic Canada was included in the 2019 report for the first time and was ranked No. 4 among the “activation phase” ecosystems. That means its support system is relatively young and its startup base small.  The region was exceeded in this category only by: Western Denmark;  Belgrade and Novi Sad (Serbia); and Taipei City.

Startup Genome also said Atlantic Canada was a top 15 ecosystem for cost competitiveness.

“Being included in the Startup Genome report is very valuable for Atlantic Canada,” said Crowell in a statement. “Not only does it validate the hard work that many great organizations have been doing to build our innovation capacity, it is also a signal to the rest of Canada and the world that we are competitive and have immense value to offer.”

The role of the Startup Genome ambassador is to hold quarterly “Startup Agora” dinners to bring together founders and policymakers, curate stories from the startup ecosystem and help Startup Genome improve the quality of data in its annual reports.

“I am excited to represent Atlantic Canada in the Startup Genome network, to promote our talented founders and share our stories”, said Crowell.  “As we continue to grow our startup ecosystem, it is imperative that we build more connections globally and promote our successes.  Startup Genome is part of doing that.”

Synapse Recognizes Duffy, Moin

Young Innovator Award winner  Mohammed Moin, left, and Synapse CEO Dr. Justin Moores.

Young Innovator Award winner Mohammed Moin, left, and Synapse CEO Dr. Justin Moores.

J. Regis Duffy, one of the pillars of the P.E.I. biotech community, and Mohammed Moin, Co-Founder and CEO of Somru BioScience Inc., are the inaugural winners of Synapse’s new Innovator Awards.

Synapse, the agency that oversees the commercialization of research at the University of Prince Edward Island, announced the award winners last week as part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

The agency, which oversees  commercialization, technology transfer and industry engagement for the university, released a statement saying it was recognizing “a pioneer and a prodigy” in its first awards, which will be handed out each year.

“We created these awards as both our contribution to the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations and as a lasting legacy,” said Synapse CEO Justin Moores in the statement. “Each year, through an open nomination process, our selection committee will continue recognizing and honouring outstanding individuals whose innovative efforts impact our quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of our society.”

Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Innovator Award in recognition of his lifetime of achievement, including roles as the first dean of science for the university, the founder and president of Diagnostic Chemicals Ltd., and first chairman of the PEI BioAlliance.

In 1970, he founded BioVectra, which manufactures specialty chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients for drug-makers around the world. The Charlottetown-based owners sold the company for $100 million in 2013, and it was recently re-sold to a U.S. private equity firm for as much as US$250 million.

UPEI alumnus Moin received the Inspiring Young Innovator Award in recognition of his achievements as the head of Somru BioScience and his prior work with science-based technology companies Accreon and MAXIMUS Canada. Somru is developing a range of products centred around antibody technology for research, diagnostic and clinical applications.

“There are world-class success stories that have stemmed directly from individuals with a past or present connection to UPEI,” said Moores. “As the university’s commercialization office, we have the pleasure of interacting with UPEI innovators every day.”

Innovacorp Names Contest Winners

Innovacorp has announced the eight startups that have been accepted into its 2019-20 Innovacorp Accelerate Program and the five winners of the fall Sprint competition.

The Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency on Thursday released the names of the winners, who between them will divide more than $500,000 in development capital.

INNOVACORP ACCELERATE PROGRAM    

Each entrant will receive $50,000, six months of business guidance, and access to incubation space at Innovacorp’s facilities. The agency received 137 submissions from local and international applicants. The new entrants are:

Arolytics, Emmaline Atherton, Dave Risk, Liz O’Connell – Software for production and manufacturing industries to turn atmospheric emissions data into actionable insights.

Easy Golf Tour, Todd Chant, Patrick Laderoute, Kevin Chant – Software solution for golf courses and associations in North America.

Novalte, Michael Cullen – Technology to assist people with limited mobility to monitor and control electronic things in their homes.

Phycus Biotechnologies, Vik Pandit, Krishina Mahadevan, Christian Euler – Fermentation technology to produce biobased glycolic acid for cosmetics and personal care products.

Rayleigh Solar Tech Sebastiaan Ambtman, Samuel March, Dane George, Jarret Stuart – Perovskite solar cell technology.

ReelData AI , Matt Zimola, Hossein Salimian – Artificial intelligence software for aquaculture feed cameras, allowing fish farms to measure biomass and health in real-time.

RIDDL Tech,  Jenelle Sobey, Jess Peters, Derek Hatchard – Platform for impact investors to manage and analyze data to guide better investment decisions.

Sparrow Acoustics, Nadia Ivanova, Yaroslav Shpak, Max Davydov – Electronic stethoscope software for cardiologists to quickly analyze heart sounds.

Read our Recent Coverage of Accelerate Entrants:

Easy Tour Golf Eyes 10X Growth in 2020

Novalte Moves to NS To Grow

INNOVACORP SPRINT PROGRAM

The winners of the competition will receive up to $25,000 and guidance from seasoned business professionals. They were selected from 62 submissions from across Nova Scotia. The winners are:

BlueNode, Grant Wells, Louis Beaubien – Software for data cleansing, analysis, auditing and sharing for marine container ports.

EndFirst Plans, Alan Uren, Wayne Greenwood, Sambhu Lakshmanan – Project planning and scheduling software.

Greenlight Analytical, Dr. James Wylde, Simon Benwell, Louise Richardson, Nicole Wylde – Portable analyzer to measure cannabis and narcotics for safety, quality control, medical and law enforcement applications.

SeaChange Biochemistry, Brad Park – Chemicals for industry from sustainably harvested seaweed.

SmartMed, Arman Izadi, Tim Coolen, Ayda Afshar – Software for scheduling shiftwork.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

CoLab Closes $2.7M Funding Round

CoLab Co-Founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews pitching at the Y Combinator demo day.

CoLab Co-Founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews pitching at the Y Combinator demo day.

St. John’s-based CoLab Software, which makes advanced design and manufacturing collaboration software, has closed a $2.7 million financing round following its participation in Silicon Valley’s prestigious Y Combinator accelerator.

The company, whose software allows industrial designers and manufacturers to collaborate on 3D models online, also announced that it will release version 2.0 of its software this month. CoLab’s original product supported collaboration during the design phase, and the new version will move into the manufacturing phase.

CoLab Co-Founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews presented their company at the Y Combinator demo day in late August, at which 1,000 investors attended in person and a further 2,000 watched online. The team was then able to line up its investor group within 10 days.

“We stopped taking meetings about a month ago,” said Keating, the company’s CEO, in an interview Tuesday. “That was the coolest thing: we were able to meet a lot of people in a short period of time . . . and then as a company we were able to get back to building the product, which is the important thing.”

In May, CoLab announced that it was the first Atlantic Canadian company accepted into Y Combinator, arguably the world’s leading tech accelerator. Shortly after that, another St. John’s company Sequence Bio said it had also joined the Y Combinator cohort in Silicon Valley. All participants receive funding on joining the accelerator.

The CoLab funding round was led by three Silicon Valley venture capital funds that the company met through Y Combinator – Spider Capital, Liquid 2 and FundersClub. They were joined by three Canadian funds that had invested in the company previously: the St. John’s-based VC groups Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital, and the Calgary-based fund Panache Ventures.

Several other angel and institutional investors from Silicon Valley also joined the funding round.

St. John's-based Verafin Raises Monster $515M Funding Round

“We believe the industrial process automation space . . . is ripe for disruption and CoLab has the market and product insight to build a platform company,” said Spider Capital Managing Partner Michael Neril in the statement. He added that the company’s platform “streamlines the siloed design, review and collaboration process to optimize workforce productivity for engineering teams in the manufacturing industry.”

CoLab builds software that lets designers and their colleagues work simultaneously on digital 3D models, and track issues that arise throughout the development process. With Version 2.0, CoLab is extending its technology beyond the design process so it supports collaboration and issue-tracking throughout a manufacturing program’s entire lifecycle. CoLab said the new version will feature industry-leading 3D viewing technology, drawing and document reviews, and 3D assembly instructions.

Keating said the company, which had 14 employees when it raised the money, has recently added two staff members and plans to raise the headcount to 28 within a year.

The company is working with Fortune 500 customers in the automotive, defense and industrial equipment industries and has seen strong growth within its initial customers and supply chain in 2019.

“We have formed a seasoned team of investors who understand our market and how to scale enterprise SaaS companies,” said Keating. “This is the next step in enabling CoLab to become the global standardized platform for engineering design and manufacturing collaboration.”

Spark NS to Focus on Rural Areas

Spark Nova Scotia, previously known as the Spark Innovation Challenge, is making a change to focus on rural innovation and is accepting applications for the next two weeks. 

For the last few years, the contest, which was previously organized by Innovacorp, has taken place in three rural areas and Halifax. This year, Halifax has been dropped and organizers will focus only on the rural parts of the province. The contest is now being run and funded by the Community Business Development Corporations of Nova Scotia.

“Spark is searching for those hidden startup gems in our coastal, rural and academic communities,” Erinn Smith, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Association of Community Business Development Corporations, or CBDCs, said in a statement.

Spark began in Cape Breton six years ago in order to identify promising early-stage startups and provide them with $15,000 to $50,000 of operating capital. This year, the total value of prizes available for all of Nova Scotia is $375,000.

“We’re offering learning for all who apply, and in business centres that are geographically closer to the startups themselves,” said Permjot Valia, Startup Mentor with Nava Marketing, a company providing Spark organizing and training support.

Spark 2019 entrants must be based in one of the following regions:

● Spark Cape Breton, including Inverness, Richmond, Victoria and Cape Breton counties.

● Spark North, including Guysborough, Antigonish, Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland counties plus East Hants and Rural HRM (excluding Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford).

● Spark South West, including Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and West Hants counties.

While Spark is interested in startups from the ICT, life sciences, clean tech and ocean sectors, submissions are welcome from any innovation with market potential, the statement said.

Entrants must have a new knowledge-based product or service with zero sales revenue since inception. Funds awarded will be used to support the completion of prototypes or preparation for taking the product or service to market.

To enter, businesses are asked to complete the form at sparknovascotia.com by midnight on October 17.

Bursity Plans Databank Release

Bursity Co-Founders Edward Ma and Charles Milton

Bursity Co-Founders Edward Ma and Charles Milton

With post-secondary students back in colleges and universities, Bursity.ca is pushing forward with its mission of helping more young people find scholarships and bursaries and avoid the trap of student debt.

The company is developing an online platform that will help match students with the scholarships for which they are eligible and automate the application process.

Co-Founders Charles Milton and Edward Ma are now building their platform and working toward raising about $385,000 in capital – enough to get the product developed and support the company through 18 months. In the short-term, they’re looking for $100,000 in non-dilutive funding such as government programs that offer development grants.

Then they hope to take the product through two closed alpha tests next year, with the first involving 150 to 200 tech students at local post-secondary institutions. With these tests, they hope to prove that such a platform will help students find funding for their educations, and reduce the costs of groups that provide financial assistance to students.

“We live in a society where you need a post-secondary education to have any quality of life, but the cost of school is exorbitant,” said Milton in an interview. “But the subject of scholarship is still dealt with a very old-fashioned way. You might as well have a Rolodex of scholarships.”

He added that he and Ma came up with the idea based on their own pain. For example, Ma, who came to Canada from Hong Kong as a boy, attended St. Mary’s University for two years before leaving for health reasons, and just that stint left him $20,000 in debt. He later took and completed with honours the IT program at Nova Scotia Community College.

As an African-Nova Scotian, Milton became aware of a range of scholarships he could apply for, but he was amazed at the amount of time it took to apply.

The pair is working toward a platform that features a databank of scholarships. Students can input their details, learn instantly what scholarships or bursaries they are eligible for, and apply quickly. It saves time and money, not only for the students, but also for the organizations that provide scholarships.

So far, the duo has assembled a databank of about 40,000 Canadian scholarships with a total value of $60 million. This will be the data available to students in the two alpha tests. It’s a start in assembling a list of the $45 billion in scholarships and bursaries that are available across Canada and the U.S. – much of which goes unclaimed each year.

The company’s short-term goal is to develop a website and to begin blogging about scholarships and tips for getting them. They will also release the current databank of scholarships to provide immediate value to the people they’re trying to help.  They’re working with programs which allow them to employ technical and marketing students to help them grow the company.

Milton is also keen to link up with investors who can help this social enterprise through its early stages – people who understand the difficulties students face in funding their educations.

“What we’re looking for is someone who can look at what we’re doing and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, this is a problem,’” said Milton.

Understanding the Structure and Processes of NBIF

Raymond Fitzpatrick:

Raymond Fitzpatrick:

Sponsored Content

The inner workings of a venture capital fund can seem mysterious to those of us on the outside, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is eager to shine a light on how these funds operate.

NBIF is not your typical VC fund and the organization is happy to explain the difference between itself and more traditional funds. As well as having a different structure, the Fredericton-based agency has a flatter investment team than a traditional VC fund, and its proceeds are ploughed back into the fund rather than given to investors.

Where NBIF does NOT differ from other VC funds is that its primary goal in any investment is to make money.

“What return we’re looking at – that’s where we’re in total alignment with the more traditional funds,” said NBIF Director of Investment Raymond Fitzpatrick in an interview. “We look for an opportunity that can return 10X [10 times the original investment], realizing the likelihood of doing so is very low. Even with high incidence of failure, we aim to double value, so we’re hoping to turn our $15 million fund into $30 million.”

Now 16 years old, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is a private organization that executes the innovation strategy of the provincial government. It is currently in the middle of a three-year funding cycle determined by the New Brunswick government, which provides its funding. NBIF operates an evergreen fund, meaning that it does not remit money back to the provincial government but feeds profits from successful investments back into the fund.

How is that different from a standard VC fund? VC funds generally are private partnerships whose raison d’etre is to make a profit for the partners. Each fund exists for about 10 years, drawing money from limited partners, or LPs, who are financial companies, funds of funds or wealthy individuals. The VC fund managers customarily spend about five years investing in about 10 to 12 companies, then spend the next five years in follow-on investments, nurturing the companies and helping the better ones to exit. At the end of 10 years, the fund must return money to the LPs.

According to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, NBIF in 2018 was the second most active “government” VC fund in Canada. (Government means the funds’ backers are largely public sector.) The CVCA said the Foundation last year was involved in 22 funding rounds worth a total of $54 million – a performance exceeded in the “government” category only by BDC Capital, the country’s largest VC agency. 

Read about some of NBIF's Recent Deals

Patchell Brook Raises $360,000

ICP, NBIF Invest $400K in Stash Energy

NBIF Joins Build in Backing Gemba Software

Quber's $450K Round Led by NBIF

What NBIF is really known for in the Canadian VC community is making one of the best investments in the country’s history. When social media analytics company Radian6 was purchased by Salesforce.com in 2011, it produced a return for NBIF of $9.2 million or 28 times its original investment, on two rounds of investment in less than five years.

Fitzpatrick said one of the big differences between NBIF and other funds is the flat management structure in the Fredericton outfit.

Each traditional VC firm is a pyramid with the general partners at the top. There could be as many as 12 general partners at the top and they make the investment decisions. They are the people entrepreneurs really want to meet when pitching for funding.

Below the general partners in descending order are the partners, the associates and then the analysts. The partners are dealmakers, but they don’t have the final say, and each tier below general partners has less and less influence.

NBIF has a flatter investment team.  At the top is CEO Jeff White, then Director of Investment Fitzpatrick, then Associate Thomas Bird and two analysts, Jeff Lingley and Daniel Hoyles.

The approval process depends on the size of the deal. Up to a certain dollar amount, the CEO has the authority to sign off on a deal, and above that, the full investment committee must approve a deal. The larger deals need approval of the Board of Directors.

“Our structure is flat and not a pyramid at all,” said Fitzpatrick. “All of us have deal-making authority and then we all work with the companies post-closing.”

The NBIF officers continue to work with the companies after a funding round closes, helping the companies as and when they can. This could include accounting advice (three of five investment officers are accountants), introductions, or help with a pitch for follow-on funding.

NBIF will take board seats on its portfolio companies, often appointing an outside representative rather than an NBIF employee. The Foundation aims to appoint people with expertise in the company’s field.

There’s one final difference between NBIF and a traditional VC fund – it feels no competition with other investors. In large innovation centers, the VC funds often compete with one another for deals. But NBIF prefers to look for co-investors to join it on deals.

“It’s actually easier because we’re located in New Brunswick,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re happy to co-invest with other parties. We talk to VCs like Concrete [Halifax-based early-stage VC fund Concrete Ventures], sharing information on the companies we’re looking at. We’ve taken a cooperative model rather than competitive.”

About NBIF

NBIF strives to create a culture of innovation in New Brunswick by actively supporting early stage start-up entrepreneurs and applied researchers, with the vision of being among Canada’s most recognized investment partners. They help their academics grow their research and their entrepreneurs grow their business, so they can grow their province.

Easy Golf Tour Eyes Growth in 2020

Easy Golf Tour Founder Todd Chant, right, with CMO Pat Laderoute

Easy Golf Tour Founder Todd Chant, right, with CMO Pat Laderoute

It’s as if Todd Chant is driving on to a wide fairway with the wind at his back on a short Par 4.

The head of Sydney-based Easy Golf Tour isn’t under-estimating the task in front of him next year, but his two-year-old company is gaining momentum and he is optimisitc about its prospects in the 2020 golf season.

Easy Golf Tour has developed software that helps golf courses administer the tournaments they hold several times each season. So far it has been used at more than 1,000 events at 65 golf courses, and Chant is striking partnerships with more provincial golf associations which is underpinning his optimism for next season.

“What they realize is we’re adding a huge value to the golf courses for a minimal price, and the golf associations like that we give them a value-add that they’ve never had before,” said Chant in an interview this week.

Speaking after Easy Golf Tour appeared at MentorCamp in Charlottetown last week, Chant said the company has made headway so far because it had partnerships in place through the 2019 golf season with provincial golf associations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. Now it has signed agreements with the associations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Alberta, and is in late-stage talks with the Ontario golf body.

What’s more, Easy Golf Tour has responded to a major request-for-proposal put out by Golf Canada, which could transform the business. Chant has already worked with the national organization at the Canadian Junior Golf Championships in Hartland, N.B., in August.

“Our revenue this year was up 10 times from last year, and we hope that we get it up 10 times for next year also,” said Chant.

So far, Easy Golf Tour has built up its customer base with what Chant refers to as the first phase of its product. It’s an integrated platform that simplifies the whole process of staging a golf tournament. The system lets course members sign up for a tournament, and arranges and announces the draw, so all golfers know when they’re teeing off. It posts scores online, and notifies players of special messages. It can even send the media the results of a tournament.

Now, Chant is focused on a second phase, which allow courses to automate their tee-time management, and their point-of-sales operations. He hopes to release these features in time for the 2020 season.

Chant, who spent 18 years overseeing an IT company that carried out projects for golf courses, is heading the development team bringing the product to life, meaning he is now CEO and Chief Technology Officer. The other senior people on the team are CFO Kevin Chant (Todd’s brother) and CMO Pat Laderoute.

The team is now working on a funding round of about $400,000 and has secured commitments of $50,000 so far. As the company grows, it aims to bring on either a new CEO or CTO, so Chant can hand off some of his current duties and focus on the other position.

With the new product in place, Chant is hoping to complete his coverage of the Canadian market then, in 2021, he intends to move into the larger market of the U.S., in such states as Florida, Texas and Arizona.  

He said: “We want to be 100 percent sure that our product is working perfectly before we hit a major market like the U.S.”

Anessa Wins NB BioScience Award

A New Brunswick Biotech company is being recognized by BioNB for its contributions to the sector.

BioNB, New Brunswick’s bioscience agency, awarded anessa the New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award on Tuesday night at their annual industry event, Innovation at the Market, where more than 100 members of the business and research community gathered to mark the substantial growth experienced by the province’s bioscience sector in recent years.

The New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award is bestowed every year on an individual, company or research team, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the growth and promotion of the sector and whose contributions have helped put New Brunswick on a national or global stage.

Previously known as Wentech Solutions, anessa is a biogas software company specializing in decision-making tools for the waste-to-energy sector. anessa’s intelligent software supports decisions on complex project design and optimal operating conditions for anaerobic digestion facilities. . . . 

Read the full article on Huddle. 

Ignite Labs Opens in Pictou County

Yarmouth-based Ignite Labs has opened a second rural innovation hub in Pictou County to support the startup community in the northern part of Nova Scotia.

Ignite is a rural innovation hub that provides mentorship and opportunities for startups. The new space at 39 Acadia Avenue in Stellarton will provide low-cost office space and internet, equipment and professional services to reduce the financial burden faced by new companies.

Tenants at the new location will be able to access mentors with expertise in technology, finance, governance, commercialization, marketing and law, organizers said in a statement. They will be able to work alongside like-minded creative people.

“Our goal in starting Ignite was to provide a space where an entrepreneur can work with other startups and access mentorship, resources, and advice that will help them grow and achieve success,” said Doug Jones, President and CEO of Ignite, in the statement.

“Along with this, we hope to create a culture of innovation where we can support and help grow the vibrant industries in Nova Scotia.”

Ignite Labs opened in 2018 to encourage entrepreneurial growth in the technology, oceans and tourism sectors in Southwestern Nova Scotia. It aims to create a technology culture by presenting youth with problems experienced in the region and beyond and helping them devise solutions. In June, Volta startup House in Halifax presented Ignite with an award for its work in growing the startup ecosystem.

The group earlier formed a partnership with Digital Nova Scotia, a non-profit that fosters the growth of the province’s ICT sector. The partnership helps the two non-profits collaborate to find and create new opportunities for tech-driven and business-minded Nova Scotians.

MESH/diversity’s $950K Round

MESH/diversity CEO Mike Wright

MESH/diversity CEO Mike Wright

MESH/diversity, the Moncton company that helps organizations measure and improve diversity, has raised a $950,000 equity funding round, including a $250,000 contribution from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

This is the first time NBIF has invested in MESH/diversity. The other investors in this round are the Saint John investment group East Valley Ventures – which invested in the company previously – and a range of angel investors from New Brunswick and Ontario.

MESH/diversity’s software helps organizations build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.  Using predictive algorithms, its Diversity Intelligence platform measures an organization’s inclusiveness, and helps to implement improvements. The goal is to develop an inclusive culture in which the best people will want to work, stay and thrive. 

“We are very excited with the momentum we are seeing this year -- we have added a number of new clients across North America,” said CEO Mike Wright in an email. “This investment will enable us to build on this momentum and continue to expand our client base, having our Diversity Intelligence Platform be adopted by even more organizations who understand the value of having a measurable and actionable D&I [diversity and inclusion] Strategy with a focus on Inclusion at the core.”

Since its launch in 2013, MESH/diversity has doubled its team, grown its revenue, and expanded its customer base. The company counts Southern New Hampshire University, LPL Financial, OSL Retail Services and Habitat for Humanity Canada among its clients.

The company’s approach and philosophy follow the teachings of Chief Diversity Officer Leeno Karumanchery, who has more than 20 years of experience and expertise in the field.

NBIF Leads Patchell Brook's $360K Round

“Currently, there’s increased importance placed on equity, diversity and inclusivity which has created a new opportunity for solutions that create fairer hiring and human resources processes,” said NBIF Investment Analyst Daniel Hoyles in a statement. “We feel that MESH/diversity is uniquely positioned to address this.”

He added: “Rather than relying on personality profiles, MESH has distinguished itself from competitors by focusing their product on the behavioural makeups that actually drive belonging, inclusion and engagement in organizational cultures.”

MESH/diversity, which employs 13 people, plans to use the investment to expand its marketing team and execute its marketing strategy, said Wright. It will also be looking to add to its sales, client success, development and data science teams.

“Companies are increasingly recognizing the value of building inclusive cultures, and contrary to popular belief, you can’t simply hire your way there,” said Wright. “At MESH, we take a data driven approach to removing unconscious bias so our clients can build the cultures that they want.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Dash Hudson Now Tracks Pinterest

Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin

Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin

Halifax-based Dash Hudson, the fast-growing visual marketing SaaS company, has launched a new product to measure Pinterest campaigns for major brands.

Dash Hudson helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. So far Dash Hudson has been known for monitoring Instagram and now its tools can be used to measure the success of Pinterest campaigns.

“Built with the most important brands in the world in mind, DH’s Pinterest Analytics surfaces meaningful insights that inform which pins are engaging a brand's target market, and ultimately, driving traffic and revenue,” said Dash Hudson in a blog last week. “Easily uncover what visuals are inspiring action from pinners, monitor KPIs in one place, and bulk publish content to feed the Pinternet.”

The blog notes that Pinterest users – known as pinners – use the social media platform to search for actionable and engaging content and are often in a purchasing mindset. “Unlike other channels, Pinterest is about your self, not your selfie,” said the blog. “Pinners share their most intimate creative thoughts, which is no surprise considering two-thirds of users described Pinterest as a place to find products, services, and ideas that they trust.”

That means that savvy brands use Pinterest to connect with buyers through multiple touchpoints, using a different strategy than on Instagram.

Check Out Dash Hudson Job Openings on the Entrevestor Job Board

Founded by CEO Thomas Rankin and CTO Tomasz Niewiarowski, Dash Hudson is known as one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Atlantic Canada. According to its website, Dash Hudson’s clients include such blue-chip companies as General Electric, NBC Universal and Amazon.com.

The company has been a hiring machine. Concrete Ventures head Patrick Hankinson, who tracks startups’ hiring via LinkedIn data, estimated that in the second quarter of 2019, Dash Hudson added a net 10 employees to a total staff of 94.

Dash Hudson has gone through a few funding rounds and its investors include Build Ventures, Innovacorp, and a range of angel investors.

Dash Hudson said its Boards tool, which is used for content segmentation, is fully loaded and ready for Pinterest. DH boards allow brands to identify visual trends for top performing content, measure specific campaigns, and create benchmarks for different content pillars.

“With Dash Hudson Pinterest Analytics, brands can easily understand what pins are driving each stage of engagement, and gather actionable insights to drive performance at each stage of the process,” said the blog.

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is continuing to add staff:  the company's opening for an Account Executive headlines our Job of the Week column today.

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.

Entrevestor Startup Data Shows Record Funding, Soaring Revenues

The number of Atlantic Canadian startups has increased 15 percent annually over the last six years.

The number of Atlantic Canadian startups has increased 15 percent annually over the last six years.

Startups in Atlantic Canada attracted a record $166.6 million in private capital in 2018, while increasing their revenues strongly and adding about 1,000 employees, according to a new study from Entrevestor, which provides news and data on East Coast innovators.

Entrevestor on Friday released its Atlantic Canadian Startup Data Report 2018 – the most thorough assessment of the performance and growth of a regional startup community in Canada.

This is the sixth year that we have compiled and analyzed data on high-growth, innovation companies in Atlantic Canada, and the first that is open to the public on entrevestor.com. Previously, we sold the reports to clients, but this year the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Volta led a group of supporters that arranged to have our report posted for all to see.

“Entrevestor's report demonstrates the impact that Atlantic Canadian startups have on the region's economic growth, and represents an increased collaboration between key stakeholders in our innovation ecosystem," said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta, Canada’s East Coast Innovation Hub. "More people and organizations are working together to collect and share information to highlight the Atlantic region's contribution to Canada's innovation economy, and that enthusiasm towards collaboration will be a fundamental part of catalyzing Atlantic Canada's ecosystem so it can reach its full potential."

Click Here To Download the Full Report

The 52-page report’s main findings for 2018 are:

The community continues to grow – Entrevestor found 550 high-growth, innovation-driven companies in the region. There were a record 115 new companies (with strong growth in St. John’s) and 66 failures.  Over the past six years, the number of companies in the community has increased by about 15 percent annually.

Record funding – Atlantic Canadian companies raised $166.6 million from founders, friends and family, angels, venture capital funds and strategic investors. The funding was led by $84.7 million raised by New Brunswick companies. The total raised in private capital did not include more than $24 million on stock markets, and we noted that more and more Atlantic Canadian innovators are listing on stock markets.

Employment rising – About 5,500 people worked directly for Atlantic Canadian startups at the end of 2018, up 22 percent from a year earlier. We estimate a further 2,500 Atlantic Canadians work for multinationals that acquired startups in the region and continued to grow operations on Canada’s East Coast.

Continued growth in revenues – Well over 100 companies reported their revenues to Entrevestor, and this data showed Atlantic Canadian startups’ revenues, as a weighted average, are growing at 75 percent annually. About 13 percent of the companies have revenues of more than $1 million.

The fastest-growing sector is life sciences – About half the companies in the community are in the IT sector, but the numbers in life sciences are rising. The life sciences companies made up 21 percent of the total, compared with 16 percent four years earlier.

The oceantech sector is becoming a reality – Boosted by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, Atlantic Canada is now home to a young, vibrant group of ocean technology startups.  Half these companies are less than three years old, but the group in total attracted $8.3 million in equity investment last year, employed 713 people and more than doubled revenues.

For a few years, we’ve been describing the Atlantic Canadian startup community as a pyramid, and each year we see the base of the pyramid widen with more companies launching. Our research into staffing, funding and especially revenue shows the companies at the top of the pyramid are growing in leaps and bounds.

As well as the partners who made the publication possible, we would like to thank Mike Hayes and Mike Cyr at Charcoal Marketing, Peter Eastwood at Eastwood Design, layout artist Akira Arruda, and Connor Kirby, who contributed graphics. 

Innovate Atlantic Showcases New Programs

Two new initiatives were unveiled at the Innovate Atlantic conference on Thursday that are designed to further enrich the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.  

Allen Nizi, Partnerships Lead at Microsoft for Startups, announced a new partnership with Volta. The Microsoft for Startups-Volta partnership will provide resident companies with access to technology, experts, events and resources that the organization has to offer.

And the launch of ONSIDE – the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship – was announced by Chere Chapman, Board Chair, and Alexandra McCann, Executive Director.

Now in its second year, Innovate Atlantic is a one-day conference presented by Halifax-based innovation hub Volta. It is designed to help set Atlantic Canada’s innovation agenda, and a strong theme of the discussion was inclusion in the innovation community.

“Bringing together our community of thought leaders, experts and innovators to discuss and explore Atlantic Canada’s potential for growth and development is important to help build a broader understanding of what we are capable of achieving,” said Jesse Rodgers, Volta CEO. “Ultimately, it comes down to individuals and organizations adopting innovative mindsets, fostering community collaboration, putting a greater emphasis on place-making, and creating exciting employment opportunities that will attract and retain youth and newcomers.”

Volta’s new partnership with Microsoft for Startups will allow the two organizations to work together to nurture the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada with specific events and programming. Microsoft for Startups will also offer to eligible Volta Residents certain benefits, including up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, as well as enterprise-grade technical support and development tools.

 “Volta is a pillar of support for startups in eastern Canada, helping local companies connect with the resources they need to scale,” said Adam Nanjee, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups Canada.

The second new initiative presented at the conference is ONSIDE, a Halifax-based non-profit focused on strengthening the Nova Scotia ecosystem for inclusive, innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

“We’re looking to convene, connect and catalyze,” said McCann in an interview. “We’re looking to work with stakeholders  . . . .to identify strategies that can galvanize and push the innovation agenda forward.”

Several of the speakers at Innovate Atlantic detailed the need for inclusion within the startup community, both to grow more diversified workforces and to improve business prospects. Bernd Christmas, CEO of Gitpo Storms and one of the architects of the business success of Membertou First Nation, encouraged the audience to work with the 60,000 to 70,000 Canadian businesses owned by natives.

And Kris Braun, Vice-President of Engineering at Waterloo, Ont.-based Bonfire, encouraged founders to ease their talent shortages by seeking qualified people within refugee communities overseas. Bonfire has worked with the group Talent Beyond Boundaries to hire a Syrian-born programmer who was living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The company is now planning to hire more refugees.

With $500M+, Verafin Has Firepower to Continue Its Stellar Growth

In announcing its whopping $515 million equity-and-debt deal on Wednesday, St. John’s-based fintech company Verafin revealed more about its stellar operations than about the deal itself.

Other than the headline number, the highlight of the announcement is that the company’s founders, management and staff are still the largest shareholding group. That indicates the performance of the underlying operations have been so strong that the people working for the company have not been overly diluted, even though the company has just brought in more than a half-billion in capital.

The statement itself shows just how strong the company’s growth has been: Its annualized recurring revenue hit $100 million in the first quarter – up 87 percent from two years earlier. More than 3,000 banks and credit unions in the U.S. are now clients, including 25 with more than $5 billion in assets.

“One of the most important things for us is that the deal allows the management and employees to be the largest shareholder group in the company,” said Verafin Co-Founder Brendan Brothers in an interview. He added that will allow the company to continue its growth while remaining based in St. John’s, where it employs more than 500 people.

Verafin, which provides lenders with software to detect and prevent fraud and money-laundering, said the $515 million fundraising comprised both equity and debt, but did not give a specific breakdown. That means little is known about the deal – even whether it should be classified as private equity or venture capital. The Globe and Mail called the deal the “largest ever Canadian venture deal", though Brothers said the company is just referring to funding as “growth equity.”

What is clear is that five years after the company announced a $60 million private equity investment by Spectrum Equity of California, Verafin is still growing like a startup. And Brothers believes that growth will continue.

The injection of capital will allow Verafin in the short-term to continue to focus on its core market of the U.S., which has more than 10,000 banks, meaning Verafin can still grow in that market. The company is moving more aggressively into the mid-tier banks, meaning those with more than $5 billion in assets.

Read our First Report on the Verafin Deal 

Brothers said Verafin has also found that institutions have great success in thwarting criminals when they collaborate and share data, and Verafin can grow by supporting more of these collaborative solutions.

“That portion of the market is something we’re been focusing on for the past 18 months,” said Brothers, adding one bonus from that business is that it leads to referrals to new customers.

The new financing will also give Verafin the firepower to work on new markets, whether they are in countries other than the U.S. or among other financial-service providers, such as insurers or money managers.

Verafin has grown from 200 employees to 500 in about four years, and Brothers said the company has not had much trouble attracting new employees. It has worked closely with colleges and universities in developing tech workers, and is also active in recruiting employees from other parts of Canada and other countries. Immigrants make up about one-fifth of its staff.

The Verafin deal is being celebrated well beyond the company itself as a sign of what a tech company can do regardless of where it’s based.

“This Verafin deal is big,” said Michelle Simms, CEO of Genesis, where Verafin began 16 years ago. “It’s big not only for the startup ecosystem – it’s big for Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada. It proves to people all over Canada that you can start a technology company in a small community and attract investment from major investors.”

Verafin Closes $515M Equity-and-Debt Round

Verafin CEO Jamie King

Verafin CEO Jamie King

St. John’s-based Verafin, the world’s largest financial crime management software company, has closed a $515 million equity and debt recapitalization, which it says is one of the largest growth financings ever by a Canadian software company.

In a statement, Verafin, whose software helps banks battle fraud and money-laundering, said it has enjoyed tremendous growth in recent years, hitting $100 million in annual recurring revenues this year. It added that its vision of fighting financial crime through collaboration and cross-institutional analysis is fast becoming the industry standard for fraud detection and anti-money laundering regulatory compliance. The recapitalization allows Verafin to aggressively pursue its growth plans while remaining an independent company.

The deal included new equity financing from Spectrum Equity’s current investing fund as well as Information Venture Partners’ new fund, with participation by new backers Northleaf Capital Partners, BDC Capital and Teralys Capital. Senior debt financing for the transaction was led by Wells Fargo Capital Finance and included Scotiabank in the syndicate. The company did not provide a breakdown of the equity and debt components of the round. Houlihan Lokey served as the financial advisor to Verafin.

“We are very excited to begin this new phase of Verafin’s journey,” said Co-Founder and CEO Jamie King in the statement. “This financing round with our long-term partners Spectrum Equity and IVP allows Verafin to accelerate our investments in product innovation and customer success, and continue our progress in market penetration of larger financial institutions.”

Following the transaction, Verafin co-founders, management and employees will collectively represent the largest shareholding group. A prior Information Venture Partners, or IVP, fund provided initial venture capital financing for Verafin in 2009, and a prior Spectrum Equity fund led a $60 million equity financing in 2014.

Read our Analysis of the Verafin Deal

Nearly 3,000 banks and credit unions use Verafin to fight financial crime and comply with regulations. Leveraging its big data intelligence, visual storytelling and collaborative investigation capabilities, Verafin reduces false positive alerts, delivers context-rich insights and streamlines compliance processes, the company said.

Verafin was known in the St. John’s tech community to be growing strongly, as its headcount has soared past 350. The announcement on Wednesday gave specifics on how quickly it has been growing:

  • Annual Recurring Revenue Growth: The company hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue in the first quarter of 2019, representing 87 percent growth in annual recurring revenue since the beginning of 2017.
  • New Business Growth: The company achieved 108 percent growth in sales bookings between 2017 and 2019, and 102 percent growth in average deal size over this same time period.
  • Customer Value: Consistently, 97 percent of Verafin customers renew annually.
  • Up-Market Momentum: Verafin has signed 25 financial institutions with over US$5 billion in assets in the last 18 months and said it is experiencing increased growth and inbound interest from this market segment.
  • Product Innovation: Verafin said it has developed a unique customer-driven development process that provides rapid deployment of new product capabilities to meet and exceed customer demands in the rapidly changing financial crime landscape.

“We are thrilled to be renewing our partnership with Verafin via this new investment to support its next phase of growth” said Spectrum Equity Managing Director Chris Mitchell in the statement. “We look forward to working with Jamie and the rest of the Verafin team to continue to support their product-innovation led go-to-market strategy that has enabled the Company’s explosive growth.”

Dave Unsworth, General Partner at IVP added, “Verafin is in the very early innings of its mission to create the world’s most effective crime fighting network. We see a massive opportunity ahead for Verafin to continue to lead this market transformation through continued product innovation and thought leadership.”

Mysa in Lazaridis Scaleup Program

As evidence of its growing momentum, St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats has been named to two elite pan-Canadian programs this month.

On Wednesday, the company was one of 10 Canadian companies named to the Lazaridis Institute’s Scaleup Program, which helps leading tech companies increase their sales. Three weeks earlier, Mysa was among the 20 companies named to the Canadian Innovation Exchange’s CIX Top 20, which recognizes Canadian tech companies on the ascent.

 Mysa – whose corporate name is Empowered Homes – was the only Atlantic Canadian company named to either program this year.  

 “The Lazaridis [program will provide] great mentorship to bring Mysa to the next level,” said Co-Founder and CEO Joshua Green in an email on Wednesday, adding the CIX is great for recognition.

The company was founded in 2014 by Green and his brother Zachary. Its main product for the past few years has been the Mysa thermostat, which uses artificial intelligence and mobile communications to ensure optimum heat settings in homes with high-voltage heating systems, such as electric baseboard. It recently added a product for in-floor heating systems. Most automated heating controls like Nest and Ecobee don’t work on high-voltage systems.

The company has grown to 50 employees and in June raised $2.3 million to help with product development and marketing. A graduate of the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, it has been financed by the Venture NL fund (which is managed by Pelorus Venture Capital), and Killick Capital. 

The Lazaridis Institute is housed at Wilfrid Laurier University and will begin its fifth cohort on Oct. 17.

The program aims to help companies accelerate their growth with education and access to a global network of mentors. The Atlantic Canadian companies that previously went through the program are QRA Corp. of Halifax and Spring Loaded Technology of Dartmouth.

Medusa Preps New Platform

Medusa Medical Technologies, the Halifax company that builds communication software for paramedics, is developing a new generation of software that customers can use on a range of platforms.

In an interview at the Invest Atlantic conference called Funding Founders, Medusa Chair Glen Dexter said the current version of the solution operates off a Windows-based operating system. The new version, which should be launched in February, will allow users to use Medusa software on a range of platforms, including Apple’s iOS platform.

“The biggest cost for our customers now is the hardware in the ambulance,” said Dexter. “They use tablets that typically are Windows-based, and they can cost $3,000 to $4,000 each, and a large customer could have 500 to 1,000 of them.”

He added these tablets are often shared among various teams of paramedics, so the wear and tear on the hardware is substantial. But now the National Health Service in the U.K. is pushing to have tablets distributed to individual paramedics so each is responsible for his or her device and should take better care of it. And London Ambulance, one of Britain’s largest ambulance services, has decided it will now use iPads, which is a huge opportunity for a company that operates on iOS.

Thus, Medusa is updating its technology so it can be used on a range of operating systems. The new product will also offer flexibility to clients, who can have varying needs across their jurisdictions. For example, the emergency medical service in British Columbia is a client, and its staff in Vancouver have to cope with the demands of the opioid crisis in the Downtown Eastside while staff in rural areas have far fewer calls. 

Medusa began early in the century with a vision of providing paramedics with a simple technical device to instantly record the details of a patient’s medical condition and transmit them instantly to a hospital or other medical institution.

It was backed with venture capital from three investors: Dexter’s own company, Canadian International Capital Inc.; Innovacorp; and Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton.

In 2013, the company needed to update its technology, which included components that had become obsolete since the original product was launched. The goal was to allow the system to input and process more patient care information before a patient was taken to hospital. It added features and offered greater flexibility to paramedics and other emergency medical professionals.

To help finance that revamp, Medusa secured a $2.6 million loan through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Atlantic Innovation Fund. Dexter said the program helped the company improve sales and Medusa is now in the process of repaying that debt.

“We weren’t in any shape to put up the capital [needed for the rebuild] at the time,” said Dexter. “It wasn’t an easy time for us. That capital was critical to the project. We were able with that new product to pick up some very good customers.”

The company, which employs about 40 people, is still growing with customers in several countries and Canadian provinces.  The 2019 revenues will come in about 20 percent higher than the 2018 figure, and the company does not need to raise capital, said Dexter.

Founder Institute Comes to Halifax

The Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator, is launching its newest chapter in Halifax and has opened applications for its winter 2020 cohort.

With plans to host two semesters annually, the Silicon Valley-based organization aims to launch more than 20 meaningful and enduring technology companies per year in Halifax.

The Founder Institute’s step-by-step program provides early-stage entrepreneurs with the structure, mentor support, and global network needed to start an enduring company, said the organization in a press release.

“A key differentiator between FI and other accelerators would definitely be the global reach,” said Founder Institute Halifax Director Amie Walton-Fudge in an email. She said the organization has 14,000 mentors in its global network, and alumni that have raised more than $850 million in funding.

“We also offer a wide variety of post-program lifetime support to our portfolio companies, most notably Founder Lab and the opportunity for graduates to work closely with our [headquarters] team as they pursue fundraising and traction goals beyond completion of the core program.”

Walton-Fudge, a Halifax entrepreneur who previously enrolled in a Founder Institute accelerator, said the program is designed for aspiring entrepreneurs (including people with just an idea). It will provide them with the training, mentorship, and network to build a global company in Halifax. “It is a great fit for Halifax because the FI program will feed new entrepreneurial talent into the established programs we have in place, further growing our local startup ecosystem even more,” she said.

The Halifax Chapter will be led by: Walton-Fudge, Co-Founder and CEO of TriBic Software; Kaitlyn Touesnard, President and Event Manager at Crescendo Events Ltd.; and Suzie Ketene, Director of AvisoGroup Inc.

The group has already attracted local mentors who have expressed interest in helping with the cohort,  including:

●            Holly Bond, Investment Attraction, Innovation, Halifax Partnership;

●            Katelyn Bourgoin, Founder, Customer Camp;

●            Kyle Racki, CEO and Co-Founder, Proposify;

●            Laura Simpson, CEO and Co-Founder, Side Door;

●            Mark Mac Donald, Founder and Principal of Business Development NS, Catalyst Sales and Marketing;

●            Mathew Zimola, Co-Founder, ReelData;

●            Michael Sanderson, Director, Saint Mary's University Entrepreneurship Centre;

●            Ron Lovett, President and CEO, RFL Group of Companies;

●            Saeed El Darahali, Founder and President and CEO, SimplyCast;

●            Stephanie Holmes Winton, Founder and CEO, CacheFlo;

●            And William Adams, the retired Co-Founder and VP, Sampling Technologies Inc.

The Halifax Founder Institute will host a series of free events to reveal more about the program, the details of which can be found here. Applications to the program are open here until Dec. 8.

There is an application fee of US$25 and a course tuition fee of US$799 for anyone who applies before Nov. 10, after which the fee increases to US$999. People applying before Nov. 10 are also elegible for a range of scholarships. 

“The tuition fee varies by region and is designed to be just at the right cost that is affordable while ensuring the founder is committed to the program, which is a fairly intensive program that requires strong dedication,” said Walton-Fudge, adding that there is a refund for anyone who leaves before the third session, there is also a payment plan.

Vineview Extends Reach in California

Halifax-based VineView, which provides remote sensing technology for vineyards, has extended its blanket flyover coverage to the California communities of Edna Valley, Monterey, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.

For years, VineView has flown most of Napa Valley and Sonoma County twice annually – once during bloom, and again during veraison, or the onset of ripening – capturing data on each vineyard and vine. It is now providing the same blanket coverage for vineyards in the Central Coast, one of the most important wine growing regions in the world.

This means vineyard managers and operators can access VineView’s proprietary vine-by-vine data and diagnostics from 2019, said the company in a statement.

“VineView provides the industry’s most accurate data and vineyard diagnostics available, and through our blanket coverage program, we can show vineyard operators not only how precise it is, but how they can easily harness this powerful technology to better manage day-to-day operations and long-term forecasting,” said CEO Richard Van der Put in the statement.

VineView uses aerial images to assess the health and output of vineyards, and has become the market leader in France. The company in its current form was created in early 2018 when Halifax-based SkySquirrel merged with its Napa Valley, California-based partner VineView, creating an enlarged company based in the Halifax area.

While most companies gathering and analyzing data for agricultural clients use drones to scan fields, VineView uses aircraft. It has its own fleet of three planes. Van der Put said it’s a surprisingly cost-effective way to gather data, and a single aircraft can scan all of Napa Valley in a single afternoon. The company uses its own technology called PureVine, developed by its own team, which is so precise it can give vineyard owners data on individual vines in their fields.

PureVine can identify undetected vines and canopy gaps, show stress and detect disease, the company said. The diagnostics can also divide blocks – and entire vineyards – into precise vigor zones, allowing operators to track throughout the season, and year to year.

In June, Van der Put said he is working on a funding round he hopes will reach $10 million.

7 Startups Schooled at MentorCamp

Permjot Valia, centre, with mentors from Cape Breton, Arkansas, the UK and PEI.

Permjot Valia, centre, with mentors from Cape Breton, Arkansas, the UK and PEI.

MentorCamp took place in Charlottetown on Monday, bringing together seven companies for an intense day with 28 mentors from Atlantic Canada and other parts of the world.

Launched in Halifax in 2011 by investor and consultant Permjot Valia, MentorCamp assembles promising companies and schedules rotating meetings throughout one day with about two dozen mentors, who meet the entrepreneurs in groups of three or four.

The international mentors included: Jane Galsworthy of the Oxford Centre for Innovation in the U.K.; Jeff Amerine, who heads the consulting group StartUp Junkie in Arkansas; and Joseph T. Wright, Head of the Entrepreneurship office at the South Dakota University of Mines and Technology.

“The whole goal here today is to get all those experiences into the brains of all the founders gathered here – that is the main thing,” Joshua Green, CEO of St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostat, told the mentee companies as the program opened. His company went through MentorCamp a few years ago and he served as a mentor on Monday.

“You don’t need to agree with it all. You don’t need to disagree with it all. You just need to be a sponge for the next eight hours and collect as much as you can,” he continued.

Said Mike Fraietta, the CEO of Kidfolio, one of the presenting companies: “This was extremely helpful. We found out so much work we have to do that we almost left halfway through to get to work on it.”

Here's a list of the companies that attended MentorCamp 2019:

Cribcut, Halifax – Led by CEO David Howe, Cribcut assigns groups of hair stylists to large offices to cut people’s hair, providing convenience for the customers and reducing stylists’ costs.

Easy Golf Tour, Sydney – Headed by CEO Todd Chant, Easy Golf Tour has developed software that helps golf courses administer the tournaments they hold several times each season.

Eyesover, Fredericton – Eyesover’s opinion-tracking software uses artificial intelligence to analyze media and uncover new issues or discussions of importance to the user. The company is headed by CEO Craig Leonard.

Onset Communication, Charlottetown – Onset has developed The Visual Assistant, a visual communication tool that reduces miscommunication, delays and mistakes on film production sets. It is led by CEO Brian Sharp.

Septic Sitter, Charlottetown – Septic Sitter places sensors in a septic tank and drainfield, the underground area that catches the runoff from the tank. The sensors send readings to a sensor hub in the house, which can assess whether there is unusually high runoff and keep a record of effluent levels and temperatures in the septic system. The CEO is engineer Kelly Galloway.

Kidfolio, New York – Led by CEO Mike Fraietta, Kidfolio is a platform that helps parents build savings accounts for their children by letting friends and family make contributions.

TurboPlay, Fredericton –TurboPlay, led by CEO Vince McMullin, is building a personalized video game marketplace for indie gamers and game developers, allowing them to sell their digital games and related downloadable content.

“I think it’s impressive how the quality of companies keeps improving and that helps me keep attracting top flight mentors to Atlantic Canada,” said Valia.

Binogi Opens Studio in Halifax

Swedish ed-tech company Binogi has opened a mobile app and animated content creation facility at Volta, Halifax's startup hub. The new space will support its e-learning platform. The company is also hiring staff, aiming to raise its three-person Halifax operation to 40 people by early in 2020.

Binogi is recruiting writers, animators, developers and voice actors to help in the creation of their animated content and expand the capabilities of the online platform through their site and mobile applications, it said in a statement.

“This is an exciting expansion of our company that will help us to truly establish ourselves here in Canada. Binogi is now offered in 12 different languages and opening its fifth international operation,” said CEO Linus Gunnarson in the statement.

Gunnarson, who has spent years in the venture capital industry in Sweden, has moved with his family to Halifax to lead the company's operation in Canada. He is joined by another C-level executive The founder Linus Gunnarson and another C level executive Johan Gustaf, who is also immigrating to Halifax with his family. 

Binogi is an online tool that allows students to study and learn in their language of choice. The platform provides curriculum based, localised, animated lessons along with interactive quizzes, diagnostics and analytics.

Binogi allows students to develop their knowledge in the subject matter simultaneously with their language skills, the company said. It has been proven effective for both native speakers and second language learners.

“Halifax stood out as being able to offer a culturally diverse and highly educated workforce, which is paramount to create global content," said Binogi Director of Production Johan Grafstrom. 

Late last year, Binogi signed a partnership with educational group First Mobile Education of Fredericton.

In a statement at the time, the companies said the partnership would create a multi-linguistic, multi-year educational curriculum delivered via 2D animated digital video, to be offered across Canada and world-wide.

The partnership aims to assist immigrants and support agencies, both in Atlantic and Central Canada through the use of smart technologies such as interactive video and AI to improve the social inclusion of refugees.

Binogi was started in 2011 by two students and a serial entrepreneur/investor who aimed to make school curricula more engaging by putting the lessons on film.  

By 2015, Binogi had produced 1,000 video lessons and written 16,000 quiz questions. Sweden has given refuge to many Syrian refugees and Binogi has worked to put the whole secondary school curriculum on film and dub it into Arabic.

Binogi has also partnered with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Ontario to continue to validate the platform’s content and methodology.

Lessons on All Funding Stages

Mark MacLeod

Mark MacLeod

A crowd of startup enthusiasts in Charlottetown on Sunday night heard what it takes to raise funding in every band imaginable.

The event at Startup Zone was the opening phase of MentorCamp 2019, which will take place in the P.E.I. capital today. MentorCamp CEO Permjot Valia came up with the idea of an event that could tell founders what to expect in their fundraising efforts, regardless of the stage they were at. So he assembled a group of experts in all phases of fundraising, broken down by the amounts founders are looking to raise. 

Less than $100,000

Valia, who has invested in dozens of early-stage startups, and Jeff Amerine, head of the Startup Junkie group in Arkansas, stressed that they look for coachability among founders when making an early-stage investment. Even though founders can receive vast and conflicting advice from a range of mentors, Amerine said they have to be able to process the information to pick out what’s useful. “You have to be self-aware enough, you have to be self-aware enough, to be on the team,” he said.

$100,000 to $1 million

Island Capital Partners Director of Operations Stefanie Corbett and Concrete Ventures principal Patrick Hankinson highlighted the importance of investing in companies that have identified a large market and know how to sell into it. “It’s all about customer validation,” said Corbett. “A lot of the time, people are building really cool things but have no idea if anyone is going to buy them.”

$1 million to $10 million

Fergus Dyer-Smith, CEO of London-based Wooshii.com, told of the experiences that culminated in his company recently closing a £3.6 million (C$5.8 million) round. He dismissed the notion that any company neatly ascends from seed funding to Series A, B and C rounds. Rather, he said, entrepreneurship is a series of peaks and valleys. Accept your own journey,” he said. “No company can go through that line [of straight ascent]. They all have their own ups and downs.” He also advised companies raising multi-million-dollar rounds to use introductions to get in front of the right people, and even to consider paying a knowledgeable broker to bring in investors.

More than $10 million

The lengthiest session of the afternoon was the presentation by Mark MacLeod, the Founder of SurePath Capital Partners in Toronto and the former CFO of FreshBooks and Shopify. SurePath works with companies with Software-as-a-Service products targeting small and medium-sized enterprises. He said funds making eight- and nine-figure investments generally only make a couple of investments a year. “If I only have two bullets a year, I’m going to use them wisely,” he said.

He said companies raising that sort of money need extraordinary preparation – talking to every fund in that space, and to the larger companies that could buy them out. Founders should realize that VCs considering an investment in their space are very likely talking to their competitors.

If a company is raising more than $10 million, it means the VC is hoping for an exit worth more than $150 million – a really difficult outcome. So the founder has to understand the risks involved in such rounds, said MacLeod. He or she should at least consider an exit at this point – a viable alternative that would likely be applauded by all involved. The founder should also know that a VC’s due diligence will include discussions with the company’s natural acquirers, and VCs will be incentivized to invest if they learn the founder is in discussions with a possible purchaser.

“I don’t think you can talk about growth capital without talking about exiting,” he said.

SimplyCast’s $100K Fund for Youth

Saeed El-Darahali on Friday

Saeed El-Darahali on Friday

SimplyCast, the automated marketing company based in Dartmouth, has announced a $100,000 fund to benefit young people as the central part of its 10th anniversary celebration.

President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali said at an anniversary party in Halifax on Friday that the Youth First Fund would be used to award scholarships and bursaries to students, finance internships and help graduates pay off their student loans. It will be an evergreen fund, meaning it will always be maintained at or near the $100,000 level. He added that he had found it difficult as a young man to find work without experience, so he made it his own mission to help young Nova Scotians enter the workforce.

“Youth offer fresh perspectives that businesses are often not taking advantage of to improve their operations,” said El-Darahali at the celebration. “It will be my goal to end youth unemployment in the province until I die.”

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.

SimplyCast hit a major milestone in June when it received its ISO 27001:2013 certification, an essential component of conducting business with enterprise clients in the current technological climate.

El-Darahali announced the first scholarships funded by the Youth First Fund would be named in honour of individuals who had helped SimplyCast and himself. A $2,000 scholarship will be named for former SimplyCast Chairman William Ritchie and his late wife Lorna. And $1,000 scholarships are being named for St. Mary’s University professors who helped El-Darahali over the years: Porter Scobey; and Dawn Jutla, now the CEO of Halifax-based blockchain company Peer Ledger.

El-Darahali also said that Ritchie, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, has now become the company’s Chairman Emeritus.

Since 2009, SimplyCast has hired and provided work experience to more than 200 young workers in Nova Scotia including new graduates, co-op students, and high school students. It has initiated programs to help young employees, including the Student Loan Repayment Program to help employees pay off student debt and the Next Star program, which gave paid experience to high school students.

SimplyCast adopted the theme of youth for its anniversary party, and the celebration featured speeches by young employees, and young people who began their careers at SimplyCast then moved on to other companies.

“Over the last 10 years, SimplyCast has been able to support young workers in Nova Scotia but only so far as they were able to support the growth of our company,” said El-Darahali. “We were always happy to offer work placements to new grads and co-op students to give them experience. However, these placements also helped SimplyCast. Now that we’ve reached the 10-year mark, we at SimplyCast feel a greater responsibility to support youth in the province outside of the direct benefit we as an organization receive from them.”

Novalte Moves to N.S. to Grow

Michael Cullen

Michael Cullen

A project that allows disabled seniors to live more independently has resulted in the company behind the core technology – Novalte – moving from Ontario to Halifax to take advantage of the opportunities and older demographic the province offers.

The Maritimes has the oldest population in North America, on a par with Japan. Novalte has developed technology that interacts with smart devices to allow disabled people to control their environments in ways that include operating a TV and lights and changing the angle of a bed.

Novalte is part of a project at Northwood where seniors are using the company’s Emitto device. Emitto can be operated by a user’s voice, accessible switches, a smartphone or a system like Google Home.  The device can interface with old beds as though they are smart devices and can be adapted and monitored remotely.

“Our system has been designed to work off existing infrastructures...It allows a low-cost hospital bed to be controlled by an individual’s voice or an accessible switch for less than $1,000,” said Michael Cullen, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

He said the technology allows healthcare workers to focus on care, saving time.  

“Our system saves 45 minutes a day per heavy-care client, which equates to approximately $5,000 a year in staff interactions that can be allocated to more meaningful duties,” he said.

“This is massive as it’s common knowledge that staff are stretched thin.”

He said clients are not kept waiting for someone to answer a call bell.

“One client was stuck watching Oprah all day; he hates Oprah and was very frustrated.”

Cullen, who is Irish and an electronics engineer, worked in the Assistive Technology field in Ontario for more than a decade. He became interested in this work when he was having a coffee in Toronto and saw a man struggling to walk after suffering a stroke.

“I’d just bought an iPhone as I kept getting lost in Toronto, I knew there was enough technology in that phone to help the guy walk,” he said.

His research revealed that, despite all the innovations in technology, the level of technical support for people with disabilities was several decades out of date. He began work, hacking technologies together to devise solutions for specific clients. He helped kids with physical disabilities, aging adults and those with acquired disabilities.

An early victory was helping a young man with muscular dystrophy keep his independence with a wheelchair.

“He was in his early teens, his mobility was reduced, his option was to spend his life in bed. I designed a drive system for him…now he is studying law at York university."

Cullen first visited Halifax after being contacted by John Hamblin, the head of Startup Halifax. Hamblin was researching how voice-activated devices could improve seniors’ lives and had already run a pilot project with the help of Google and its Google Home voice-activated device.  

Wanting to develop the research, Hamblin was put in touch with Novalte by a contact at Google.

Now, Cullen has moved to Halifax. He says the environment here is more startup-friendly than in Ontario and he will take advantage of regional programs and organizations that will help his company grow, employ staff, and develop sales in the U.S. and internationally.

He has already posted ads for a thermal engineer, a technician, a firmware engineer and a business development person. By the end of the year, he plans to hire another six people.

Hamblin is excited about the progress of the project and the involvement and support of Northwood staff and others in the health and innovation ecosystems.

He hopes the system will be used internationally: studies show that 92 percent of North Americans want to age in their home communities and 85 percent want to stay in their own homes.

“It’s hugely beneficial and a great project for Nova Scotia,” he said.

APEC Details IT Labour Crunch

Computer science grads from Atlantic Canadian universities, drawn from APEC's latest report.

Computer science grads from Atlantic Canadian universities, drawn from APEC's latest report.

Atlantic Canada’s post-secondary institutions graduated only about two-thirds of the IT personnel required by industry, says a new report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, highlighting the tight labour market in IT.

The report Digital Technology Firms: Their Importance and Role in Atlantic Canada’s Economy, says there were 1,358 graduates from “digitally focussed” programs at Atlantic Canadian post-secondary institutions in 2017. That is well below the 2,000 workers required by industry each year.

The report, which was commissioned by the pan-regional IT group TechImpact, was published earlier this week and drew media attention because it noted the $6.1 billion in revenues produced by Atlantic Canadian companies engaging in IT. But one highlight of the report is it provides specific data on the tight labour market for tech personnel – an area of acute pain for the region’s IT companies.

“In Atlantic Canada there are . . . signs that pressures are intensifying,” says the report, whose lead author was Patrick Brannon, APEC’s Director of Major Projects. “The number of job vacancies for the computer and information professional industry in Atlantic Canada has increased from 195 people in Q4 2015 to 480 in Q4 2018.”

APEC estimates there were 43,000 people in Atlantic Canada’s digital industry labour force in 2016 – about two-thirds of them in industries outside the digital sector, such as large corporations that have substantial IT departments. The report said that IT companies themselves plan to hire 2,100 people over the next three years, and that average estimates say all employers in the region will be hiring about 2,000 IT professionals a year in the next few years.

The report highlights the acute pain IT companies are feeling in trying to hire tech talent. It surveyed companies on the problems they faced, and 52 percent of the IT companies responding identified recruiting and retaining skilled employees as a problem. That compared with 39 percent saying obtaining financing was a significant problem.

Read our Article on the Full APEC Report

The APEC report breaks down which companies are feeling the greatest pain in attracting tech talent. For example, companies with revenues of less than $500,000 rated the problem as 3.0 out of a possible five (with a score of five being severe pain). The larger the companies’ revenue, the more intense was their need for IT personnel, with companies whose sales were above $10 million rating it a 4.0.

In a provincial breakdown, the most severe pain was felt in New Brunswick (3.87) and Newfoundland and Labrador (3.67), whereas Nova Scotia registered a relatively benign 2.84.

Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges are producing more “digitally focused” graduates – up 19 percent to 1,358 in 2017 from 1,139 in 2015. But the numbers still fall short of demand, and there has been no real growth in the number of graduates in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. (See the chart above.)

“Community colleges are increasing their focus on digital technology related programs,” says the report. “Graduates have increased from 388 in 2015 to 620 in 2018, with the fastest growth in New Brunswick.” It also says that post-secondary institutions find it difficult to increase capacity in a given program quickly due to tenured professors and the number of parties that must agree to curriculum changes.

Females comprise 23 percent of the digital industry labour force in Atlantic Canada and Canada, about half the rate for all industries – and a rate that did not improve between 2011 and 2016. Indigenous workers make up 1.5 percent of the digital industry’s workforce, though APEC admitted 10 percent of the respondents to its survey did not know whether they had native workers.

Region’s IT Revenues Hit $6.1B

Atlantic Canada’s digital technology industry accounted for $6.1 billion in revenue in 2017, up from $5.2 billion in 2014, says a new study of digital industries in the region by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

The study titled Digital Technology Firms: Their Importance and Role in Atlantic Canada’s Economy was commissioned by TechImpact, the Fredericton-based organization that promotes IT across Atlantic Canada.

The study encompassed not only IT companies based in the region but also multi-nationals like Salesforce and IBM that have large operations here, as well as the digital components of traditional Atlantic Canadian businesses like McCain Foods and Sobeys. The report said pure IT companies based in Atlantic Canada reported revenues of $2.1 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2014 – an annual growth rate of almost 8 percent.

 “The digital technology industry is innovative, export-focussed and attracts a majority of the region’s venture capital,” lead author Patrick Brannon, APEC’s Director of Major Projects, said in a statement. “However, the sector is smaller in Atlantic Canada compared to the rest of the country and there are several factors impeding its full potential.”

Brannon’s report said the Atlantic Canadian industry exports about 60 percent of its production, amounting to about $1.6 billion a year. But it added that the industry is much smaller in Atlantic Canada than in other parts of the country. APEC says digital industries account for about 3.5 percent of the Atlantic Canadian economy, far below the mark of 5.1 percent for Canada overall and 6.5 percent for the U.S.

The report notes the contribution of tech startups, and paints the picture of an IT cluster comprising a lot of smaller, fast-growing companies. APEC, which developed a database of 463 companies with digital operations in the region, said 44 percent of the companies it tracked have revenues of less than $1 million, while two-thirds of the total dataset produced annual revenue growth of more than 10 percent over the last three years.

It concludes that the region’s tech companies need to grow, but they are constrained by funding, a tight labour market and other factors. (See the accompanying story on IT talent.)

The report notes that venture capital is increasing, as there were 64 VC deals totalling $158 million in Atlantic Canada in 2018, citing data from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. But again, the average size of deals on the East Coast was $2.5 million, less than half the Canadian average of $6.1 million.

The report also notes that the IT companies in the region are investing heavily in R&D – an area in which Atlantic Canadian industry overall usually lags.

“There has been a strong improvement in ICT industry investment in R&D across Atlantic Canada but it is still well behind national levels,” says the report. “New Brunswick leads the region in growth between 2010 and 2016 at 27% per year and relative spending by business on ICT R&D at $97 per capita. However, in 2016 it was still only 57% of the national average.”

The statement from TechImpact said the study included the creation of an Atlantic region database of digital technology companies and collected and analyzed online survey and business interview data from companies located throughout Atlantic Canada.

“This report highlights the importance of this sector to our regional economy,” said TechImpact CEO Cathy Simpson. “Our focus at TechImpact has always been on driving economic prosperity through the development of our technology sector. What this report shows us is that it’s crucial that the Atlantic region embrace and accelerate digital adoption and innovation to compete in the global economy. Now that we’ve identified key areas that require our attention to grow the sector, our hope is that stakeholders across the region can make better decisions to maximize the potential of the digital technology industry.”

New Community Startup Group in NL

There’s a new, community-based startup group in St. John’s that aims to tackle some of the gaps in the local ecosystem and support young companies.

ConnectioNL (pronounced “Connectional”) is a volunteer group that now totals about 200 members, and they are working together to improve the ecosystem in three areas: mentorship, access to capital and skills.

“We started in March with 12 people at my kitchen table and at our next meeting it became 90 people,” said Co-Founder Cathy Bennett in an interview at the NACO Atlantic Summit and Funding Founders conference this week.

ConnectioNL has many of the hallmarks of Startup NL, the community-based group that sprang up in St. John’s in 2013. Though it’s faded away, Startup NL quickly attracted scores of members who wanted to support the burgeoning entrepreneurship movement with regular meet-ups and Startup Weekends.

The new group also draws its support from the enthusiasm of the community, with Bennett calling it a “very organic organization.” She said the response has been fantastic and “all I have to do is send out an email” to get people to turn out for the meetings or volunteer for a committee. 

Though ConnectioNL is not an angel network per se, Bennett said one of its committees is examining access to capital and trying to find more ways to channel capital into high-potential ventures. They are looking at whether a fund could be created to invest in young companies. and Bennet said the work is ongoing.

Atlantic Women's Venture Fund Eyes Spring Launch

The province used to have its own angel group, the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network, but its organizers found it difficult to generate deal flow without a dedicated investment manager. Some of the angels involved in the previous network are now investors in VentureNL, which is supported by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and managed by Pelorus Venture Capital.

ConnectioNL also has volunteers looking at a critical area of concern, the need for talent, especially technical talent. The province went through similar difficulties when the oil and gas industry took off in the 1990s and there was a sudden need for trained personnel. This time, the demand is for programmers.

“We’re seeing tremendous pressure in the skills gap,” said Bennett. “The strategies of 20 years ago are not working today.”

She said the committee is looking at “upskilling”, such as seeing whether energy industry engineers can be retrained as computer engineers, for example, and other solutions.

“We are really like a whole bunch of moms and dads who are working hard to make sure things are good for our grandkids,” said Bennett, a former Finance Minister for Newfoundland and Labrador.

ReelData Enters Techstars AI

Halifax-based ReelData, whose software uses artificial intelligence to analyze video for the aquaculture industry, has entered the Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator.

Founders Matt Zimola and Hossein Salimian joined the latest cohort of the accelerator last week, immediately beginning one-on-one meetings with the range of mentors brought in for the program.

ReelData uses artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for fish farms. Its software can analyze video from fish pens and produce meaningful data on the weight distribution of fish stock and the progress of certain diseases.

As a promising AI company, it was able to enter the Techstars program in Montreal, which focuses on AI companies. Affiliated with Real Ventures, it is the third Techstars accelerator in Canada, and one of a network of Techstars programs around the world.

“Techstars itself is like this mentor-focused accelerator, and they’re one of the best in the world at it,” said Zimola in a phone interview from Montreal last week.

Zimola and Salimian were graduate computer science students at Dalhousie University who wanted to start an AI venture, and their professor Thomas Trappenburg suggested they consider an ocean venture. Soon they settled on aquaculture as a target market.

Aquaculture companies have a problem in assessing the weight distribution among the fish in their pens, and all the pens are equipped with underwater video cameras. These operations need to know that a certain percentage of their fish meet a minimum weight requirement, and until now the only way to do it was to get the fish out of the pen and weigh them.

Zimola and Salimian have developed what they call the “biomass” component of their technology, which applies artificial intelligence to produce data on the weight distribution of a fish stock just by analyzing video from the pen.

Working out of the Start-up Yard in Dartmouth and Volta in Halifax, ReelData now has paid pilot projects in Canada and the U.S., including with a major company in a central state in the U.S. that operates an on-land fish farm – a growing segment of the aquaculture market. The founders are also in discussions with operators in Mexico, Denmark and Iceland.

Now they’re in Montreal and enrolled in one of the country’s leading accelerators. Zimola said the first few weeks are spent with as many as eight meetings a day with mentors, during which they discuss problems specific to the company.

At the end of a few weeks, Zimola and Salimian will request a single mentor to work with them during the remainder of the program.

One problem they’ve encountered so far is just making the AI experts they’re meeting understand how big the aquaculture industry is and the opportunity it represents. The total value of the aquaculture industry is expected to reach $242 billion by 2022, according to Allied Market Research.

ReelData now has three part-time staff, as well as the co-founders, and has an opening for a full-time developer. To finance the business, it received $25,000 from Innovacorp's Sprint competition, won a $25,000 equity investment from the Volta Cohort and is receiving a US$120,000 investment from Techstars. Zimola said the company is planning to raise a round of funding in the spring.

He also said that once it emerges from Techstars, the priority will be to sign major customers on to full subscriptions to the ReelData technology.

“The next year or so, we will sign on international big companies on land and we want to sign on ocean customers as well," he said. 

Women’s Fund Eyes Spring Launch

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund is now working on closing its fund with a target of $20 million, and hopes to be funding female-led ventures in the second or third quarter of 2020.

Two representatives of the nine-member council overseeing the fund told a session at the National Angel Capital Organization Atlantic Summit in Halifax on Tuesday that the new fund will aim to increase the diversity of investors in the region.

But they added they believe investors will benefit from backing female entrepreneurs because women have greater success rates in small business than men and can turn oft-overlooked opportunities into successes.

“Our investment theory is very much about driving diversity in the region,” said founding member Rhiannon Davies, a Former Vice-President and Board Member of GrandVision NV. “We are creating an inclusive ecosystem. We believe – and we have the statistics that tell us – that diversified companies deliver a much greater ROI [return on investment] to investors than other companies.”

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund began to take shape early this year when a group of business women from around the region came together to plan a way for women investors to work with women entrepreneurs.

Cathy Bennett, the former Newfoundland and Labrador finance minister and one of the founders of the fund, said that only 2 percent of the angel investors in Canada are female and the number may be even lower in Atlantic Canada. She added that the average female-led startup receives $900,000 in funding while the corresponding figure for companies led by men is $2.1 million.

Yet there are entrepreneurial opportunities that female entrepreneurs can pursue successfully – especially in the healthcare space – that male entrepreneurs may be unaware of. And a group of female investors would understand the opportunities better and therefore be more willing to invest and help grow these companies.

The fund’s organizers are in talks with the governments of the four Atlantic Provinces about contributing to the fund, and they’re also looking for investments from women with the means to invest. The goal is to have a $20 million fund but they do not rule out the figure being larger than that.

Davies said the team is now in the “closing phase” of putting the fund together. She added that launching it will include devising educational programing that will help women learn best practices in angel investing, allowing more women to become involved.

When the fund is closed, the organizers will probably hire a fund manager to oversee the investments.

Given that the nine founders come from all four Atlantic provinces, Davies noted that no other East Coast investment fund has such a broad geographic base among its founders. And she added that this could help in the campaign to convince provincial finance departments to establish a regional investment tax credit.

Patchell Brook Raises $360K Round

Brian Donovan

Brian Donovan

Miramichi-based fintech company Patchell Brook Equity Analytics has raised $360,000 in equity funding, including a $150,000 contribution from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

NBIF announced the funding Tuesday that said the other investors in the round were: the Miramichi Technology Fund, an investment fund established by former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna and overseen by the Wallace McCain Institute; Technology Venture Corporation, a private investment group based in Moncton; and a number of angel investors.

CEO Brian Donovan, who was previously executive director of Enterprise Miramichi, founded Patchell Brook in 2013. NBIF, which first invested in the company in 2017, said it has grown its revenue substantially in the past two years, built a promising pipeline of customers, and completed additional product development to help scale more affordably.

 “Brian has proven himself over the past five years, followed through on what he said and pivoted when needed,” said Nancy Mathis, Executive Director of the Wallace McCain Institute.

Patchell Brook has developed a digital product called StockCalc that aims to take the uncertainty out of equity valuation for publicly traded companies. The software can produce 8,000 valuation reports each night, as well as 800 ETF reports and 146 industry reports each week. Most recently, StockCalc has introduced a new application program interface, which allows users to create more valuable reports and programs.

StockCalc performs fundamental analysis, which is the process of assessing a company’s appropriate price on the basis of its overall health. The algorithm uses a weighted average of six criteria, such as cash flow and the pricing of other, comparable stocks.

Users pay a subscription fee that gives them access to reports detailing the results of the technical analysis.

“The big thing about this investment that intrigued us is that they’ve developed an API which is attracting large customers,” said NBIF Investment analyst Daniel Hoyles in a statement. “With the new API, there are opportunities to begin embedding that software in other fintech tools. They also have a strong early adopter customer relationship with the Globe and Mail, and they just keep continuing to build interest from other large customers.”

In an email, Donovan said the company now employs six people – five of them full-time – and has recently added a sales person. It has also contracted two lead generation firms to help develop its sales pipeline.

Patchell Brook will use the investment largely in sales and marketing, said Donovan.

“Over the next year, we’re looking forward to continuing to grow our customer database and improving our platform to make it even more valuable for users,” said Donovan. “We’re thankful to NBIF for their ongoing support and guidance.”

Is Debt Financing Right for You?

Sponsored Content 

The time has come to take a big step forward in the growth of your technology company. Whether you are looking to launch a product, or perhaps expand into new markets, you will need additional capital.

The two most common funding options for tech entrepreneurs are equity or debt financing, which is also called term debt. Although equity financing through the venture capital market is better known to tech entrepreneurs, debt financing offers several advantages that make it an attractive option.

Unfortunately, tech start-ups, having few assets, have traditionally had trouble accessing term debt. But as Canada’s tech sector continues to grow, reaching a value of $9.1 billion and providing employment for 864,000 Canadians, many financial institutions have adapted to better serve entrepreneurs like you.

Is term debt the right fit for your needs? There are six compelling reasons to consider it to fund your growth.

  1. Term debt is non-dilutive. Unlike equity financing, debt financing does not require you to give up any ownership or shares of your company, thus you maintain more control over its development and growth.
  2. Debt financing is patient. Since lenders do not claim a share of your company, and thus do not share in the earnings potential of your project, they mitigate risk with guarantees for loan repayment. The benefit is that you often have time to reach a certain level of revenue before you are required to start repayment of your loan. That means you can grow your company with less pressure to generate an immediate return on investment.
  3. Debt financing is quicker. Typically, the due diligence for debt financing is relatively straightforward because it does not involve an independent valuation of your business. This means you could gain access to the financing you need more rapidly, and thus achieve your growth goals quicker.
  4. Access is easier. With debt financing, there is the potential to access capital more frequently if your company experiences unanticipated growth, an option that is not always available through equity financing.
  5. Term debt is more inclusive. Venture capital firms generally have very specific criteria that guide their funding decisions and will look at hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses before finding one that meets their requirements. For example, some equity funds only invest in cleantech companies, which significantly narrows the field of candidates they will consider. Debt financing, however, is decided mainly on your company’s business model and cash flow, which means it is often more readily available for tech entrepreneurs like you.
  6. Equity financing favours disruptors. Your growth targets may make debt financing more practical than an equity raise. Equity investors tend to look for industry disruptors—companies with the potential to grow 10 to 20 times their current size in just a couple of years. If your goals are more modest—such as doubling or tripling in size over that same period—it is unlikely you will attract equity investment, making debt financing your best option for securing capital.

In addition to these advantages, debt financing can help you secure other types of financing in the future. In some cases, it can be the fuel your business needs to be considered for equity financing. It can also help you get a more positive valuation and better terms once you turn to venture money.

What to do to get a business loan

If debt financing is right for you, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of successfully securing a business loan:

Review your current operations and financials to present a solid business case.
Consider the terms for repayment, the collaterals you can offer and the interest rate you can afford.
Be prepared to demonstrate how you will repay your loan.

Most important of all, look for a bank that understands the tech sector and offers customized lending products geared toward tech companies like yours. That way, you will not only secure financing, but also have the necessary support to make your growth possible.

 

Michael Oldfield is a Senior Account Manager with BDC's Technology Group based in Halifax. Michael provides flexible financing and advisory services to technology firms in Atlantic Canada to help accelerate the growth of the knowledge based industry. Michael will be speaking at the Funding Founders on Sept. 18 in Halifax. 

Is Debt Financing Right for You?

The time has come to take a big step forward in the growth of your technology company. Whether you are looking to launch a product, or perhaps expand into new markets, you will need additional capital.

The two most common funding options for tech entrepreneurs are equity or debt financing, which is also called term debt. Although equity financing through the venture capital market is better known to tech entrepreneurs, debt financing offers several advantages that make it an attractive option.

Unfortunately, tech start-ups, having few assets, have traditionally had trouble accessing term debt. But as Canada’s tech sector continues to grow, reaching a value of $9.1 billion and providing employment for 864,000 Canadians, many financial institutions have adapted to better serve entrepreneurs like you.

Is term debt the right fit for your needs? There are six compelling reasons to consider it to fund your growth.

  1. Term debt is non-dilutive. Unlike equity financing, debt financing does not require you to give up any ownership or shares of your company, thus you maintain more control over its development and growth.
  2. Debt financing is patient. Since lenders do not claim a share of your company, and thus do not share in the earnings potential of your project, they mitigate risk with guarantees for loan repayment. The benefit is that you often have time to reach a certain level of revenue before you are required to start repayment of your loan. That means you can grow your company with less pressure to generate an immediate return on investment.
  3. Debt financing is quicker. Typically, the due diligence for debt financing is relatively straightforward because it does not involve an independent valuation of your business. This means you could gain access to the financing you need more rapidly, and thus achieve your growth goals quicker.
  4. Access is easier. With debt financing, there is the potential to access capital more frequently if your company experiences unanticipated growth, an option that is not always available through equity financing.
  5. Term debt is more inclusive. Venture capital firms generally have very specific criteria that guide their funding decisions and will look at hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses before finding one that meets their requirements. For example, some equity funds only invest in cleantech companies, which significantly narrows the field of candidates they will consider. Debt financing, however, is decided mainly on your company’s business model and cash flow, which means it is often more readily available for tech entrepreneurs like you.
  6. Equity financing favours disruptors. Your growth targets may make debt financing more practical than an equity raise. Equity investors tend to look for industry disruptors—companies with the potential to grow 10 to 20 times their current size in just a couple of years. If your goals are more modest—such as doubling or tripling in size over that same period—it is unlikely you will attract equity investment, making debt financing your best option for securing capital.

In addition to these advantages, debt financing can help you secure other types of financing in the future. In some cases, it can be the fuel your business needs to be considered for equity financing. It can also help you get a more positive valuation and better terms once you turn to venture money.

What to do to get a business loan

If debt financing is right for you, there are a several steps you can take to increase your chances of successfully securing a business loan:

Review your current operations and financials to present a solid business case.
Consider the terms for repayment, the collaterals you can offer and the interest rate you can afford.
Be prepared to demonstrate how you will repay your loan.

Most important of all, look for a bank that understands the tech sector and offers customized lending products geared toward tech companies like yours. That way, you will not only secure financing, but also have the necessary support to make your growth possible.

 

Michael Oldfield is a Senior Account Manager with BDC's Technology Group based in Halifax. Michael provides flexible financing and advisory services to technology firms in Atlantic Canada to help accelerate the growth of the knowledge based industry. Michael will be speaking at the Funding Founders on Sept. 18 in Halifax. 

ClearRisk Adds Product, Eyes Raise

Craig Rowe: 'Insights reduces blind spots by looking for trends and problems.'

Craig Rowe: 'Insights reduces blind spots by looking for trends and problems.'

St. John’s-based ClearRisk, which makes software for insurers, has launched its next generation data solution ClearRisk Insights to help risk managers use their data more efficiently.

The company issued a statement Monday saying it had launched the new cloud-based product to industry-leading risk managers at the Risk Management Society of Canada Conference in Edmonton.

The company said the new product combines the power of automation, integration and analytics. ClearRisk Insights brings together the entire risk management, insurance and claims ecosystem with any data source and third-party system to provide this cloud-based solution to risk managers, it said in a statement.

The product automatically brings forward data that was previously buried to significantly reduce administration time, automate important processes, and identify important risk developments and blind spots, the company said  Integrations with insurers, adjusters, and brokers eliminate duplication, fill missing gaps, reduce incompatible data, and reduce the total cost of risk.

“Prior to Insights, our clients could manage their data and look for trends and problem areas in reports and dashboards,” said CEO Craig Rowe in an email. “But unless you were looking, you might not find something.  Insights reduces blind spots by looking for trends and problems for clients and notifying them when things go wrong.”

He added that ClearRisk Insights adds significantly more features and benefits to the ClearRisk product offering.  These include: more and tighter integrations with third-party applications such as insurers, adjusters, etc.; significantly more automation of workflows and processes; and advanced data analytics. 

Rowe said embracing technology and innovation is important to the competitiveness of the risk and insurance industry.  Because it is so data-driven, those companies that are equipped to fully leverage the large amounts of information available to them will have a clear advantage. 

“As a former risk manager myself, I started ClearRisk to help organizations with accessible risk management solutions to help them prevent bad things from happening, and make them more successful,” he said. “ClearRisk Insights takes that vision to a place I never thought possible.”

Founded in 2006 in St. John’s, ClearRisk is a leading Canadian provider of claims and risk management solutions. Its 200 customers include some of Canada’s largest companies and government entities.

Rowe said the company now has 15 employees and expects to hire 20 to 25 more in the next two years based on its growth rate.

Rowe said ClearRisk is planning to raise equity capital in the autumn, though it doesn’t know how much yet. The company raised a total of $1.7 million from First Angel Network and GrowthWorks Atlantic in two rounds in 2011 and 2013.

“We are changing the landscape of risk management with innovative tools like ClearRisk Insights that better enable risk managers through the effective use of their highly valuable data,” said Rowe in the statement. “We developed this solution knowing that organizations are producing important data in large quantities but without the tools to fully leverage it.”

BlueLight Names Brad Rodgers CEO

Brad Rodgers

Brad Rodgers

Halifax dental technology company BlueLight Analytics on Monday named local tech executive Brad Rodgers as its new CEO, replacing J.P. Furey.

Rodgers, who will begin his new role Sept. 26, was most recently the Vice-President of Product Management with Innovasea, a Halifax company that provides technology to the aquaculture sector.

“Brad’s proven successes in data analytics, leadership and business growth align perfectly with BlueLight’s vision to become a world leader in data-driven dentistry technology,” said Steve Nicolle, Chair of the Bluelight board and interim CEO. “We were fortunate to find someone of Brad’s high caliber in our own backyard.”

As well as a background in technical product management, Rodgers has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from University of New Brunswick and a Masters of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University. He also has completed numerous courses in artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks and deep learning.

“BlueLight has really established itself in the dental industry,” said Rodgers in a statement. “The team is solid and the company has first-rate customers and investors. I am extremely pleased to take on this leadership role as we move BlueLight forward together into our next phase of growth on a global scale.”

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 can adversely affect the tooth and too little can 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.

The company, which closed a funding round of $3 million last autumn, announced in July the departure of Furey, who had been the CEO for four years.

Earlier this month, BlueLight launched its newest product, checkUP, at the American Dental Association/Fédération Dentaire Internationale World Congress in San Francisco, where the company received the prestigious Cellerant Best of Class Emerging Technology Award.

BlueLight said its checkUP is the world’s first smart device tailored for light measurement and dental materials management. Using artificial intelligence, this wireless, app-based device provides a compact, chair-side method for dentists to test curing lights, manage materials and generate precise curing times. The company said it gives clinicians the data they need to instantly increase restoration success and improve patient outcomes.

Volta Cohort Seeks Applicants

Volta is looking for early-stage startups to pitch at the next Volta Cohort event, which will give as many as five teams pre-seed funding of up to $25,000.

The Halifax-based statrup hub began the Volta Cohort two years ago to provide an initial funding boost for early-stage companies, so they have some capital to develop a product and get off the ground. Since then, the program has awarded a total of $525,000 to 21 ventures.

The fifth Volta Cohort pitching event will take place Nov. 20, and applications will be open until Oct. 10. You can apply here.  

Volta will announce a list of finalists next month. 

Entrants can be based anywhere in Atlantic Canada, not just Halifax. Past winners have included Talem Health Analytics of Sydney and UAV Control Tower of St. John’s.

Along with investment, Cohort companies are given workspace at Volta, programming, and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. The board will meet each company every two months – offering peer support, advice and a check on its milestones.

For winners that aren’t located in Halifax, Volta will work with partner organizations in other cities to ensure support is available where the companies are located.

The investments are provided through a microfund co-founded by Volta, Innovacorp, BDC Capital, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Our Job of the Week column today showcases an opening at Dash Hudson in Halifax for a Product Marketing Manager.

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

Product Marketing Manager

Dash Hudson works with the raddest, most discerning brands and publishers in the world to share photos and videos that people care about. Our marketing platform provides brands with a one-stop solution to get deep insights on their performance, create original content, discover content, predict performance, distribute to owned, influencer, and paid channels, measure and monetize.

As the Product Marketing Manager, you will report to the Sr Director of Marketing and work closely with our incredible development, sales, and marketing teams as well as our lovely customers, to successfully launch, position and differentiate our existing and new solutions.

About You

The most important thing we need from you is this:

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

You want to work with our teams to push the boundaries of innovation, while defining our place in the hearts of our customers.

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

You must be thoughtful. When did you last call your mother?

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

You must have a sales mentality, with marketing chops.

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

Responsibilities

Product Positioning

Assist with establishment of the pricing, naming and positioning for each product. Create, develop and refine benefit statements, proof points and differentiation for individual products and product packages

Work with the executive team, product and sales management teams to analyze current product strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and create plans for improvement

Planning

Outline Product Marketing Strategy and coordinate with development, sales and marketing.

Working with development and sales, analyze the needs of our customers and the market at large to identify new opportunities and enhancements based on market demand and company direction.

Product Launches

Successfully manage the formal internal and external launch of all new products and new upgrades to existing products/applications.

Work with marketing to create sales tools: sales presentations, demonstrations, evaluation materials, white papers, web content, brochures, case studies, ROI, etc.

Competitive Analysis

Be the go-to person for competitive assessment.

Collect and analyze all external information on existing and new competitors.

Educate the Dash Hudson executive, sales and marketing teams on our competitive positioning.

Lead Generation

With the Sr. Director of Marketing and Director of Brand Strategy, develop target market strategies, programs (pricing, packaging and positioning) and communications campaigns designed to generate sales leads. Assist with development of content for design, writing and communication of marketing campaigns.

Thought Leadership

Public Speaking - Speak at relevant industry conferences. Share the love.

Article Writing/Blogging - To establish Dash Hudson's position on industry issues.

Customer Calls - Leverage knowledge for key customer and prospect presentations.

Public responses to industry trends.

Read the full job posting here.

IMV Phase 2 Trial Results Coming

Frederic Ors: 'It's a good thing to be here.'

Frederic Ors: 'It's a good thing to be here.'

IMV Inc., the Dartmouth company developing a delivery platform for immunotherapy drugs, is entering a critical phase of its 16-year history as it will soon learn the results of key Phase 2 clinical trials.

The company is conducting a range of Phase 2 trials for its flagship drug candidate DPX-Survivac, including tests in partnership with the multi-national pharma company Merck & Co. The results of these Phase 2 trials -- which establish efficacy, or whether a drug does what its maker says it does – should be known by the end of this year.

If the results are positive, the company will have some key decisions to make in the next year. Should it bring Survivac to market with a partner or on its own? Could it sell Survivac and focus on the development of other drug candidates? Could the whole company be sold? Whatever the outcome, IMV is approaching the juncture that attracted investors when the company launched in 2003.

“Most of the clinical results will be in by the end of the year,” said CEO Frederic Ors in an interview last week. “So in the second half of this year or the first half of 2020, we have really got to think what is the best way forward for the company.”

Developed from a Dalhousie University experiment to deliver birth control to seals on Sable Island, DPX-Survivac uses the body’s immune system to battle diseases by delivering doses of medication over a prolonged period. Survivac locates Survivin, a substance found in the outer layer of cancer tumors, then attacks the tumors repeatedly.

The most important trials are those into the drugs' impact on ovarian cancer, an especially lethal affliction, and Ors said the company hopes the drug will be effective in prolonging the lives of people suffering with hard-to-treat forms of cancer.

“It’s one thing to be able to stop cancer but what’s important is how long you are able to maintain that,” said Ors. “In ovarian cancer, we have one patient who has been treated with DPX-Survivac for three years now.”

In its most recent financial statements, IMV said Survivac has displayed “durable clinical benefit” and “positive new data” during clinical trials, which are taking place in six locations. But nothing is certain until it announces the trial results.

In terms of what decisions the company could reach once the results are known, Ors noted that IMV shares are listed not only in Toronto but also on the Nasdaq exchange in New York. That positions the company in theory to raise enough capital to bring the drug to market on its own.

A dark cloud hovering over the IMV story is the experience of American immunotherapy company Incyte Corp., which had partnered with Merck for trials of its drug Epacadostat. In April 2018, Incyte announced trials showed Epacadostat did not help melanoma patients, hammering the stock of all immunotherapy companies, including IMV.

IMV shares closed Thursday down 2.7 percent at $3.97, meaning they have 44 percent of their value in the past year.

Yet IMV has been able to raise capital. In March, it raised $29.5 million by selling shares to investors, and Ors said IMV now has enough capital to last through 2020.

Though its shares have been on a rollercoaster ride the past three years, IMV as an organization has continued to grow, and now employs 64 people. One highlight of this is that three-quarters of its staff are female, and women make up half of its management team. Ors said he feels good about the company as he awaits the clinical trial results.

“It’s a good thing to be here,” he said. “A lot of companies actually never get the chance to be in this stage of development. We feel very strong about our pipeline and that it has a high chance to succeed.”

Hanatech Aims for $50M in Sales

Hanatech IoT Co-Founders CEO Ali Nafarieh, left, CFO Chuck Lienaux, and CTO Ali Hamidi.

Hanatech IoT Co-Founders CEO Ali Nafarieh, left, CFO Chuck Lienaux, and CTO Ali Hamidi.

Aiming to bring advanced data analytics to farmers, Hanatech IoT has publicly stated the ambitious goal of producing annual revenues of $50 million within five years.

The Bedford-based company says it has developed an Internet of Things, or IoT, solution that takes readings from sensors and uses proprietary algorithms to instantly produce data on a single platform. Though the Platform-as-a-Service solution works for other customers, such as building developers, the company is primarily targeting fruit and vegetable farmers because of scalability.

“The beauty of it is it really snowballs into other opportunities as soon as you have one application down,” said Co-Founder and CFO Chuck Lienaux in an interview. He said the farmers “say, Can you use it for this or use it for that. It will solve many problems for the farmer.”

Though there are already a lot of tech products on the market for livestock and poultry farmers, Lienaux said there are few for farmers who grow plants. Hanatech IoT is now doing pilots in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, working with such major players as Scotian Gold. It has hired a regional manager for Ontario to grow the business in that province, and will target the U.S. market next. It is planning for a general launch in time for the 2020 growing season.

The Hanatech story began in 2013 when CEO Ali Nafarieh and CTO Ali Hamidi formed Hanatech Inc. to provide tech services for real estate developers. These included installing sensors and meters in buildings and using IoT algorithms to automate things like climate control in buildings.

That business grew and the co-founders brought in Lienaux in 2017 to be their top finance exec, and the three partners formed a new entity, Hanatech IoT. Its flagship product is OneSmartView.com, which presents readings from the system on a single platform, allowing the user to make quick decisions to improve productivity.

NB Agtech Company SomaDetect Raises $2.6M

Two years ago, Hanatech installed the system in the smart city hall in Berwick, in the Annapolis Valley, and began talking to local farmers about the possibility of using the solution to address agricultural problems. One huge problem in apple orchards is the threat of fire blight – a disease with the potential to wipe out entire farms and make the land unsuitable for apple trees in the future.

Hanatech IoT has now installed sensors in apple orchards in the Annapolis Valley for early detection of the risk of fire blight. Spraying orchards to combat the disease is expensive, so farmers can save money by only spraying the most at-risk farmland.

Lienaux said the company can produce new algorithms to carry out other tasks on farms.

Hanatech IoT still sells to real estate developers, and its technology will be used in Southwest Properties’ Pavillion and Curve developments at the corner of Sackville and South Park in Halifax. But real estate installations are onerous, and the company can scale more quickly by simply sending sensors to farmers to install in their orchards and fields.

The company is also working with the pathologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for “the blight model”. Lienaux said Hanatech hopes this leads to connections with resellers and distributors in the U.S., which would greatly accelerate sales.

Hanatech Inc. and its IoT affiliate together employ 18 people, and Lienaux said they could add about five to 10 employees in the next year.  It plans to add 70 employees in the next five years as revenues rise, with a goal of $50 million a year by 2024.

The three co-founders still own all the equity in Hanatech IoT, though they are now talking to investors about a first round of equity financing.

It has received funding from several government agencies and a loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada. Last month, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency contributed a $375,000 grant to support market expansion and a $50,000 grant to hire a sales person.

 

Correction: An early version of this article misrepresented the annual revenue and hiring targets. 

Renk Buys Stake in Modest Tree

Modest Tree, a Halifax company that makes easy-to-create online training solutions, has received a strategic investment from Augsburg, Germany-based Renk, a member of the Volkswagen group.

The companies announced the investment in a statement last month, though they did not give the details of the transaction. They said Renk has been a client of Modest Tree for some time, and the two companies will now work together to expand Modest Tree’s business. It is believed to be the first time the Modest Tree founders have sold equity in the company.

“Supported by a strong partner who has a clear understanding of the value and potential for immersive technologies in the industrial workplace, our close cooperation with Renk will fuel our European market expansion plans and accelerate the development of our software products in response to the rigorous requirements of the mechanical engineering sector,” said Modest Tree Founder and CEO Saman Sannandeji in the statement.

Sannandeji and his partner Emily Smits founded Modest Tree seven years ago with the goal of developing a drag-and-drop framework that could be used to create online training manuals and educational content. The simple framework reduced the cost and time involved in making 3D training programs by as much as 85 percent.

It now calls itself a leader in developing extended reality applications and software to create immersive training solutions without coding. It delivers advanced applications for industrial workplace training and marketing to global enterprise clients, with clients that include Air Canada and GE Health.

The company is in the process of expanding into the European virtual reality and augmented reality training markets – a mission that will be aided by its relationship with Renk.

Renk, a leading manufacturer of drivetrain technologies, said it and Modest Tree are well positioned to make digitization strategies and immersive learning technologies indispensable any competitive organization.

“By acquiring a minority stake in Modest Tree, Renk will be at the forefront of shaping digital communication solutions,” said Renk CEO Florian Hofbauer. “Together with Modest Tree, we will deliver state-of-the-art training and support services, while exploring other new possibilities to meet our customers’ future demands.”

H.I.G. buys BioVectra for US$250M

Charlottetown-based drug manufacturer BioVectra is being sold to U.S. private equity firm H.I.G. Capital for as much as US$250 million (C$330 million) – more than three times the price it sold for almost six years ago.

BioVectra’s owner, British pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt plc, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had agreed to the sale. The price includes both a fixed payment now and a deferred payment that will depend on the company’s performance.

In a separate statement issued by the PEI BioAlliance, BioVectra management said it would continue to develop its plants in Charlottetown and Windsor, N.S., which together will add 150 employees. The company now employs 350 people and since 2015 has averaged almost $25 million in capital investments each year. The parties expect the deal to close by the end of the year.

"We are very excited to enter into this new chapter with H.I.G. Capital," said BioVectra President Oliver Technow. "Under H.I.G Capital's stewardship we have a fantastic opportunity to continue building and growing our business right here in Atlantic Canada.”

Founded in 1970 by J. Regis Duffy, then Dean of Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, BioVectra manufactures specialty chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients for drug-makers around the world.

The company in January 2013 agreed to be sold for $100 million to Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif., and Questor was subsequently purchased by Mallinckrodt in 2014.

Now the enlarged pharma company is selling BioVectra on to H.I.G Capital, a Miami-based private equity fund with more than US$34 billion under management.

Mallinckrodt will receive a fixed consideration of US$175 million, comprising an upfront payment of US$135 million and a long-term note for US$40 million. The seller is then due to receive contingent payments of up to $75 million, enabling Mallinckrodt to capture future BioVectra growth potential.

“We are excited to support BioVectra’s exceptional leadership and highly dedicated employees,” said H.I.G. Managing Director Mike Gallagher. “BioVectra demonstrates a tremendous ability to generate robust organic growth and utilizes a broad set of technical capabilities to deliver outstanding service and quality. They are completing major capital expenditure programs to significantly expand capacity and the company is well positioned to capitalize on growing demand for their services.”

In March, BioVectra announced a five-year, $145-million expansion to its facilities and plans to add 150 new employees. It is being financed in part by a $37.5-million contribution from the federal government's Strategic Innovation Fund. In 2018, BIOTECanada named BioVectra Canada’s Biotech Company of the Year.

“BioVectra has been on an impressive growth trajectory, and this acquisition by H.I.G. Capital will provide confidence to BioVectra’s employees and clients that will be fundamental to its future success,” said PEI BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis.

The Mallinckrodt-H.I.G. deal can’t be classified as an exit as the buyer and seller are both based outside the region. But it is the latest example of major recent transactions taking place in the P.E.I. life sciences space.

In June, Charlottetown-based MicroSintesis, which has developed a revolutionary product to ensure gut health in animals, sold a minority stake $16.4 million to John Risley’s private equity fund, Northern Private Capital. Two months before that, the P.E.I. research group Center for Aquaculture Technologies was bought for an undisclosed sum by Cuna del Mar, the aquaculture-focused investment group backed by Walmart heir Christy Walton. Early in 2018, Charlottetown-based marine biotech company Nautilus Biosciences was purchased by the U.K. specialty chemical-maker Croda Intl., also for an undisclosed price.

 

Correction: An early version of this story incorrectly said BioVectra's revenues averaged almost $25 million in the past three years. The correct wording is that the company made $25 million in investments.  

The Benefits of Offshore Staff

Chris Cowper-Smith: 'Ultimately, in our market, you have to have sales through traditional sales channels.'

Chris Cowper-Smith: 'Ultimately, in our market, you have to have sales through traditional sales channels.'

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When Chris Cowper-Smith was planning to hire a new head of sales for Spring Loaded Technology, he wanted to do more than add an executive. He wanted to change the company’s sales processes, focusing on proximity to the customer.

In April, the CEO of the Dartmouth-based maker of next-generation knee braces, announced the new Vice-President of Sales would be Joe Khalifa, a Washington, D.C.-based sales executive. He was chosen for his long career in the orthopedic device and brace markets, as well as extensive experience managing sales and guiding new product launches.

Spring Loaded – whose “bionic” knee braces not only stabilize the joint but add power to it – had been selling mainly online. To really get its product into the massive U.S. market, it needed someone who understood and could navigate the complications of the American medical device market – the regulations, the insurance markets, the hospitals and the retail networks.

“For a long time, we were selling direct to consumers, and we were doing it with an internal sales team in Nova Scotia,” said Cowper-Smith in an interview. “We’re still doing it and it’s effective. But ultimately, in our market, you have to have sales through traditional sales channels.”

Spring Loaded Technology’s story illustrates a challenge facing scale-ups across Nova Scotia – indeed, across Atlantic Canada and all locations away from major metropolises. How do you overcome the cost burdens – the seemingly overwhelming expense – of accessing the markets where your customers are based?

After posing that question to a range of founders, experts and advisers, the message that came back is how you do it doesn’t matter. But one way or another, scaling companies have to find a way to get sales personnel inside the markets. It’s not a matter of the cost so much as a vital part of building a company that reaches global clients.  

The strategies could include opening an office in a foreign country, hiring sales freelance execs in the chosen market or travelling to key markets every month to meet key clients. Or it could be a combination. The important thing is to have a year-round presence in front of key clients. 

Having a person in market is more than just an HR move. Yes, it often requires a disciplined hiring process to find key personnel. Or it may mean ensuring key people in head office are taking on some of the CEO’s duties because the top exec is on the road so much. Beyond that, the personnel moves go hand-in-hand with significant strategic changes that are part of the process of evolving from a startup to a high-growth company.

Consider again the case of Spring Loaded Technology. The seven-year-old company has produced the Levitation brace, whose ability to add power to the knee allows 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 product has literally changed the lives of some people by letting them enjoy greater mobility. But selling them can be complicated, especially in the U.S. It can involve doctors, physiotherapists, distributors, retailers, and the all-important insurers. Any sale may require some combination of these groups being familiar with the Levitation knee brace and understanding its efficacy.

Every type of medical device in the U.S. is given some sort of code that insurance adjusters can use to quickly enter in an insurance form, said Cowper-Smith. The problem for Spring Loaded has been that its bionic knee brace didn’t fit snugly into an existing classification. It has had to educate adjustors about the product and get them to use a new code for the product.

“I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone tell me that strategy will not work,” said Cowper-Smith. “But we’ve got it working, and now we have the added fire power of having Joe Khalifa in the market in the U.S.”

What Khalifa brings to the operation is years of experience in the orthopedic market, so he has contacts and is trusted in the various groups needed to make sales. And the company has found that each additional sale helps to make the process a little more acceptable to the broader market.

When Affinio Co-Founders Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson needed a VP of Business Development, they chose Jason Ford in San Francisco.

Spring Loaded is not alone in positioning key people close to clients. In fact, think of the Nova Scotian scale-ups that have shown the most success recently, and you’ll likely think of companies with an overseas presence. The largest venture capital deal ever in Atlantic Canada was the recent US$30 million (C$40 million) round closed by Halifax-based ABK Biomedical, whose technologies improve the process of using tiny beads to attack certain cancer tumours. It’s not a coincidence that ABK Chief Executive Michael J. Mangano is based in the Los Angeles area.

When Affinio – a Halifax data analysis company that raised US$9 million in late 2017 – needed a Vice-President of Business Development, it hired Jason Ford, a 15-year veteran of the San Francisco tech industry.

Metamaterial Technologies Inc., which develops synthetic compounds that alter light, has offices in both the East End of London and in Pleasanton, California, as well as its headquarters in Halifax. Though the London office is primarily an R&D facility for medical technologies, it also helps with the sales efforts.

“This office acts in a sense as a European sales office, so from time to time we will perform demos for clients or hold sales meetings here,” said MTI Chief Science Officer, Themos Kallos, in an interview in the company’s office at the Queen Mary BioEnterprise Innovation Centre in London’s Whitechapel district.

Looking at other companies in the region, we can see that Fredericton AgTech company Resson – which raised two VC rounds of about $14 million each in the past two years – is headed by CEO, Jeff Grammer, based in Silicon Valley. And Introhive, a relationship intelligence company based in Fredericton and Washington, D.C., raised a US$15.3 million round last year.

Yes, there is a pattern developing. Many of the companies in the region that raised the most money have a foreign presence.

“If you’re going to scale in a significant way – if we’re really going to move the bar – being in-market on an ongoing basis can be influential to export success,” said Lisa Dobson, the sector lead for export in ICT at Nova Scotia Business Inc. “And there are ways to de-risk [foreign expansion], to try it out and test-drive it.”

CloudKettle CEO Greg Poirier: Targeting a small market can skew a SaaS company's pricing. 

So when should startups begin to develop their presence in foreign markets? At the outset, says CloudKettle CEO, Greg Poirier. The Software-as-a-Service tech consultancy that advises major international customers is based in Halifax, but Poirier spends about a week a month in San Francisco and Seattle, while his partner, Jon McGinley, spends about the same amount of time in Toronto, Boston and New York.

Speaking for SaaS companies targeting enterprise clients, Poirier argues that companies have to position themselves in front of clients outside Atlantic Canada as they develop their product and pricing structure.

Finding the proper price point is essential in developing an enterprise SaaS product (defined as a product that costs $10,000-plus a month), Poirier argues. The price point can tell you what features you can build out, what support staff you can afford and can affect your sales strategy. And, he says, you cannot develop a price point in Atlantic Canada because there aren’t enough large companies and those that are here tend to be frugal in their technology spending.

“This is a small market, but that’s not the only problem,” said Poirier, who estimates 90 percent of his company’s revenue comes from companies based in San Francisco and Seattle. “The problem is that it can skew your pricing.”

His advice is to budget in travel from the outset and maintain that foreign presence as you grow. He said Nova Scotia Business Inc.’s Export Growth Program – which defrays the costs of companies flying to clients to close deals – is an excellent way to reduce the costs of getting to key markets. (Founders we’ve spoken to have other hacks for reducing the cost from renting camper vans while in U.S. cities to joining pet-sitting sites to stay in people’s homes free).

Dobson also points to the organization’s work on Scale-Up Hub: Cambridge, which has been a successful vehicle for developing a portfolio of clients who are thinking about opening a US sales office in the Greater Boston market.  The program provides office space, access to a professional business development consultant to assist the companies in finding leads, and secure access to strategic advice from a network of C-level executives. The companies have to commit to being in Boston for a week a month throughout the year.

“There are clear and distinct advantages to sustaining your presence in market,” said Lisa Dobson.

Scale-Up Hub: Cambridge, which graduated three companies last year, has increased their combined revenues by $2 million.

Originally designed by Nova Scotia Business Inc. for Nova Scotia tech firms, the program has recently rolled out to the four Atlantic Canada Provinces and is partially funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Scale-Up Hub: Cambridge has six Atlantic Canadian scaling companies in the Boston area right now and their primary goal is to achieve accelerated sales. The six companies have a base in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA, near MIT, for a one -year period.

This article was sponsored by Nova Scotia Business Inc. 

About Nova Scotia Business Inc. 

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is the private-sector led business development agency of Nova Scotia, Canada. We attract global investment to create new jobs across the province and work with companies in all communities to be more successful exporters. Our clients benefit from our business advisory services, skill development and training, financing, and support as they access global markets and succeed in the global economy.

ICP, NBIF Invest $400K in Stash

Stash Energy, the Fredericton-based energy-storage company, has raised a $400,000 funding round, with equal contributions from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Island Capital Partners.

The funding comes as the company has received 1,500 pre-orders for its initial product, which works with a traditional heat pump to store energy and heat homes. And Stash is also working with the University of Ottawa on its second-generation product, which would cool homes.

Both investors have invested in the company previously. In June 2018, Stash Energy raised a $500,000 round divided just about evenly between Island Capital and NBIF. And NBIF also invested $200,000 in the venture in 2017.

“We’ve had really high hopes for this company, and they haven’t disappointed us,” said NBIF Director of Investment Raymond Fitzpatrick in a statement. “They’ve been doing some development recently in the European utilities market, where they have the climate and infrastructure in place that lends itself to Stash’s system. The company has huge growth potential in the global market.”

Stash Energy has developed a system that works with conventional residential heat pumps to store energy for later use. Companies around the world are working on energy storage systems so that consumers can store electricity from the grid during inexpensive, off-peak hours and use stored energy when demand is highest.

Stash Energy’s system allows users to store energy during non-peak periods and save up to 70 per cent on their utility bill. It works with conventional heat pumps, allowing users to specify when to switch from using grid energy to stored energy. The system benefits both consumers and utility providers, who can make more efficient use of their generation capacity and use more affordable resources.

Build Ventures Leads New Round for Gemba Software of Saint John

“Island Capital Partners is excited to be providing continued support for Stash Energy with this follow-on investment,” said Island Capital Partner Paul Lypaczewski. “With a number of pilot programs anticipated with Canadian and international utilities, we remain confident in the value that Stash’s energy storage solutions bring to energy providers and their customers.

Stash Energy was founded in 2017 by Jordan Kennie, Daniel Larson, and Erik Hatfield while they were studying Technology Management Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick. Since then, the company has pre-sold over 1,500 units and launched paid pilot projects with such utilities as Summerside Electric, Hydro Ottawa, and others.

Stash Energy plans to use the investment for additional product development, testing, and market expansion.

“We are using this round to fulfill the Canadian pre-orders and sign some U.S. contracts throughout the Northeast U.S.,” said Stash CEO Jordan Kennie in an email.

Kennie said the first-generation product will be in the utilities’ hands by November and the company hopes to get installations done throughout November and December. Preorders are for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years so they will go until March 2021, he said.

Stash Energy plans to have the second-generation product tested with one of its utility partners for the winter of 2020-2021 and then have it commercially ready for fall 2021 for central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

The company now has eight full- and two part-time employees and anticipates adding three to five people in the next year.

“People all over the world are becoming more conscious about their energy use, and Stash is there to help our customers manage their energy consumption and save money,” said Kennie in a statement. “We’re encouraged by the growth we’ve seen, and grateful to NBIF for supporting us since our early days.”

Planet Hatch Launches Accelerator

Having just reported success in its recent sales training program, Planet Hatch is launching a new accelerator for early-stage companies that includes access to development capital.

The Fredericton-based entrepreneurship hub said last week it would  launch the Planet Hatch Startup Accelerator to help entrepreneurs gain the essential knowledge and skills to turn an idea into a growing business.

The announcement came days after Planet Hatch said another of its initiatives, its Sales Accelerator Program, had concluded with the five participants reporting a 190 percent increase in monthly recurring revenues.

Planet Hatch said the new Startup Accelerator program will soon select a cohort to receive comprehensive training and tailored business counselling over 12 weeks on such topics as:

  • Market research and competitive intelligence;
  • Positioning and branding;
  • Pricing and financial modelling;
  • Customer validation;
  • And go-to-market strategies.

In addition to training, Startup Accelerator participants are eligible to access up to $25,000 in low-interest loan funding through the Impact Atlantic Fund. Each team will also be paired with marketing and communications students from St. Thomas University to help them develop a brand and communications strategy.

 “We’re very excited about the launch of this new program”, said Planet Hatch Program Coordinator Ksenia Sehic in a statement.  “This program will address the many challenges early-stage entrepreneurs face and speed up their time-to-market.”

In designing the program, Planet Hatch collaborated with EDGSJ, the economic development agency for Greater Saint John, which runs a similar initiative called the Venture Validation Program.

Meanwhile, Planet Hatch said the following companies have completed its six-week Sales Accelerator:  HomeWurk, Educated Beards, ET Mechanical, Parrill & Co., and SimpTek Technologies. These participants were selected from a pool of more than 30 applicants.

A statement from Planet Hatch said that during the six-week program, the five participants reported on average:

  • A 32 percent increase in total customers;
  • A 190 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue;
  • And a 267 percent increase in projected revenue over the next year.

Atlantic Growth Solutions, or AGS, a business development and lead generation company located in Fredericton, led the sales training. Through AGS, the program addressed the critical areas of sales development and helped the participants build an end-to-end process for acquiring new opportunities, increasing the close-rate percentage faster.

Each company was also paired with a full-time student intern from either the University of New Brunswick or St. Thomas University, funded by FutureReadyNB, to help execute on their new sales strategy.

Planet Hatch plans to accept applications for the second cohort of the Sales Accelerator Program in the winter of 2020.

“Based on demand and results, there is a clear need for this [sort of program] and I think it could be a model for accelerators across New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada,” said Planet Hatch Director Adam Peabody. “We’re fortunate to have a great partner in AGS to deliver best-in-class training that is clearly making an impact with this first cohort.”

ACOA, NB Back Smart Grid Project

The federal and New Brunswick governments are contributing $7.8 million to help the University of New Brunswick further develop its smart grid initiative.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency said in a statement that the Fredericton-based university is undertaking a five-year research initiative to address the complex technical, regulatory, and social issues involved in moving from conventional electric power systems to smart grids.

The Atlantic Digital Grid project will result in a number of new tools and technologies for energy distribution, analysis, threat detection, infrastructure, and business modeling. 

The Smart Grid Innovation Network, or SGIN, established in partnership with NB Power and Siemens in 2015, is also expanding to support initiatives such as the Atlantic Digital Grid project, and build on UNB’s existing assets and expertise in energy management.

“The emerging field of smart grid technology has the potential to transform the world’s power systems, and the University of New Brunswick is at the forefront of these innovations,” said UNB President Paul Mazerolle in the statement. “The Atlantic Digital Grid project will join the Smart Grid Innovation Network and the Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies to expand the innovation hub in our region, driving research and discovery and fuelling growth in the Atlantic Canadian economy.”

ACOA is contributing $6.7 million to UNB’s Atlantic Digital Grid project through the Atlantic Innovation Fund, which funds major research projects between private companies and research institutions.

ACOA is also contributing $879,910 towards the SGIN project to hire expertise through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program, while the New Brunswick government is contributing $200,000.

The goal of the smart grid movement is to use cutting-edge technology in the grid and improvements through data analytics and mobile applications to optimize the introduction of new electricity generation and monitoring technologies. 

Disclosure: UNB and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Buckle Joins Sequence Bio

Joy Buckle

Joy Buckle

Sequence Bio, the St. John’s-based biotechnology company that is conducting a widespread genetic study of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population, has named Joy Buckle its Vice President of Policy and Planning.

In a statement, the company said Buckle will help expand Sequence Bio’s Genome Project, which was launched this summer. The company is collecting genetic samples from 2,500 Newfoundlanders who will complete a questionnaire and may give the project permission to access their medical records. By the conclusion, Sequence Bio intends to be in talks with pharmaceutical companies that will pay for access to the data and computational research.

“With the NL Genome Project enrolling participants in eight clinics in Newfoundland and Labrador, Joy’s experience with building relationships and helping manage large projects will play an essential role as we continue to expand across the province,” said Sequence CEO Chris Gardner in a the statement.

Sequence is working with the “founder population” of Newfoundland – that is, people whose families have lived on the island for several generations. In an earlier interview with Entrevestor, Gardner said a 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 diverse one. 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.

The initial study will serve as a pilot that will give the Sequence Bio the foundational information for conducting further studies with larger populations, said Gardner.

Buckle has worked as an adviser on social policy for the Office of the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador under Dwight Ball. She holds an MBA and an MSc focusing in Cancer Research from Memorial University, and spent seven years in management at the telemedicine/teleconferencing division at the university’s Faculty of Medicine. 

“Sequence Bio is passionate about having a lasting, positive impact on the people of this province while driving economic growth, and I can’t wait to get started,” she said.


 

Good and Bad in CVCA Data

There was good news and bad news for the Atlantic Canadian startup community in the funding data released last week by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, known as CVCA.

The good news: innovation companies based on the East Coast raised equity funding of almost $81 million in the first half of 2019. That total, which includes both venture capital and private equity, exceeds the record $76 million in equity funding from the first half of 2018.

The bad news: two deals accounted for about two-thirds of the first-half 2019 total, and other than these two companies, it was pretty slim pickings. (The CVCA doesn't publicly state the individual deals that make up the total, but the big deals are usually well known in the community.) 

The CVCA’s first-half funding data shows that the region’s startups attracted almost $65 million in venture capital equity funding in the first half. A big chunk of that is accounted for by the record US$30 million (C$40 million) financing announced by Halifax-based ABK Biomedical in April.

Here is a breakdown of the funding for the first half:

Province Q1   Q2   1H  
  Deals Value ($M) Deals Value ($M) Deals Value($M)
NS 4 16 11 42 15 58
NB NA   NA   7 3
NL 0 0 2 3 2 3
PEI 1 0.4 1 0.2 2 0.6
Total          26 64.6

The quarterly data for New Brunswick is unavailable as the CVCA changed its methodology in reporting VC debt in its most recent period.  It said New Brunswick accounted for $3 million in VC debt in the first half, some of which had been reported as overall VC when it released its first-quarter data. We do, however, have first half data for New Brunswick.

The CVCA also said there was one private equity deal on Prince Edward Island in the first half. (PE investments are purchases of substantial stakes in scaling companies with strong cash flow, whereas VC investments tend to be small-stake investments in companies with high growth potential.)

In June, Charlottetown-based MicroSintesis, which has developed an innovative product to ensure gut health in animals, sold a minority stake to John Risley’s Northern Private Capital for $16.4 million. It was the largest private equity deal in the region since St. John’s based Verafin raised $60 million from Spectrum Equity of California.

Other than those two deals, there were not a lot of big funding rounds reported in the first half. St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats closed a $2.3 million equity funding round in June, but most other 24 funding rounds were less than $1 million.

That’s important because equity funding is oxygen to startups, and many non-dilutive funding programs are triggered only after companies raise equity funds. Companies generally have difficulty growing without development capital.

Will the market improve in the second half?

Two-thirds of the way through the third quarter, it appears there may be more seven-figure funding rounds in the second half of the year.  Even through the dog days of summer, Fredericton-based SomaDetect announced a $2.6 million funding round, and Toronto- and Halifax-based Curv a $1.5 million round, while Halifax-based Rimot and Sydney-based Securicy both unveiled $1.2 million raises. And Saint John-based Gemba Software Solutions (known as ProcedureFlow) announced a $2.9 million round this week. 

There is more funding news ahead with several companies including VineView saying they are working on rounds targeted at $10 million, and Metamaterial Technologies Inc. is hoping to raise $10 million or more during its coming initial public offering.

The Atlantic Canadian funding in the first half took place against a backdrop of strong funding across Canada. The CVCA reported that venture capital investment reached a record $1.28 billion in the second quarter, raising the first half total to $2.15 billion. The association also reported 20 VC-backed exits in the first half, totaling $2.1 billion.

“Canadian VC-backed exits are on a positive trajectory in 2019 which, in tandem with invested VC dollars, exhibit a healthy innovation ecosystem,” said CVCA Chief Executive Kim Furlong in a statement. “We’ve heard time and time again that Canada is experiencing a ‘moment,’ and the results we are seeing in H1 2019 is a testament to that.”

MentorCamp Set for PEI Sept. 22-24

Seven companies have been selected to attend MentorCamp, a rigorous one-day immersion program with mentors from around the world being held later this month in Charlottetown.

Launched in Halifax in 2011 by investor and consultant Permjot Valia, MentorCamp assembles promising companies and schedules rotating meetings throughout one day with about two dozen mentors, who meet the entrepreneurs in groups of three or four.

The key to understanding MentorCamp is to realize that it is all about learning not fundraising.

“There are a lot of conferences and opportunities in Atlantic Canada . . . where people get to pitch and meet investors,” said Valia in an interview. “I think there are ample opportunities to meet investors.  What it is difficult to do in Atlantic Canada is to meet word-class mentors who can tell you based on their experience how to move your business forward.”

The mentors include a mix of international, Canadian and Atlantic Canadian experts. The international mentors include: Jane Galsworthy of the Oxford Centre for Innovation in the U.K.; Jeff Amerine, who heads the consulting group StartUp Junkie in Arkansas; and Joseph T. Wright, Head of the Entrepreneurship office at the South Dakota University of Mines and Technology.

Here's a list of the companies that have been invited to MentorCamp 2019  (And our most recent articles on those that we've covered):

Cribcut, Halifax – Led by CEO David Howe, Cribcut has built a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. It helps stylists become travelling hairdressers, providing clients with haircuts, colours and styles at their homes and offices. 

Cribcut's $1M+ Raise to Aid Growth

Easy Golf Tour, Sydney – Headed by CEO Todd Chant ,Easy Golf Tour, has developed software that helps golf courses administer the tournaments they hold several times each season. The strength of the sales strategy is its partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada, which has 1,300 members across the country.

Easy Golf Aligns with Association

Eyesover, Fredericton – Eyesover’s opinion-tracking software uses artificial intelligence to analyze media and uncover new issues or discussions of importance to the user. The technology was devised by company Chairman Ali Ghorbani, who is also the director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick. The company is headed by CEO Craig Leonard. 

Eyesover Raised $200K from NBIF in 2018

Forestry.io, Charlottetown –Forestry.io has developed a content management system for static web pages. In 2017, the company led by CEO Scott Gallant became the first Canadian company to raise money through an AngelList syndicate

Onset Communication, Charlottetown – Onset has developed The Visual Assistant, a visual communication tool that reduces miscommunication, delays and mistakes on film production sets. Led by CEO Brian Sharp, the company has a distribution agreement with William F White International, the largest film equipment rental company in Canada.

Onset Raised $230K from Island Capital in 2018

RightlyWritten, Charlottetown – RightlyWritten has developed an online copywriting service in which customers can use the company's website to order custom written content. The company has completed more than 2,200 projects for over 1,200 clients. 

TurboPlay, Fredericton –TurboPlay, led by CEO Vince McMullin, is building a personalized video game marketplace for indie gamers and game developers, allowing them to sell their digital games and related downloadable content. Its goal is to add more flexibility and convenience into the gaming industry, which is now worth US$137 billion annually.

NBIF Backs TurboPlay with $200K Investment

As well as the full day of mentoring at the invitation-only event on Monday, Sept. 23, the MentorCamp program includes one session on the night of Sunday, Sept. 22, that is open to the public. The session at Startup Zone will feature a range of investors discussing fundraising, from pre-seed to growth-stage rounds.

First, Valia and Amerine will discuss raising initial rounds of less than $100,000. They will be followed by Island Capital Partners Director of Operations Stefanie Corbett and Build Ventures principal Patrick Hankinson speaking about $100,000 to $1 million rounds. Then Fergus Dyer-Smith, CEO of London-based Wooshii.com, which recently closed a £3.6 million (C$5.8 million) round, will speak about raising $1 million to $10 million rounds. And Mark MacLeod, the Founder of Surepath Capital in Toronto,  will speak about rounds of more than $10 million.

“You’re going to hear about $25K right through to more than $10 million, and I think those are very impressing speakers,” said Valia.

In the final day of the three-day event, the mentors will meet with Atlantic Canadian researchers and academics brought together by Springboard Atlantic, the group that bridges industry and academia in Atlantic Canada. The purpose of these closed sessions will be let the experts learn about what Atlantic Canada is doing to bring academic research to the marketplace, and have the experts offer advice on how to improve procedures.

Build Closes Fund II, Backs Gemba

Gemba Software CEO Daniella DeGrace

Gemba Software CEO Daniella DeGrace

Build Ventures, the Atlantic Canadian seed-stage venture capital firm, has announced the initial close of its second fund at $50.5 million and has invested in a $2.9 million round by Saint John-based Gemba Software Solutions.

Led by partners Rob Barbara and Patrick Keefe, Halifax-based Build launched its first fund in 2013, announcing a first close of $48.5 million but ending up with a fund of $65 million that backed 14 companies.  Build ended its investment period with the first fund in late 2017, and the principals have been working since on bringing in new capital for their second fund.

The Build Ventures II limited partners, many of whom come from the public sector, have committed an additional $8.5 million to the fund as long as Keefe and Barbara can attract $5 million in private funding. That would bring the total value of Build Ventures II up to at least $64 million.

“Our first fund supported some of the region’s top startups, helping drive innovation,” said Barbara in a statement. “Launching Build Ventures II means we will continue to find and invest in companies with strong growth potential.”

Added Keefe, the fund’s Managing Partner: “We continue to be impressed with the growth of the ecosystem and the quality of companies emerging throughout Atlantic Canada. . . . With Build II, we look forward to helping more companies in the region explore and perfect the science of scaling up, allowing them to expand into new markets.”

The limited partners in Build Ventures II include the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, BDC Capital, and the Government of Canada’s Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative, as well as some private investors.

Innovacorp Invested $6.3M in 2018-19

Making its first investment in a new company in almost two years, Build Ventures has now invested $2 million in Gemba Software. Its flagship SaaS product ProcedureFlow helps call centres provide all employees the information they need to answer questions thoroughly and immediately.

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

NBIF invested again in the current round with a $600,000 contribution, while Innovatia has invested a further $300,000.

Gemba’s mission was to sell a digital product developed by Innovatia that helped corporate clients simplify complicated procedures for employees. Some companies – especially those with call centres, or contact centres -- need employees to understand hundreds or thousands of business procedures. ProcedureFlow provides companies with a series of flow charts and digital tools that help to train employees and let them find information more quickly.

“With ProcedureFlow, we’ve helped our clients increase productivity and, importantly, we’ve supported our clients’ growth through visual knowledge transfer, resulting in an enhanced customer experience,” said DeGrace in the statement.” This significant investment will help us grow ProcedureFlow and scale up our operations.”

In an email, DeGrace said the company, which now has 14 employees, has attracted customers around the world, and they have found ProcedureFlow cuts operation costs by up to 11 percent and employee training time by up to 90 percent.

She said the company “will use this investment to accelerate our growth to meet our large market opportunities.  In the next two years, we'll be adding [about] 40 employees in business development, customer success as well as a significant increase in our software development team.”

 

Disclosure: Build Ventures is a client of Entrevestor. 

Major Events Coming this Fall

NACO's Claudio Rojas and Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic

NACO's Claudio Rojas and Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic

Now that we’re into September, it’s worth taking a look at the main startup events that will take place in the coming few months.

Sales Atlantic

Sept. 9-10

Sydney

Featuring sales and marketing experts with international reach, Sales Atlantic aims to teach Atlantic Canadian companies the fundamentals of modern sales processes.

Buy your tickets here.

NACO Atlantic  | Funding Founders

Sept 16-18

Halifax

The National Angel Capital Organization is teaming up with Invest Atlantic to present a two-track conference – the first day and a half will focus on angel investing and the second on non-dilutive financing.

Buy your tickets here.

MentorCamp

Sept. 22-24

Charlottetown

A half-dozen Atlantic Canadian companies will receive a day of intense mentorship from a troop of regional, national and international mentors.  The main MentorCamp event is by invitation only, though a series of presentations on investment on Sunday evening will be open to the public.

Innovate Atlantic

Sept. 26

Halifax

Presented by Volta, the second-annual Innovate Atlantic conference is subtitled: “Setting an Innovation Agenda for the Next 25 Years.”

Buy your tickets here.

Bioport Atlantic

Nov. 5-6

Halifax

BioPort Atlantic is Atlantic Canada’s premiere conference for the life sciences sector. It features the BioInnovation Challenge, a pitching competition for early-stage companies with a cash-and-services prize this year worth $55,000.

Buy your tickets here.

We Have an Opening for a Reporter

We’re looking for a business and technology reporter.

Entrevestor is the main source of news for technology and innovation companies in Atlantic Canada, which we believe is the most exciting component of the regional economy. We are looking for a reporter with a passion for reporting on business and/or technology and a desire to learn more about this branch of journalism.  We pay a competitive salary and pride ourselves on mentoring young reporters.

Our ideal candidate will display these traits:

A fascination with business and technology.  To report on startups is to sit at the intersection of technology and economics, and we’re looking for someone who considers that a pretty cool place to be. We want someone who is curious not just about how a product works, but whether there’s a market for it and how the entrepreneur will get it to the market. If you’re enthralled by these things, get in touch. If not, this might not be the job for you.

A love of the English language. Be warned: we are grammar hawks. We want someone who can succinctly explain complex concepts in terms most people can understand. We need a good writer, and someone who is eager to improve his or her writing.

Character. We value you as a person and will help your growth as a journalist. With our paid interns and previous staff, we have spent countless hours in mentorship and personal development. We promise to do the same with you. In return, we want someone who is reliable, pleasant and hard-working.

 

Job Description

Our reporter’s main job will be to interview entrepreneurs and profile their businesses. We want the human side of the entrepreneur’s story, and we want as many business details as we can get. We’re especially keen on the company’s revenues, funding, staffing and outlook. These articles tend to be 500 to 600 words.

The reporter will also be responsible for rewriting press releases, usually with a quick turnaround, sometimes with phone calls to spin them into full stories.

Over time, we also want a reporter who understands the big picture. That means filing more in-depth analyses and helping us with our research into the Atlantic Canadian startup community.   

 

Qualifications

We’re looking for someone with experience in journalism or a journalism degree. Experience in business reporting would be a real bonus.
Our coverage in Halifax is increasing, so we would prefer someone based in Halifax.
Facility with video, photography and social media would help but is not essential.  

If you’re interested, send us an email at peter@entrevestor.com. Please include a resume and a sample of your UNEDITED writing.

 

About Entrevestor

Founded by journalists Peter and Carol Moreira, Entrevestor provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups and high-growth innovators. We provide daily news on innovation companies in all four Atlantic Provinces on Entrevestor.com. Our annual data report has become the benchmark for metrics on this sector of the economy, and is the main source of our income.  

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