Howe Wins by Losing Bet to Martell

David Howe

David Howe

In the hope of making his sales targets a reality, young entrepreneur David Howe accepted a bet from his mentor, Dan Martell. Howe lost but furthered his career in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

Howe met Martell, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor he has long admired, early last year when Martell tweeted that he was in Halifax and looking for entrepreneurs to have lunch with.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” said Howe, who was trying to grow his business,

The e-commerce site automatically mailed customers new toothbrushes every three months so people could change them as dentists recommend.

Over lunch, Howe told Martell he was aiming to grow his customer base 10 per cent weekly.

“Dan said it’s important to be accountable to someone as an entrepreneur and came back to me with a … bet,” Howe said.

“Bearing in mind that I needed to hire a team, he suggested I aim to reach $15,000 net profit within six months.”

Howe took the bet. Martell immediately gave him $1,000. If Howe hit the target, he would get to keep the $1,000. If not, he had to return Martell’s money plus $1,000 of his own.

“Dan told me these bets are not about money. They’re about holding entrepreneurs accountable for making their business dreams a reality,” Howe said.

Over the next few months, Howe felt more stressed than he’d ever been, but he was also motivated.

“The bet made me look at my business objectively. I released a marketing video, raised prices, added more products, studied growth and marketing, all with the aim of reaching $15,000 in net profit.”

But he realized he wasn’t going to get there and, more importantly, that the toothbrush business wasn’t right for him.

“I wanted a high-growth business. I wanted something more significant.”

Still, admitting defeat was hard.

“My business wasn’t what I thought it was. I was going to owe Dan $2,000 and my company was going to be a failure.

“So I reached out to our main competitor, GoodMouth, and we struck a deal. GoodMouth acquired my company in September last year.

“Then RetailKit, the e-commerce platform that Toothbrush Subscriptions was built on, heard about the sale. They’re a small startup in Silicon Valley, and they offered me the chance to head up sales for them. I jumped on it.”

Howe is now back in Halifax and working remotely for Tend, the company that acquired RetailKit. Tend is based in Santa Cruz, where it builds software for organic farmers.

Howe said he is learning a lot about marketing and sales, and working in the San Francisco area allowed him to benefit from proximity to the region’s large entrepreneurial community.

The Fall River native, who recently turned 25, said he will probably start another business of his own.

The toothbrush venture was Howe’s second company. He began his first, a landscaping business, while studying marketing and management at Mount Saint Vincent University.

It became so successful he dropped out of school to focus on it.

Howe has always been entrepreneurial.

“I was selling candy in Grade 6. In high school, I burned CDs and DVDs and sold them. I also sold clothing.”

Martell’s bet was a valuable lesson.

“Who knows how long I would have kept going with TBS if not for the bet? Dan told me that 98 per cent of the people he makes these bets with actually fail, and it’s a good thing they do.

“For me, the bet led to a new opportunity and another chance to grow as an entrepreneur.”

Dal’s Collider Opens its Doors

Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship on Thursday launched the Collider, a space on the second floor of the Killam Library to promote entrepreneurship within the university and the entrepreneur community.

The Collider is branded as a “space for the serendipitous collision of ideas.” Though not officially called the Collider until Thursday, the room has been used since 2012 for Mary Kilfoil’s Starting Lean class, where students learn about and develop startups. The Collider has already been booked for events, such as a marine hack-a-thon and Startup Weekend, to promote its mission for idea dispersion.

Kilfoil and Norman Newman Centre Entrepreneurship Director Ed Leach were the ones who pushed to officially make the space the Collider.

Several teams from the Starting Lean class spoke about the importance of the Collider to them. Some teams’ businesses are already making progress after completing Starting Lean this past April. Site2020, which makes automated construction flaggers, is one of these teams. The startup recently won the Pitch 101 contest at Invest Atlantic and plans to release its product next spring.

“The amount of innovation that goes into this class is obscene,” Site2020 Co-Founder Cole Campbell said.

Some of this semester’s Staring Lean teams were also there. A student in that cohort presented his team’s idea for a device to make scuba diving safer.

The three teams that were there from the 2012 Starting Lean cohort have all transformed into growth-stage companies. Sage Mixology provided the Collider launch with its new ginger and apple flavoured beers for its alcohol line, Crazy Beard. Analyze Re, which helps insurance and reinsurance companies analyze big data, is making great headway in the industry. Spring Loaded Technologies, which creates bionic knee braces, is going to soon start manufacturing 8000 knee braces a year, potentially bringing in $12 million in revenue.

“We need programs like this to build new companies, small business with technology that is built and has the potential to be global,” said Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Spring Loaded. ”And that’s exactly what this program is doing.”

Dalhousie President Richard Florizone and University Librarian Donna Bourne-Tyson also spoke at the launch. Kilfoil said that Bourne-Tyson was very instrumental in locking down the Collider.

“This is a bit of a skunkwork project, to make things go Dal, to make things go across the Nova Scotia universities, to go across the province,” Florizone said. “I’m so excited, I’m incoherent.”

There were also presentations about student entrepreneurship outside the Starting Lean class from organizations such as Enactus, a social entrepreneurship network, and the Entrepreneurship Society.

“Welcome home, welcome to the Collider,” Leach said. “And welcome to where much of it has started and where much of it’s going to grow.”

Techtoberfest Set for Next Week

Techtoberfest, the annual tech conference put on by Communitech, returns Oct. 13 and 14 with events that will connect startups with venture capitalists and feature Oktoberfest trimmings and festivities.

The two-day event is set to draw 250 startups and 40 venture capital investors from across North America to the Waterloo region. The discussions will cover topics such as crowdfunding, Canadian investment, and Q&As with attendees. The attending companies include Miovision, Auvik Networks, Twenty-one Toys, and Plasticity Labs. The investors will include 500 Startups of Silicon Valley. John Dimatos of Kickstarter will lead a breakout session on crowdfunding.

The event kicks off Tuesday with an opening party at Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo, and the launch of Thomson Reuters Labs at the Communitech Hub.

The conference will continue the next morning at the Tannery Event Center with opening remarks and a session by author, angel investor and CEO of VaynerMedia Gary Vaynerchuk.

At 1 pm, there will be a series of speakers at the Tannery Center, starting with a session on venture capital advice by Vast Ventures partner Nikhil Kalghati. Following Kalghati is a crowdfunding story by Kickstarter success story Twenty-One Toys, and a talk about Canadian investment by traffic data collection solution Miovision Technologies. Finally WattPad will share a story on Series A funding before a panelist Q&A.

The closing keynote address will be given by Business Rockstars Co-Founder Ken Rutkowski before closing remarks and heading to Okberfest festivities at the Communitech Hub.

Tickets for the conference are sold out but there are tickets available to the kickoff party on the 13th" target="_blank">here.

Livingston Justifies Kik’s Valuation

Ted Livingston: 'We view them as a killer demographic.'

Ted Livingston: 'We view them as a killer demographic.'

If you ask Ted Livingston what makes Kik Interactive worth a billion dollars – which someone did during a discussion at University of Waterloo Wednesday night – the answer eventually comes down to its “killer demographic.”

Waterloo-based Kik created headlines around the world in August when it received a US$50 million (C$65.2 million) strategic investment from Chinese tech giant Tencent, valuing the maker of the popular North American chat network at US$1 billion. Tencent is creator of the chat app Weixin, or WeChat, which is extremely popular with young people in China. In fact, more Chinese use chat than the internet, and it has become an essential tool in many everyday commercial transactions.

“WeChat has become so dominant in society that you have to have WeChat to function,” Livingston, the Kik CEO,  said on Wednesday night. He added that the Tencent execs told him during the negotiations: “We think there are only two companies in the West who can do this in the U.S., Facebook and you, and we like you.”

Related: Kik Interactive Raises US$50B

About 200 people attended the talk titled “How to Build a Unicorn” (a unicorn is a company valued at $1 billion) in which Livingston discussed the company’s past, present and future with Velocity Director Mike Kirkup.

A relaxed and witty personality in his grey hoodie, Livingston amused the audience with the tales of building up the company to the point where it has 240 million users in 230 countries. But the really fascinating part of the discussion was the insight it provided into the direction in which this unicorn is pointing its pretty little horn.

Founded in 2009, Kik is a chat service that is now used by about 40 percent of the teens in the U.S., and about 70 percent of its users are aged between 13 and 24 years. These teens now use Kik mainly for its chat function, but Livingston aspires to add functionality so his clients – who will grow in spending power as they age – will use Kik for a range of tasks. The company said when it announced the funding round that it would use the money to double its size.

One question that arose during the discussion was how Kik will make money, and Livingston said the company now makes some revenue. But he admitted there were skeptics out there who wondered whether Kik will convert those users into paying customers.

In answering, Livingston referred to the “killer demographic” of U.S. teens, who are getting older every year and will require more commercial and financial services as they enter adulthood.

One reason chat has done so well in China, he said, is that millions of people got smartphones before they were on the internet, so it made sense that the first service they would use was chat. From there, it was logical that they would use chat to carry out such tasks as ordering food or transferring money.

That, of course, is not the case in North America, where the general population is used to doing business online. However, Livingston said his young customers are just learning about doing these transactions, and it’s logical they will choose to do them with chat rather than on the internet.

When he was asked what company he admired most, Livingston answered Facebook, the company that is his main competitor. Most U.S. tech companies don’t understand the potential of chat, but Facebook does, he said. He added Facebook is excellent at executing and its staff outnumbers Kik 90 to 1.

“I still think we can [succeed in the long-term] but I feel like we’re up against the best company in the world,” he said.

In financing this grand expansion, he said an initial public offering may be an option but he is uncomfortable with the thought of exiting Kik through a sale.

“Maybe one day we’ll sell but I don’t know,” he said. “To me, selling your company is like selling your child. … I think emotionally it would be very difficult to do.”

Laforge Builds Farm of the Future

Rock Laforge, left, receives the award from BioNB Chair Greg Kealey. (Photo by John MacDermid, Eh to Zed)

Rock Laforge, left, receives the award from BioNB Chair Greg Kealey. (Photo by John MacDermid, Eh to Zed)

You could say Rock Laforge operates the dairy farm of the future, and that’s why he received the 2015 New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award from BioNB.

A fourth-generation farmer from Saint-Andre (50 kilometres southeast of Edmundston), Laforge heads Laforge Bioenvironmental, which powers his farm by burning the gas produced by waste products. The residue is then used as fertilizer. The facility even produces enough electricity that it sells some to NB Power’s grid.

“We can only supply 1,000 kilowatts to the grid now … but eventually we may bring it up to 1,500 kilowatts,” Laforge said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The biogas facility represents a $7-million investment in two plants and together they generate clean, renewable energy.

The system comprises two anaerobic digesters that take waste such as manure and other residues from the Laforge farm and other neighbouring food producers. The waste is mixed and fed into the digesters so that it produces methane as the organic material breaks down. Each digester comprises a lagoon covered by a flexible membrane that captures the methane as it escapes the mixture. The methane — a form of natural gas — is then burned to power an electrical generator.

Related: In Praise of NB's Biotech Community

Laforge said he set up his first digester, with a 1,500-cubic-metre capacity, about seven years ago, and it was so successful that it led to the recent construction of a second digester with a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres.

The two plants generate enough energy to power the entire dairy operation and 1,000 homes in the area.

Once the mixture is completely broken down, the residue is a rich organic compost that Laforge uses as fertilizer.

“The Laforge facility is a compelling example of true New Brunswick resourcefulness, transforming residuals from local agriculture and food processors into sustainable, high-value products,” BioNB said in the news release that announced the award. “The Laforge family has a true entrepreneurial spirit, and they use the expertise learned from their own operations to help other farmers build similar projects.”

Laforge said he has worked closely on the project with the New Brunswick Community College Biorefinery Technology Scale-up Centre, whose researchers have helped in determining the optimum blend to produce the most methane possible.

He said he receives a payback for the capital investment over a 10-year period, so within three years from now the initial tank will have paid for itself. In addition to reducing his heating and electricity costs, he does not have to buy fertilizer, which further reduces his operating expenditures.

Laforge envisages expanding the operation in the future as other farms become more familiar with the operation. His farm is a 400-hectare operation, but the total farmland that could be using such an operation in his vicinity amounts to 3,200 hectares.

BioNB said the other finalists for its annual award were: Mycodev Group of Fredericton, which developed a new method of producing chitosan, a material that has numerous commercial applications in such fields as medicine, agriculture, wine or industry; and Erik Scheme, the NB Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices, who is active in the medical technologies industry in Atlantic Canada.

Second ProductCamp Set for Oct. 24

ProductCamp Atlantic, the one-day networking and mentoring session for product managers, will return for a second year on Saturday, Oct. 24.

ProductCamp is a loosely organized get-together in which product managers, marketing professionals and people interested in product management can meet up, find areas of common interest and mentor one another on best practices.

ProductCamp Atlantic will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre, 1344 Summer Street, Halifax. Admission is free and registration is available here.

“ProductCamp is an unconference, which means that it is free to you,” says the website for the get together. “Your only cost is your participation, so bring your ideas, lead a session, facilitate a discussion, network, or volunteer.”

If the structure of the conference is difficult to pin down, so is the group it’s targeting because there is no clear definition for “product manager.” The job description tends to vary from industry to industry and from company to company.

The event is being organized by Megann and Steve Willson, who together operate the Panoptika business consultancy, and John Whyte, the head of marketing at Nautel. Whyte has taken notice of the ProductCamp movement in the U.S. and believed that Atlantic Canada could use such an event. All three are organizing the event on a volunteer basis.

ProductCamp Atlantic is targeting anyone who is involved in defining, measuring, messaging, or marketing the customer-facing aspects of any kind of product or service.

The organizers stress that the smaller the organization, the more likely that the participant’s title is not “product manager”. But anyone who participates in the above activities will acquire new skills and learn from other people’s war stories at ProductCamp.

Ruffolo Sees Startup Group In Months

John Ruffolo is leading an active drive to start an association for growth-stage startups in Canada and expects the body will be up and running in a few months.

After floating the idea online recently, the CEO of OMERS Ventures has identified a core of about 12 companies committed to funding and organizing such an association. He hopes to attract about eight more backers to launch the group so there are about 20 major Canadian startups as founding companies.

“I haven’t yet found that organization at can speak for the startup community,” said Ruffolo in a phone conversation on Tuesday. “I’m going to complete my various discussions in the next four to six weeks, and if there’s not a group out there then I think we need one.”

Ruffolo emphasized that by “startup” he is not referring to seed-stage companies with a few people. He more accurately means high-growth innovators that have moved beyond the seed stage and are now scaling into significant corporations. He also said the purpose is not to seek government funding for such companies but to ensure they have a single voice that can present their case in policy discussions with government.

The absence of a group to represent the interests of startups came to light in the past two weeks in the response to the New Democratic Party’s campaign promise to change the taxation of stock options.  The measure, aimed at curbing the take-home pay of senior managers in corporations, could also impact the ability of startups to attract talent. Ruffolo raised the matter on the Startup North Facebook page, and CEOs Ryan Holmes of Vancouver-based Hootsuite Media Inc. and Tobi Lutke of Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. wrote the NDP to oppose the move. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair replied there would be an exemption for early-stage companies.

Ruffolo again took up the cause, calling on the startup community in an editorial on the OMERS website and in Betakit to speak with a single voice when dealing with government. Governments want to aid startups, he said, but civil servants and politicians usually don’t know what the community wants.

What was the response? “I was completely overwhelmed with people generally and passionately agreeing with me,” he said. “The thing is a few years ago no one really cared about what startups thought but now they’re extremely interested.”

The Globe and Mail reported today that at one meeting last week BlackBerry Co-Founder Jim Ballsilie warned startup founders that they had to begin to lobby government or get trampled by their larger foreign competitors.

The campaign has led to discussions with several people and the commitments to back such an organization. Ruffolo said there are now a range of programs across the country to help early-stage companies, and they should be maintained. But there is a growing band of companies with significant revenue streams and these companies need to grow into global corporations. The problem, he said, is finding programs and policies that can help these companies to reach global customers, and mounting a lobbying effort to support such policies.

“There is no organization that fits that bill,” he said.

He believes such an organization should not be financed by government, because such a funding arrangement would make it difficult to lobby governments and would over time change its mandate to meet the needs of governments.

Ruffolo declined to name the companies that have already committed to back the organization. He expects before too long it will be looking for an office and searching for an executive director. 

An Irish View of St. John’s Startups

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh: 'I'll be back in the near future.'

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh: 'I'll be back in the near future.'

When you work around startups, you sometimes get the chance to go to an event in a far-flung city. So when Roger Power of Startup Newfoundland and Labrador invited me to be a pitch mentor at a Startup Weekend in St. John’s in June, I decided that it would be hard to stop me and that I’d take a few weeks to check the place out.

St. John’s is the eastern-most point of North America. In fact, once you head east out of St. John’s harbour, the next place you’ll land is the Blasket Islands off the coast of Kerry.

I had heard Newfoundland’s culture was heavily influenced by the influx of Irish migrants as early as the 1600s. I certainly found those Irish influences. The “unofficial” Newfoundland flag is similar to the Irish, only green white and pink. And the accent is at times nearly unbelievably Irish. I’ve described it as sounding like an Irish person trying to put on a fake Canadian accent.

In my two weeks there, I found a city that fits my own personality. I experienced a sea voyage in search of whales and icebergs (we found neither in the 15-foot seas), found a great deal through AirBNB, and learned the strengths of developing a startup community in a small, remote city. 

For example, the Startup Weekend in St. John’s was obviously a smaller affair than what we’d seen in Dublin. But the smaller events are more intimate, less stressful, yet still manage to achieve everything that needs to be achieved. Ultimately the deserved winner was an idea pitched by Robert Byrne (pretty Irish name) called “Du Jour” that aimed to take the hassle out of recipe discovery.

“My father and grandfather had their own businesses and I grew up watching the hard work they put in and the freedom and happiness it allowed them,” said Byrne.

Two days after the infamous boat ride, I met up with Sarah Murphy (pretty Irish name), Co-Founder of Sentinel Alert. The business specialises in worker safety solutions and has the very humane goal of “helping bring workers home safe”.

Sarah stated what I had heard frequently, that the bedrock of the ecosystem was the vibrant and growing community of about 250 people. “Our startup community is new, growing and starting to take off,” she said. “We regularly pack the house at startup mixers.”

One problem that startups the world over face is a war for tech talent, especially when you’re 6,000-plus kilometres from San Francisco, with the hub cities like Toronto hoovering up most of the regional talent. For startups in smaller cities like St. John’s this means they have to adopt a more flexible approach.

The first part of Murphy’s approach to finding talent is to proactively look for it.

“Ask about the people you meet, get to know their passions and offer to help them out. It takes some patience and time. There are basement warriors in every small place, but they want to get to know you. If they commit to jumping in they’re betting on you, the person, not the business.”

Part two of her approach is to realise that in a lot of cases, having everyone under the same roof just isn’t necessary: “We’ll build a remote team (from around the world!). It’s important to be open to that in small/remote places.”

It seems like literally every person I speak to who is doing something interesting has arrived at that point through a series of events that could never really have been planned in advance. Mark Kennedy (pretty Irish name) of Celtx exemplifies this point well.

A former chemistry students and lawyer, he was won over by the challenge of creating a big business solving a big problem. Celtx is that aspiring big business and it’s worked with some household name TV production companies.

“Newfoundland is where I’m from, and you get a lot of personal strength from this place,” he said.

Rather than upping roots and moving to TV production hubs like New York or Los Angeles, Kennedy is determined to make his business a success from St. John’s.  “Living in a remote place is not the impediment it once was,” he said.

According to Kennedy the main challenges faced by startups are 1) distribution, 2) finance and 3) a need for talent.

Distribution is relatively easy: “If you’re building an export oriented business selling ones and zeroes, which we are, then the Internet solves the distribution problem for you.”

Finance was admittedly tough to come by, but Mark and Co. have managed to raise a strong round from investors in the nearby city of Halifax. And as for talent?

“We ignored the prevailing wisdom on what an employer was supposed to do,” he said. He was advised to pay on the low side because St. John’s wasn’t a competitive landscape for hires, to look for talent close to home, not to grant options because no one understood what they were.

“We, instead, decided to act as if we were in a war for talent,” he said. “We pay at the top of the scale. We looked far and wide for developers. And we made sure everyone knew they would share in any success.”

Mark and Celtx look to have a really bright future, and I love the fact they are bucking normal conventions and doing it all from home.

Roger Power (pretty Irish name), and Startup Newfoundland and Labrador aim to be a catalyst for the relatively new and (until now) fragmented startup scene in the region.

“StartupNL grew out of a need for the new generation of startups to connect with one another and share their talent, knowledge and experiences. “Call it a community, group or tribe, it is just people connecting with the currency of ideas and action.”

Roger and his Startup NL partner in crime, Jason Janes, certainly have the passion. So much so that they organized an entire “startup week” as well as the Startup Weekend.

“You know, it wasn’t tough at all,” said Power. “Like many other startup communities and groups, we treat this as a startup and if you don’t do what the market wants and quickly then that’s a missed opportunity. I hate missing opportunities.”

Power believes there are great synergies to be had in the startup communities found either side of the Atlantic and he has a great vision for a “North Atlantic Startup Arc” made up of Newfoundland and Labrador, Iceland and Ireland.

“Something amazing happens when the startup tribe gets together. We get excited and that is infectious. Ed, you’ve been in NL and I’ve been in Ireland. I’m sure we see the greater potential. Now as we do more together, the community takes on a different character. It is bigger, bolder and anxious to get to work to take advantage of new connections. Just as no founder should be working in isolation, nor should a startup tribe.”

I loved my time in St. John’s and I’ll be back in the near future, there’s no doubt about that. And I’m really glad I spent a good chunk of time to check out the city properly. The next time you’re heading to an event, consider turning up early, or staying late, even if it’s just a day or half a day, it’s too easy to fall into the “airport to conference center” trap of going somewhere, but never really being there.


Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh is a frequent tweeter, occasional blogger and Chief Presentationist at Clear Presentation Design in Dublin. This blog is an abridged version of a blog he posted his own site. 

CollegeMix Gains its First 500 Users

Ashkan Radmand: 'A safe way for students to engage.'

Ashkan Radmand: 'A safe way for students to engage.'

CollegeMix has gained 500 users for its app to connect students after launching on Sept. 6 during the University of New Brunswick’s orientation week.

Fredericton-based CollegeMix aims to act as a virtual bulletin board for university and college campuses. There are five categories for students to post and peruse on the mobile app: events, overheard, ask, meet up and photos. The app gives students the option to post anonymously or under their own name.

Co-Founder Ashkan Radmand said that he and his cofounders created CollegeMix because they couldn’t find social networks that were tailored specifically to students. Though many students and student groups interact through Facebook and Twitter, users don’t exclusively engage with their classmates on these platforms.

“[CollegeMix] is a safe way for students to engage with their campus community without having to know anyone or engaging in uncomfortable social behaviors,” Radmand said.

Radmand and his two other co-founders, Arash Mansouri and Ali Bagherpour, are all PhD students in engineering at the University of New Brunswick. Another cofounder, Matthew Code, was added to the team in the summer. 

The three original co-founders have been students for the past 12 years, which inspired them to create CollegeMix. After nine months of customer validation they decided last December to build the app.

“You need and want to share information and have conversations with the people around,” Radmand said, “especially when you left a … community and you want to be part of a new community.”

Once they released CollegeMix to UNB’s Fredericton and Saint John campuses and St. Thomas University, they continued to receive customer feedback. CollegeMix has three campus representatives to not only tell students about the product, but also to ask them about their experiences with it. The CollegeMix team also sends out feedback questions to its user via the app.

Yik Yak, the anonymous discussion app, is CollegeMix’s main competitor. The app wasn’t created for students, but that population is its main user. The CollegeMix team has asked users of both Yik Yak and CollegeMix about their experiences with both apps, and discovered that because of CollegeMix’s strict focus on students and ability to post with a name, it doesn’t lose out to Yik Yak.

CollegeMix has a team of moderators and an in-app reporting system in case of user abuse. All users—posting anonymously or not—signed up for CollegeMix with a university email address, so if comments get out-of-hand, the user can be banned.

“I really hope we can make CollegeMix successful,” Radmand said, “not only to be successful entrepreneurs, but also to make a positive change in the students’ lives.”

Radmand hopes that through word-of-mouth—their main marketing tool—the app can garner 10,000 users by the end of the year. The team wants to expand CollegeMix outside Atlantic Canada, and hit all Canadian universities by next year. After that, CollegeMix can move into the U.S.

CollegeMix is focusing more on generating users rather than monetization. Once it starts getting high numbers of engaged users, Radmand said CollegeMix could be monetized through targeted, local ads or data analysis of their users, which they could sell to universities.

The CollegeMix team has already raised $50,000 in funds, of which $20,000 came from the co-founders. The remaining $30,000 comes from New Brunswick programs, NRC-IRAP, the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program at UNB and the Pond Deshpande Centre at UNB.

By the time they reach 1,000 users, Radmand said the team will start its new round of funding.

CollegeMix is available for iOS and Android. It can be downloaded in the App Store.

Selectbidder Lands First US Client

Sean Liptay: `We can be inserted into any market.`

Sean Liptay: `We can be inserted into any market.`

Moncton automotive technology company Selectbidder last week secured its first customer in the United States, Space Coast Auto Auction of Melbourne, Fla., after recently launching its new platform.

The company said getting its latest auction partner is validation for its new business model.

Selectbidder is a web and mobile app that helps accelerate and simplify the process of auctioning off automobiles when they are traded in.

“The pain that we solve is that if the dealer takes in a trade-in they don’t want, the sales process to be long and complicated,” said co-founder and CEO Sean Liptay.

The Liptay family has been involved in auto trade-ins for decades, and Sean is an expert in the process of reselling a used car. After the auto is traded in at a dealership, an independent party called an auction conducts bidding among dealerships to get the best price for the car. The auction has to send photos of the car to a range of dealerships, then arrange the transfer and delivery.

About four years ago, Liptay envisaged an electronic platform that could replace a lot of the functions of the auction so the sales process could be conducted online. He took Selectbidder through the first cohort of what’s now the Propel ICT accelerator and enjoyed some success. In 2013, he raised some funding, including a $200,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

But his team, which now amounts to 10 people, realized they would do better working with auctions as clients rather than trying to replace them. So the new platform is a tool that auctions can use to conduct their sales.

Selectbidder lets a selling dealer post pictures of the car along with a quick condition report and send a notification to select dealers in the auto auction’s network. Dealers then bid on the vehicle in real time, allowing them to know the true market value of the vehicle. The selling dealer can also show this to the person trading in the car during negotiations so the customer knows they are getting a fair deal.

“Auctions continue to do what they do best — connect buyers and sellers — while dealers know the true value of a trade-in and consumers feel treated fairly,” said Liptay.

Selectbidder has been working on a pilot project with a Canadian client, and securing Space Coast Auto gives the startup a second customer.

Liptay said he is working on rolling it out across the network of 400 auto auctions across North America.

“The beauty of what we’re doing is we can be inserted into any market in North America because (the auctions) already have the existing network.”

Thomson Reuters Lab Opens in Hub

Brian Zubert: Forrmer EiR at Communitech

Brian Zubert: Forrmer EiR at Communitech

Thomson Reuters, the global news and data company, recently opened its second Thomson Reuters Lab and it is located in the heart of the Communitech hub in downtown Kitchener.

Though the official opening is not until Techtoberfest next week, the Thomson Reuters Lab is already operating in the corporate innovation zone, joining such blue chip partners as Canadian Tire, TD Financial, Google, Deloitte and Manulife Financial.

The Thomson Reuters team is focusing mainly on linking up clients (largely in the financial and legal segments) with startups or innovators that might be able to provide solutions to specific problems.

“The ideal situation would be a Thomson Reuters client has a problem that fits the expertise and product of one of our startups,” said Brian Zubert, Director of the Thomson Reuters Labs – Waterloo Region, in an interview last week. He added that the company had already managed to link up three clients with innovators from the region.

The innovators could be researchers at the region’s universities, who Zubert described as people that corporations “just can’t hire” because they have expertise and are linked to research facilities that only exist in institutions.

A former executive with Blackberry, Zubert spent more than a year as Executive-in-Residence at Communitech.

Related: Communitech Accepting New Rev Applications

Toronto-based Thomson Reuters said in a statement the lab has the duel objective of innovation and partnership. “Innovation will come through applied research and experimentation on Thomson Reuters vast and unique data sets, helping to produce solutions for Thomson Reuters’ customers,” said the statement. “Partnership involves collaboration with academics, students and startups to put new technologies into practice, and meeting the business challenges faced by Thomson Reuters’ customers.”

The multinational formed its first Data Innovation Lab last year in Boston, and the program was successful enough that it expanded with a second facility in Kitchener.

Thomson Reuters is also partnering with the University of Waterloo, which has been named the most innovative university in Canada and has one the world’s largest concentrations of mathematical and computer science talent.

The Communitech corporate innovation program lets some of the country’s and world’s leading companies locate offices right in the Hub complex so they have access to the innovation talent that prowls the facility. The programs on offer range from Google For Entrepreneurs, an accelerator for idea-stage companies, to Deloitte’s innovation lab for rapid prototyping.

The idea is to get startup founders working with corporations so they can understand the problems faced by large businesses and their customers.

“Where there’s a business opportunity, startups will find a way to benefit from it,” said Zubert.

Flixel Raises $2.2M; Extreme Leads

Toronto-based Flixel Photos Inc., whose software allows content creators to easily produce cinemagraphs, has closed a $2.2 million seed round led by Extreme Venture Partners.

Cinemagraphs are still photos that include an element of video – a portion of the picture that moves -- so the viewer’s eye is drawn to the moving part of the photograph. Flixel’s apps include a patent-pending feature that allows users to easily turn short videos into eye-catching photos for the web, social media ads, offline display and broadcast television.

"Cinemagraphs have the potential to transform the creative and advertising world and we've been paying close attention to Flixel since they launched in 2011," said Extreme Venture Managing Director Sunil Sharma in a statement. "The company has captured the imagination of creatives everywhere with their suite of cinemagraph creation apps which presents huge potential for success among photographers, videographers and digital marketers." 

Related: Tyra Banks Exposes Flixel to Millions

Toronto-based Extreme led the funding round, which included investments by boutique investment bank Cranston Capital Securities. Angel investors from Australia and Canada also invested.

The company’s statement said it will use the capital to expand its suite of products, and to build on the success of brand partnerships with the Emmys, Facebook, Instagram, America's Next Top Model, and A&E.  

"Over the last two years, we've evolved our vision for cinemagraphs from a simple mobile app to a full product suite of creative tools for professionals," said Flixel CEO and Co-founder Philippe LeBlanc. "It's exciting to see the rapid adoption of Flixel among top brands and agencies and we're confident that cinemagraphs will take their place alongside video and still photography as a premium advertising medium."

The company has attracted interest from prominent celebrities, and has investors including supermodel and businesswoman Tyra Banks.

Flixel was originally based in Moncton, N.B., and in 2012 received $100,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. 

Vidyard’s Space Camp Shows Creativity

Michael Litt

Michael Litt

When Vidyard was coming up with a theme for a conference that embodied everything the video marketing startup stands for, it wanted something fun, something futuristic, something that kids long for.

Thus Space Camp was born.

Space Camp is the Kitchener company’s conference taking place in Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco. As Vidyard says on the event’s website, “Space Camp is where you go to learn the possibilities of video marketing.” Like space itself, it aims to capture the imagination of the 400 or so marketers in attendance and test the limits of this relatively young marketing tool.

“When you were a kid, where would you like to go?” asked Tyler Lessard, Chief Marketing Officer, sitting in the company’s head office on King Street. “We wanted something that offered that sort of youthful yearning for knowledge and wonder. We believed we could create an experience around space and make it memorable.”

Targeting Vidyard’s customers and other marketing professions, Space Camp offers two days of talks and networking, including a keynote talk by Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who commanded the International Space Station.  The other speakers include such Earthlings as Heidi Bullock, Vice-President of Demand Gen at Marketo; Sourabh Kothari, Head of Media Rich at Cisco; and Rich Kline, Vice-President of Solutions Engineering at Salesforce.

Space Camp is just one manifestation of the stellar growth of Vidyard, a company viewed as one of the leading startups not just in Kitchener-Waterloo but in Canada. The company was formed by Co-Founders CEO Michael Litt, Devon Galloway and Edward Wu four years ago to develop software to host marketing videos and analyze their performance. Vidyard in January said its sales had risen 1,000 percent in 18 months, and Lessard said the growth since has been “consistent.”

Last year, the young company moved into a 140-year-old commercial building, renovating it but preserving the planked floors and exposed brick. It expanded into the floor just below, and now it is planning to move again as its workforce – now 80 strong – is outgrowing the premises.

Lessard said the company’s culture is such that Litt wants all the employees together – Vidyard even brings in food every day so everyone can have lunch together.

The company has raised a total of $27 million and Litt likes to say he is always raising. Lessard said the company has ambitious growth targets and will require capital to maintain and meet them. There's strong speculation the eventual goal is an IPO.

Vidyard has been releasing a steady stream of new features, and three weeks ago at Dreamforce announced its new Video for Salesforce Communities feature. The company is expected to have more announcements on products at Space Camp.

Lessard said the company has had two to two-and-a-half years of solid product growth, which has resulted in a strong take-up in the mid-market. Now Vidyard is focusing on sales to large corporations and has hired a new enterprise sales team. They’re hoping to link up with marketing professionals from blue chip companies at Space Camp and show them the creative flourish of this young company.

“Video as a medium and market tactic is highly creative,” said Lessard, “and we want our own brand to resonate with that."  

How Can We Improve our Ecosystem?

Travis McDonough: Averaging 518 percent sales growth.

Travis McDonough: Averaging 518 percent sales growth.

As in all startup ecosystems, there’s a crying need for more capital and coding talent on Canada’s East Coast. But in terms of structural improvements that would lead to economic growth, the region most needs expertise in helping established companies to scale.

To get an idea of the potential of Atlantic Canada’s startup community, consider a company like Kinduct Technologies. This Halifax-based tech startup assembled a library of medical information, accessible on a single platform, and has sold the product to a range of professional and college sports teams, such as the New York Rangers and the University of Louisville Cardinals. Kinduct’s sales growth has averaged 518 per cent over three years.

“It is a little skewed of course because of our first year,” said Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough, referring to a year of 1,380 percent growth. That was followed by years with 69 percent and 107 percent increases in sales.

Kinduct is one of the more successful East Coast startups, but it’s not the only one with significant and growing traction. There are now about 80 Atlantic Canadian high-growth innovation companies with annual sales of more than $100,000 and growing.  Also, according to data collected by Entrevestor, the average revenue growth in 2014 of all startups in the region was 38.5 percent, following growth of 30 percent in 2013.

Related: Universities Adapt to Changes 

Entrevestor is mainly a news service – it covers startups in Atlantic Canada and, more recently, Kitchener-Waterloo. However, it also collects data on startups in the Atlantic region and last year polled 153 of them, with 122 startups providing revenue data. 

What Entrevestor found is an extremely young startup community, with 55 percent of the companies less than four years old. More than 40 percent of the startups are pre-revenue. The community really only began to develop after social media analytics company Radian6 sold out to for $326 million in 2011 – a deal that ignited interest in tech in the region. Now, the regional accelerator Propel ICT is aiming to launch 420 new companies over five years.

The fact that company formation is so strong in Atlantic Canada is nothing to sneeze at. The players in the ecosystem had to overcome considerable obstacles for this to happen. With the exception of a few notable billionaires, Atlantic Canada has a weak tradition in entrepreneurship, and economic growth in the Maritimes has rarely (if ever) topped 1 percent per year in this century. Also, the four provinces historically have had a poor record of working together to support economic initiatives.

Inspired by private sector leadership and the example set by Propel co-founder Gerry Pond, Atlantic Canada’s founders, funders and support agencies have created a unified startup community spanning four provinces and two time zones. How vast is this geographic area? If you’re in Fredericton, you can drive or fly to Toronto in half the time it takes you to get to St. John’s.

The cornerstone of this pan-regional ecosystem is Propel. Working with local partners, the accelerator held four different cohorts this summer. Six companies ready for seed investment met at the Venn Centre in Moncton, while 27 earlier-stage companies went through programs at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta Labs in Halifax, and Common Ground in St. John’s. Propel’s accelerator program is complemented by a range of academic programs like Dalhousie University’s Launch Dal, St. Mary’s University’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship &Innovation (MTEI) program, and the University of New Brunswick’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) programs. Good programs? You bet.

But they are targeted at early-stage companies, and more needs to be done for the dozens of ventures like Kinduct that have solid traction and need to scale. They include Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing platform SimplyCast; St. John’s-based film production software company Celtx; and Moncton-based Industrial Internet of Things company RtTech Software.

Entrevestor has been reporting recently on the Kitchener-Waterloo ecosystem and the lessons from that region are striking. The Communitech Rev program focuses on sales growth, and the most recent CAIP funding will develop programs for later stage companies. Atlantic Canada needs to implement similar programs.

The process is beginning. The Volta startup house in Halifax has recently doubled in size, which has allowed for more late-stage companies to benefit from its offices and programs. Propel is examining how to do more with its graduate companies and Pond offered $500,000 to any university that comes up with a program in international technology sales. An announcement by Pond and a university is expected soon and should benefit scaling startups.

Investments like these open doors to valuable expertise, motivation, and inspiration for Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurs. Everyone from early-stage to established startups stands to benefit, which will foster a stronger and more cohesive startup community overall. Potential is bubbling in Atlantic Canada. It’s time to unleash it.


Editor’s note: Startup Canada, the national association for the startup community, recently asked us to produce a blog on the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem. This is the piece we produced. It originally appeared on the Startup Canada website. 

Press Release: BioNB and Laforge

BioNB, the New Brunswick life sciences agency, has issued the following press release:

Bioscience Community Honours Laforge Bioenvironmental with New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award

Fredericton, New Brunswick (October 2nd, 2015) – BioNB, New Brunswick’s bioscience agency, awarded Laforge Bioenvironmental with the New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award on Friday, October 2nd at the annual industry event Innovation at the Station. Over 130 members of the business and research community gathered for the presentation of the award and the celebration of the substantial growth experienced by the province’s bioscience sector in recent years.

Laforge has created a multi-million dollar biogas facility that generates clean, renewable energy, where the by-product is nutrient rich organic fertilizer, all the while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and landfill waste. They operate two anaerobic digesters on a dairy farm in Saint-André, New Brunswick, fuelled only with manure and organic food waste from regional food processors. Each digester is comprised of a lagoon covered by a flexible membrane that captures the biogas (methane) produced when organic material breaks down. The digester mixes the feedstock and the resulting biogas is captured and used as fuel to generate electricity. The two plants generate enough energy (1.6 MWh) to power their entire dairy operation and 1,000 homes in the area.

The Laforge facility is a compelling example of true New Brunswick resourcefulness, transforming residuals from local agriculture and food processors into sustainable, high-value products. The Laforge family has a true entrepreneurial spirit, and they use the expertise learned from their own operations to help other farmers build similar projects. Laforge Bioenvironmental is the only biogas plant in Atlantic Canada.

Other finalists for the award include Mycodev Group, who recently received a $500,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation to build a fermentation facility, and Dr. Erik Scheme, the new NB Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices who is leveraging both the research and entrepreneurship communities to foster a medical technologies industry in Atlantic Canada.

The team at Laforge Bioenvironmental are always looking for the next innovative opportunity, exploring new equipment or adds-on, evaluating new biomass sources and new product development, either from the heat, gas or fertilizer that they generate. The success of the first digester (1,500 m3 capacity) led to the recent construction of a second larger digester (10,000 m3). They are open to working with academic institutions and leverage the expertise at the CCNB Biorefinery Technology Scale-up Centre where the research team help test and evaluate their digestate product for composition and quality. Rock Laforge (co-owner of Laforge Bioenvironmental) accepted the award on behalf of the company.

About the Bioscience Achievement Award

The New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award has been awarded to an outstanding individual in the bioscience community ever since 2004. It aims to recognise outstanding contribution to the growth and promotion of the sector, and has been awarded to researchers, business leaders, and community champions alike. The community submits nominations and a selection committee chooses the final recipient. 2015 marks the largest pool of nominees to date. Learn more here.

About Innovation at the Station

Innovation at the Station is BioNB’s annual networking event for the bioscience community. Now in its third year, the 2015 event saw record engagement with over 100 tickets being sold in under a week. BioNB partners with local vendors and organisations to serve up a 100% locally-sourced menu and drink collection. Learn more here.

About BioNB

BioNB is the trusted bioscience authority in New Brunswick for government, industry, and media, translating and communicating the business opportunities behind the science in a highly technical sector. BioNB builds and enhances new and existing businesses, supports technology transfer from public institutions and the private sector, and works to build a community and enhance collaboration among sector stakeholders.

Murphy Wins at Women’s Bootcamp

Sarah Murphy receiving her $35,000 cheque.

Sarah Murphy receiving her $35,000 cheque.

Sarah Murphy, the CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert, captured the $35,000 first prize on Thursday for the pitching event at the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp at Communitech.

Sentinel Alert, co-founded by a Murphy and Jason Janes, is developing software that works with wearable technology to help companies reduce worker accidents. It has already lined up two early adopters. The personal safety device relies on a mix of sensors to identify when a worker in the field or in the shop is at-risk of having an accident. The solution provides timely insights to workers and companies so they can make adjustments quickly and prevent accidents.

“We help companies find the early signs of risk to help prevent accidents from happening,” Murphy said in her pitch.

Related: Sentinel the 1st NL Startup in Propel 

Murphy and 24 other female founders were selected for the six-day mentoring camp at Communitech in the summer. They went through three days of mentoring last month, went off with homework (including instructions to contact 100 clients) and came back for the finale this week.

Most of the attendees were from Ontario, though the participants included women from Vancouver, Montreal, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Alexandria, VA.

“We’re really looking at increasing the leadership role of women in technology and this is one way we can do it,” said Communitech Program Manager Alayne Hynes during the pitching event.

Eight women were selected to pitch at the closing Thursday, and the $25,000 second prize was awarded to Renishaki Kamal, the CEO of Waterloo-based Fidget. The company is making a pedal device with rollers on the bottom that lets autistic children blow off pent-up anxiety by fidgeting with it with their feet. Fidget has already booked $70,000 in presales.

Alexa Roeper, CEO of Kitchener-based Penta Medical, captured the $15,000 third prize. Penta is developing a wearable form of infrared therapy that speeds up the healing of soft tissue injuries. It is hoping to attend an incubator in Texas that specializes in helping innovators gain FDA regulatory approval.

The other five pitchers, who will receive $5,000 each, are:

-  Bonnie Cheung, Alpaci (Waterloo) – Alpaci is developing a smart pacifier that can monitor a child’s temperature and heart rate with the goal of preventing sudden infant death syndrome.

-  Vanessa Cherenfant, Elysia (Montreal) – Elysia is a personalized travel website that uses machine learning to quickly find the perfect travel destination for a person’s vacation.  

-  Yasaman Soudagar, Neurescence Inc. (Toronto) – This company is working to improve the treatment for people with mental illnesses by gaining a better understanding of their neurological activity. They are developing a device that is embedded in the skull to map the brain’s activity. The initial market is neuroscience research.

-  Julie (Hyunjoo) Lee, PinkWallet (Toronto) – PinkWallet has developed an app that helps women to understand and achieve their financial goals.

-  Sandra Loop, Money-Wiser (Waterloo) – Money-Wiser is an online product that teaches children about personal finance. 

Bourgoin Extends Global Reach

Katelyn Bourgoin: 'We need world-renowned people.'

Katelyn Bourgoin: 'We need world-renowned people.'

Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs are often advised to aim for global sales. In assembling a new team of international advisers, Vendeve founder and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin is doing just that.

Vendeve is a women-only site that allows members to swap and buy business skills.

“We believe in building our company in Halifax, but we need world-renowned people on our advisory board,” said Bourgoin from the Vendeve space at Volta, Halifax’s startup house.

Bourgoin was assisted in finding Vendeve’s new advisers by Vicki Saunders, a serial entrepreneur and founder of the SheEO accelerator program for female entrepreneurs.

As well as Saunders, Vendeve’s new advisers include Betty DeVita, president of MasterCard Canada and Lally Rementilla, the former chief financial officer of Lavalife.

Others include Peter Comstock, founder of Nederlandsche Betaal & Wissel Maatschappij, a European currency exchange tech startup, and Kelsey Ramsden, who has twice been named Profit magazine’s top female entrepreneur.

Related: Vendeve, Addo Join the Mill

Bourgoin is hoping Vendeve’s profile will also be boosted by the company’s participation in the Mill Startup Accelerator in Las Vegas. The three-month initiative helps young companies focus on developing exceptional customer service.

“The Mill offers the opportunity to make connections outside the region and the chance to meet potential investors,” Bourgoin said before she left for Nevada.

Bourgoin founded Vendeve last year after her experience building marketing company RedRiot convinced her that women would value a site on which they could build relationships and swap skills.

She was right. Vendeve, then named Swapskis, attracted 1,800 members in 16 countries in just five months.

Bourgoin intended Vendeve to be the site where new female entrepreneurs could swap skills and purchase female-curated digital learning content like e-books and e-courses.

But she initially struggled to convince some advisers and investors, particularly men, that the concept would work. That mattered because most venture capitalists are men. Female founders attract just four per cent of venture capital funding.

“One of the difficulties some female founders encounter is trying to sell male investors on female-focused products that men can’t really relate to,” said Bourgoin.

She did more market research and listened to investor feedback, deciding to extend the business idea beyond the concept of swapping skills.

“After attending regional programs for entrepreneurs such as the Next Phase and Starting Lean, we expanded our idea to work for female entrepreneurs at all stages of business,” she said.

“For instance, new entrepreneurs who want copyrighting services can swap a skill with a relevant provider. Entrepreneurs with cash flow can pay for the service or purchase content that explains how to do it yourself.”

She said Vendeve is the world’s only site that allows female entrepreneurs to swap skills, buy them or purchase digital learning content.

The company is engaged in a $500,000 financing round and has raised $360,000.

“Fundraising is new to me and a bigger undertaking than I expected,” Bourgoin said.

“No one will give you money until you’ve proven you can build the product and get traction.

“But we’ve been helped by my PR background, which has allowed me to tell our story.”

Bourgoin quotes Forbes magazine, which highlighted the growth of women in business by calling entrepreneurship “the new women’s movement.”

“In fact, entrepreneurship is the new economy,” Bourgoin said.

“By 2020, more than 50 per cent of North Americans will freelance; 33 per cent of Americans already have a side income.”

Bourgoin founded RedRiot at 25 after studying public relations at Nova Scotia Community College. The Lunenburg native landed high-profile clients like Target and Holiday Inn.

“I had a pile of student debt and no high-paying jobs on the horizon, so I went freelance. I paired up with other freelancers who had the skills I needed.

“We’re already growing faster than marketplaces like Etsy or oDesk (now known as Upwork) did in their genesis. We’d like to become the eHarmony of service marketplaces.”

NB Aims for Digital Government

Premier Brian Gallant

Premier Brian Gallant

The New Brunswick government is teaming up with TechImpact with the goal of producing the first truly digital government in North America.

Premier Brian Gallant and Ed McGinley, CEO of TechImpact (formerly the New Brunswick Information Technology Council), jointly announced the initiative at a press conference in Fredericton Thursday.   

Working together, they plan to create a digital hub for public services that will transform the way government and its citizens communicate and work with one another.

“This initiative is the catalytic moment that will kick everything into high gear,” McGinley said Thursday.  “R&D and especially BERD [business enterprise research and development] are recognized as key economic indicators.  We don’t have nearly enough of it happening in Atlantic Canada.  We need to create an environment where this can happen.  It is our opinion that this lab or hub will spark that investment.”

Several prominent New Brunswickers have been calling for a few years for a movement toward a digital government. When David Alston, CMO of Introhive, and Greg Hemmings, the CEO of the Hemmings House film company, traveled to Estonia last year to research coding education, they learned that country had a digital government.

Related: Alston Calls for a Cultural Shift

In his public talks, Alston explains that citizens contact their government online, which does away with the need for annoying phone calls that get mis-directed or the endless filling out of forms. As Alston envisions it, a digital government would aid in the retention of young people, who have grown up in the digital age and would appreciate a government that operates online.  

“This is an opportunity for us to attract technical experts and companies to New Brunswick, create jobs and develop highly secure services for global markets,” said Gallant, who is also minister responsible for innovation. “We want to become a truly digital province.”

McGinley said the hub will have several ancillary opportunities to create innovation and entrepreneurship, while a government statement noted the project should save millions of dollars over the next decade. There must also be parallel efforts to increase the digital component of several government services and departments, such as public schools, immigration, post-secondary education and foreign direct investment, said McGinley.

“Our goal is to develop digital solutions that will make every day things better for New Brunswick residents and make our companies the world’s recognized experts in this space,” said McGinley.


9 East Coasters in Startup Awards

Startups Canada announced its Regional Startup Awards on Thursday, with Andrea Feunekes, co-founder and CEO of Remsoft, and David Alston, CMO of Introhive, leading a field of nine individuals or companies winning Atlantic Canadian prizes.

Feunekes received the Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Wolf Blass. Alston was named Entrepreneur of the Year, an award presented by Scotianbank. 

I was honoured to be named as a co-winner with Alston of the Award for Enterprise Promotion, presented by TruShield Insurance.

The regional winners will receive the awards at a reception and fireside chat at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Oct. 14 at 5 pm. They will also be considered for the national awards, which will be announced at a ceremony at the CN Tower in Toronto on Dec. 1.

The Atlantic Canadian winners are:

Startup Canada Award for Entrepreneurship Support, presented by BDC:   Ignite Fredericton.

Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by Gerry Pond:   John Hamblin, founder of Startup Halifax.

Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by MNP LLP:   Alex Gillis, founder of Bitness.

Startup Canada Award for International Trade:   Honibe.

Startup Canada Award for Innovation, presented by Intuit Canada:   RtTech Software Inc.

Startup Canada Award for Sustainable Development, presented by TELUS:   Wear Your Label.


KW Prominent in Startup Awards

Founders and evangelists from the Kitchener-Waterloo region featured prominently in the regional Startup Canada Awards for Ontario, announced Thursday by Startup Canada.

Brenda Halloran, CEO of the Waterloo Innovation Network, won the Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Wolf Blass.  And the Startup Canada Award for Entrepreneur Promotion, presented by TruShield Insurance, went to Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech.

The regional winners will receive the awards at a reception and fireside chat in Ottawa on Nov. 17. They will also be considered for the national awards, which will be announced at a ceremony at the CN Tower in Toronto on Dec. 1.

The other winners and runners-up from the region were:

Startup Canada Award for International Trade Winner:  CLEARPATH Robotics.

Startup Canada Award for Innovation, presented by Intuit Canada, Runners-Up: PiinPoint and

The other Ontario prize-winners are:

Startup Canada Award for Entrepreneurship Support, presented by BDC, Winners:   Intuit Canada, Mississauga; HumberLaunch, Toronto; and School for Social Entrepreneurs, Toronto.

Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by Gerry Pond, Winner:   Wendy Mayhew, Ottawa, CEO of Business Launch Solutions.

Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by MNP LLP, Winner:   Brennan McEachran, CEO and co-founder of SoapBox, Toronto.

Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by Scotiabank, Winner:   Jason Flick, co-founder of Youi.TV, Ottawa.

Startup Canada Award for International Trade Runner-up:   WallHop, Toronto.

Startup Canada Award for Innovation, presented by Intuit Canada, Winner:   Cloud DX, Toronto.

Startup Canada Award for Sustainable Development, presented by TELUS, Winner:   Next Millennium Farms, Lakefield.

On a related note, Entrevestor was cited in the Atlantic Canadian awards. I was a co-winner of the Startup Canada Award for Entrepreneur Promotion, along with David Alston, CMO of Introhive. Last year, Entrevestor won a regional award for Media Person of the Year. 

Top Score Caps Off Successful Year 1

There was another baseball story in southern Ontario on Thursday, and this one involved a Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup.

Amid the hysteria over the Toronto Blue Jays winning the American League East title, Top Score Baseball – previously Score More Baseball – announced that it had wrapped up a successful inaugural season with 2,000-plus coaches using the app.

Launched by Communitech Hub veterans Mike Kirkup and Brian Zubert, Top Score was unveiled to great fanfare earlier this year as an app that brings the power of Moneyball to amateur, recreational and youth baseball teams. The app simplifies the scoring and uses the same performance-based approach now used by over a dozen Major League Baseball teams.

In an interview Wednesday, Zubert said the he and Kirkup were pleased with the takeup in the first year with more than 8,5000 downloads and 2,000 paying clients, but there is huge room for expansion.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Zubert, a former Communitech executive-in-residence. “There are 250,000 youth teams in the U.S. alone.”

Most of the clients were in Canada or in the baseball-mad regions of the U.S., such as Florida. And one surprising aspect of the first season was that more than two-thirds of the downloads were carried out on BlackBerry platforms. Android was second and Apple’s iOS was third.

Zubert said he and Kirkup, the director of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator, had three main takeaways from their first season: First, it’s better to over-estimate rather than under-estimate the amount of server capacity, as it’s “it’s easier to throttle back than it is to scale up to demand”. Second, admit your faults and be honest with the customer. And third, the speed at which new features can be introduced slows dramatically after the launch as attention shifts to customer support rather than product development.

As Top Score Baseball – the name adopted just this week -- looks to deepen its penetration into baseball, it is also contemplating expanding into other sports. And Zubert said the company has a surprise for the next sport it’s looking at – cricket.

The high profile candidates like hockey, basketball and football all have too many players in action at once, and it’s difficult for the coach to monitor individuals. But cricket, like baseball, allows a focus on one player at one time and encompasses a huge international market. 

Invest Atlantic Expands Pitching

Nancy Mathis

Nancy Mathis

When Nancy Mathis agreed to be the 2015 Chair of Invest Atlantic, the largest networking event in the region for startups, entrepreneurs and investors, she had two conditions: one, the conference needed to scale itself, like the entrepreneurs it attracts; and two, Invest Atlantic needed to be regional, not just a Halifax event.

Conference Founder Bob Williamson agreed to Mathis’ conditions—and the 2015 Invest Atlantic’s pitching event was three times bigger than in previous years. The sixth annual conference took place over Tuesday and Wednesday at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre.

Invest Atlantic has previously hosted a Pitch 101 session, in which about 12 entrepreneurs have one minute to pitch their early-stage startups to a panel of investor judges, who respond with questions and feedback.

This year, Invest Atlantic added two extra pitch sessions: Pitch 201, a two-minute pitching event for eight companies with market traction that are moving into investment rounds; and Pitch 301, a five-minute pitch session for three seasoned companies that want to acquire more for their business or sell their business.

For both Pitch 101 and Pitch 201, Invest Atlantic attendees voted on their favourite pitch. The winners received no prizes. Pitch 301 wasn’t a competition because the entrepreneurs presenting already had functioning companies.

Halifax-based Site 2020, a networked traffic management solution to increase the safety of road construction flaggers, won Pitch 101. In second place was powerWHYS of Halifax, a mobile app that saves energy during building renovations. A third place was captured by St. John’s-based Agile Sensor Technologies, which makes sensors for unmanned vehicles.

The winners in Pitch 201 were: Dartmouth-based Spring Loaded Technology, which creates compact bionic knee braces, followed by Fundmetric of Halifax, which uses artificial intelligence and predicative models to help charities raise more money, and Halifax-based Swell Advantage, a mobile app that is both a navigational tool and social network for boaters.

Kredl’s Corner Market/Driver Dave’s Inc., Marathon Fluid Systems Ltd., and reLiSH Gourmet Burgers all participated in Pitch 301.

Invest Atlantic devoted the entirety of Tuesday to pitching-related events. The pitching events were held and Francis McGuire, former CEO and president of Major Drilling, a specialized drilling company, delivered a keynote on the theatrical nature of pitching.

“You’re on stage, you’re acting, be an actor,” McGuire said. “A good CEO, a good leader is a good storyteller.”

On Wednesday, the event switched its focus to how to grow and scale a company. There were panels about topics such as investors’ desires, the use of post-secondary institutions in startups, and exit strategies. Gerry Pond, Co-Founder of East Valley Ventures, and John Risley, Chairman of Clearwater Fine Foods Inc., engaged in a keynote discussion on how to find investors in Atlantic Canada.

“If you can’t find [angel investor] money,” Risley said, “either you’re no good or your idea is no good.”

Keeping with Pond and Risley’s theme, Digital Nova Scotia, the association for the province’s tech sector, announced that it found money: its largest-ever private-sector donation. The not-for-profit received US$10,000 (C$13,300) from Lockheed Martin Canada, a security and aerospace company, for education initiatives within science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

“This funding provides us with the opportunity to provide greater investment in STEAM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education initiatives to positively impact the next generation of tech talent in our region and our members,” Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Digital Nova Scotia President and CEO, said in a press release.

Williamson even fulfilled all of Mathis’ conditions: next year’s Invest Atlantic will take place in Moncton.



NS Launches 2 Immigration Streams

The Nova Scotia Office of Immigration on Tuesday announced the introduction of two new business immigration streams to help attract international entrepreneurs and retain international university and college graduates. 

Both these new  streams – the Entrepreneur Stream and the International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream - have been carefully developed using the best practices of others around the globe, said a statement from the office.

“These new tools will be an integral part of the future growth of our economy and will foster entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia,” said the statement.

Of the two new programs, the Entrepreneur Stream is intended for immigrants with experience owning or managing a business in their home countries. Once approved, these people can settle in Nova Scotia under a two-year work permit and grow their businesses in the province. Once the two years are up, they can be nominated for permanent residency.

Under the International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream, foreign students can be nominated for permanent residency. They must have finished at least a two-year program at a Nova Scotian university or college and have been running a business for at least a year.

The provincial government expects to nominate as many as 50 people in each stream annually.

Last week, Nova Scotia received an additional allocation of 300 nominations from the federal government for its provincial nominee program, said the statement. The government said the cap (which has benefited from other recent adjustments) will be 1,350 in 2015, almost double the cap of 700 in 2014.

According to data released by the province, 2661 immigrants came to Nova Scotia in 2014. That’s the highest number in 10 years, but the Ivany Commission into the economy has called for three times as many people to be attracted to the province.  

New Google For Entrepreneurs Cohort

Google For Entrepreneurs has announced its fourth cohort at the Communitech hub, and four young companies have begun working as startups-in-residence at the Communitech GFE Network co-working space.

The four startups – all early-stage companies -- will receive six months tenancy in the co-working space as well as mentorship and access to development resources.

The four companies are:

-  Loop Lab, which takes care of uncomfortable temperature differences throughout your home.  The company makes smart air vents that automatically open and close to achieve the right room temperature.

-  DeepVision, which is transforming the way images are experienced online. The company helps content makers and e-commerce platforms convert their static images to interactive images that allow users to discover information on the contents of the image.

-  Grocera, which is an online grocery shopping and delivery service, specializing in local food. It provides convenient delivery of food from local bakeries, butchers, farms, and independent businesses directly to your door.

-  And, Dozr, which is an equipment-sharing platform revolutionizing the construction industry. Dozr connects owners of high quality yet underutilized equipment with our network of trusted renters who need it.

AHI Files for Voluntary Bankruptcy

The AHI headquarters housed one of the region's largest private research labs.

The AHI headquarters housed one of the region's largest private research labs.

Atlantic Hydrogen Inc., the Fredericton company whose technology extracted carbon from natural gas, has filed for voluntary bankruptcy and is searching for a buyer for its assets.

The company issued a statement Tuesday saying it was making the move pursuant to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of Canada and had appointed Deloitte as the trustee for the proceedings. The AHI directors have resigned, and the management team and employees have been laid off.

“AHI still believes in the vast potential of the CarbonSaver technology,” said Chairman Bill Stanley in the statement. “Although progress has continued, we haven’t reached the point of the technology being commercially viable, which has limited our ability to attract additional funding. That’s why we feel this was the right thing to do.”

AHI was more than a decade old and had a large complex for an Atlantic Canadian startup. Its Fredericton headquarters housed one of the largest private R&D labs in the region, and it employed 30 people as of 2012, including 21 engineers and three PhDs.

The CBC reported Tuesday that the province of New Brunswick declined a request to increase its exposure to the company, having sunk $4.7 million into it in the past 13 years. AHI had also received money from the National Research Council and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, said the report.

As of late 2012, the company had raised $32 million in funding, including grants and loans from government.

AHI began as a vehicle to commercialize research carried out at the University of New Brunswick on a system designed to enhance the efficiency of natural gas. The technology separates carbon and hydrogen atoms at the molecular level from natural gas, breaking out carbon and leaving free hydrogen in the gas mix. The result is natural gas enriched with hydrogen, which means it burns more cleanly than standard natural gas.

AHI sought to commercialize the technology in two platforms. CarbonSaver P decarbonized natural gas using plasma science so the result was a cleaner form of natural gas. The second platform was CarbonSaver T, which extracted ``carbon black’’, an industrial product used for such tasks as strengthening the rubber in tires, from natural gas.

Early in 2012, Atlantic Hydrogen signed an agreement to build its first industrial-scale CarbonSaver facility at Emera’s Bayside electrical generating station near Saint John. The deal as announced included an equity investment worth more than $5 million from Halifax-based Emera.

The facility never went into production and in February 2014, Emera said it would write off its investment in AHI, which had grown to $8.8 million.

“It’s disappointing to take this step today, but we think the employees and many stakeholders of AHI have reason to be proud,” said Stanley. “While we were not able to take the idea all the way to commercialization, many people did tremendous work along this journey.”



Communitech Adjusts Rev Model

Marylin Ma: Preparing for the second Rev cohort.

Marylin Ma: Preparing for the second Rev cohort.

As it prepares for the second intake for its Rev program, Communitech has initiated some changes to the accelerator that focuses on sales growth.

The Kitchener-based startup and innovation hub launched the Rev accelerator earlier this year with the goal of helping startups with some sales to nail down the processes they need to scale quickly and consistently. It is accepting applications until Oct. 9.

The first six-month cohort – which began with 10 companies and produced eight graduates – concluded earlier this month with the Centre Stage pitching event. Six of the companies presented, and were required to explain their strategy for reaching $25 million in sales.

When the next cohort begins on Nov. 1, it will comprise five companies, said Marylin Ma, the Communitech manager overseeing the cohort. After three months, there will be a second five-member cohort.

“We’re staggering the intake dates so we’ll have four intakes through the year, and each time we’ll take up to five teams,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

The organizers have changed the program in part to allow for more intimate groups, as the curriculum calls for a lot of hands-on learning and discussion. Ma added that the staggered intakes will allow one cohort in the second half of its six-month program to tutor members of the group that is just coming into the program. The first group will have just taken the curriculum and can help the rookies.

Having already worked with the Google For Entrepreneurs program at Communitech, Ma is taking over the Rev program from Samuel Legge. He has left Communitech to take up a management position at Kitchener-based Thalmic Labs, maker of the Myo armband, which translates signals from muscle movements into computer commands.

Ma said the focus of the Rev program will continue to be teaching the members the processes for repeatable sales. As such, the criteria for companies applying are that they should have a few months of sales history but not yet have adopted structured sales processes. The companies can come from anywhere but must be in Kitchener-Waterloo at least for the duration of the Rev program.

And the companies must have a realistic plan for reaching $100 million in sales within five years.

Ma said the first cohort was in many ways a pilot and the organizers are now looking at building on its success. For example, they are examining the perfect stage of development for an incoming company to be to really benefit from the curriculum.

Applications are available here.

Coding Academies: The New Tech Ed

CodeCore owner Tam Kbeili works with students during a classroom session at the Vancouver coding bootcamp.

CodeCore owner Tam Kbeili works with students during a classroom session at the Vancouver coding bootcamp.

When Josh Davies learned the next nine-week programming course at CodeCore began in a few days, he cancelled his flight to Barcelona. And he’s glad he did.

Davies was taking a sabbatical from his IT job at Oracle’s Vancouver office because he wanted more creativity in his life and was planning to spend time in the Spanish city. But then he learned of CodeCore, an application and web development school that offers coding bootcamps.

“Without the bootcamp, there’s no way I would have been able to jumpstart my freelance career,” said Davies, who was offered a six-month contract as a developer the day after he completed the course.

Davies is just one programmer who has benefited from the coding academies, which focus on learning as doing.

In Oct. 2014, the New York Times reported that since 2012, more than 60 coding academies have opened in the U.S. Most of their teachers are professional developers, and they teach students the skills and coding languages they need to succeed in creating programs and applications for real-world clients. Most academies base grades on projects instead of papers or memorization tests.

The Times article said three-quarters of these schools’ graduates are employed, and that has certainly been the experience of Canadian code academies. CodeCore owner Tam Kbeili said almost 100 percent of his students are employed after finishing his program.

“A lot of more traditional institutions are not necessarily offering these types of programs,” said Duncan McCall, founder of Toronto digital education school BrainStation Academy. “A computer science degree is different than building web applications.”

Coding academy students hail from all backgrounds. They can be recent high school graduates, career changers, and employees sent by their employers to sharpen their skills.

Many students see coding skills as the key to a future with a job and a good salary. The Times reported that those employed after graduating from the coding academies averaged an annual income of $76,000.

“It’s very satisfying seeing people doing something great with their lives,” Kbeili said.

But coding academies aren’t cheap. CodeCore’s nine-week, full-time program costs $7,600 and BrainStation’s 10-week coding bootcamp is $6,000.

CodeCore offers $500 off for female and mature veteran students to encourage greater diversity in the tech sector. Both BrainStation and CodeCore offer payment plans to allow for payment flexibility.

Kbeili said that coding academy prices look expensive upfront, but not in comparison to a four-year computer science degree. Plus, the UBC computer engineering graduate added, the job prospects are greater.

“You’re paying a lot less for a much shorter time span,” he said.

With employers seeing the benefits of coding academies, many send and pay for their employees to participate.

BrainStation offers courses designed for specific fields, such as visual design and digital marketing.

“It can cost hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars when mistakes are made,” McCall said, “just because people don’t understand what can and can’t be done or they can’t communicate properly with their technical team.”

McCall said that everyone can benefit from learning coding.

The experience was certainly beneficial for Josh Davies, who also got to make his trip to Barcelona, a few months later than he’d planned.

Once Davies completed his six-month contract, he became a freelance developer. He’s been a working and successful freelance developer for the past year and a half, and travels around the world for work. That’s how he wound up in Barcelona for a month.

“For me, [CodeCore] was 100 percent the right decision,” he said. “Coding is very creative. There’s always the challenge because there’s five ways to do it, you have to find the best way to do it.”

TruLeaf Raises $1.7M+on AgFunder

TruLeaf, the Halifax agricultural technology company, has turned to an innovative platform to raise its next round of funding.

The company that grows leafy greens in vertically stacked trays has launched a campaign on San Francisco’s AgFunder, a crowdfunding site for agricultural and agriculture technology investment, with the goal of raising US$2.65 million (C$3.52 million). TruLeaf has already received US$1.28 million in commitments, which exceeds its minimum target and allows the funding round to close with at least C$1.7 million.

Operating out of indoor farms, TruLeaf grows highly nutritious plants under LED lights and produces food with a minimal environmental footprint. It is poised to announce a distribution agreement soon.

TruLeaf has one farm in Bible Hill, N.S., and is in the process of planning its second, in Central or Eastern Canada, the northeastern United States or California. It promises to be one of the largest vertical farms in North America.

“The AgFunder platform now gets TruLeaf in front of a vast global network of accredited investors who are specifically interested in investing capital in agtech,” TruLeaf Founder and CEO Gregg Curwin said last week.

“For myself, it is also an incredibly efficient route to raise capital. … The activity in the last week alone since announcement has been extraordinary.”

Equity crowdfunding— raising money from a range of investors over the Internet — is growing in popularity as startups seek new sources of financing and try to avoid the time and cost of multiple one-on-one meetings with potential investors. The AgFunder site only allows accredited investors — that is, wealthy people — or institutions in order to avoid regulatory restrictions on crowdfunding to the general public.

Related: Clarifying Murky Crowdfunding Rules.

TruLeaf is a natural candidate for the platform because it continues to research applications for its technology and is in expansion mode, which means it needs capital.

“This is our first controlled environment agriculture opportunity,” AgFunder co-founder and chief operating officer Michael Dean said in a statement.

“TruLeaf is well-positioned both because of the market need in Canada for fresh, year-round produce and because the company has been working with one of Canada’s biggest retailers for the past three years to ensure the business works.”

TruLeaf has not revealed the retailer it is working with, but the material on AgFunder said it has an agreement to provide about 80,000 kilograms of leafy greens over five years and will launch in October.

The AgFunder statement said TruLeaf solves a particular problem because most of the greens consumed in the country are trucked from California, often taking eight to 10 days. As well as having an environmental impact, the length of the journey can affect food quality and lead to substantial spoiling.

“We are as much a nutrition company as a vertical farm company,” said Curwin.

“First and foremost we want consumers to have an incredible culinary experience in taste, texture and colour, but everything we do with variety optimization is to ensure maximum nutritional value.”

TruLeaf’s Smart Plant System can grow food anywhere. As well as food, it can be used to grow other plants, such as those containing organic medical compounds.

Curwin has previously raised equity and debt funding that included equity investment from angels in Nova Scotia and elsewhere and from Innovacorp.

Sociavore Preps for January Relaunch

Thusenth Dhavaloganathan: Putting the restaurant experience online

Thusenth Dhavaloganathan: Putting the restaurant experience online

When Sociavore launches its new platform in January, it plans to have a product whose ease of use and strategic advantages will attract restaurateurs across North America.

Originally launched under the name MyLocal, Sociavore is a marketing and customer relationship management tool designed specifically for the restaurant industry. The goal, as the company’s tagline says, is to fill restaurant seats with happy customers.

“It helps to bridge the gap between offline and online and takes that restaurant experience that they spend so much money creating and puts it online,” said Founder and CEO Thusenth Dhavaloganathan said in an interview Monday at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, where his team works.

Dhavaloganathan’s parents own a restaurant and he grew up surrounded by the restaurant trade. So he understands the business and the time constraints involved, and he has designed Sociavore to address the particular challenges of the industry.

He understand that owner-operators don’t have time or expertise to do make multiple social media posts and update their websites. So the site from the outset has let them just send out an email and the content automatically gets posted on Facebook, Twitter and the restaurant website.

The idea is that everything in the restaurant can easily be posted – the menus, the specials, photos of the food during preparation and once it’s ready to be served. And once the viewing public sees the posted, Sociavore allows them to book a reservation at the restaurant, as well as review it afterward.

Dhavaloganathan and two co-founders (who he eventually bought out) launched the initial product in 2013 with about 20 clients. The takeup was strong enough that Dhavaloganathan left his job with BlackBerry to work full time on his startup.

Today, the company has 120 to 130 clients, mainly in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Revenues have doubled in the past year and the company (with a staff of three full-time and one part-time) pretty well breaks even. Sociavore has never raised capital, and the team will assess whether it needs funding based on the success of the new platform.

Dhavaloganathan plans to launch the new company website with the Sociavore name on Monday, and will then launch the new platform in the new year.

The rollout of the new platform will concentrate strongly on Toronto. When they make a sales call, Dhavaloganathan and his colleague try to have the several components of the restaurant’s website and social media posts already uploaded on the platform. It makes for a more impressive sales pitch. But the company also hopes to reduce its cost of customer acquisition with the new platform so the personal sales call won’t be needed.

“That’s what the new platform is all about,” said Dhavaloganathan. “It will auto-generate the whole thing and we don’t have to get involved.”

He added that the ease of use should allow the company to scale across the country.

“If we can crack Toronto, we should be able to crack New York and Los Angeles and Montreal and Vancouver.”

Clock Ticking for I-3 Entries

There are just over two weeks left for Nova Scotian startups to enter the biennial I-3 Technology Startup Competition and have a shot at as much as $225,000 in development funding.

If that sounds like enough time to put it off, consider this: there are only 10 days left to get in your preliminary submission and get feedback from the organizers.

Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia innovation agency, holds the competition every second year with the goal of encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into businesses as they go through the contest. The process includes feedback from Innovacorp and a range of judges, various mentoring events and a challenging program to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Final submissions are due by 5 pm on Oct. 15. In an effort to ensure the highest quality of submission possible, Innovacorp is letting entrants submit a premilinary application a week early. The organizers will then respond and let the entrepreneurs know the parts of their submission that need to be strengthened.

The preliminary submissions must be in by Friday, Oct. 9.

I-3 is designed so that as many as 16 companies could receive prizes of cash and in-kind services that can be used to develop their company.

It divides the province into five zones, and Innovacorp will award a $100,000 first prize and $40,000 second prize for each zone. The five winners from these zones are all eligible for grand prize, which is an additional $100,000.

The competition also six sector-based prizes, awarding $25,000 sums to the leading entrants in information technology, life sciences, cleantech, ocean industries, agricultural technology and waste diversion technology.

Any one company can win as much as $225,000 and the total prize pot is worth $950,00.

The I-3 winners will be announced at a reception in Halifax on Feb. 3. Details on the competition are available at Innovacorp website.

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor. 

FTD Highrise’s Client List Grows

Filip Sobotka

Filip Sobotka

Filip Sobotka believes the coming six months will be critical for his company FTD Highrise Inspection, as he secures a partner with the proper drone and gauges the best way to grow in Toronto’s condo market.

Working on his own for most of the past eight years, Sobotka has built up FTD into a company whose automated systems can inspect the exterior of a building to detect potential leaks or other problems. With sales rising, he is now in the process of securing a partnership with a drone operator that can conduct the inspections allowing Sobotka to focus on sales and product development. He will soon have to decide whether to seek financing, and it so what type and how much her should try to raise.

“Scalability’s not going to be a problem because we’re morphing into a software company,” said Sobotka in an interview. “The big thing for me now is to find the right partner … and build the software in such a way that it can handle so much data.”

Related: AC Clients Shine in Showcase

Sobotka began FTD when he had a summer job with his father’s caulking company and noticed the difficulty engineers have inspecting the exterior of mid- and high-rise buildings. They essentially are lowered from the roof for a visual inspection, and then they extrapolate on what they can observe in their field of vision to draw conclusions on the state of the building.

Sobotka had a revelation one day when he saw and engineer tape a smartphone to a broomstick so he could reach around a corner and get a photo. He knew there was an opportunity for an automated solution.

His first iteration was a robotic device that would scale the exterior of a building, photographing every inch of it so all every problem could be detected and followed up on. Then drones became prevalent in many industries, so FTD now uses drones to inspect the whole building.

“It doesn’t matter where the problem is, we’ll find it,” he said. “You won’t have any surprises in terms of cracks turning into leaks.”

Having scanned 30 buildings in total, the company recently hit $40,000 in monthly revenue for the first time. Sobotka has found customers among condo boards, engineering firms and developers in the Greater Toronto Area. He’s winning repeat customers as some condo boards are now asking him to plan to do a follow-on scan in three years. And he’s also gaining traction with developers because FTD can scan a whole building and find any problems before the tradespeople have left the site.

FTD Highrise operates out of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, and Sobotka was one of the presenters at the centre’s recent Client Showcase. Now he is focusing on finding the proper partner to carry out the scans, assess the market and decide on a funding strategy.

The opportunity is huge, he said, because the owners and developers of buildings want the peace of mind to know that there will be regular, complete scans of their structures to prevent problems.

“We’re becoming the standard of care for buildings in a way,” said Sobotka. “In five years, there’s no way you aren’t scanning all the buildings all the time.”

Engage 2015 Set for Nov 9 & 10

Mark Taylor: For companies targeting global customers.

Mark Taylor: For companies targeting global customers.

The Engage 2015 Conference, which will focus on global innovation, will take place on Nov. 9 and 10 at St. Mary’s University in Halifax.

The first Engage Conference in 2013 focused on exporting outside of the Maritimes and Canada, and the 2014 Conference focused on research and development. Delora Media owner and Engage organizer Mark Taylor said that this year’s conference will focus on connecting exports and R&D through lectures and workshops surrounding scaling a startup or an existing business.

The 2015 conference will feature keynote speakers such as Yobie Benjamin, Co-Founder of Avegant Davelopment, a technology that enhances viewing experience of all kinds of media, and Joyce Carter, president and CEO of Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Benjamin raised $5 million via crowdfunding to fund San Francisco-based Avegant—and the product hasn’t even gone to market yet. He continues to raise money through investment rounds.

“He has done what we’re talking about,” Taylor said. “He’s used R&D to create some amazing and innovative products that respond and continue to respond to what customers are looking for.”

Other speakers include Robert Orr, previously CEO of Ocean Nutrition, which sold for $540 million in 2012, and Peter Conlon, CEO of LED Roadway Lighting. These speakers exemplify how Maritimers can take their companies to a global level, something that Taylor said he wants to show conference attendees is possible.

“I think it will translate into having a really positive impact on the economy because more companies will be growing that are competitive,” Taylor said. “And one of the reasons why they’ll be competitive is because they’ll have a vibrant customer base in different parts of the world.”

Engage 2015 will also include two discussion opportunities. One, Business After Hours, allows conference attendees to speak one-on-one with industry decision-makers in IT, energy, defence, healthcare and aerospace; the other, Export Camp, includes various discussion groups related to topics voted on by conference attendees.

There will also be a showcase of innovation vendors so that attendees can see what kind of resources and opportunities for R&D are available in the region to take their businesses global. The reason Taylor chose Halifax as the location for this year’s conference is because of all the resources that are available here, especially the accelerators and universities.

“We want to make sure people leave the event saying, ‘I’m ready to go, I have a lot of good information, good resources to be successful,’” Taylor said.

People have already started buying tickets for Engage 2015 during early registration. Tickets are available here.

Global Ad Source Adds Insights

Ed Clarke: 'It allows us to offer more to our clients.'

Ed Clarke: 'It allows us to offer more to our clients.'

Global Ad Source, the St. John’s-based advertising database with over 30 million ads, has added a new insight-based feature to its services.

Formerly called Adfinitum, Global Ad Source originally offered a database of global advertising when it began in 2007. It later added weekly reporting to show its clients the campaigns of their competitors.

CEO Ed Clarke said that his clients wanted insight around the weekly reports. The insight service consults other sources outside the Global Ad Source database to explain to the client how its competitors position themselves in the market and how they design their campaigns to espouse their brand.

“They’re asking us to actually decipher and tell them how their competitors are being positioned,” Clarke said. “Seeing cultural nuances, and ways that the same product is advertised in 50 different markets.”

Though much of the database is automated, the new insights service is done by humans.

“This is going to be a practice that’s not super scalable,” Clarke said, “but it’ll be interesting because it allows us to offer more to our clients.”

With 20 clients, all of whom are global brands, Global Ad Source is making a profit now. The Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network, the company’s original investors, continue to support the company. It also raised money in the past from GrowthWorks Atlantic.

Global Ad Source continues to grow. Clarke said that the company’s staff could go from seven to 14 people by next year. He plans hire a new salesperson in St. John’s this year, and hopefully hire another one in Asia. He also hopes to expand his development personnel in St. John’s.

Clarke wants to start exploring verticals of the different industries, such as the confectionary, automotive and consumer electronic products industries.

Carol Morrison, VP Development of Global Ad Source, is based in New York, and Clarke said that as they hire more salespeople, they’ll start expanding into the U.S.

“It’s a global advertising industry, and frankly, we’re in St. John’s, and we’ve proven a lot of things,” Clarke said. “We can win global clients,—which we’ve done—we can retain global clients—and we’ve retained all of our clients—and they give us fantastic testimonials.”

DHX’s Donovan Banked on Talent

Michael Donovan: 'Very few people decide.'

Michael Donovan: 'Very few people decide.'

Michael Donovan speaks softly. After a day of enthusiastic speeches from entrepreneurs and vigorous networking sessions at the Startup Empire conference last week, you don’t expect to hear a soft tone.

The DHX Media chairman even has a microphone, but still, in the Park Lane Theatre No. 4, it’s hard to hear him speak—yet the audience is captivated.

Twelve years ago, Donovan founded DHX Media in Halifax. It is now the fourth-largest animation company in the world, worth $1.5 billion with 18 offices around the world. on Monday, the company reported its profits for the fiscal year to June 30 had risen 150 percent to $19.5 million while revenues rose 127 percent to $264 million.

Jevon MacDonald, who was interviewing Donovan, mentioned that media companies still view DHX as an up-and-comer, despite its success. MacDonald is no stranger to success: he sold his software company GoInstant, which allows people to surf the internet together, to for a reported $70 million-plis in 2012.

Related: Startup Empire Highlights Scaling

Donovan said that he and his team always had the right attitude—it didn’t matter that they had the disadvantage of remaining in Halifax, where there was virtually no market and no money. They did, however, have talent, and they took their talented team to the market—Los Angeles—and to the money—around the world.

“One can succeed at anything—just decide,” Donovan said. “Very few people decide.”

And Donovan did: he won an Academy Award for producing the 2002 documentary “Bowling for Columbine” and was nominated for a Genie Award for Best Screenplay for his 2007 adaptation of Roméo Dallaire’s autobiography, “Shake Hands with the Devil.”

Donovan continues to innovate with DHX. In 2004, he realized that streaming was the future of the movie and television industries. However, Wall Street bankers and media advisers all said that wasn’t true because content on the internet will always be free.

Donovan loves that streaming services allows for a greater connection between the creatives and the audience, who now have a larger say in the shows and movies studio heads produce.

With streaming, there’s more competition for shows because production companies can choose to run their show on a network or on a streaming service.

The future of retail lies in show business’ hands. With the ability to stream, Donovan argues that brands will disappear and will be replaced with content that relates to the buyer.

 “A change in technology changed economics,” Donovan said, “and [led to] a changed consumer.”

Springboard Hosting IP, Data Events

Springboard Atlantic, the association that promotes the commercialization of Atlantic Canadian university research, will hold events in the coming weeks in conjunction with Invest Atlantic and the Big Data for Productivity Congress.

The organization will hold discussion about intellectual property as a valuable business asset on Tuesday from 8:30 to 11:30 am at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. The get-together will be affiliated with Invest Atlantic, the annual conference for entrepreneurs and investors, which will take place at the same location Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Springboard discussion will focus on the IP system and what you can gain by researching IP documents. It will be led by Cecile Klein and Catherine Vardy of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and Chris Mathis, the President and CEO of Springboard Atlantic. You can register here

The second Springboard event is the Big Data R&D Connector on Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, again at the World Trade Centre. This session is associated with the Big Data for Productivity Congress, which will be held in Halifax from Oct. 19 to 21.

The Connector is designed to introduce companies to the appropriate R&D expertise and funding systems in Atlantic Canada that can lead to new solutions, products or processes.

Springboard is now asking for two groups of presenters to register here to deliver three-minute presentations. The first is on the university side, such as researchers or industrial liaison officers. The second is on the industry side – corporate executives with a problem who are looking for researchers to help find a solution.

The goal of the Connector is to bridge the gulf between industry and academia to work on commercially viable projects. People wishing to attend the event can register here.


Disclaimer: Springboard is a client of Entrevestor.


Startup Empire Highlights Scaling

Gathered in Halifax’s Park Lane Theatre, the Startup Empire attendees watched the screen. A movie wasn’t playing, but the conference’s presenting entrepreneurs explained their business strategies in a way that mirrors the movie-viewing experience: you see it in one place, but it is all around the world. 

Yesterday, Volta Labs presented Startup Empire, which concentrated on startup growth and scale. However, attendees were at all stages of their startups: ideation, implementation and growth.

Anna Foat knows how important growth is to startups: she was hired as one of the first salespeople at Research in Motion, which is now BlackBerry. Foat has worked for both big and small companies, and her consulting firm, Big Dog Sales Consulting, helps startups with their growth.

Foat left the big corporation world because of the passion and innovation seeping out of the startup world. However, she sees that big corporations have an advantage over startups: execution. Big corporations consistently execute large-scale productions.

“If startups can learn from the big corporations, there’s no stopping them,” she said. “But hold tightly on to the pieces of your culture that make you different.”

All the speakers following Foat exemplified this point. Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president and general manager at SalesForce Radian6, said he never thought regionally in his 12 years of working with startups. Kyle Racki never gave up when he was creating Proposify, which streamlines proposals in the cloud. Again and again, entrepreneurs spoke about the importance of big thinking—even if seems beyond reality.

Howard Lindzon Skyped into the conference from New York to tell the Startup Empire attendees why seeing beyond current reality is good. Lindzon has been saying it’s a good time to start a business for a long time, even during the 2008 recession—and he owns and founded StockTwits, a social network for traders and investors.

“Think of a business as risk,” he said. “Think of how you can create a crack in the industry.”

Speakers also handed out more practical advice. Dawn Uhmla of Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s largest early stage venture capital organization, moderated a panel with several of the aforementioned speakers about sales to create growth within a startup. Panel members generally agreed that hustling and hardworking salespeople are necessary to create growth in a company.

The day ended with an interview with Michael Donovan, chairman for DHX Media. He demonstrated how the movie business is a great example for startups: starting small with a global mindset. Donovan began his show business career in Halifax, where he founded his production company, Salter Street Films, which produced shows such as “This Hour has 22 Minutes.” He then became CEO of DHX Media, the fourth largest animation production company in the world.

Donovan said it wasn’t hard for him to imagine going global with DHX—which now has offices in London, L.A. and Toronto, amongst others—because being in Halifax forced him to constantly travel to speak with buyers. There’s not much of a difference between flying from Halifax to L.A. or Barcelona.

“Face-to-face is even more important today,” Donovan said. “Face-to-face is critical.”

TrafficSoda: Beyond SEO

Jessica Chalk pitching at the AC's Client Showcase

Jessica Chalk pitching at the AC's Client Showcase

A beautiful website can sometimes sadden Jessica Chalk, especially if too few people visit it.

Chalk is the CEO of Waterloo-based TrafficSoda, which helps businesses drive traffic to their sites through a proprietary text analytics tool. TrafficSoda aims to help enterprise clients increase their rankings in global internet traffic, or help local businesses truly dominate the rankings in their city or region.

And the company says its method is far more effective than search engine optimization.

“I can’t stress this enough,” said Chalk in an interview after she presented at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre Client Showcase earlier this month. “There are so many businesses out there who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a beautiful website, and they have no idea how to get people to it. A website with no traffic is like placing a billboard in the middle of a desert.”

TrafficSoda gives online marketers the power to drive more organic, targeted web traffic to their site. The system interacts with online audiences across thousands of channels, through value-driven conversations and comprehensive analytics.

Related: AC Clients Shine in Showcase

Rather than relying on common SEO strategies, TrafficSoda uses machine learning to identify who its users are talking to and then to develop channels to make sure those parties visit the user’s site. The process, said Chalk, is not to make assumption about who the audience might be but to go out and identify who the business is communicating with.

The company also says that its unique approach to scalable lead generation allows online marketers to bring the users more actionable sales leads than other methods.

In the interview, Chalk mentioned several times that too many businesses have been burned by SEO so her company has to explain to clients how it is different.

The story of TrafficSoda dates back about two-and-a-half years when Chalk, a Wilfrid Laurier University business grad, was an employee of another startup that worked in the Accelerator Centre. The company hired a consultant named Rob Farnham, an expert in the internet with 17 years of experience, to help it get more online traffic. Chalk and Farnham decided the process was so good that they should form their own company.

They did, and raised some seed funding in 2013. Soon they had their own startup working out of the Accelerator Centre, and they are now considering raising an A Round to finance further growth.

The TrafficSoda team has now grown to eight people, and the company may soon have to leave the Accelerator Centre because it will need more room.

“I went from employee to employer here, so from a personal development standpoint it’s been incredible,” said Chalk. “I don’t want to leave this place but we’re running out of space.”  

Apparel Inspired by Mi’Kmaq Tradition

Patricia Barlow-Arcaro displays one of her EarthWalk hoodies. (Photo by I Scene Around)

Patricia Barlow-Arcaro displays one of her EarthWalk hoodies. (Photo by I Scene Around)

After realizing that most aboriginal clothing lines originate on the west coast, Patricia Barlow-Arcaro has launched EarthWalk Apparel to celebrate east coast Mi’kmaq culture.

Based in the designer’s Fredericton home, the EarthWalk Apparel line offers aboriginal contemporary clothing that incorporates traditional native symbols, colours and designs.

“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of east coast aboriginal contemporary clothing. Most clothing reflects west coast tribes and their cultures,” said the 24-year-old from Indian Island First Nation.

She said that east coast design typically uses repeated geometric patterns. Different eastern tribes have different styles, with the Maliseet, for instance, using more curves and the Mi’kmaq preferring more square shapes.

“We also take inspiration from our sacred medicines, such as sage, cedar, tobacco and sweet grass,” she said.

“Some designs also reflect the style of a particular artist. You can recognize an artist’s work from their style of bead work, quill work or basketry.”

Related: Finding the Soul of Entrepreneurship

The designer started her company ahead of schedule in the summer after taking part in the Summer Institute, an accelerator that asks participants to meld artistic passion with entrepreneurial skills.

Run at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, the three-month program helps participants create beautiful products and teaches them how to build a business around them.

Barlow-Arcaro, who is in her first year of a two-year fashion diploma program at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, joined the institute on the advice of a professor.

She found it gave her the confidence and knowledge she needed to get her business going. So she made a start, even though she still has to graduate from her fashion course.

“There are no words to describe how helpful the Summer Institute was. I hadn’t planned to start my business until I graduated, but the course and the support of mentors accelerated my progress.”

So far, the EarthWalk Apparel line is confined to hoodies, tees and tanks. The designer makes the hoodies from scratch at home. The tees and tanks begin as plain pieces that she purchases and then decorates with her designs.

“I need a special sewing machine to make my tees and tanks from scratch. I am working toward getting that machine, and I’m still improving my sewing skills.”

The designer grew up sewing thanks to the influence of her mom, Anne Barlow, a talented seamstress.

Barlow-Arcaro also took sewing at school, but she didn’t fall in love with the craft until she’d graduated from high school and was working as a receptionist. Seeing sewing as a potential hobby, she decided to make a hoodie with Mi’kmaq features.

“My mom helped me draft the pattern. Then I went to the store and chose the fabric. It made a world of difference to have the creative control.

“I felt a great sense of accomplishment in crafting the hoodie with my own hands. I realized this is what I want to do.”

Now that she is back at the college, she finds herself having to juggle her studies with her fledgling business. She does not expect that balancing act to be easy but said she intends to expand her clothing line, make sales and continue with her studies.

“I may try to look for funding for my business. I don’t want to pause the business now the interest is there, but I also want to get through these two years of school. I will sell clothing from my site and at powwows.”

She said she is committed to building her business in New Brunswick and to getting her designs across Canada.

“I aim to give pride to Atlantic aboriginal people and provide awareness for non-native people.”

Nicoya Eyes 2000 Unit Sales in 4 Years

Ryan Denomme Pitching at Centre Stage (Photo: Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

Ryan Denomme Pitching at Centre Stage (Photo: Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

When the organizers of the Rev accelerator dictated that all graduating companies had to articulate a plan to reach $25 million in revenues, Ryan Denomme checked his existing sales forecast and saw no problems.

His company Nicoya Lifesciences already had projections for $25 million in sales in four years, based on the sale of 2,000 units of its flagship product OpenSPR. That broke down as 1,000 units sold in that year and the revenue from selling services for the 1,000 units Nicoya expects to sell in Years 1 to 3.

The OpenSPR uses nano-technology to help scientists conduct research into the growing field of biotherapeutics – that is, research into proteins that can be used to cure diseases. Conducting such research until now has required access to a piece of equipment called surface plasmon resonance, or SPR. These devices cost about $250,000 and have additional monthly expenses. The costs are so high scientists often have to share them. But the OpenSPR only costs $15,000 and operates at lower costs.

“This means every single scientist can afford to have one in their lab,” Denomme, the company’s CEO, told the packed house at Rev Centre Stage last week. “We believe OpenSPR will do for the pharmaceutical industry what the PC did for the computer industry.”

Centre Stage was the graduation and pitching event for Rev, a Communitech accelerator that taught growth-stage companies to scale. The six pitchers had to explain how they would get to $25 million in revenue, and the judges decided Denomme did the best job, awarding him $50,000 as the first prize.

In an interview on Wednesday, he said Nicoya now has more than 20 customers, and a sales funnel worth about $1 million. The company’s focus now is on sales and the six-member team has been busy through the Rev program developing new sales strategies.

The company got its start in 2012 when Denomme spun out the nano-technology sensor technology from the University of Waterloo. The team understood there would be medical applications for the product, but chose the SPR market because it is a research device and therefore does not need regulatory approval.

Nicoya has worked with a range of mentorship groups – it’s a graduate of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre and Rev, and it now works out of the Velocity Foundry. Earlier this year it closed a round of funding from local angels as well as the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund and BDC Capital.

Denomme said the current priority for the company is to sell more OpenSPR units, and possibly introduce improvements to it. Two years down the road, he believes the company will have new products that will use the nanotechnology sensors in other markets.

These include medical applications, such as using the sensors to measure biomarkers in the blood to diagnose or manage illnesses. There could also be industrial applications such as testing water quality or food safety.


Ongozah Landing Clients after Pivot

Denis Daigle, left, and Topher Kingsley-Williams at work in the Venn Centre.

Denis Daigle, left, and Topher Kingsley-Williams at work in the Venn Centre.

With a new focus to its business, Moncton-based startup Ongozah is providing a link between charities and corporations, and producing 25 per cent monthly sales growth.

The company — whose name is the Swahili term for everyone moving in the same direction — recently decided its new business focus would be helping charities work more efficiently with corporations that allow their staff to volunteer.

It has already signed up 25 clients, including the United Way and National Bank of Canada, and the list continues to grow.

"We’re just selling, selling, selling and building, building, building," said CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams after presenting the company at the Propel ICT Demo Day on Tuesday night.

Ongozah is an interesting case of a company that pivoted — or changed its business model to meet market demand — and found fresh momentum with a new product.

Founded by Kingsley-Williams, Denis Daigle and Dan Gillis, the company had begun last year with the goal of allowing community groups to crowdsource the things they need to provide services. The idea was that charities could put the word out to the broader community that they needed some materials or expertise to make sure they could complete their projects.

The Ongozah team was working at the Vennture Garage, the incubator in Moncton, and then entered the Propel ICT accelerator about three months ago.

They decided to pivot to take advantage of a new development in the way companies support charities.

Kingsley-Williams said many companies now like to contribute to charities by letting their paid staff volunteer with the non-profit on company time. It helps worker morale because they’re helping a good cause while they’re being paid.

But the scheme creates challenges. First off, the workers have to know what charities are available to work with. And for the charities, there are often administrative problems in managing this crop of new talent.

Ongozah has developed a platform that helps to alleviate these problems. It helps employees learn about projects, spread the word and get involved. And it allows the non-profits to manage their projects, recording the accomplished work and tracking contributions.

With it, the company has gained a core of early adopters with which it is now working and assessing the product.

The company is now raising capital. As a graduate of the Propel ICT Build program, it is being considered for as much as $250,000 in funding — $150,000 from BDC Capital and $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Kingsley-Williams said the company expects to continue its rapid growth given the size of its market — charitable giving in the U.S. and Canada amounts to $17 billion per year.

Ongozah will be working with the New Brunswick Community College on its upcoming volunteer day. And later this month, the team will travel to New York for the Social Good Summit, a conference that showcases the intersection of good causes and new technology.


Startup Grind to Host Paul Singh

Paul Singh

Paul Singh

Startup Grind Halifax has announced its next event, which will feature the always entertaining and insightful Paul Singh as speaker, will be held Oct. 15.

Singh has served in senior capacities in such American funding and mentoring organizations as 1776, Disruption Corp. and 500 Startups.

The event will be held at the offices of McInnes Cooper in Purdy’s Wharf in Halifax beginning at 5 pm. Tickets are available here

Invest Atlantic Announces Pitchers

Invest Atlantic has announced 22 companies that will pitch in its three-tiered pitching event next Tuesday.

The conference, which will take place September 29 and 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, will feature some of the region’s leading business people, and investors from inside and outside Atlantic Canada.

For the first time, Invest Atlantic will divide its pitching session into three parts. The first stream, or Pitch 101, is for startups seeking money. Pitch 201 is for growth-stage companies looking for partners and Pitch 301 is for late-stage companies looking for successors or acquisition.

The pitchers are:


1. Exodo – Alessia Bosatra

2. Xona Games Inc. – Matthew Doucette

3. – Guy Shaham

4. Agile Sensor Technologies Inc. – Brian Terry

5. Lux Wind Turbines Inc. – Sean Marsden

6. Site 2020 – Mitchell Hollohan

7. Pet Konekt – Justin Javorek

8. Patchell Brook Equity Analytics Inc. – Brian Donovan

9. Force 3 Innovations – Shawn Leger

10. Valjean – Sabina Wex

11. bacdrop – Ryan Hartigan


1. Indigena Skincare – Lisa Walsh

2. Spring Loaded Technology – Chris Cowper-Smith

3. Marathon Fluid Systems Ltd. – Karim Bhibah

4. QRA Corp – Adam Anshan

5. NeuroQuest Inc. – Robert Cervelli

6. EMO Marine Technologies Ltd. – Tom Knox

7. Swell Advantage Ltd. – Iaian Archibald

8. Fundmetric – Mark Hobbs


1. Kredl’s Corner Market / Driver Dave’s Inc – Dave Wolpin

2. Marathon Fluid Systems Ltd. – Karim Bhibah

3. reLiSH Gourmet Burgers – Rivers Corbett




Build Pitchers Highlight Sales

HeyOrca! founders Joseph Teo and Sahand Seifimamaghani.

HeyOrca! founders Joseph Teo and Sahand Seifimamaghani.

Though the Build Program companies pitching at the Propel ICT Demo Day all noted they were raising capital, they placed a greater emphasis on the revenue they’re gaining from bona fide customers.

The Build Program is the mentoring course for the most advanced companies in the regional accelerator, and all six of these startups were on the stage in Moncton. They are also all eligible for $250,000 to $400,000 in funding as graduates of the program.

The six Build pitches capped off a night at which Propel celebrated its most recent cohort in which 33 companies from three provinces were mentored. The accelerator has now graduated 59 companies in the past year.

“We actually had 33 companies go through the program in one cohort – phenomenal,” said Propel Chair Dave Grebenc, Co‐Owner of Saint John-based Innovatia. “In one cohort we’ve grown 67 percent in 10 months.”

Related: Read our Report on the Launch Pitches

The Build Program pitchers were:

Ongozah, Moncton – Nurtured in the Vennture Garage in Moncton, Ongozah is developing a platform that serves as a link between charities and the corporations whose staff volunteer for these charities. CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams said many companies now like to contribute to charities by letting their staff volunteer on company time. But there are challenges in getting the staff to find the right volunteering opportunities, and in the charities managing the volunteers. Ongozah helps solve that problem and now has 25 paying clients including the United Way and National Bank of Canada, and its revenues are rising 25 percent month-on-month. 

SiteFlo, Saint John – This company, previously called Xiplinx, helps packaging manufacturers improve the processes on their product lines. The company, which has signed some major distribution agreements recently, collects intelligence from the production line and shares it with workers and managers on the plant floor. CEO Brent MacDonald said SiteFlo has logged 95 percent month-over-month revenue growth since coming into the most recent Propel cohort. In one week, it helped one customer save $1.5 million.

SimpTek Technologies, Fredericton – The runner-up at the recent Breakthru competition is developing an automated system that helps people control the use of their household appliances with the goal of saving them money.  It has produced a plug-and-play device that tells consumers how much energy they use and how to reduce it. And it provides data to utilities, which pay the startup. SimpTek recently signed a three-month pilot with NB Power and the utility has committed to using the service for a year. The company has received Interest from four Canadian utilities and two in the US. SimpTek is raising $600,000 and has a commitment of $300,000

PACTA, Halifax – PACTA helps medium-sized businesses manage contracts with customers, suppliers and others. As CEO Charlotte Rydlund said PACTA helps companies boost productivity by tracking their contracts, automating a process that is now carried out on spreadsheets. She said customers have seen 50 percent time savings, and some early adopters have become not only paying customers but also investors and evangelists. The company has created considerable buzz in the past few months, winning the seed-stage pitching prize at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax and being selected to pitch at the International Startup Festival in Montreal. PACTA hopes to have 400 customers in a year. 

Clean Simple, Halifax – The company went through a massive pivot during the cohort and CEO Mike Brown credits Propel with making the move a success. Clean Simple had been a residential cleaning service that used online booking to attract clients. It also developed a system that let cleaners report problems during their shift and communicate them to clients. Competitors wanted to use the system, so Clean Simple began to lease its software out to commercial cleaners. They have been selling it for four weeks and already have nine clients. The company is raising $1 million and some committed investors are its customers.

HeyOrca! St. John’s – HeyOrca! helps marketers, their clients and freelancers collaborate on social media projects, and has been growing strongly since entering the Build program. CEO Joseph Teo said the product, which costs $99 per month, lets the parties streamline their social media content using tools they’re already familiar with. It also allows for a simple review process. In the past three months, HeyOrca! has gained 17 paying customers in Canada and the U.S. and is on track to bring in $176,000 in monthly recurring revenue by the first quarter of 2017. Teo said the company will close a$650,000 raise on Oct. 1.

These six companies will learn in the next few weeks whether they will receive investments from Propel’s funding partners. All Build grads will be considered for a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital. Those from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can land $100,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp, respectively. HeyOrca!, the lone Build company from Newfoundland and Labrador, is eligible for $250,000 in funding from Venture Newfoundland and Labrador.

Launch Pitches Wow Sean Wise

Kelly Lawson: Turning closets into cash.

Kelly Lawson: Turning closets into cash.

Sean Wise was so impressed with the Launch Program pitches at the Propel ICT Demo Day on Tuesday that he wondered why he was there.

Appearing after the seed-stage companies delivered their presentations, the professor of entrepreneurship at Ryerson University and Dragon’s Den consultant showed up to deliver a short seminar on pitching. But the quality of the pitches made him ask whether he was needed.

“You don’t need my help,” he told the sold out house. “Whoever you guys have hired to do the coaching and mentoring, they kick ass. They really do.”

The Launch Program nurtures companies early in their development. In the latest cohort, 27 companies participated in sessions in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s and six were chosen to pitch at Demo Day.

Related: Read our Report on the Bulld Pitches

Though the companies are young, the pitches were solid and colourful – half of one pitch was delivered in a song. Overall, the entrepreneurs highlighted the sales they’ve landed.

The companies are:

Bitness, Halifax -- Bitness uses beacons to track where, when and how long customers are in a retail outlet. CEO Alex Gillis, 17, said this allows the store owner to understand the store’s peak hours, allowing for better staffing decisions. He added that as of Oct. 1 Bitness will have 20 beacons with five clients, as well as a pilot with Dunkin Donuts Lebanon. It expects to have 200 clients in 2016.

BuyMyLemonade, Halifax -- BuyMyLemonade is an online program that teaches entrepreneurship to young people through fundraising. Now 44 million kids raise $4 billion annually by going door-to-door and BuyMyLemonade gives them a safe online environment in which to do this work. Junior Achievement of Nova Socita will launch with the product in October. The company has a mission to reach 200,000 students by end of 2018 and is looking for $400,000 in funding.

Ella, Saint John -- This mobile app helps women to sell their slightly used clothes. “Ladies, I’m here today to turn your closets into cash,” said founder Kelly Lawson, adding there’s $50 billion in slightly used fashion now sitting unused in American closets. The system uses proprietary algorithms to match users based on size, style, social connections and location. It also provides purchase suggestions. The company is now doing a beta test and its users are posting an image every nine minutes.

Liv9, Fredericton -- Founded by pharmacists, Liv9 supplies cloud-based patient engagement and management software to pharmacies.  The software lets pharmacies engage with customers through social channels and provides them with automated marketing tools, real-time tracking and reporting of patient engagement activities. CEO Dan Pike said Liv9 is focusing with 10 stores in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for early adoption.  The company is looking for $250,000 in funding.

MusicEdZone, St. John’s -- This music education company features a music school for three to 10 years olds called The Munchkin Music Factory. There is also a publishing division that develops teaching and learning curriculum materials for music educators. CEO Lisa Gillam, who sang part of her pitch, said 60,000 music teachers in U.S. need more assistance in organizing their work. The company is projecting $2.4 million in revenue in Year 3 and is seeking $100,000 in financing.

Vish Salon Tech, St. John’s – Vish Salon Tech designs software and hardware that help hair salons to strengthen customer relationships and maximize profitability. Salons depend on hair colouring to maintain profit but use manual methods to mix and catalogue colours. Vish’s first solution is a cloud-connected hair dye scale. By end of 2016, Vish hopes to have 800 customers and $600,000 in quarterly revenue. The seven-employee outfit aims to raise $250,000.

Disclaimer: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.

In The Chat Continues to Adapt

John Huehn, CEO of In The Chat, presenting at the Client Showcase. (Photo by Wayne Simpson)

John Huehn, CEO of In The Chat, presenting at the Client Showcase. (Photo by Wayne Simpson)

John Huehn spent enough time in the customer service game to know that customers don’t like to be on hold.

That’s why he founded In The Chat, whose software lets customers contact companies through social media, chat or texting. It reduces costs for the companies and produces happier customers, he said.

“Consumers in general these days are sick and tired of waiting for customer service on the phone,” said Huehn, the CEO of In the Chat, speaking after presenting at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre Client Showase last week. “Ultimately, we make it possible to give customers the service they want so you make the customer happy while saving money.”

In the Chat is a social sales and service company powered by an advanced text analytics engine that reads, categorizes and delivers social media posts to their clients for action. The text analytics program in the product determines what type of query the client is asking and automatically sends the message to a specialist in the given area. It’s faster and less annoying that asking the customer to push numbers on the phone to get different departments.

Saying this feature makes the solution “entirely scalable”, Huehn said it is 58 percent more efficient to serve a client via text messaging than on the phone, and that In The Chat produces 20 percent savings over call centres.

The solution also includes a sales and service platform enables real-time consumer engagement via social media.

The story of In The Chat dates back to the days when Huehn worked in the call centre of a major Canadian telecom company, working his way up to vice-president. He believed the process of customer services could be improved by using new technology.

Five years ago, he and Chris Howlett, the former CTO in Residence at Communitech, launched In The Chat with the aim of “bringing emerging technologies into the call centre.”

They began with a product that allowed the customer to reach the company through social media, and then as text and chat became more popular with consumers they added new channels.

The company has grown to 21 people but still works out of the Accelerator Centre, where Huehn enjoys being the “old guy” among the young technological whizzes. Huehn declined to say how much money the company has raised, but did say it amounted to millions of dollars and includes investment from the Angel One Investor Network.

In The Chat has more than 10 enterprise clients and has produced significant double-digit annual revenue growth each year it’s been in operation.

Huehn expects the growth to continue because humanity continues to find new ways to communicate – from mail to telegraph to phone to email to social media to text to chat. And each advance keeps coming more quickly than the last.

“There will only be more channels that come along and they’re coming faster,” he said. “Companies will need a platform like ours that makes it easier for people to contact them.”

Press Release: Crowdfunding Event

The Nova Scotia Securities Commission has issued the following press release:

Crowdfunding Public Information Session in Truro

Halifax - Sept 22, 2015 -- The Nova Scotia Securities Commission is holding a free public information session on the new rules for the equity crowdfunding exemptions on Oct. 15.

The event will take place at the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro from noon until 2 p.m. in Salon C, 36 Arthur St.

The session is in partnership with the Financial and Consumer Services Commission in New Brunswick and PEI Securities Commission. Information will be given on the new securities rules that will allow individuals and companies to crowdfund business projects using internet portals, as well as raise funds pursuant to other rules.

The session is open to potential and existing business owners, industry participants and local community members who are interested in raising capital and will include speakers from the Financial and Consumer Services Commission, Nova Scotia Securities Commission, Cox and Palmer and Ernst and Young.

The Crowdfunding Exemption and the Start-Up Exemption are designed to meet the needs of start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises at different stages of growth while providing a number of investor protection measures.

Propel Returns to Moncton Tonight

There will be a bit of a homecoming Tuesday in Moncton as Propel ICT holds its latest Demo Day in the area where it held its first.

At its sixth Demo Day, 12 companies that have gone through the regional tech accelerator’s programs will make presentations to a roomful of spectators. The pitching begins at the Capitol Theatre at 6:30 p.m. For those who can't make it in person, Startup Kitchen will stream the event here.

The last time Propel held a Demo Day in the Moncton area was in June 2012, at the end of the first cohort of the program then known as Launch36. It was a remarkable day for several reasons.

Then-executive director Trevor MacAusland had been telling people his new accelerator would graduate 36 companies in three years, and there was no shortage of skeptics. That 10 companies presented lent credibility to his claims. It turned out MacAusland would graduate 49 in the allotted time.

It was notable one of the presenters was LeadSift, a Halifax social media analytics company. That its founders had driven to Moncton and back regularly through the winter also validated the notion Propel could be a regional mentoring program. That, at the time, seemed more far-fetched than the 36-company target.

There had never been graduation from a tech accelerator in the region before so no one knew what to expect. But the event was sold out and people turned out from across the Maritimes, with a few investors coming from outside the region.

Propel has more than validated its model, though we can be a bit more measured in our assessment of the first cohort of companies. About half have continued to grow and attract a broad range of clients, many from outside the region. By my count, three are no longer in business and one has moved away.

LeadSift, for example, recently announced venture capital investment from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. Select Bidder of Moncton recently launched its latest product, a platform for dealer auctions of cars.

And Propel itself? The most recent cohort included programs in Fredericton, Moncton, Halifax and St. John’s. Discussions are underway to bring Sydney and Charlottetown into the fold.

The six most advanced companies went through the Build Cohort, which focuses on scaling a business. These companies will be eligible for $250,000 to $400,000 in funding, another sign Propel has evolved.

All Build grads will be considered for a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital. Those from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia can land $100,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp, respectively. HeyOrca!, the lone Build company from Newfoundland and Labrador, is eligible for $250,000 in funding from Venture Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the companies is Xiplinx, a Saint John and Fredericton firm that helps food and beverage producers improve production efficiency. What’s special about Xiplinx is it went through the Launch36 program in the first cohort, and was one of the presenters at the first Demo Day.


Disclaimer: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.

Hack the North: Size Matters

There came a point during the closing ceremonies of the Hack the North hackathon that you realized this event was simply executed on a scale you’re not used to.

Hack the North is the largest hackathon in Canada, and the numbers tell part of the story to bear that out. For 36 hours, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, more than 1,000 students competed to see who could hack a range of APIs to produce the best product. Hundreds of participants came from outside the country. There were participants in their early teens. There were scores of teams.

The presentations included speakers from such companies and organizations as Y Combinator, Google, Uber and Bloomberg, to name just a few. There were 200 volunteers.

By Sunday afternoon, the participants (other than those who had to catch planes) were packed into Hagey Hall at the University of Waterloo, clinging to their pillows or still at work on their laptops.

They roared their applause for the 12 finalists, who were awarded a range of prizes. Their hacks ranged from PayMyFace (a payment app that sends money to someone identified by facial recognition software) to Every Drop Counts (a home automation product that reduces water consumption) to Stokr (a program that allows Android-based games to be played on MacBooks) to Hamster Home (an app that monitors the wellbeing of your pet hamster).

What was especially impressive about Hack the North is the vast range and quality of corporate participation. There were more than 50 sponsors for the event including some to the best tech companies in the world, such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Uber. They provided prizes in several categories, and they also presented their APIs so teams could hack them and develop new products. What was important was not just the fact so many major companies were there but that the participants had such a range of technology to work with. 

Though it was not among the finalists, a team called CryptoCause, which allows the user to mine bitcoin and donate it to a charity, won three prizes handed out by sponsors.

Though there was no grand prize the organizers announced that they would award a prize to a team that continues to work on its project. Hopefully, some will wind up becoming startups. With that in mind, they will select a team that continues to progress in a few months and fly them to any other hackathon in the world. 

BuyMyLemonade Unveils Partnerships

Guy Shaham: Adapting the concepts of a neighbourhood lemonade stand.

Guy Shaham: Adapting the concepts of a neighbourhood lemonade stand., a Halifax company that teaches students entrepreneurship through online fundraising, has announced that it has formed its first two strategic partnerships, with Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia and Eyeball Inc.

The company was founded by CEO Guy Shaham and Chief IT Officer Isaak Moscovich to teach entrepreneurship through the same model as the neighbourhood lemonade stand. The idea is to give students with the target ages of nine to 18 the online tools they need to conduct fundraising drives for their schools or organizations. And while they’re raising money for a good cause, the platform is also teaching them principles of entrepreneurship.

“Although there are several websites that offer school fundraising solutions and others that deliver youth entrepreneurships courses, is the first to merge online fundraising, e-commerce and entrepreneurship studies into one ecosystem,” said Moscovich in a statement.

The founders began the company earlier this year and have spent the last three months taking it through the Launch program of the Propel ICT tech accelerator at Volta in Halifax. The company was selected as one of six Launch members to pitch tonight at the Propel Demo Day in Moncton.

Related: Propel Names 12 Demo Day Pitchers seeks to encourage entrepreneurship at an early age by teaching kids about business and online sales and marketing in a social environment.

“By using our online platform, kids will now be able to open online stores, upload their own inventory such as used text books, video games, art and craft, songs, toys and others and sell them to more people inside and outside their neighborhoods,” said Moscovich. “BML allow kids to push their merchandise through twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.”

The company is now partnering with organizations that are also involved in youth programs. Halifax-based Eyeball is a startup that has developed an online network for amateur sports, so players, coaches and parents can be updated on scores and events. And Junior Achievement is the world’s leading organization for teaching entrepreneurship to young people.

“The opportunity to partner with means that we will be able to enhance the learning of our students in Company Program, inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs by engaging them in a truly global platform,” said Kristin Williams, President and CEO of JA Nova Scotia.

Nicoya Wins $50K at Centre Stage

Ryan Denomme, Centre, Left Rev with $50,000. (Photo: Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

Ryan Denomme, Centre, Left Rev with $50,000. (Photo: Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

Nicoya Lifesciences, whose OpenSPR product reduces costs for scientists developing drugs from proteins, captured the $50,000 first prize at the Rev Centre Stage pitching event at Communitech on Friday night.

Two companies tied for second place and left with $25,000 each: Bridgit, which has developed an app that aids communications on construction sites; and Piinpoint, a data analytics outfit that helps companies find the optimal locations for their outlets.

The event marked the graduation for eight companies from the first Rev cohort. (Six pitched on Friday and two were unable to attend.) Communitech established Rev as an accelerator for growth-stage companies, and the mission was to teach the participants to effectively scale their businesses.

“We need to think about building big companies here in Kitchener-Waterloo,” Sam Legge, the Communitech program manager who oversaw the cohort, told the packed house. “That doesn’t mean $10 million in sales a year. It doesn’t mean $25 million. It means $100 million or more.”

Related: Rev Focuses on Growth Stage

So all six of the pitching companies were charged with explaining how they would achieve sales of at least $25 million by 2020 – or $100 million if possible. The judges were given a prize pot of $100,000 and told it to divide it among six pitchers as they saw fit.

The pitching companies told how they planned to hit $25 million, or at the very least detailed their growth metrics:

Nicoya Lifesciences – Proteins offer huge potential in battling diseases, but scientists conducting research on proteins need a piece of equipment called surface plasmon resonance, or SPR. These devices cost about $250,000 and have additional expenses to use. Nicoya has developed a cheaper alternative called OpenSPR, which costs about $15,000 and is cheaper to use than existing options. The machine, which uses nano-technology, is already being used by 20 of the world’s leading scientists. CEO Ryan Denomme said the company has a plan to increase sales to 2,500 units a year in four years, which would produce revenues of more than $25 million.

PiinPoint – This company helps corporations find the best locations for their outlets, based on car and pedestrian traffic, zoning, complementary businesses and the like. The company now has 30 clients and its revenues are growing 20 percent month on month. It projects sales of $25 million with just a few hundred clients in a few years. “How do we hit $100 million in revenue?” asked CEO Jim Robeson. “We believe the next chapter of PiinPoint will be to help small businesses with loan applications and financial companies with risk mitigation.”

Bridgit – Since it entered rev, Bridgit’s monthly recurring revenue, or MRR, has tripled to $36,000. The company now offers a single product that helps general contractors and sub-contractors communicate with one another about problems on construction sites. CEO Mallorie Brodie said the company can accelerate sales with additional product, such as one that lets managers communicate with labourers, and an integrated product that would aid with such tasks as ordering materials. “One-hundred million dollars in annual recurring revenue is a credible goal for Bridgit,” said Brodie.

Set Scouter – This company, whose app helps film producers find residential locations, has been built entirely on revenue – mainly by clients in Toronto. CEO Alex Kolodkin said the company earns $300 to $550 each time a producer uses the product, and there are 8,900 film shoots in Toronto alone each year. Film producers spend about $4 million a year finding locations in North America alone, and 85 percent of the work is done in just eight cities.

Aterlo Networks – There are about 160 million homes in the world with too weak an internet connection to handle streaming services like Netflix. Aterlo allows their occupants to see the programing  they want regardless of the strength of signal. With Aterlo, they can preload the content at night when the network isn’t busy, allowing them to watch the show the next day. The team has been selling the product to individual homes and have just landed their first deal with an internet service provider in New Zealand. “We believe everyone should be able to see a high-quality service no matter where they live,” said CEO Dan Seimon. “We’ve proven the demand, and we’ve proven it works.”

Blitzen – Rated as the No. 3 under-the-radar startup in the world by Business Insider, Blitzen has developed sales lead generation software for small and medium-sized enterprises. Once someone submits an email to an SME, Blitzen develops a profile of that person based on his or her social media sites and employer. Backed by about $2 million in venture capital, the company is now doing private beta tests and plans to launch in two weeks. CEO Jesse Guild said 1,000 potential clients have signed up to use the product.

Legge said Communitech is now accepting applications for the second cohort of Rev. Applications close Oct. 9.


Read our previous articles on the Rev cohort. 

Set Scouter's Sales Soar

Bridgit & the Condo Boom

Piinpoint's Homecoming




Revelling in Blank’s Wit & Wisdom

Steve Blank, centre, judged at Rev Centre Stage with Alec Saunders and Carol Leaman. (Photo by Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

Steve Blank, centre, judged at Rev Centre Stage with Alec Saunders and Carol Leaman. (Photo by Communitech/Meghan Kreller)

Steve Blank on Friday showed why he’s the entrepreneurship prof that other entrepreneurship profs talk about.

The serial entrepreneur and academic made two appearances at Communitech and displayed the wit and insights that have made him one of the most often-cited startup educators in the world. I missed the appearance by the father of customer discovery methodology at the Innovation Summit, but was lucky enough to witness a discussion with him at the Rev Centre Stage event, highlighting the pitches of the Rev accelerator graduates.

The discussion with Kevin Hood, President of Market Access Corp., and moderator Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, became a celebration of lean startup basics, with all three panelists delivering great insight.

But the highlight was the concise insights delivered by Blank. In fact, one of the most interesting parts of the evening was witnessing Blank question the Rev graduates, burrowing down into their projections to assess the real prospects of their businesses. In a few seconds, he could drill into the foundation of the presentation and reveal any cracks.  

Blank explained that lean methodology is now pretty well universally recognized as has three components: expressing all hypotheses on a single canvas; testing those hypotheses with customers or partners; and employing agile development to produce a minimum viable product.

Blank said the entrepreneur has to test these hypotheses because it’s too easy to convince yourself that they are correct.

“All founders believe they’re visionaries,” he said. “We now have enough data to say, ‘You’re actually hallucinating.’”

The theme of customer validation resonated throughout the discussion from all the participants.  Hood for example, said he believed too many founders put supply before demand.

“There are companies out there and you ask them what the customers are saying [about their product] and they say, ‘We aren’t ready to talk to customers yet,’” said Hood. “Well that’s the craziest thing I ever heard.”

Blank meandered into other facets of entrepreneurship. For example, when Lehman asked him when companies should raise money, he responded by noting we’re in a funding bubble. “If it’s dropped at your feet, then pick it up and take it,” he said. “This bubble isn’t going to last forever.”

On the reasons company die: “Hubris will kill the company more quickly than any other failure.”

And even on the subject of failure he was entertaining and profound. He recounted after a venture-backed company of his had failed, he told his mother, a Russian immigrant, that he had just lost $35 million. Her response after a pause was, “Where did you leave it?” But he also told her to her astonishment that the people who invested $35 million had just backed him in a new venture with $12 million.

“In an entrepreneurial cluster like Silicon Valley or Waterloo, there is a word for failure,” he said. “It’s experience.”

Pond Reassesses Aging Population

Gerry Pond: Grey Grey Matter Matters.

Gerry Pond: Grey Grey Matter Matters.

The Atlantic Entrepreneurial Ecosystem conference attendees couldn’t stop talking last week about Gerry Pond’s Grey Grey Matter Matters.

Pond looked at one of Atlantic Canada’s biggest problems: a large aging population. His solution? Take old people’s wisdom to create businesses. That’s how the Maritime investor and entrepreneur arrived at Grey (old people) Grey Matter (the brain) Matters: old people’s wisdom and ideas matter.

Pond said this demographic problem could result in a company that could invest in different ideas to either solve old people’s problems (e.g. helping them with mobility or illness) or use old people’s experience and wisdom to create new businesses or help other entrepreneurs with their businesses.

“The billion dollar goal will make us the best ecosystem in the country,” Pond later said at a panel. “If you don’t set the target, you won’t get much.”

Pond’s Grey Grey Matter Matters idea hit on the major theme of last Thursday and Friday’s Atlantic Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: make creative connections and think outside the normal routes for entrepreneurship.

The conference concentrated on research into where Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs receive business help, including the countries, regions, organizations, incubators, other companies and entrepreneurs. Ellen Farrell, St. Mary’s University Sobey School of Business professor, led the study and organized the conference.

Farrell’s colourful maps showed the visual representation of her findings. The map most frequently discussed by conference attendees was the one illustrating which countries and provinces Maritime entrepreneurs reach out to for business help and advice.  The majority of surveyed entrepreneurs indicated that they tended to ask for help from fellow Maritimers, with a bit of outreach to Ontario and Quebec, and very little outreach to the U.S. or Europe.

Though this insular mentality can be beneficial for a solid support network, conference attendees and speakers agreed that Atlantic Canadians need to reach outside our four provinces to gain better reach for the region’s companies.

One way for Maritimers to start reaching outside the region for entrepreneurial help is by thinking about their image in the world. David Audretsch, Ameritech Chair of Economic Development at Indiana University, explained why location matters for entrepreneurship.

“Places can change the way they see themselves,” said the author of Everything in its Place: Entrepreneurship and the Strategic Management of Cities, Regions and States. “North Carolina went from hick to hi-tech.”

Benson Honig also emphasized the importance of place in his lecture, focusing on how increasing immigration in the Maritimes will better the economy due to a highly educated class of people who will bring a diverse skillset to the region.

“The only way to improve your economy is to grow your population,” The McMaster University DeGroote School of Business Chair of Entrepreneurial Leadership said.

Honig doesn’t understand why immigrants pass over the Maritimes when coming to Canada. Even Manitoba—a much colder and less scenic place—attracts more immigrants than the Maritimes. Echoing Audretsch, he said the Maritimes’ global marketing techniques aren’t working.

“We need to aggressively become a welcoming community to attract and retain immigrants,” Honig said.

Another one of Farrell’s seven maps showed which organizations entrepreneurs most frequently contacted for support. These included accelerators, incubators and sandboxes. The most frequent ones included Volta, Launch 36 and Planet Hatch among others (Entrevestor also figured prominently on this map).

As the Vice-President of Research and Policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Dane Stangler studies entrepreneurship and education. He believes that these “ecosystem[s] in a box”—using the same program or accelerator that other regions successfully use—often don’t work because the implementers think too much about the end result of a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem rather than focusing on what their city or region needs to create this ecosystem. 

From this, Stangler warned of a “startup monoculture:” several cities and regions attempting to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the same way.

“Entrepreneurship is about messiness,” he said. “Embrace the messiness.”

Stangler echoed Pond’s point: create hubs for startups where entrepreneurs can solve regional problems and hone in on regional advantages. Stangler encouraged Atlantic Canadians to focus on ocean tech—a huge sector which is increasingly more important as climate change becomes more and more severe.

At the end of the conference, most of the speakers came together to discuss the potential and the future of Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Discussions included arguments about whether they ought to focus on creating a bunch of mid- to small-sized companies or billion dollar companies, and how to incorporate the notion of failure into the accelerators, university programs and support networks for entrepreneurs.

Stangler left conference attendees with this tip to think about when speaking and teaching Atlantic Canadians and others about the region: “Tell the story of the best of entrepreneurship.”


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

8 Lessons From Ecosystem Conference

I found eight takeaways from the Atlantic Canada Entrepreneurial Ecosystem conference, hosted by the Sobey School of Business at St Mary’s University on Friday.

The first three come from Gerry Pond, former CEO of NBTel and founder and investor in several successful businesses.  The first is that scale matters. Promoting entrepreneurship has to operate at the regional level – individual cities and provinces lack critical mass. For me that suggests, among other things, more efficient and cheaper travel.

Second, Pond argued that the region needs to think creatively about new opportunities. Using the tag, Grey Grey Matter Matters, he argued for the reinterpretation of the region’s aging population to be seen as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to exploit, not an economic burden.

And third, he passionately advocated the need for both entrepreneurs and the support actors in the ecosystem to be ambitious. He drew on his own experience of Radion6 and Q1 labs to demonstrate that it is possible to create and grow high growth potential companies in this region that U.S. companies will want to buy. While it is preferable that such companies will go to an IPO retain their headquarters in the region it is nevertheless the case that these acquisitions have boosted economic development. The lessons of the acquired companies have been transferred to other companies, the wealth reinvested in local companies, creating role models. And these exits have put the region on the radar screen of venture capitalists in other regions of North America.

The fourth takeaway was contributed by Dane Stangler from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, who talked about the danger of a ‘Startup Monoculture’ in which every region does what everyone else is doing to promote entrepreneurial activity. He stressed the need for Atlantic Canada to find a unique way to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, building on its own assets. It can’t just indiscriminately apply the same approach as elsewhere and expect that it will be successful.

The fifth takeaway came from David Audretsch, Ameritech Chair of Economic Development at Indiana University. He gave a superb synthesis of how the basis of the competitive advantage of cities and regions has changed over time. Initially physical capital mattered, latterly it was the creative class, now entrepreneurship has emerged as a vital ingredient. But what seems to work for a while in one place then stops working. Entrepreneurial ecosystems are critical because they support entrepreneurship. However, they are place specific and, echoing Stangler, they have to be specific to particular places.

Benson Honig, Teresa Cascioli Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership in the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, contributed the sixth takeaway. He emphasised the importance of immigration in driving entrepreneurship. Indeed, he saw no other option for the region given its aging population. Atlantic Canada therefore needs to embrace immigration. He suggested, again echoing earlier contributions, to start with what the region already has and to encourage neighbourhood renewal which can be a stimulus to entrepreneurship.  This linked back to one of the points in Stangler’s strategy proposal which was the need to be include and not overlook the ‘scruffy and grungy’ entrepreneurs.

Seventh, the panel discussion raised the important point that entrepreneurial efforts often end in failure, resulting in significant financial and emotional costs for the entrepreneurs. Pond emphasised that the ecosystem needs to support such individuals. And drawing on his own experience of Radion6 he noted that failure has to be embraced because success often emerges out of prior failures.

Finally, there was an emphasis by both Stangler and Honig on the need to develop appropriate metrics in which to measure progress in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. In this respect a promising start has been made with Ellen Farrell of the Sobey School of Business at St Mary’s University, who organised the conference, unveiling her research on knowledge networks and nodes in Atlantic Canada.

Disclaimer: St. Mary's University is a client of Entrevestor.

Colin Mason is the Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland and Visiting Scholar, Sobey School of Business.

Press Release: Brovada’s $15M Exit

Towers Watson, a publicly listed professional services consultancy, has issued the following press release:

Towers Watson to Acquire Brovada

Acquisition expands Towers Watson's insurance technology offerings

ARLINGTON, VA, September 14, 2015 — Towers Watson (NASDAQ:TW), a global professional services company, announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Brovada, a Canadian insurance technology business. The acquisition will enhance Towers Watson's position as a leading insurance software provider.

Brovada focuses on streamlining the communications between insurance agents and brokers, and property & casualty insurance carriers, and provides a connectivity platform easily integrated with both modern and legacy policy administration systems to allow for seamless transactions.

"Brovada is a dynamic organization that has developed an exciting technology that will fit well with Towers Watson's portfolio of software," said Eric Speer, global leader for Towers Watson's Risk and Financial Services business segment. "The addition of the BrovadaOne platform will enable us to offer insurers a broader suite of products via software-as-a-service and cloud-based technologies."

Founded in 2003, Brovada is well known for the BrovadaOne platform, which provides a complete solution for integrating and automating interactions between insurers, and their agents and brokers. Brovada is headquartered in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada, with additional offices in Moncton and Toronto.

"We have experienced strong growth at Brovada by providing great software with a strong customer focus. Joining Towers Watson will enable Brovada to accelerate the reach of our software into new markets and continue that growth," said Karl Greenlaw, founder and CEO of Brovada. "Additionally, our two firms have a common commitment to excellent client service and innovation that will benefit both our clients and employees."

The purchase price is $15.24 million USD and the transaction will have no material impact to fiscal year 2016 earnings. The transaction is expected to close in the coming weeks.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 16,000 associates around the world, the company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Learn more at

About Brovada

Brovada specializes in connectivity, integration, and business process improvement for property & casualty (P&C) insurance carriers, managing general agents, and insurance brokers and agencies. Our capabilities include portals, policy and claim system conversions and integrations, book portfolio transfers, and upload and download. As the leader in P&C connectivity, we are committed to transforming the way the insurance industry does business. Learn more at


Sickboy Uses Wit to Showcase CF

The Sickboy team: Brian Stever, left, Jeremie Saunders and Taylor MacGillivary

The Sickboy team: Brian Stever, left, Jeremie Saunders and Taylor MacGillivary

Jeremie Saunders is an actor and adventurer who has cystic fibrosis, and he’s bringing his light-hearted love of life to a series of unusual health podcasts.

Saunders is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund his Internet shows, which are made under the name Sickboy Podcast.

In them, Saunders and two friends interview people with different illnesses in order to shed light on the daily realities of living with a particular chronic illness.

The podcasts are not focused on the medical facts of disease. Instead, they illuminate the realities of life with an illness. The details are sometimes horrifying and occasionally hilarious.

Saunders, 27, said he and his friends, Taylor MacGillivary and Brian Stever, want their podcasts to break down barriers caused by ignorance and fear.

“When awkwardness and stigma attach to an illness, it has an impact on the sufferer; it carries a lot of weight,” said Saunders, who is a yoga instructor as well as an award-winning actor.

“The last thing I want to feel is that my illness defines me. I’m not cystic fibrosis.”

Saunders was born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable lung condition, and lives with both the disease and the expectation of a shortened lifespan.

He was Sickboy’s first subject. In his interview with MacGillivary and Stever, they discuss the most intimate details of Saunders’ life with riotous humour.

But the information divulged is serious. Saunders reveals his early rebellion against his illness, his rejection of his medication and his later determination to make the most of every day.

He said the comedic tone is central to the interview about his life, as laughter is important to him and part of the dynamic among himself, MacGillivary and Stever.

“Laughter is huge therapy for me so it naturally comes out in the podcast.”

However, not every episode will be bursting with laughs. One will feature a woman with a rare form of glaucoma who is at risk of going completely blind.

Saunders said people are drawn to the novelty of the Sickboy podcasts.

“Other podcasts have people talking about their experiences with a particular disease, but this idea opens it up to any or all diseases.”

The personal approach also seems to speak to people.

They quickly reached the $10,000 target they set for their Kickstarter campaign. They are continuing to fundraise and seek sponsors in the hopes of purchasing a mobile recording studio in which to record interviews across the continent.

So far, they have used the facilities at the Halifax Central Library to record their interviews.

Saunders got the idea for Sickboy while listening to podcaster and director Kevin Smith.

“Kevin was talking about podcasting and the entire idea for Sickboy just spawned in my brain,” Saunders said.

“Over the next few weeks, I couldn’t shake it. The next thing, we’d created it. It started as a passion project we thought our family and friends might enjoy, but we’ve had interest from around the world.”

The three are working long hours and sinking their free time into Sickboy.

“We want to get the conversation going,” Saunders said.

“We can break down those walls of weirdness, stigma and awkwardness that come with this territory.”

They have also talked about starting their own podcast network where they could produce other podcasts.

“We feel Sickboy podcasts are comedic, educational and inspirational; if we can find people sitting on ideas that meet these ideals, it would be awesome to link up,” Saunders said.

The Sickboy podcasts officially launch Saturday. The Kickstarter campaign ends Oct. 6

My USA Today Article on KW

Communitech in 2013

Communitech in 2013

I’m now in Kitchener-Waterloo reporting on the tremendous growth of the tech sector here, and it brings to mind my first reporting trip here two-and-a-half years ago.

The result was the article “Canadian startup hub thrives near Toronto”, which appeared in USA Today in May 2013.

The trip was a real education. I got to meet Iain Klugman at Communitech for the first time and some great companies like Magnet Forensics and catch up with TitanFile. And I had an interview with Jim Balsillie, which turned into an hour long conversation.

Breaking with convention, I’m going to play Throwback Friday and post this link to the USA Today article. It’s a bit dated but the basic story remains the same. 

Teaching Students to Sell

Daniel P. Strunk: 'Most of all, it's about strategy.'

Daniel P. Strunk: 'Most of all, it's about strategy.'

Not long after Gerry Pond offered half a million bucks to any Atlantic Canadian university that initiates an international tech sales program, some people began to ask: what would such a program look like?

Daniel P. Strunk is pretty sure he knows the answer.

Pond, the chair of the East Valley Ventures investment group in Saint John, surprised the Atlantic Leadership Summit in February by offering $500,000 to any institution that would establish a full program that would teach international technology sales. Pond and the universities are still talking, and there may be an announcement this year.

The more I discussed it, the more questions arose about the structure and curriculum of such a program. So I went looking for a good university sales program, and that search led me to Daniel P. Strunk. His full title is Executive in Residence and Managing Director Center for Sales Leadership at the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University in Chicago. It would be simpler to say he and his colleagues have put together one of the best –possibly the best – sales education programs in the U.S.

With 44 years of sales experience for such brands as Polaroid, Converse and Quaker Oats, Strunk is on a mission to modernize sales education in the U.S. And in an 80-minute interview he drove home the need for better curriculums and familiarizing students with modern sales methods.

“If you look at what’s happened in the past, students have come to the workforce without being work-ready,” said Strunk. “Part of this dilemma is on schools for not listening to business. We’ve lost our focus … [and chose to teach] subject matter that has little relevance today.”

Related: Pond Offers $500K for Sales School

Strunk and his colleagues at DePaul have listened to business and worked with corporations like to develop a curriculum that mirrors business demands. DePaul University’s Center for Sales Leadership is the largest sales education program in the U.S., based on graduation rate. It comprises 11 courses, eight of them focused on B2B sales. At any given time, there are about 1,000 students in the program, and between 200 and 215 graduate each year.

The Sales Strategy & Technology course developed by Strunk in 2005 features a simulation titled The A&W Case, which is now taught at 36 U.S. universities (though none in Canada yet). More than 5,000 students have completed the simulation, and Strunk said it has proven popular with students, in part because they see the job offers that graduates receive.

The DePaul program addresses many of the shortfalls in sales mentorship that Gerry Pond has identified in the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem. But Strunk stressed the program applies to all sectors, and does not distinguish between selling technology or any other product. He added that the lessons from the program can be applied to any country or culture, because modern sales techniques are applicable around the globe.

The goal is to help the student understand what the modern business world needs in sales people. Because of corporate restructuring in the past few decades, a sales person must manage fewer and larger accounts. He or she must work with product managers and other colleagues to reach people at various positions in various silos in the target company.

Learning to use the right customer relationship management tool is part of the program, but Strunk wants students to go beyond dexterity with CRM.

“Most of all, it’s about strategy,” he said. “It’s not about the technology. . . . It’s about how you apply technology to sales process. In meeting sales education challenges, we have to identify what will be needed from the sales force of tomorrow.”

The program teaches students how to communicate with customers through other tools, to introduce new accounts, and to use prospecting tools. In all of the courses, students are required to sell. Recognizing objectives, strategizing activity and exceeding quota are all important lessons to be learned.

In one course called The Fundamentals of Sales and Networking, students have a $3,000 actual quota, and they must create value-added projects and sell them to local businesses. (The proceeds of their work contribute about $65,000 annually to a scholarship fund for Chicago public schools’ students who can’t afford to attend the university.)

Above all, said Strunk, the program teaches students three real skills: the ability to actively listen to clients; the creative thinking skills necessary to understand a problem; and the analytical skills to create a financially acceptable solution. Of course, technology supports each of these.

“I can’t think of three more necessary skills than these,” he said. “It’s all about being able to serve a client’s real needs and to create value that counts in the long run.”

This article originally appeared in our most recent Entrevestor Intelligence report. 

Our New Site & Broader Focus

Right now, your eyes are gazing at something we’re pretty excited about.

Welcome to Entrevestor’s new website – which represents something far larger than a redesign. It’s an essential component of our first major expansion since we began four years ago this month.

Entrevestor now features two sites – one for Atlantic Canada and the other for Kitchener-Waterloo. You can move between them with the “Region” tab at the top right. With the launch of the new site, we are beginning daily coverage in Kitchener-Waterloo as well as Atlantic Canada.

For the past few months, we’ve been publishing our weekly Eye on KW features. Now we’re covering the tech hotspot on a daily basis. We’re looking forward to learning more about this vibrant community and sharing what we find with our readers.

This does not diminish our commitment to report on the Atlantic Canadian startup scene. In fact, we believe it improves our East Coast coverage. We’ll still be posting at least an article a day on #startupeast. And as we continue to expand, all our articles will be read by more people in more locations.

What’s more, we hope all our readers will gain something from our coverage of the exciting tech community in southern Ontario. We’d like to welcome our new readers in KW, and invite them to leave their email address on our home page to get our daily updates.

Having said all that, we also want to highlight the fantastic look of our new site, with a greater emphasis on images and photos. Our hearty thanks to Brian Troke at Headspace Design for doing such a great job. 

AC Clients Shine in Showcase

John Huehn, CEO of In The Chat, presenting at the Client Showcase on Wednesday. (Photo by Wayne Simpson)

John Huehn, CEO of In The Chat, presenting at the Client Showcase on Wednesday. (Photo by Wayne Simpson)

The Accelerator Centre in Waterloo celebrated the success of its clients on Wednesday evening as 10 companies presented and one graduated at the annual Client Showcase.

The graduating company was Sober Steering, whose CEO Catherine Carroll poignantly thanked her dedicated staff as the company prepares to move on. Sober Steering is now testing its product, which ensures a vehicle won’t start if the driver has traces of alcohol.

“It was a great evening,” said Accelerator Centre CEO Paul Salvini following the standing-room-only event. “It just speaks to the energy and the commitment of the entire community.”

The Showcase begins a busy week in the Kitchener-Waterloo startup community. The Innovation Summit conference takes place today and tomorrow, and Communitech’s Rev accelerator will hold its demo day, dubbed Centre Stage.

Related: Waterloo AC Expands with Reactor

The companies presenting at showcase will all continue as tenants in the facility on the University of Waterloo campus, even though most are well into their growth stage. The Accelerator Centre believes in long-term mentorship and the companies tend to incubate in the facility for a number of years.

The presenting companies and their products are:

Bidvine – Bidvine is a virtual personal assistant for finding local service providers. It’s fast, free way to get competing quotes for local services from interested, available professionals. 

Ecopia -- Ecopia Tech creates intelligent systems that vastly improve the process of analyzing geospatial imagery through the employment of computer vision techniques. With large amounts of geospacial data becoming available at an increasing rate, efficient retrieval and organization of useful information from this data has become a large issue. 

Find BoB – Find BoB helps smart financial institutions protect existing assets by encouraging succession behaviour within their organizations. Its mission is to disrupt the financial services industry by providing a vastly improved way to conduct merger and acquisition activity, succession planning and talent management within financial organizations. 

FTD Highrise Inspection – FTD Highrise conducts visual inspections of mid- and high-rise buildings using a robot named SAM. Using robotics to conduct inspections allows for more detailed and comprehensive results, which allows owners, managers and residents to cost effectively maintain their properties.

In the Chat – In the Chat is a social sales and service company powered by an advanced text analytics engine that reads, categorizes and delivers social media posts to their clients for action. ITC’s Insights solution drives fast decision-making for companies in competitive industries, while their Sales and Service platform enables real-time consumer engagement via the social web.

Grip Films -- Grip Films’ goal is to share the stories of startups and local businesses in a way that captures and accurately represents their company ideals, attitude and brand identity. By using online platforms, like company websites and social media, brands can entertain and engage with their customer base through high quality videos.

SmartAd -- SmartAd is a patented smart digital advertising kiosk that offers consumer intelligence statistics and content personalization through targeting-based on age and gender recognition. It is being offered for the first time in the digital out-of-home advertising industry worldwide.

Sociavore – Sociavore (formerly MyLocal) is an integrated website and social media platform for independent restaurants.  Through its service, owners and employees can easily manage and update a restaurant website and social media using any device.

StresswelliQ – StresswelliQ has developed olutions for lifestyle-enhancing and disease-preventative medicine. Its mission is to innovate and develop novel wearable biomedical devices, biomarker measurement capabilities and psychological tools to quantify mind-body intelligence. 

Traffic Soda – TrafficSoda gives online marketers the power to drive more organic, targeted web traffic to their site. The system interacts with online audiences across thousands of channels, through value driven conversations, curiosity and comprehensive analytics.

Salvini joked afterward that next year the organizers will need a larger venue due to the full house.

“It’s nice to see there is so much interest in the community,” he said. “And it is just growing everywhere.”

Navigate Set to Open in Sydney

Lindsay Uhma, left, and Ardelle Reynolds believe this is the beginning of building a community.

Lindsay Uhma, left, and Ardelle Reynolds believe this is the beginning of building a community.

After months of work, Sydney is finally getting its own incubator for tech startups.

Launched by startup enthusiasts Ardelle Reynolds and Lindsay Uhma, the Navigate Startup House is due to open Oct. 9 in downtown Sydney. The space will feature offices for four growing startups, and a common work area in which as many as 20 teams at the idea or early stages can work.

“People who are interested in starting a startup but are at an earlier phase will be able to become members of our network,” said Reynolds in an interview.

“It means you can have access to our events, mentors and other resources. The idea is to build the startup community.”

Related: Our Fastest-Growing Startup Hub

One comment frequently heard is that the city needs a space to give a base to the increasingly active group of startups in the former steel town.

The city has witnessed strong company growth in the past two years, due in part to Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton competition and the UIT entrepreneurship program at Cape Breton University. But the community needed a space where people can meet, swap ideas and learn from one another.

Until recently, the city’s incubation space has been in the law offices of Sampson McDougall. Reynolds said the firm will continue to be involved in providing advice to the young companies.

Now being renovated, Navigate will be in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation at 37 Nepean St. in Sydney, the same building as the UIT program.

So far, the tenants named for the incubator are three previous winners of the Spark competition: Layers Technology, an image creation and editing application that allows users to remix and share images;, an application for companies that shares work status updates with co-workers; and PizzaGo, a mobile app for pizzerias.

The fourth tenant will be named in a few weeks.

“While we are partnering closely with UIT to provide the services that alumni need to advance their startups, application is open to any startup, and no priority will be given to UIT alumni,” said Reynolds.

The Navigate team will also work with other partners throughout the region, including the Volta startup house in Halifax, Mentor Connect, Innovacorp and the Propel ICT tech accelerator.

“We’re planning to take our first PropelICT cohort early in the new year,” she said.

“We’re also launching a Ladies Learning Code branch in Sydney on Oct. 24, and we’ll be running all LLC programming through Navigate.”

Reynolds said the startup house plans to grow to offer space to more companies and develop a community of 75 to 100 members. It hopes to emulate the experience of Volta, which recently doubled its capacity.

“We’re starting with four (tenants) and we will certainly grow,” she said.

“We do have a longer-term plan that will involve more space. And we feel that this is a pretty reasonable starting point.”

Furey Named CEO of BlueLight

J.P. Furey: 'I am tremendously excited to lead our focused team.'

J.P. Furey: 'I am tremendously excited to lead our focused team.'

BlueLight Analytics, the Halifax startup that helps dentists ensure they use optimal energy when curing the resin in fillings, has named J.P. Furey its new Chief Executive Officer.

The company said today in a press release that Colin Deacon, the founder who had been CEO for the past six years, would become President and Director. He will report to Furey, who had been CFO since joining the company a year ago.  For the past several months, he had also been COO.

“In JP, we’ve found the person we’ve been looking for to move BlueLight Analytics to the next level,” said Deacon in the statement. “He has the unique ability to balance strategic thinking with a detailed operational focus. . . . We’ve been looking for a new CEO with the skills to accelerate the commercialization of the company’s lead product, checkMARC. In JP, we have found just that person.”

The statement said the appointment was unanimously approved by the board.

As CEO, Deacon has overseen the development of three dental technologies that have been sold to leading universities and manufacturers in more than 18 countries.

“Colin diligently worked to build strong industry and academic relationships globally,” said Furey. “The manner in which BlueLight Analytics’ gateway technologies were commercialized has ultimately led to the opportunity we now have with our flagship technology, checkMARC. I am tremendously excited to lead our focused team as we work to capitalize on that global opportunity.”

Developed from an idea generated at Dalhousie University, checkMARC addresses a major problem in modern dentistry. Dentists make more than half their income from resin-based fillings, but have never been able to ensure they are using the right amount of energy when curing the resin. CheckMARC lets dentists check their curing lights and make sure the energy levels are optimal.

In May, the company said it had signed a distribution agreement with 3M ESPE, a Canadian division of the American conglomerate 3M Co. That followed on its previously announced partnership with Henry Schein, the Melville, N.Y.-based medical product distributer whose 2014 sales exceeded US$10 billion.

Ella Proving Demand in Beta Test

Kelly Lawson: 'It's a community-driven platform.'

Kelly Lawson: 'It's a community-driven platform.'

When Kelly Lawson wanted to know if other Canadian women shared her problem of not knowing to do with closets full of clothes, she started a Facebook Group to discuss the matter. Within a few weeks, 4,400 women had joined the group.

It now only led to the creation of Ella, her online app that helps women sell slightly used clothes they don’t want. It also gave her an amazing test ground for the product.

“It’s a community-driven platform and that’s an indispensable part of what differentiates us from our competition,” said Lawson in an interview last week at Planet Hatch in Fredericton.

Ella is based in Saint John but for the past few months Lawson has been traveling to Planet Hatch to attend the Launch cohort of the Propel ICT accelerator. The company is one of six less-experienced Launch companies that will pitch at the Propel Demo Day in Moncton next Tuesday evening.

So what is it about Ella that convinced the Propel organizers that it’s ready for prime time?

It’s probably the traction and the breadth of its followers.

Related: Propel Names 12 Demo Day Pitchers

Once Lawson understood last summer how common the problem of surplus fashion is, she set about developing a product that solves that problem. Ella is a mobile app that provides a market place for slightly used clothes. Now in its third iteration, the system uses proprietary algorithms to match users based on size, style, social connections and location. It also provides purchase suggestions.

While the size of the Facebook group continues to grow and stretches from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada (there are 3,000 followers in Saint John alone), Lawson and her four team-mates are focusing now on a more select group of beta-testers for Ella in New Brunswick.

There are now 160 women testing the product. And between them, they had sold as of last Thursday 36 items with an average price of $40 each. They are using the service free, but when it goes live Ella will charge a commission on each sale. The team is also developing plans for premium users, who can have a sort of online booth on the app.

Lawson stresses that the “app is a feature of the community.” The Facebook group is leading to local networks, so women are getting together in places like Kelowna, B.C., to chat about their overstuffed closets. Lawson recently hosted a launch party at the Venn Garage space in Saint John, and about 150 women showed up.

She believes the community aspect of the project gives Ella an advantage over its competitors. The competitors now are a varied group, ranging from one similar product in Canada to a few in the U.S. and even major social media sites like Facebook itself.

Having bootstrapped so far, Ella is now raising capital with a target of $750,000.

Keefe: Raise No More than You Need

Patrick Keefe: 'Too little capital, or even too much, can create serious problems.'

Patrick Keefe: 'Too little capital, or even too much, can create serious problems.'

Most startups on the East Coast and around the world view raising capital as a top priority. And with good reason, you can only boot-strap your startup so far. Cash is almost always the fuel for growth.

But it is important to be strategic in your efforts to raise capital. Too little capital, or even too much, can create serious problems that will reduce your odds of success.

The startup community here on the East Coast is still in its early days. The same can be said for our approach to raising capital. (Disclaimer – this post is meant for startups in Atlantic Canada. For mature startup communities with much more abundant early stage capital providers, what follows doesn’t necessarily apply.) 

There are lots of helpful funding programs for startups in the East Coast ecosystem, which are both a blessing and a curse. One of the adverse impacts is that we often see founders approaching the question of how much to raise from the wrong perspective.

Related: Build Ventures: A Strong 18 Months

They look at the local fundraising environment and base their raise on the funding they can pull from the various programs. It’s more about what they can get, rather than what they truly need to accelerate growth.

Build Ventures’ first investment in 2013 was $1.5 million. It’s no coincidence that the next 20 pitches we saw after that also needed exactly $1.5 million to take their company to the next level.

Let’s be honest – while we are making good progress, our ecosystem still has limited pools of capital. That means many startups in the region often end up being undercapitalized.

And being undercapitalized sucks.

An undercapitalized startup is simply extending its runway without enough resources to move the company forward in a meaningful way.

As a startup, you need to raise enough money to do one of two things: either get to cash flow positive, or get your company to a point where it can raise additional money at a higher valuation.

Most, if not all, companies we see at the stage where we invest, are in the latter camp.  The key questions for that group are: What do I need to achieve to raise additional money in the future? What does my company need to look like?  What progress am I going to make in order to attract additional capital?

Once you have an idea of what these “financeable” milestones look like, you can work backwards to figure out the resources/cash/time you will need to get there.

It’s always a good idea to leave a buffer because this often takes longer and costs more than you expect. Then you have to hustle to raise the money before you ramp up your burn rate.

Expanding your team with a half-financed plan usually ends in tears.


Patrick Keefe is a Principal of Build Ventures, a venture capital fund based in Halifax. Build Ventures is a client of Entrevestor. 

Spotful Eyes Higher Sales with Shopify

Spotful, the ecommerce augmentation company that began life as the Maritime startup Spot Interactive, took a major leap forward on Friday when it went live on the budding ecommerce giant Shopify.

Based in Montreal and Halifax, Spotful allows people to execute an interactive function while watching an online video, with virtually no interruption in the film. That means they can purchase an item online while its video ad is playing.

Since it launched last year, Spotful’s sales have soared as companies adopted it as a way to reach customers online through video. In an interview Friday, CEO Andrew Murray said the number of videos featuring Spotful has risen from 30 three months ago to more than 1,900 last week.

Now the company is a featured component on Shopify, the Ottawa sensation whose platform allows companies to build e-commerce websites. The company’s shares listed in June, and Shopify is now valued at $2.6 billion.

Related: Read our previous article on Spotful

Murray said he expects associating with Shopify should quadruple Spotful’s customer base, given that 178,000 companies use Shopify.

“My friends, after months of discussion and countless builds (and) tests, today we launched Spotful on Shopify,” Murray posted Friday on Facebook.

“This is a massive step forward in the world of media and commerce, and a huge win for our teams in Montreal and Halifax.”

Spotful began in Charlottetown with a goal of building a product to easily add a tool to videos that would let a viewer make a transaction. The idea is that if someone is watching a video about something they really like — a new product or vacation destination — they can order it while still watching or listening to the video.

The company has grown mainly through ballooning revenue, though it did take on investment last December from Real Ventures in Montreal and members of the East Valley Ventures investment group in Saint John. The investment from Real Ventures helped Spotful gain access to FounderFuel, the venture capital fund’s accelerator in Montreal. That led to links with myriad other companies, including Shopify.

“This is going to be absolutely massive in our company history,” Murray said in the interview.

“This is allowing any Shopify merchant to jump in and do a video and share it over the web.”

The merchant can post it in a variety of sites, such as Facebook, and know customers can execute a sale instantly.

The next stage in the company’s growth is to get Spotful on larger, more established platforms, he said.

Murray admits the company has had some growing pains but said both its technology and management structure were built from the outset to withstand rapid growth.

“We were really, really lucky to hire people who can become department leaders.”

Spotful has to continue that growth and plans to raise capital in the spring.

Sober Steering Named in LA Awards

One the eve of its graduation from the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, Sober Steering has learned that it has been named one of the top 10 automotive startups at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Waterloo-based company is building momentum as it prepares for the launch of its product, a discreet sensor system that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on the driver. The company’s co-founders, the father-and-daughter team of Catherine and John Carroll, will launch Sober Steering in a few fleets of Kitchener-Waterloo area school buses this fall.

“Our first target market is school buses,” said Catherine Carroll, the company’s CEO, in an interview over the weekend. “It’s all about the children. They’re the most precious cargo of any fleet on the road.”

She will present the company as one of 10 pitchers at the Accelerator Centre’s Showcase on Wednesday. Sober Steering, which has been in the Centre since 2010, will be the only company graduating at the event. She’ll also be traveling to Los Angeles in mid-November for the auto show, which is highlighting connected vehicles.

Related:  AC Expands with Reactor

With John Carroll serving as CTO, Sober Steering has developed the world's only touch-based alcohol interlock. The product fits discreetly on to the steering wheel, and the driver must touch it before starting the vehicle. The presence of alcohol can be detected through ethanol released through the palm of the hand after drinking. If Sober Steering detects the presence of alcohol above a preset limit, the vehicle will not start and dispatch will be notified immediately.

The system tests the driver when the vehicle is started and requires the driver to take the test intermittently through his or her route.

The pain that Sober Steering addresses is obvious. As well as costing billions of dollars, drunk driving kills 12,000 people annually in North America and is the No. 1 killer of people under 25.

Carroll said the company is beginning with school buses, but Sober Steering also has applications for fleets of other vehicles, including those carrying hazardous materials. The product can be retrofitted into the vehicles, so the first clients will be the owners of the automobile fleets.

Eventually, Carroll can see a day when Sober Steering would be an essential safety feature in any vehicle, just like air bags of seatbelts.

Sober Steering is a division of the Carrolls’ company Sensor Diagnostics, which has also produced a second product called TDM Fleet Management, an easy-to-use fleet management system designed specifically for the school bus industry. The company aims to expand its non-invasive biosensor products to include wearable devices, drug detection and, eventually, medical diagnostic devices.

As Sober Steering graduates from the Accelerator Centre, Carroll hopes to maintain her affiliation with the organization she says played a big role in shaping the company.

“I’ve absolutely loved working with the Accelerator Centre,” she said. “It’s not just the quality of the mentorship but the level of engagement.”

Press Release: Next 36 Campus Tour

The Next 36, a national entrepreneurship program for Canadian university students, has issued the following press release:

The Next 36 Launches National Campus Tour in Search of Canada’s Top Young Entrepreneurs

Events Scheduled from Coast to Coast for High Potential Innovators

(Toronto – September 14, 2015) Canada’s premiere founder development program for young entrepreneurs is hitting the streets in search of its 2016 cohort. Students and recent grads will have an opportunity to hear from alumni, senior leadership and mentors of The Next 36 at campuses and startup hubs across the country, including Shopify, Thalmic Labs and Montreal’s La Gare. With 15 sessions currently scheduled, there will be lots of opportunity for potential applicants from all academic backgrounds to ask questions and network in advance of the October 20 deadline.

Members of The Next 36 network at events will include the founders of Thalmic Labs, Nymi, Kira Talent, BusBud, SeamlessMD, Bridgit, Revlo, Volley and many more.

Those already familiar with the program will notice a number of changes for 2016, intended to attract the growing number of student entrepreneurs who are already creating companies. This year, all successful applicants will choose their own co-founders and will have the option of bringing in an existing idea/venture or building a company from the ground up.

National Campus Tour stops include:

September 16&17 – Montreal (La Gare and McGill University)

September 21&22 – Vancouver (Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and Vancouver Startup Week)

September 23 – Hamilton (McMaster University)

September 24 – Kingston (Queen’s University)

September 29 – London (Western University)

October 1 – Toronto (Shopify)

October 2 – Halifax (Dalhousie University)

October 6 – Waterloo (Thalmic Labs)

October 7 – Edmonton (University of Alberta)

October 8 – Calgary (University of Calgary)

October 15 – Toronto (University of Toronto)

Full event listing and registration details are available at

Each year, 36 exceptional undergraduate/masters students and recent grads from across Canada are chosen through a rigorous national selection process. During the seven-month program, the young entrepreneurs build a business, while receiving unparalleled support that includes mentorship from Canada’s top business leaders, up to $50,000 from top venture capitalists, and academic instruction from some of the world’s top faculty. Young entrepreneurs who wish to be part of The Next 36 can submit their full application online by October 20th. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply early, as exceptional applicants will be offered an advanced invitation to National Selection Weekend in December.

About The Next 36

The Next 36 addresses Canada's deficit of high impact entrepreneurship by providing world class education, business mentorship and venture building programs to the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. We believe that by fasttracking the development of Canada's most talented young innovators, we will help create industry-changing businesses and grow Canada's long-term prosperity. The Next 36 is supported through strong national partnerships with EY, MaRS, MasterCard, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and TD Bank Group. The Next Founders is the second program from The Next 36 and is designed for founders of tech startups looking for personal development, a peer network and support to scale quickly.

A Packed Calendar in KW

As summer winds to a close, the Kitchener-Waterloo startup community is preparing for a myriad events for this fall. Highlighting the busy schedule will be Communitech’s annual tech conference, Techtoberfest.

Aligning with North America’s largest Oktoberfest celebration, Techtoberfest is an annual start-up conference bringing together entrepreneurs from across the region, potential investors and an array of speakers. It comes with all the Oktoberfest trimmings such as beer, sauerkraut and sausages.

Starting Oct. 13, the conference kicks off with a party for all attendees to meet, network and enjoy all the Oktoberfest festivities before opening ceremonies the following morning.

Speakers for the event include a keynote by angel investor and venture capitalist Gary Vaynerchuck as well as CEOs Allen Lau of Wattpad, Ilana Ben-Ari of Twenty One Toys and Kurtis McBride of Miovisions.

Related: Accelerator Centre Expands with Reactor

Other events in Kitchener-Waterloo this autumn include a Showcase of the Waterloo Acceleration Center, the Waterloo Innovation Summit, Communitech Center Stage event, Growing Your Sales Team, Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and The Man Behind Shopify, a question and answer event featuring Tobias Lutke.

Here’s a quick look at them:

Waterloo Accelerator Center Showcase, Sept. 16 at 4 pm at the Waterloo Accelerator Center.

Ten of the senior companies in the accelerator will pitch their companies.

Waterloo Innovation Summit, Sept. 16-18 across Kitchener-Waterloo.

The conference will feature keynotes from Steve Blank, Salim Ismail and Marianna Mazzucato and fireside chats with John Chen, Jonathon Ortmans and Ajay Royan.

Communitech Center Stage, Sept. 18 at 5 pm at Communitech Hub.

This is a showcase for the companies that have completed the Communitech Rev accelerator, an accelerator focused on growth stage tech companies. It will feature Steve Blank chatting about tech entrepreneurship.

Growing Your Sales Team, Sept. 24 at 9 am at Communitech Hub.

This seminar, facilitated by Jim Estill, will teach attendees how to best manage sales teams for maximum efficiency.

Women in Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, Oct. 1 at 2 pm at Tannery Event Center

This is a pitching competition for $100,000 of seed funding. The presenters are drawn from Communitech’s Women in Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, which includes participants from across Canada and the U.S.

The Man Behind Shopify, Oct. 1, 5:30 pm at Tannery Event Centre

A discussion with Tobias Lutke, founder of Shopify.



Startup Kitchen to Live Stream Demo Day

People who can’t travel to Moncton this month for the Propel ICT Demo Day will still be able to watch the festivities live, thanks to Startup Kitchen.

The Fredericton-based venture that produces TV shows about Atlantic Canadian startups will live stream the presentations through its partnership with Bell Aliant FibreOp. Everyone is welcome to watch the event here, regardless of whether they’re Bell Aliant customers.

Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator, will feature pitches by 12 companies in its Demo Day at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton on Sept. 22. The pitches begin at 6:30 pm. Tickets are available here.

“Propel Demo Day is not something that’s within everyone’s commuting distance, but it’s one of the most exciting startup events in Atlantic Canada,” said Startup Kitchen Co-Founder Suhaim Abdussamad. “We want everyone to see it.”

His partner Robert Foley added that three of the 12 pitching teams are from St. John’s, and their friends and family will want to be able to see the pitched.

Related:SimpTek, NB Power Launch Pilot

The current Propel cohort consists of 33 teams, and six of them are in the Build program – designed for the more advanced companies. These companies were almost guaranteed to pitch at Demo Day, and will be candidates for funding from Propel’s various financial sponsors.

The other 27 companies in the Launch program are divided evenly between Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s, and two companies from each of these cities will be pitching on the 22nd. They were judged to be further along the entrepreneurial path and ready to present at the big event.

The pitching companies are: Bitness, Halifax; BuyMyLemonade, Halifax; Ella, Saint John; Liv9, Fredericton; MusicEdZone, St. John’s; Vish Solutions, St. John’s; Ongozah, Moncton; Xiplinx Technologies, Saint John and Fredericton; Simptek, Fredericton; PACTA, Halifax; Clean Simple, Halifax; and HeyOrca!, St. John’s.

Startup Kitchen : the voice of entrepreneurship is a bi-weekly TV show on Bell Aliant Community One. The full episodes can also be viewed online.

SimpTek, NB Power Launch Pilot

Gagnon, left, and Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

Gagnon, left, and Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

SimpTek Technologies, a Fredericton maker of energy monitoring software, announced Thursday that it will undergo a three-month pilot project with 150 NB Power customers with the aim of validating its product.

Founded by University of New Brunswick alumni Asif Hasan, Lionel Fernandes and Keelen Gagnon, SimpTek has developed a product that can assess the energy usage throughout a home. It gives the homeowner detailed, real-time information about what appliances or components of the house are using how much energy; and it provides a utility with detailed aggregated information about energy usage in its customer base. 

The 2015 Breakthru competition runner-up announced the $15,000 pilot during the second anniversary celebration of Planet Hatch, the Fredericton incubator and accelerator that nurtured SimpTek in its early stages.

“We’re hoping that once people can actually see how much energy they are using in their homes, they will alter their habits to save and reduce energy,” said Hasan, the company’s CEO.

Related Story: Propel Names 12 Demo Day Pitchers

SimpTek, which has grown to a five-person operation in two years, provides the homeowner with a dashboard detailing the energy consumption in the home – right down to how much power each appliance uses and when it’s used.

In the pilot project, NB Power will provide and install hardware capable of collecting real-time data on energy use in up to 150 homes agreed upon by SimpTek and the utility. SimpTek will analyze the daily data and report it to NB Power over a one-year period, keeping data for individual homes anonymous and confidential.

NB Power partnered with the German technology giant Siemens AG three years ago to develop a smart grid in the province – that is a delivery infrastructure that can assess and react to demand from clients and generate energy accordingly. Now NB Power hopes to use Simptek’s platform to learn details of consumer energy usage with the goal of improving the performance of the smart grid.

“You know the old saying, You can’t manage what you can’t measure?” said NB Power CEO Gaëtan Thomas. “Well, this is the tool that will let us measure how we’re using energy.”

NB Power’s agreement to become SimpTek’s first customer demonstrates the support available to Fredericton startups from a range of institutions. SimpTek emerged from UNB’s Management, Technology and Entrepreneurship program and went through Accelr8, the former Planet Hatch accelerator. It won $222,250 by placing second in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition in March. It graduated from the basic Propel ICT launch program last year and on Sept. 22 is due to graduate from the accelerator’s more advanced Build program. The company is trying to raise $600,000, and has some funding commitments.

Now SimpTek has secured an early adopter – which can be one of the toughest tasks for a B2B outfit.

“As early adopters, NB Power and Siemens are paving the way for emerging start-up companies to develop new, innovative technologies right here,” said Ignite Fredericton CEO Larry Shaw. “We look forward to more announcements in the future.”

What the SimpTek founders are looking forward to is completing the pilot and getting more customers.

Said Gagnon: “Obviously we want to maintain a presence here, but our plan is to roll this out across North America.”

BioNova’s Moffitt Calls for Urgency

Scott Moffitt:'We also need to do a better job of telling how great we are.'

Scott Moffitt:'We also need to do a better job of telling how great we are.'

When Scott Moffitt returned to Atlantic Canada after 12 years away, the life sciences specialist wrote a note to himself that “Atlantic Canadians must do a better job of understanding the meaning of the word ‘urgency.’”

Moffitt, the managing director of BioNova, Nova Scotia’s biotechnology and life sciences association, wrote his thought on a Post-it Note and stuck it in his day planner.

The note was a reminder that although this region’s life sciences sector is successful and full of potential, Atlantic Canadians risk losing out because of slow processes.

Life sciences companies work in areas such as drug and vaccine development, medical technologies and natural health products. Local strengths include neuroscience, marine biotechnology, biochemistry and biomedical engineering.

“I worked in the private sector while away,” Moffitt said. “I was in marketing and business development for life sciences companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific and Aquaresearch in Ontario and Quebec.

“When I came back, I felt we had to make things happen at a pace that matched what I’d experienced.”

Related Story: In Praise of NB's Biotech Community

Moffitt, who grew up in the Annapolis Valley, left Nova Scotia for better opportunities in 1998 after finishing university — he holds bachelor and master of science degrees from Acadia University.

When he first returned to the region in 2010, he worked at BioNova for two years, helping medical technology companies commercialize.

He then worked for Innovation PEI in Charlottetown, where he was responsible for the growth of the bioscience sector.

He returned to Nova Scotia and BioNova in 2013.

On first returning to the region, Moffitt noticed that in the 12 years he’d been away, Atlantic Canadian businesses had developed, with more of them achieving a high degree of complexity. But he felt the region was failing to match the fast pace of global business.

Pace matters because life sciences companies need to succeed in the competitive, rapidly evolving global marketplace.

Nova Scotia is home to around 50 life sciences companies that collectively market around 500 products. Another 300 potential products are in development.

“More than 90 per cent of Nova Scotia’s life sciences products are exported,” Moffitt said.

The sector is worth around $300 million and employs about 1,200 people. (The jobs figure doesn’t include those in research organizations, health care, etc.)

He said he has confidence in the region’s life sciences sector and his confidence is based on many factors.

“We have great health-care infrastructure and research capability along with a top-notch medical school and teaching hospitals,” he said.

“We have incubation services, technological assistance and funding programs from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, among others.

“We have an incredible opportunity to make the sector one of the pillars of the new economy as long as we understand we need to operate at speed.”

Moffitt said that without speed, businesses lose focus, exhaust their chances of finding support and funding and are passed by, either by competitors or by developments in the global market.

He believes Atlantic Canadians should focus on attracting capital and highly skilled people who know how to grow companies.

Financing and other support programs would foster faster company growth and more opportunity.

There should also be a focus on developing stronger external partnerships and collaborations.

“We also need to do a better job of telling how great we are,” he said. “When we go abroad to conferences, we are recognized as having great companies. Maybe we don’t believe in ourselves enough.”

Collaboration, both within Nova Scotia and the region, has improved recently but Moffitt feels more is needed.

“We all have a tendency to operate in our own silos. We’re all headed in the same direction, but more collaboration would build alignments in terms of vision and goals.”

Moffitt said his Post-it Note, now rather dog-eared, remains in his day planner.

“It’s getting better here, but there’s room for improvement.”

The Rounds’ New Site for Med Students

Blair Ryan: 'It was the natural evolution.'

Blair Ryan: 'It was the natural evolution.'

The Rounds, the social network for Canadian doctors, on Wednesday launched The Clerks, a parallel community for the country’s medical students.

With 13,000 active members, The Rounds has established itself in just four years as the main online community for Canadian doctors, a place where they can find information to help patients. Now the Bedford-based company is expanding with the introduction of a similar product for med students.

“For us, it was the natural evolution of the product that we developed for physicians,” The Rounds CEO Blair Ryan said in an interview. “We figured, if we can get this built for Canadian doctors, we want to get it in the hands of a range of health practitioners, so this is the natural progression.”

Related story: The Rounds Adds to Seed Funding

Ryan and his co-founders started The Rounds with the goal of allowing Canadian doctors to communicate in a secure environment so they could discuss medical issues. Of the utmost importance was the ability to ask each other for advice on diagnosis and treatment.

The plan was always to expand the service to other health-care professionals, and the team settled on medical students as the first group.

“Medical students are a unique bunch,” Ryan said. “They want the support from one another, and advice on things like whether to take a certain class and how to get through the class.”

He added that people can often find the best peer support outside their own institution.

The team began to soft-launch at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and within days one-quarter of the school’s students were on the site. The Clerks is already being offered to students at seven of Canada’s 17 medical schools, and about 13 per cent of students at these seven schools have signed up.

Ryan said the medical students’ discussion is somewhat different than that of the seasoned physicians, especially about medical technology. Whereas the older group is a bit more discerning when considering new technology, the younger group is wowed by the potential of what innovation can mean in the delivery of health care.

The medical students are also looking for mentorship opportunities, especially from established doctors, so The Rounds is looking at the possibility of a mentorship program that would link the two groups.

Meanwhile, the company is continuing to grow. The Rounds gains revenue by allowing corporate partners limited access to its network, and Ryan said the revenues are now beginning to grow. The Rounds now employs 12 people and is raising more capital, with a target of $1.5 million.

The next phase of expansion will likely be a network for Canadian acupuncturists, to be launched this autumn.

Ryan said the company so far has concentrated on the Canadian market because each country’s health-care system has its own unique properties, so it’s best for medical practitioners to communicate with people in their own system. But he added the company could launch in another jurisdiction within 12 months. He declined to name the first country targeted for expansion.

Propel Names 12 Demo Day Pitchers

Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator, has named six companies from its Launch program to present alongside members of the more advanced Build cohort at its Demo Day on Sept. 22 in Moncton.

The current Propel cohort consists of 33 teams, and six of them are in the Build program – designed for the more advanced companies. These companies were almost guaranteed to pitch at Demo Day, and will be candidates for funding from Propel’s various financial sponsors.

The other 27 companies are divided evenly between Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s, and two companies from each of these cities will be pitching on the 22nd. They were judged to be further along the entrepreneurial path and ready to present at the big event.

“We were impressed by their commitment to their businesses and to the 12-week program,” said Propel Vice-President Gillian McCrae in an interview. “They knew what they wanted to get out of the program and they put all that into the program. They’re all very driven individuals.”

Related story: Billion Dollar Lunch Set for Moncton

The six Launch members to pitch at Demo Day are:

·         Bitness, Halifax -- Bitness uses beacons to track where, when and how long customers are in a retail outlet. This allows the store owner to understand the store’s peak hours, allowing for better staffing decisions.

·         BuyMyLemonade, Halifax -- BuyMyLemonade is an online program that helps to teach entrepreneurship to young people through fundraising. The result is schools or charities raise more money while students learn about business in a safe environment.

·         Ella, Saint John -- This mobile app helps women to sell their slightly used clothes. The system uses proprietary algorithms to match users based on size, style, social connections and location. It also provides purchase suggestions.

·         Liv9, Fredericton -- Founded by pharmacists, Liv9 supplies cloud-based patient engagement and management software to pharmacies.  The software lets pharmacies engage with customers through social channels and provides them with automated marketing tools, real-time tracking and reporting of patient engagement activities.

·         MusicEdZone, St. John’s -- This music education company features a music school for three to 10 years olds called The Munchkin Music Factory. There is also a publishing division that develops teaching and learning curriculum materials for music educators.

·         Vish Salon Tech, St. John’s – Vish Salon Tech designs software and hardware that help hair salons to strengthen customer relationships and maximize profitability. Vish is now finalizing a Software-as-a-Service hair colour mixing system.

The members of the Build cohort that will be pitching at Demo Day are: Ongozah, Moncton; Xiplinx Technologies, Saint John and Fredericton; Simptek, Fredericton; PACTA, Halifax; Clean Simple, Halifax; and HeyOrca!, St. John’s.

The event at the Capitol Theatre on Sept. 22 promises to be the most diverse Demo Day held yet by Propel. The 12 companies include three from Newfoundland and Labrador. And though the companies have not said which of their founders will pitch, there’s a strong likelihood the pitchers will feature three women and three immigrants.

Tickets are available here.



Billion Dollar Lunch Set for Moncton

Brad Feld: Will appear via Skype.

Brad Feld: Will appear via Skype.

The Moncton area economic development agency 3+ Corporation is kicking off a day of startup festivities on Sept. 22 with a lunch featuring two renowned experts in startups.

The Billion Dollar Lunch will be highlighted by talks by American entrepreneur and author Brad Feld and Sen Wise, Startup Canada’s Mentor of the Year. The lunch will wrap up a few hours before the regional accelerator Propel ICT holds its Demo Day, also in Moncton.

Feld, who will participate via Skype, is co-founder of Foundry Group and Techstars and an investor in such companies as Makerbot, Fitbit, Zynga and Betabrand. He is the author of several top selling startup books, including Startup Communities. He is also active with several non-profit organizations, such as the National Centre for Women & Information Technology.

Appearing in person, Sean Wise is a professor of entrepreneurship at Ryerson University and a partner at Ryerson Futures. He is the host of the Naked Entrepreneur and was selected as Startup Canada’s 2014 Mentor of the Year. As well as being a consultant for Dragons’ Den, Wise is a co-founder of EY’s  Canadian Venture Capital Advisory Group, and co-author of Startup Opportunities: Know When to Quit Your Day Job.

The Billion Dollar Lunch will be held at the Fibre Centre on St. George Blvd. at 11:30. Tickets are available here and grant to holder admission to the Demo Day. 

NBIF, Innovatia, Put $1.5M into Gemba

Daniella Degrace: 'The money is helping us to actually develop the market.'

Daniella Degrace: 'The money is helping us to actually develop the market.'

Gemba Software Solutions, a Saint John IT startup that helps big business employees navigate their company’s operations, has received $1.5 million in funding to help it spin out from parent company Innovatia.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation provided half the funding, highlighting a recent emphasis in the innovation agency’s work – helping established New Brunswick companies launch startups. The remaining $750,000 in equity funding came from Innovatia itself.

Gemba Software has created a Software-as-a-Service product that addresses the problem of multinational corporations being so big that employees can’t find their way through all the divisions or understand what they do.

The company’s ProcedureFlow software provides visual process maps that offer new employees and others the ability to quickly navigate their way through the company’s operations. The product, which features small hyperlinked flowcharts, reduces training time, delivers a consistent message to employees, and lets team members update the content.

"Gemba's customers have been able to decrease cross training time by over 75 percent and reduce the time it takes for new employees to become competent by 50 percent," said Gemba's CEO Daniella Degrace in a statement. "Every industry struggles with documentation and maintenance of standard operations procedures. We help centralize procedures, make them easy to follow, and engage the entire organization in keeping them up-to-date."

In an interview this morning, she added that the money, which should last about 18 months, will help the company increase staff from its current five employees to about 10.

“The money is helping us to actually develop the market,” said Degrace. “We are using the money to help us expand the sales capability and to continue to develop our product.”

Added NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in the statement: “As more companies move to mobile and stay-at-home work environments, Gemba's solution has already attracted a number of multinational corporations." He said the clients include New Jersey-based hotel chain Wyndham Worldwide, Fredericton IT company Bulletproof, Saint John-based Mariner Partners, Enbridge Gas New Brunswick and Moncton healthcare company HealthConnect.

Related story: A Banner Year in Funding in 2014

Milbury has been saying in conversation lately that a recent priority for NBIF is to work with established companies to spin out startups that can scale technology developed by the larger group. The thinking is that companies not only have the expertise to innovate but they also understand their markets and have the contacts that can lead to sales.

There some history in this process as one of the recent successes in the NBIF portfolio, RtTech Software of Moncton, was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering of Saint John.

Now it is tapping another tech-minded Saint John company in Innovatia, which is one of North America’s largest documentation and training outsourcers. The company has been around for more than a decade and has a staff of more than 300 people in offices in Canada, the United States and India.

"As NBIF continues its expansion, this is exactly the kind of investments we are looking for to add to our already well-established startup investment activities," says Milbury. "If an existing New Brunswick company develops an innovation that can benefit other industries, putting the intellectual property into a new company and growing that company is something we want to encourage and support."

Change is Afoot at Genesis Centre

Hood: 'We can all move together in a cohesive manner.'

Hood: 'We can all move together in a cohesive manner.'

There is still more than a year left before the Genesis Centre staff pack up the boxes at their St. John’s Bruneau Centre office and move to new digs at the Battery. But that’s certainly not to say change is not afoot at the Memorial University of Newfoundland incubator.

The centre is under new management, is expanding to a new town and has different entrance criteria.

“We’re working with several areas within MUN and the community to look at how we can all support IP development, the ecosystem and innovation overall,” said Greg Hood, who became the CEO of the centre this year after a career in the private sector.

The Genesis Centre and its affiliate the Genesis Group were originally formed to serve as an incubator for St. John’s startups, including some that were commercializing intellectual property developed at the university. It had considerable success, producing such companies as Verafin, which develops software that prevents fraud and money laundering, as well as nautical and military manufacturer Rutter.

Now the centre is changing in step with the evolving situation at the university and changes in the broader innovation landscape. CEO David King, who had been with the Genesis organization since 1993, left last year to take up a teaching position in Qatar.

Around the same time, Memorial University reclaimed the task of negotiating with outside parties interested in IP developed at the university. And at about this time the Genesis Centre announced it would be leaving its elegant offices on the Memorial campus for the university’s new development at the Battery, on the side of Signal Hill. The Battery complex will host a range of functions for MUN, and graduate students will move into the facility next month. So far everything is on track and the Genesis Centre is due to move in the winter of 2016-17.

Genesis Centre tenants now include such young companies as HeyOrca!, which is developing an online platform to help marketers collaborate on social media projects, and Vish Solutions, which is making software for hair colouring salons.

Meanwhile, the startup community in Newfoundland and Labrador has changed. Genesis clients today are more than likely to be working with other support groups. HeyOrca! and Vish for example were both members of the PropelICT tech accelerator.

Related Story: Hey Orca! Travesl for Mentorship

“There are a lot of players in the ecosystem, and we all have to work together,” said Hood. He said there is some overlap but what’s important is that Genesis Centre and other groups do what’s best for the companies they’re nurturing. “We can all move together in a cohesive manner and I think you’ll see that’s happening.”

As an example of the collaboration, Hood points to the Genesis Centre’s announcement in June that it would establish a base at the Beachhead Innovation Center in Holyrood, on Conception Bay, about 50 kilometres west of St. John’s. The partnership will allow Genesis clients and graduates to work out of the Beachhead facility, which will be valuable for ocean-related research.

While the Genesis Centre will continue to be involved in ocean research and advanced manufacturing, the reality is that most startups in the current environment are involved in digital technology.

“In our most recent pitching competitions, 70 percent of the participants were doing apps,” said Hood. “Maybe it’s a change in the St. John’s community or maybe it’s something bigger than that. But the question is, how do we tap into it?”

Hood and his staff are planning for the new Genesis Centre to have a more open layout to facilitate more collaboration – a popular concept with the IT community. And he also wants the Genesis group to maintain support for longer with the companies that pass through the incubator.

“When the organizations graduate from our program, what do we do with them?” he asked. “I think there’s a need for us to continue working with them and see that they succeed.”

Set Scouter’s Sales Soar

Alex Kolodkin: Exponential monthly growth since joining Rev.

Alex Kolodkin: Exponential monthly growth since joining Rev.

When he worked as a film producer, Alex Kolodkin realized that his peers could really use a product that simplified the process of finding filming locations. It led him to establish Set Scouter, one of the companies due to graduate from Communitech’s Rev accelerator on Sept. 18.

“When I was a producer, there was one time I couldn’t find a kitchen,” Kolodkin said in an interview last week. “I ended up asking my Mom to connect me with her friends.”

The Ryerson University grad knew there had to be a simpler way so he founded Set Scouter, which is an online marketplace for film makers that need residential film locations. He describes the product, which he launched in July 2013, as Airbnb for the film industry.

Related story: Rev Targets Growth Stage

Toronto-based Set Scouter lets filmmakers – mainly those making commercials –search for the perfect set among more than 1,000 locations listed by residential property owners. The almost-three-year-old company has a catalogue of locations available for filmmakers, mainly in the Toronto area, and it is expanding it rapidly.

The company has not yet raised a nickel of investment, but it has had the assistance of two renowned mentoring organizations: Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, which it joined in March 2013; and the Rev program, which it entered this year.

Kolodkin says the DMZ was the perfect institution for Set Scouter during its formative years, because it taught him to look beyond his product and understand his customers. Now the Rev accelerator has built on that base and taught him the process of developing sales systems.

“I probably would have [eventually] learned everything that I have learned in Rev, but I wouldn’t have learned it as fast or as systematically,” he said. He added that sales are the lifeblood of a bootstrapping company, so learning sales systems quickly means he’s been able to build a more stable company.

Kolodkin would not reveal sales figures but he said he has had “exponential” month-on-month revenue growth since joining Rev, which represents a huge improvement over his previous sales record.

Through Rev, he’s also overcome his fear that professional location finders in the industry were his competition. He now understands Set Scouter is a tool they can use that they can be customers rather than competitors.

Kolodkin is growing the business in the Toronto area, but he also offers locations as far afield as Tunisia, Italy, Greece and Australia. He is now plotting to expand into the U.S., hopefully in the first quarter of 2016. He’s planning to grow one city at a time in the Northeast, beginning with New York, because it is the advertising capital of the country. 

He's also planning to raise an undisclosed amount of capital, though he won't say how much. He's also glad he's growth the company so far through sales. 

"We definitely know how to hustle," he said. "And the focus on customers has defined our company culture."

I-3 Contest Offers $950K in Prizes

Innovacorp has launched its fifth I-3 Technology Startup Competition, in which startups from across Nova Scotia vie for as much as $950,000 in development funding.

The Nova Scotia innovation agency kicked off the competition last week with a series of events across the province that are continuing this week.

Like the Breakthru competition hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the goal of I-3 is to encourage people with a business idea to submit an application and then develop the idea into a business as they go through the process. The process includes feedback from Innovacorp and a range of judges, various mentoring events and a challenging program to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“For me, the best thing we do is to put you through this rigorous process where you find out whether (your business idea) is just pie in the sky or something that could really work,” Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff said at the launch in Halifax on Friday.

Related story: Competitions Heat Up in Cape Breton

The twin goals of the competition are to help create more companies (a key objective of the Ivany report) and to make sure the companies have a decent chance of success. Duff stressed that I-3 is for entrepreneurs willing to commit to working full time on their project. Two years ago, a total of 228 companies entered the competition.

I-3 is designed so that as many as 16 companies could receive prizes of cash and in-kind services that can be used to develop their company.

It divides the province into five zones, and Innovacorp will award a $100,000 first prize and $40,000 second prize for each zone. The five winners from these zones are eligible for a grand prize, which is an additional $100,000.

The competition also has six sector-based prizes, awarding $25,000 sums to the leading entrants in information technology, life sciences, clean technology, ocean industries, agricultural technology and waste diversion technology. (The final two are new categories this year.)

Contestants can win both the regional and sectoral prizes. For example, last year Sydney-based Heimdall Networks won the grand prize, top honours for the Cape Breton region and the IT sector prize, for a total payday of $225,000.

Innovacorp has added a two-week boot camp to the process this year with the goal of enhancing the mentorship. Also, in an effort to get better pitches, Innovacorp is letting entrants submit a preliminary submission and receive feedback on how the final submission should be strengthened.

Final submissions are due by 5 p.m. on Oct. 15, and the winner will be announced at a reception in Halifax on Feb. 3. Details on the competition are available at the Innovacorp website.

Full disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Bungalo Lured by Canada’s Expanse

Haukur Gudjonsson: 'I grew a lot as an individual, but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.'

Haukur Gudjonsson: 'I grew a lot as an individual, but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.'

The 2008 recession hit Iceland very hard. Entrepreneur Haukur Gudjonsson lost his business. But his loss led him to create Bungalo, a rental company that’s expanding into Canadian cottage country.

Gudjonsson established Bungalo in 2010 to link cottage owners and vacationers. He said it is now the largest supplier of cottages for rent in Iceland.

He is excited about the Canadian cottage market, which he estimates to be about 100 times larger than that of Iceland, a country of just 320,000 people.

Bungalo is headquartered in both Reykjavik and Halifax. The company has had an office at Volta, Halifax’s startup house, since last year and now employs four people here.

Gudjonsson, the company’s CEO, set up in Canada after coming to Halifax in 2013 to act as a mentor to fledgling entrepreneurs.

“We were considering opening in other Nordic countries, but the size and vibrancy of Canadian cottage culture was attractive,” he said.

“One of every 29 Canadians owns a cottage, but less than one per cent of Canadian cottages are visible and bookable online.”

Building Bungalo in Halifax is going well.

The company has benefited from programs such as Propel ICT, the regional accelerator.

Expansion is ongoing in the Atlantic provinces and Ontario, and the company has recently signed its first B.C. cottages.

But reaching this point has not been easy.

The 2008 recession wiped out Gudjonsson’s business, a housing service for students. (He had earlier built and sold a company that serviced water coolers.)

The recession took a toll on many Icelanders.

“Iceland was one of the most prosperous countries in the world. There was one per cent unemployment. Then, in a matter of months, unemployment rose to almost 10 per cent.

“A lot of people lost their motivation, their positivity.”

It was when Gudjonsson encountered difficulties trying to rent a cottage to relax during the recession that the idea for Bungalo was born.

He had returned to Reykjavik University to complete his business degree and needed downtime.

“I was stressed and wanted a cottage, but couldn’t find one. I thought, ‘There has to be a better way.’”

He got working on Bungalo while finishing his studies and paying off his debts. It took him three years to “get back to zero.”

Without money, he had to be creative about making Bungalo work.

“I needed a programmer to build the website, but couldn’t afford one. So I taught myself to program from books and built the first iteration of the website.

“My prototype was horrible. But I did manage to create a database of cottages for people to view. It was enough to start a conversation.”

Without a budget for marketing, he became active on Facebook, gaining 50,000 likes.

And he made sure to be visible at public events.

Gudjonsson said he is not worried about the growth of his better-known competitor Airbnb, believing that the Bungalo focus on rural locations differentiates his company.

“Plus, the vacation rental market is so huge and growing so fast there is room for different players.”

He hopes Canadian provinces will not, as some have proposed, ban or limit the use of sites like Bungalo and Airbnb, which are attracting the ire of some traditional hotel operators.

“We believe we help create more revenue for rural areas,” he said. “And we give international travellers unique experiences.”

He has learned from his earlier business loss.

“I grew a lot as an individual, but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone,” he said.

Bungalo has received $150,000 in investment from BDC Capital and is raising more funds to expand across Canada.

“We need to grow faster. If you don’t need to do things in a hurry, you’re not doing it right,” he said.

“We aim to be in a third country at the end of this year or the start of next.”

Press Release: MedMira Raises $5M

MedMira, a publicly listed  medical device maker, has issued the following press release:

MedMira Targets Technology Promotion with Latest Investment from OnSite Lab

Company Focuses on Business Development Activities to Capitalize on Technology Platform Opportunities and Adds Industry Expertise to Support Continued Innovation

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA–(Marketwired – Sept. 2, 2015) – MedMira Inc. (MedMira) (TSX VENTURE:MIR) is entering into a CAD $5 million investment with OnSite Lab Holding AG (OnSite Lab) to increase promotion and brand building to position the Company’s proprietary Rapid Vertical Flow (RVF) Technology™ as a dominant platform in the rapid diagnostics industry.

“MedMira has always been about technology, our initial focus began with the development of RVF Technology and we expanded into product applications as a way to validate the technology. In many ways, we’ve come full circle as more people use our product applications, we continue to evolve the capabilities of RVF Technology and the value it delivers,” said Hermes Chan, Co-founder and CEO, MedMira Inc. “With the launch of Miriad and promoting RVF as a development platform, we realized that there are untapped opportunities, collaborations, and partnerships where our technology can play an important role. OnSite Lab’s new investment will help us quickly and strategically capitalize on the potential of RVF Technology to become a leading provider of diagnostic technology.”

As the Company positions itself for a strategic focus on technology it is adding scientific and industry expert resources to support these advancements. Last month, Dr. Philippe Dro joined MedMira’s Board of Directors bringing with him a strong business network in the biotech sector, which will be valuable as the Company increases its business development initiatives focused on RVF technology. Joining MedMira as an independent scientific advisor is Dr. Christian Surber, a professor of dermatopharmacology and hospital pharmacy at the University of Basel. A leader in his field, Dr. Surber’s deep scientific expertise will complement MedMira’s R&D team as it continues to advance the RVF Technology platform.

Chan continued, “We are pleased to have both Dr. Dro and Dr. Surber join MedMira and look forward to their guidance and insight as we optimize the scientific advancement and promotion of our RVF Technology platform to sharpen MedMira’s market position.”

MedMira pioneered the development and advancement of RVF Technology and it remains the Company’s core focus. While many clinical applications have already been developed using RVF Technology, including MedMira’s own line of rapid tests for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis, the Company has set its sights on marketing RVF Technology as a platform for other diagnostic developers and researchers to build on with a path to future commercialization. These opportunities range from R&D collaboration to custom development and contract manufacturing opportunities for new applications in sectors including human health, vaccine development, veterinary, environmental, and others.

Under the terms of deal, OnSite Lab will acquire 100,000,000 equity units at $0.05 per unit. Each equity unit consists of one common share and one common share purchase warrant and is subject to the four month hold period which expires on January 5, 2016. Each full warrant entitles the investor to purchase one common share of MedMira at $0.10 per share exercisable over four years. OnSite Lab is the Company’s controlling shareholder and has previously made investments in MedMira totalling CAD $18.7 million.

About MedMira

MedMira is the developer and owner of Rapid Vertical Flow (RVF) Technology™. The Company’s rapid test applications built on RVF Technology provide hospitals, labs, clinics and individuals with instant diagnosis for diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C in just three easy steps. The Company’s tests are sold under the Reveal, Multiplo™ and Miriad™ brands in global markets. MedMira’s corporate offices and manufacturing facilities are located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and the Company has a sales and customer service office located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. For more information visit Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This news release contains forward-looking statements, which involve risk and uncertainties and reflect the Company’s current expectation regarding future events including statements regarding possible approval and launch of new products, future growth, and new business opportunities. Actual events could materially differ from those projected herein and depend on a number of factors including, but not limited to, changing market conditions, successful and timely completion of clinical studies, uncertainties related to the regulatory approval process, establishment of corporate alliances and other risks detailed from time to time in the company quarterly filings.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Universities Boost Startup Sales

When Gordon McArthur presented Forerunner Research at the Atlantic Venture Forum in June, he revealed the tremendous sales growth of the company, whose technology detects gases in soils.

Revenue at Forerunner, which grew out of research conducted at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, increased 150 percent in 2014, and was on pace to rise 80 percent this year. The company is forecasting almost 70 percent revenue growth in 2016.

All of which, believe it or not, is fairly typical for a startup that grew out of Atlantic Canadian university research. Entrevestor’s data on Atlantic Canadian startups show that these companies perform a lot better when they have affiliations with universities – like, twice as well.

Of the 286 startups we track in Atlantic Canada, 122 shared their revenue data for last year with us and their sales rose 38.5 percent in 2014. It’s an impressive number.

But when we assessed the revenue performance of 23 companies that grew out of university research, we found their revenues rose 81.8 percent in 2014.

Then we examined the data from 41 other companies with relationships with universities – usually that means they have gone through a university entrepreneurship program or used universities for lab facilities or research. Their revenue rose 65.3 percent.

In total, the startups connected with post-secondary institutions experienced revenue growth of 71.1 percent in 2014.

Read the full Entrevestor Intelligence report

“Those researchers that are commercializing aspects of their research are more likely to be working on real problems and have identified solutions leading to breakthrough or high potential products or services,” said Mary Kilfoil, who heads the entrepreneurship program at Dalhousie University. “These products have a built-in market-based advantage over, say, another app."

The number seems astonishing. Is it that the 65 university-linked startups are starting from a low base in revenue? Not compared with other startups in the region. Eleven of the university-related startups that shared their revenue with us had six figures of revenue in 2014, and five others had sales of more than $1 million. Fifteen of the companies reported revenue for the first time, and eight more than doubled revenue last year – factors that contributed to the high growth rates.

Let’s stress something: this is actual data on companies selling their product to clients. It’s not like winning a competition, which depends on the opinion of judges. It’s not making a list of ones-to-watch in a magazine. It says even more about these companies than landing VC funding. These are sales that these companies have actually booked.

Of course, the startups affiliated with universities also attracted a great deal of capital to the region. Forty-seven that either grew out of university IP or have some other relationship with universities raised a total of $87.44 million. One was St. John’s-based Verafin, which raised $60 million in a landmark private equity funding. Even if we remove the Verafin funding, these startups attracted investment of $27.44 million.

In total, the startups affiliated with universities employed 453 people as of the end of 2014.


[Full disclosure: The data covers companies affiliated with some clients of Entrevestor, including Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University and Springboard Atlantic.]

Universities Adapt to Startup Craze

Dawn Jutla: 'A tsunami of new programs'

Dawn Jutla: 'A tsunami of new programs'

Entrepreneurship took centre stage when Atlantic Canadian university educators gathered for their annual summit in January.

The speakers at the Atlantic Leaders’ Summit, organized by the Atlantic Association of Universities, were discussing trends in university education, but repeatedly the discussion honed in on ways to imbue students with entrepreneurial spirit and skills.

The speakers ranged from Dalhousie University Vice President of Research Martha Crago, to businessman, philanthropist and University of New Brunswick alumnus Gururaj Deshpande, to former head of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch. But there was a unity in their message: bring more entrepreneurial content into the curriculum of the region’s universities.

“Why don’t we make it a hallmark [of Atlantic Canadian universities] that everyone who comes here will have some entrepreneurial experience?” asked Crago.

No one would argue that the entrepreneurial experience is now the hallmark of four years at an Atlantic Canadian university. But what you could argue is that the region’s higher education institutions in the past couple of years have introduced a range of entrepreneurial programs. In fact we argue it strongly in our third Entrevestor Intelligence report, which we published today.

The report focuses on educational institutions, which are doing more than just teaching entrepreneurship. They’re launching business founders and startups that are exceeding the performance of other startups in the region. Entrevestor now follows about 300 startups in Atlantic Canada, and 115 of them have links to universities (They either grew out of university research or entrepreneurship courses, or have relied on university research or facilities to grow.)

Read our full Entrevestor Intelligence report

“There is a growing expectation among governments and political representatives about an increased role for universities in teaching and inspiring entrepreneurism among students,” Peter Halpin, Executive Director of the AAU, said in an interview. “Generating considerably more new business startups has become integral to regional and provincial economic development and talent retention strategies.”

St. Mary’s University Professor Dawn Jutla added: "Entrepreneurship education in Atlantic Canada is benefitting from its institutions' years of experimentation in active learning techniques, which emphasize applied and professional learning experiences and the linking of theory and practice for its students.”

How hot is entrepreneurship right now? Consider that there are now lean methodology courses in at least four of the region’s universities. (Lean methodology is the process of assessing a business idea’s potential success before you spend money developing a product.) Two universities offered summer programs to support young businesses. Three years ago, there was no post-graduate program entrepreneurship in the region. As of the 2015-16 school year, there will be two—at Saint Mary’s and University of New Brunswick. And Atlantic Canada will likely soon be home to the country’s only program teaching international technology sales.  That doesn’t even include all the extra-curricular activity that has popped up to teach kids to earn a buck by starting a business. Many of these developments fell into place simply because young people are more entrepreneurial than their parents or grandparents.

“The wave of entrepreneurship did not change our teaching methods,” said Jutla, the head of SMU’s Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. “Instead we were ready to create a tsunami of new programs to support and further build out more entrepreneurship.”

So why all the focus on entrepreneurship? There are probably three reasons: fashion; economics and personal development.

The plain fact is that the generation born after 1990 is entrepreneurial and innovative. These young  people grew up with the internet and digital products, and feel comfortable with the concepts underlying modern entrepreneurship. Around the world, young people are choosing entrepreneurship as a career path. Startups are a craze today as surely as rock ‘n’ roll was in the 1960s.

But the reality of the market place – especially the market for jobs – is also pushing young people to start businesses. According to Statistics Canada, the Canadian unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 24 was 12.9 percent in June; almost double the rate of 6.8 percent for the population as a whole. It’s obvious that large employers in both public and private sectors are not hiring graduates as vigorously as they did a generation ago.

“Look at the graduate labour market,” Colin Mason,  professor of entrepreneurship at the Adam Smith School of Business at the University of Glasgow, said during a visit to Nova Scotia this summer. “Look at the demand for graduates. It’s a plateauing if not a declining labour market. Meanwhile the supply of graduates continues to increase. If a student doesn’t want to work at McDonald’s all the time, they have to create their own employment opportunities.”

Entrepreneurial education is more than a route to income. It’s also part of the universities’ age-old mission to build the well-rounded graduate. Past generations taught Latin and the classics to create the complete individual. We still encourage sports and community service at universities for the same reason. Similarly, teaching entrepreneurship instills a mindset in which the individual can identify a problem, come up with a solution and test it in the market. It teaches people to be flexible in their thinking and resilient when they face a job loss.

And the region’s universities are doing more to grow entrepreneurial brains. For 28 years, UNB has had the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship, or TME, program at the heart of its engineering school. Then three years ago, Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach began the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie, which has evolved into the multi-faceted program Dal Launch.

Both UNB and Dal have made entrepreneurship a year-round initiative as the former has its Summer Institute and the latter its Launchpad accelerator throughout the summer.

UNB’s Summer Institute encourages passion and design. This year’s students ranged from a Briton making cardboard furniture to Trish Arcaro, who is developing her own clothing line based on Mi’kmaq designs. Launchpad ushered 10 companies through its curriculum. One was, whose CEO Leslie Gallagher will represent Nova Scotia at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Istanbul this year.

“The [Summer Institute] program focuses on creative economy firms and we are simply amazed by the participants’ passion, drive and creativity, which will have a huge impact on our community,” said Dhirendra Shukla, the chair of the TME program.

This autumn, the university is launching a TME masters program, with the added bonus that international students completing the degree will have their application for permanent residency fast-tracked under the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program. St. Mary’s University in Halifax was the first in the region with a post-graduate degree in entrepreneurship when it launched its Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation course two years ago.

The result of all this activity is that startups are emerging from universities, and some of them are gaining notice quickly. We take a look at a few of the more exciting startups affiliated with universities on pages 12 and 14. And on pages 16 to 17, we analyse how companies with ties to universities perform. (Spoiler alert: they perform really well.)

As well as data on startups affiliated with universities, this report will tell some of the stories of the entrepreneurs coming out of these institutions, the companies they’re building and how universities are helping.

At the Atlantic Leaders’ Summit, Deshpande urged educators to pursue experiential learning because it shows students that they can apply their knowledge to solving problems, and that leads to entrepreneurship. He asked them to give their students knowledge that has an impact on the wider world. 

Disclaimer: Some of the institutions named in the report, including Dalhousie University, St. Mary's University and Springboard Atlantic, are clients of Entrevestor. 

Entrepreneurship in Arts Programs

A veteran of Toronto literary circles is now at the centre of a pioneering movement in Atlantic Canadian university entrepreneurship.

Don Sedgwick’s career is steeped in publishing, having edited more than 100 books, ghost-written more than a dozen, and acted as agent for such luminaries as Scotiabank Giller Prize-winner Linden MacIntyre. Now he is spear-heading efforts by the University of King’s College to teach journalism students to start their own ventures, not just look for traditional media jobs.

“I teach in the New Ventures stream and will be attending a prestigious training session in the Lean Startup methodology in Santa Clara, California, in November,” said Sedgwick. “This will enable King’s to host additional events in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation.”

The university-within-a-university is working on an important facet of the startup movement – teaching entrepreneurship not just in business, engineering or computer schools, but also in general arts programs.

"As science and technology moves forward . . . it is abundantly clear that we also need to include the liberal arts in our entrepreneurship programs,” said Dalhousie University entrepreneurship professor Mary Kilfoil. “Since research has shown that ‘entrepreneurially minded’ individuals are spread out across the disciplines, it only stands to reason that there would be great contributors in the liberal arts.”

It’s not always an easy fit, largely because too few arts students think of themselves as budding entrepreneurs. But King’s is just one institution moving to introduce entrepreneurship to the humanities.

Professor Gary Markle, who teaches fashion at NSCAD University, has been looking into creating a fashion line for seniors, called Well Worn. Inspired by his mother, who has dementia, Markle wants to make clothes that are fashionable, comfortable, and easy to take on and off.

Back at King’s, the journalism school is involved in a range of activities to encourage new enterprises.

These include a masters program in new ventures, which includes an entrepreneurship course from the Dalhousie MBA program taught by Dr. David Roach.

King’s is also launching an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society in September 2015.

“This society was actually active many years ago,” said Sedgwick. “But there is renewed interest in student projects in light of new technology and changing uses of media.” 

Clearwater Leads Eyeball’s $1.1M Raise

After validating its online network for amateur sports in the local market, Bedford-based Eyeball Inc. has raised $1.1 million in a round of funding led by Clearwater Fine Foods Inc.

Eyeball launched its product last November, and has found a strong market among sports teams largely in the Halifax area. That was enough traction to attract a $1 million investment from publicly traded Clearwater and additional funding from a handful of angel investors.

Co-founded by serial entrepreneurs Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen, Eyeball has developed a social network for mobile devices that lets those in the amateur sports community tell each other about their games. It is built in the knowledge that there are hundreds of millions of people involved in amateur sports and virtually all of them want to share their scores and highlights.

The product, which is available on Apple’s App store and the Google Play Store, lets players, parents, coaches and fans post live scores, photos, updates and chat about a game while it’s going on.

“We believe in the promise of the amateur sports market and in the Eyeball strategy to provide a solution that resonates with all constituents – the teams, the players and the fans,” said Clearwater Chairman and CEO John Risley in a statement.

In an interview, Steele said the company has used the local market to establish the demand for the product among local sports teams. Most of the users are in the Halifax area, and the strongest market has been in the hockey community, given the popularity of the sport and the fact that Steele himself is a hockey dad.

“The market is a little push and a little pull,” said Steele. “In hockey we were pushing it – basketball as well. But there was some pull coming from unexpected places, like volleyball and floorball.”

Steele said that the acceptance of the product in the Halifax area has convinced him, his team and his investors that there is a market for an amateur sports community network. Now the task is to move it out into other geographic markets.

Steele and Johansen have previously launched and sold two startups. During the original dot-com boom in the mid- to late-1990s, they teamed up to launch Plazmic, an early mobile venture that they ended up selling to Research in Motion. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.

Steele declined to specify how many users the company now has, and was coy about the strategy for gaining income from the product. What he stressed was that the company – which has grown to eight full-time employees and doesn’t expect to raise money again for 10 months – is now in the phase in which it gains customers. He’s been through the startup lifecycle before, and though each venture is different he understands the progression.

“Every one of these startups you do is almost like an MBA,” he said. “You learn so much.”

Vendeve, Addo Join The Mill in Vegas

There’s an unlikely alliance forming between the startup communities in Halifax and Las Vegas, as witnessed by two Halifax companies attending an accelerator in the southern city.

The cities, about 4,400 kilometres apart, are obviously very different in mindset and climate, but The Mill accelerator has featured Halifax companies in each of its first two cohorts. And there is talk of a deepening relationship between support groups in the two cities.

The second cohort of The Mill’s Startup Accelerator opens this week, and the five companies include two that have worked out of Volta Labs in Halifax: Vendeve, headed by Katelyn Bourgoin, has developed an online marketplace where professional and freelance women can find customers; and Addo, headed by Moses Robicheau, has a platform that helps organizations encourage physical activity and good health among their members.

The first cohort included Zora, co-founded by Milan Vrekic and Colin White, which helps landlords vet tenants and manage their properties. Vrekic is the former executive director of Volta.

“The Mill offers a great opportunity to make connections outside the region and an opportunity to meet potential investors when we present at demo day,” Bourgoin said.

Like all accelerators, The Mill Startup Accelerator aims to help young companies grow their business and hopefully gain their first customers. Participants receive US$22,000 (C$29,000) from the VegasTechFund (which set up the accelerator), office space and a three-month program of classes, mentoring and the opportunity to pitch to investors.

There are two facets of the program that appeal to Bourgoin and others. First, the accelerator stresses customer service, which means the companies that enter the program are driven to develop systems to ensure their clients are happy with their product. It’s an essential — and often overlooked — facet of growing a business.

Second, Las Vegas is a few hours’ drive from Silicon Valley, but it avoids the excessive costs of the San Francisco area. Bourgoin believes it is an affordable avenue into the world’s biggest tech market.

“This is a significant opportunity, which will give us direct access to not only the U.S. market in terms of potential clients, but also mentors and investors,” said Robicheau. “We plan to raise $1 million. This accelerator puts us in great position to do just that, as clients, mentors and investors will play a big part in that process.”

The developing ties with The Mill are just the latest evidence that companies in the region are taking advantage of accelerators based in the U.S. Yves Boudreau, the CEO of Moncton-based recruitment startup Qimple, spent much of the past winter at 500 Startups in San Francisco. Last week, sports medicine databank developer Kinduct announced it had been accepted into the L.A. Dodgers accelerator, a program for sports- and arts-related startups. And a range of companies work with the Canadian Technology Accelerator program operated by the Canadian consular services in San Francisco, Boston and New York.

Press Release: Rho, Build Back AirVM

Build Ventures, the Halifax-based venture capital fund, has distributed the following press release:

AirVM Raises $8.0 million in Series A Funding

RHO Canada Ventures, Build Ventures and Wesley Clover Back Growing Cloud Management Company

AirVM, the leading cloud management platform company, today announced it has closed $8.0 million in Series A funding. Led by RHO Canada Ventures, joined by Build Ventures, and current investor Wesley Clover, the Series A financing positions AirVM for continued global growth as they scale to meet the demand for their cloud management platform, AirSembly. The company will also leverage this funding to expand into new regions, new cloud services, and new platform technologies.

“AirVM has grown tremendously in 2015, and as we continue to add new partners, this Series A financing ensures ongoing innovation and growth to meet the demands of the cloud industry,” said Joshua Vautour, CEO and founder of AirVM. “We will continue to build on our momentum as the leading VMware cloud management platform company and expand into new markets.”

With this funding AirVM will strengthen its already deep integration with VMware technologies, expand support for 3rd party public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and integrate with other leading cloud technologies such as OpenStack and Microsoft Hyper-V. To support this growth AirVM will also continue to expand and invest in its sales, support, and engineering teams.

“AirVM solves real problems for its customers in a market that offers the potential for sustained growth,” said Sean Brownlee, Partner of Rho Canada Ventures. “With its strategic relationships and proven products, the company is very well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity.”

“The cloud is the defining technology of our time. AirVM was an early innovator in the cloud market and has quickly emerged as a global player in cloud enablement software,” said Patrick Keefe, General Partner at Build Ventures. “They have a clear vision and the product and team needed to realize it. We look forward to working with them.”

"Josh and his team have worked hard to build the AirVM business", said Terry Matthews, Chairman of Wesley Clover International, founding and ongoing investor in AirVM. "This external investment round is validation that they are on the right track. The AirVM technology solves real business problems, their partner ecosystem continues to grow, and their markets are expanding globally. These are all key achievements we strive for in young companies, and we are pleased with the future prospects this additional funding injection will enable.”

AirVM’s Series A financing comes at a time when they’ve signed one of the world’s largest cloud providers, Rackspace, to a service provider partner agreement, and alongside the announcement of AirSembly 2.0. The latter will be on display at VMworld 2015 in San Francisco from August 31st to September 3rd, at Booth #2047.

About AirVM

AirVM is the world’s leading cloud enablement company. The company’s flagship AirSembly software is an award-winning cloud management platform purpose-built for VMware to make it incredibly simple for service providers to sell, provision, manage, and bill for cloud services, through any type of distribution model. AirVM leads the global industry as the only cloud platform capable of supporting all aspects of cloud business sold through traditional multi-tier distribution as well as direct-to-customer models. Thousands of service providers, resellers and customers have processed millions of transactions through the AirVM platform. AirVM is a privately held company based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Find out more at and follow @AirVM.

About Rho Canada Ventures

Rho Canada Ventures is affiliated with Rho Capital Partners, focusing on early stage investing in Canada’s most innovative technology companies. The Rho Canada Ventures team comprises a unique combination of entrepreneurial, operational and venture investment experience in the United States and Canada. With a combined 80 years of experience, we offer entrepreneurs the expertise to turn Canadian innovators into global leaders. Rho Canada Ventures’ portfolio companies are a diverse group of investments that span new media, mobile applications, wireless infrastructure, semiconductors & materials, and software (including SaaS). For more information, visit and follow @rhocanada.

About Build Ventures

Build Ventures backs entrepreneurs with vision and tenacity who are building transformational businesses. Based in Atlantic Canada, Build Ventures manages a $65 million venture capital fund that provides early stage capital to companies primarily in the information technology, clean technology and life sciences sectors. Build Ventures’ experienced team offers its portfolio companies expertise in product development, financing, business development, market intelligence, brand building and HR strategy. Find out more at and follow @buildventures.

About Wesley Clover

Wesley Clover International is in the business of building businesses. We have an enviable track record as an investment management firm and holding company, with active interests in a range of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). Our current portfolio consists of public and private firms focused on next-generation Cloud and SaaS applications, hardware and services for fixed/mobile communications, video collaboration, customer engagement, analytics and more. For more information visit


Competitions Heat Up in Cape Breton

When the I-3 Technology Startup Competition takes place in the next five months, one area to keep an eye on will be Region 5, more commonly known as Cape Breton Island.

The interesting thing about the biennial I-3 competition in Cape Breton is it will feature the winners of the past three Spark Cape Breton competitions – a list that grew last week when Innovacorp announced the winners of the 2015 Spark competition.

Not to pre-judge the results of I-3, it’s conceivable that a Cape Breton company could end up with development funding and services totaling $275,000 between the two competitions. To see how, check the math below.

For now the big news is that Innovacorp has awarded $200,000 in development funds to six winners in the 2015 Spark Cape Breton competition. [Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.]

Spark is an annual contest first held in early 2014 that seeks the hottest new startups in Cape Breton and Mulgrave and awards them as much as $50,000 each to develop their business. With the addition of six winners listed below, the Spark competition has now provided development funds to a total of 20 young companies.

What’s interesting is all three Spark competitions have taken place since the last I-3 winner was announced in January 2014. That means that all these companies (unless they entered a previous I-3 event) are eligible to go into the coming I-3, the provincial competition that aims to reward the best new companies in Nova Scotia.

I-3, which will launch on Friday, awards $100,000 in cash and in-kind services to each to five regional winners. Then the grand prize for the overall winner is an additional $100,000 in investment. I-3 also offers $25,000 prizes to the winners in five sectors.

That means one company in Nova Scotia could win as much as $225,000 in the I-3 competition. If one of the $50,000 Spark winners captures the grand prize and the sector prize, the company could conceivably bag $275,000 in development funds from the two competitions.

The Spark winners announced last week are:

Collegio – Douglas MacLennan – Sydney

 Amount:  $50,000

Collegio is a web and mobile application that aims to replace paper-based communication between school administration and faculty and students and their guardians.

Genus – Jake Florian – Sydney

Amount:  $15,000

Genus is an application that allows Twitter users to easily sort the people they follow into personally defined groups.

Layers Technology – A.J. Fraser and Matt Johnston – Sydney

Amount:  $50,000

Layers is an image creation and editing application that allows users to remix and share images with their friends and the wider image creation community.

PartyUP – Todd Mercer – Sydney

Amount:  $15,000

PartyUP is a mobile application for the nightlife and event promotion industry that helps people find out about events and venues in their area and helps the events and venues connect with their target customers through video sharing. – Colin MacInnis and Brian Best – Glace Bay

Amount:  $50,000 is an application for companies that shares work status updates with co-workers and provides analytics on how projects and team members are doing based on those statuses.

Tileographer – Brent Stewart & Shawn Boutilier – Sydney

Amount:  $20,000

Tileographer is a technology that lets developers build and customize web maps in real time and deliver them from their own servers or from a SaaS cloud model.

Waterloo AC Expands with Reactor

On the cusp of a major expansion, the Waterloo Accelerator Centre will hold is second annual Showcase on Sept. 16, allowing about 35 of its members the chance to pitch  before investors and guests.

The Accelerator Centre is a four-tiered system of mentoring programs that aims to help mature entrepreneurs test a concept, launch a company and then develop it into a successful business.

Its Showcase, the second annual such event, will be a bit of an assault on the senses as more than 30 of the companies in the facility will have one-minute each to tell their story.

The companies pitching will mainly be those in the Accelerator, the flagship program that guides startups for two or three years from infancy through to having significant traction and growth. Some will be just about ready to graduate from the program, and some will be in the middle of it.

“By offering this deep mentoring, we’ll take a company that often comes as a great technology idea and we try to tune it into a great company with a great technology idea,” said Accelerator Centre CEO Paul Salvini in an interview.

There’s nothing accelerated about this accelerator program. Salvini and his team understand that the mentorship process lasts a number of years not months.

The mentorship process begins with the Pathfinder program, which helps would-be entrepreneurs to validate their ideas. The next stage is the AC Momentum program, which offers a one-year curriculum to entrepreneurs that need to move a validated idea into the early stages of a company. It gives these entrepreneurs an introduction to mentorship.

Then comes the flagship accelerator program, which offers training in all aspects of a successful business over a two- to three-year period. These facets include technology, finance, design and user experience, branding, human relations, leadership and public relations.

Finally there is a program called Continuum, which maintains contact with graduates of the Accelerator program, helping them to scale as they enter the later stages. The recent graduates include chat network Kik Interactive and Clearpath Robotics.

The big change taking place in this stack of programs will happen in the second tier – AC Momentum. The Accelerator Centre announced this month this it will open the Reactor, an 8,000-square-foot space in the former Innotech Building at the David Johnston Research and Technology Park.

This new space will now house Momentum, allowing the sophomore program to double its size to about 35 companies. By moving Momentum out of the existing AC facility, it will allow the 35 companies in the flagship Accelerator program more room, meaning they have more working space as they grow.

Salvini believes the Accelerator Centre is growing during a golden era for the Kitchener-Waterloo tech community, a time when major tech companies from around the world are watching what’s happening in the region.

The Accelerator Centre, he said, differentiates itself from other programs and facilities in the region because it targets older entrepreneurs who have already established themselves in other fields. The average age of its participants is about 40, and many have been researchers from the region’s universities.

“The consequence and the cost of failure can be different from person to person,” said Salvini, adding that failure for a student entrepreneur can be an invaluable educational experience. “Many of our entrepreneurs have given up good jobs with a pension. … We want to feel the company has a very, very good chance of growing and succeeding.”


The Accelerator Centre Showcase will take place 4 to 7 pm on Sept. 16 at the Accelerator Centre. You can find full details here.


Eye on KW is a regular feature that highlights the startup community in Kitchener-Waterloo.


Applications Open for 2nd UIT Cohort

UIT, a startup immersion program at Cape Breton University, is accepting applications for 20 spots in the second year of the program, which runs from September to June.

Applications, which can be found here, are due this Friday.

UIT began last September and the 12 students in the first cohort learned simple coding and business methodologies through self-directed learning and conversations with mentors. All the curriculum materials are available free on the Internet.

UIT founder and lead mentor Gavin Uhma wanted to see students learn coding and business in a hands-on way rather than focusing on theory.

He knows how difficult launching a startup is because he co-founded GoInstant, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2012.

Uhma implemented the mentorship aspect to the program, and has brought in successful business owners and executives to help students solve technological and business problems.

“We want them to feel like they’re at a school, but also that they work at a startup,” UIT executive director Mike Targett said in an interview.

Every week, UIT students receive a list of open-source materials to learn a new skill, such as the Week 1 lesson of how to create a website. Each lesson builds on the previous ones. For example, in Week 3, they learn to build a chat application for the website.

Each time they learn a new skill, they receive feedback from their mentors and ask Twitter users what they think of the new application.

“The goal was even if you’ve never written a line of code in your life, you could learn enough about the technology to communicate with, for example, a chief technology officer,” Targett said.

Four new companies came out of the first UIT cohort. This year, UIT will offer a co-op program so students can bring their skills to Cape Breton technology companies or startups.

Targett said Cape Breton is ideal for beginning a startup because of its affordable housing and fast Internet connections.

UIT also wants to contribute to the Cape Breton startup and tech ecosystem. Uhma, who had to move to Halifax to scale his company, wants to create a better ecosystem in Cape Breton so founders needn’t leave the island to scale their companies.

“I really want UIT to be a community project so that the community feels like it partially owns UIT,” Targett said.

The students in UIT are a varied bunch — divided evenly between men and women and coming from all backgrounds. The ages range from seasoned executives and some recent finished high school graduates.

“We’re going to have a gender parity in our program that is reflective of the human population,” Targett said, “because the technology sector is not exactly representative of that demographic split right now.”

UIT, which gets funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Cape Breton University and private donors, offers several bursaries, including ones for women and promising students.

Targett and Uhma have no current expansion plans, but UIT can easily expand elsewhere because of the open-source learning model. The difficulty is finding mentors.

“You need to be able to have the time of humans who have been there, done that,” Targett said.

“That’s the part that’s hardest to scale — but it’s the most valuable.”


Local Women Support SheEO Fund

Eight women banded together in Halifax Thursday night and brought the dream of a funding platform for female entrepreneurs a little closer to reality.

Halifax businesswomen Allyson England, Stefanie MacDonald and six others committed a total of $2,000 to the Act of Radical Generosity, a national program that aims to raise $1 million to help finance women-owned businesses. They had shown up at an information session about the program and ended up becoming the latest funders.

An Act of Radical Generosity is a grassroots campaign launched by SheEO Founder Vicki Saunders that aims to create a new mindset and funding model to help more women launch and grow businesses. Saunders, who has started and exited five businesses, said Canadian women startup about two-thirds of the businesses in Canada but receive only 4 percent of the country’s venture capital investments.

“We’re dramatically under-funded, under-supported and under-celebrated,” Saunders told a crowd of 50 women (and one rather self-conscious man) Thursday night at the Volta startup house.

“If we were financed to the same degree as men, we would create 6 million jobs in North America alone.”

So Saunders is leading the charge to create a financing vehicle of the women, by the women and for the women. She and her organization want to break away from the VC model that puts so much emphasis on the scalability of businesses.

She is asking for 1,000 individuals or small groups to put up $1,000 each so that a $1 million fund can help 10 female-owned businesses. The contributions are zero-interest loans lasting five years. The 1,000 donors will select the 10 businesses from across Canada that will receive the money. Saunders said there’s no agreement on what the criteria will be for winning the funding, whether it is the prospect of growth, social impact or some combination.

And in an interesting twist, the funders will not be the ones deciding how the million bucks is divvied up. The entrepreneurs themselves will get together and agree who gets how much.

“I feel we live in a cultural climate where it is go big or stay at home,” said Saunders. “Meanwhile, we live in an economy where 98 percent of the jobs are created by small business.”

Saunders believes this is only the beginning for the Act of Radical Generosity program. She hopes that the $1 million raised this year will be followed by exponentially larger sums in coming years and that it will reach well beyond Canada.

The meeting Thursday night marked the launch of the Atlantic Canadian chapter of SheEO, which is a national organization that supports female entrepreneurs. Anyone interested in participating in the organization can contact Melody Pardoe or Chantal Brine at

The Atlantic Canada group is already making waves. England and MacDonald told the meeting they couldn’t make a $1,000 pledge on their own but would be happy to chip in with others to make pledges. Within minutes, they had come up with a $2,000 in pledges from a small group of women.

Said England: “I wanted to help and I know that if you put the ask out, there will always be people to step up.”



Ryan Tapping Into Medication Records

Patti Ryan: Making it easier for patients to stick to their prescriptions.

Patti Ryan: Making it easier for patients to stick to their prescriptions.

Growing up with a father and an aunt who both had Type 1 diabetes taught Halifax health entrepreneur Patti Ryan the importance of managing chronic conditions and medications.

Ryan is the co-founder and CEO of Health QR, the company behind an app that allows pharmacy clients to manage their health information and medications.

Legally, medication records belong to individuals, but the information is often hard to access and understand.

“We are mainly targeting the estimated 29 million people in North America between 50 and 64 who have a chronic illness and a smartphone,” Ryan said from her office at Volta, Halifax’s startup house.

“We aim to make it easier for patients to understand and adhere to their medication prescriptions.”

The Health QR app works by connecting clients to their pharmacist. Through the connection, clients can access their prescription information 24/7. Information is automatically updated every time clients change or renew medications.

The app also reminds clients when medication needs to be taken, and it allows another party, such as a parent or adult child, to access the information and co-manage prescriptions.

Non-adherence to instructions is a big problem. Half of all patients are said to not complete their prescriptions. It costs the United States health system an estimated $188 billion each year, according to a 2012 consultants’ report.

Ryan said part of the issue with non-adherence is that sufferers of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol often have no symptoms, so they forget to take medications.

Others don’t understand their condition, so the app explains why medications are important.

“I think we all tend to take our health for granted until we get a scare,” Ryan said.

“I had my own health scare and was frustrated by the experience of trying to access my information.”

The Health QR app is available for Google and Android devices and can be downloaded for free. Users’ pharmacies must also be connected to the software.

The Compass pharmacy chain in the Halifax region is connected, and pharmacists and clients are helping assess the product. In further testing, Pfizer, one of the world’s largest drug companies, has agreed to sponsor an evaluation of the app’s effectiveness.

Testing will be done in collaboration with Dalhousie University and, later on, Mount Saint Vincent University.

The tests will be conducted with the help of three non-profits that deal with three different chronic conditions and methods of treatment.

The Arthritis Society will be one. Its focus will be on young adults who are transitioning away from their parents and beginning self-management of their illness.

Ryan said she got the idea for the app while working for a health authority in Nova Scotia after she moved here in 1998.

Previously, after studying public relations at Humber College in Toronto, she worked for the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Muscular Dystrophy Canada and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel.

In Halifax, she decided she could have more impact on public health if she worked for policy makers.

She studied for a master’s in public administration at Dalhousie, then worked in health-related roles with the provincial government.

“I heard officials saying that they had been talking about the problems around diet, exercise and medication adherence for the past 10 years but nothing had changed,” she said.

“I wondered if technology could empower consumers to play a more active role in their own health care.”

Ryan said there are other apps that compete with Health QR’s, some developed by large pharmacy chains, but she said she doesn’t know of any others that track medication adherence.

The mother of four young adult children who also plan to work in health, Ryan said she loves life as an entrepreneur.

“I enjoyed my earlier careers, but this is my new baby. Now I have experience and enough time left that I still have the energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.”

Last Chance to Vote for Creator Program

You have a little more than a day to vote in the Great Big Gigabot Giveaway, so we’re asking one last time to vote for the Atlantic Canadian entry, The Creator Program.

Our daughter Cat Adalay has initiated this program for young teens in the Halifax area, starting in St. Margaret’s Bay. The program is teaching coding, the design and assembly of electronic circuits, and 3D design and 3D printing.

There are now three main projects in the running for the Gigabot Giveaway – an international competition for projects with social goals using 3D printers. The winner will receive a large format 3D printer to help develop their project. The deadline is Saturday night.

Cat cracked the 200-vote mark today, but she still needs your help. 3D Nigeria, which aims to develop a maker community in the country, is in the lead. The Creator Program is second and From 2D to 3D, an educational program in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is third.

The Creator Program needs all our help because the judging is based in part on public voting. You can vote by clicking here.

Cat, who runs Adalay3D, came up with the curriculum because she believes these skills can provide the basic knowledge students need to create their own hardware prototypes.

In creating the program, Cat was inspired by the maker, open-source and entrepreneurial movements, which she sees as fulfilling vital roles in our rapidly changing society. She intends to enhance the program so it becomes a commercial venture.



No Entrevestor Next Week

There will be no Entrevestor posts next week.

Unless something truly earth-shattering is announced, we will be taking our annual late summer break. You’ll just have to get on with your lives without us.

Entrevestor will return on Monday August 31.

Startup Empire Set for Sept. 24 in Halifax

Howard Lindzon, CEO of Stocktwits

Howard Lindzon, CEO of Stocktwits

Volta Labs, the Halifax startup house, has announced that it will hold its second annual Startup Empire event next month, featuring a range of speakers who have developed leading startups.

Held at the Park Lane Cineplex Theatre on Spring Garden Road on Sept. 24, Startup Empire is a one-day conference that will feature talks by entrepreneurs whose companies have been valued at hundreds of millions of dollars or more. And it will feature company showcases by the founders of up-and-coming Atlantic Canadian startups.

Startup Empire was first held last September, and was a sell-out event. Volta, which recently moved from its original location on Spring Garden Road to the Maritime Centre, now hopes to repeat the success with the second conference.

“This conference will draw Atlantic Canadian startups together, providing access to world-class industry speakers and allowing attendees to learn from the best about how to scale their companies and drive early stage growth with sales,” said Volta Executive Director Melody Pardoe in a statement.

The main speakers for the event will include:

·         Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of San Diego-based Stocktwits, a leading communications platform for the financial and investing community;

·         Marcel LeBrun, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Salesforce Radian6, the Fredericton-based social media-marketing division of CRM giant Salesforce;

·         Leila Boujnane, co-founder and CEO of Idée and Tineye, Toronto companies whose technology allows users to search for images;

·         and Michael Donovan, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of DHX Media of Halifax and Toronto, specialists in video programming for families and children.  

The organizers said there would be many other high-calibre speakers as well.

“After the success of last year's conference, we wanted to continue to bring speakers to Atlantic Canada who can help local startups grow,” said Jevon MacDonald, a co-founder and board member of Volta. “The conference also gives us the chance to bring in entrepreneurs from other regions and show them what amazing things are happening here in Halifax.”

Startup Empire also allows promising Atlantic Canadian Startups to showcase their companies and products on-stage to give the visiting speakers and local attendees an idea of the products being developed in the area. The local presenters last year included such Halifax companies as Dash Hudson, which allows people to buy clothes they see in Instagram posts, and Vendeve, which operates a networking site for self-employed women. The local entrepreneurs speaking this year’s even have not been named yet.

Startup Empire will be just part of a busy autumn for startup-related conferences in Halifax. The Atlantic Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Conference will be held at St. Mary’s University on Sept. 17 and 18. Invest Atlantic will take place on Sept. 29 and 30.  The Big Data for Productivity Congress – the latest iteration of the Big Data Congress held in Saint John the last two years – will be held Oct. 19 to 21. And the life sciences conference BioPort Atlantic will take place Oct. 28 and 29. 

Discussion of My Latest Book Sept. 1

The Jew Who Defeated Hitler details the biggest economic program in human history.

The Jew Who Defeated Hitler details the biggest economic program in human history.

I’d like to invite everyone who’s around Halifax on Sept. 1 to come out to my talk at the Central Library on my latest book.

The Jew Who Defeated Hitler: Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR, and How We Won the War was published in the U.S. late last year, and this is my first public discussion of the book in Halifax.

There’s a large body of historians who believe the Second World War was the greatest event in human history, and this book examines a rarely discussed but all-important aspect of the conflict: how was it financed?

My answer is that it was largely paid for by the dogged persistence of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. This is the first book to focus on the wartime achievements of this unlikely hero—a dyslexic college dropout who turned himself into a forceful and efficient administrator.

Based on extensive research at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., The Jew Who Defeated Hitler describes Morgenthau’s breathtaking accomplishments: he led the greatest financial program the world has ever seen, raising $310 billion (over $4.8 trillion in today’s dollars) to finance the war effort. This was largely done without the help of Wall Street by appealing to the patriotism of the average citizen through the sale of war bonds.

In addition, he championed aid to Britain before America entered the war; initiated and oversaw the War Refugee Board, spearheading the rescue of 200,000 Jews from the Nazis; and became the architect of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, which produced the modern economic paradigm. 

The book also chronicles Morgenthau’s many challenges, ranging from anti-Semitism to the postwar “Morgenthau Plan” that was his undoing.

My talk will discuss the story behind the book, starting with my research into Ernest Hemingway’s trip to China in 1941. (Yes, there is a connection.)

It all starts at 7 pm on Sept. 1 in room 310 of the new library, at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street. Hope to see you there. 

Kik Interactive Raises US$50M

Waterloo-based Kik Interactive has raised a US$50 million (C$65.3 million) strategic investment from Chinese tech giant Tencent, valuing the maker of the popular North American chat network at US$1 billion.

Kik said in a press release on Tuesday that the Series D financing will be used to double the size of the company. Tencent is creator of the chat app Weixin, or WeChat, which is extremely popular with young people in China.

The deal is significant because the capital and connections should be able to help Kik increase its penetration and to develop a “chat-based ecosystem” for young Americans. For Kitchener-Waterloo, it is another step toward the community’s goal of building a cluster of major tech companies. And the deal creates another Canadian unicorn, or a company with a $1 billion valuation.

“Last year, Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston stated his intention to make Kik the ‘WeChat of the West,’ pointing to the power of Weixin to facilitate connections and enable an ecosystem built around messaging,” said the press release. “This investment allows Kik to further pursue that goal with the support of Tencent.”

Founded in 2009, Kik has about 240 registered users, with 70 percent of them aged between 13 and 24 years. The company says that 40 percent of U.S. teens use the product. The teens now use Kik mainly for its chat function, but Livingston aspires to add functionality so his clients – who will grow in spending power as they grow older – will use Kik for a range of tasks.

This is what Weixin has already achieved with its product in China. Its customers use the product to facilitate numerous other transactions, including booking taxis, shopping, ordering food, paying utility bills, playing games, and other functions.

"We think chat will be the simplest way to connect with the world around you," said Livingston in the statement. "Consumers and developers alike are suffering from app overload, and we are increasingly seeing the potential for services to be delivered in better, lighter-weight ways through chat, especially with bots. Companies like Slack, Telegram, and Facebook are also starting to realize this."

Kik plans to use the funding to grow its team in Waterloo and invest in compelling chat-based services. The company also has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

According to Crunchbase, Kik has now received a total of $120 million in funding, mainly from a host of U.S.  venture capital funds.

Kik is now the latest member of the club of Canadian unicorns. The other members include Vancouver-based Avigilon, Ottawa’s Shopify, Vancouver-based Hootsuite and Slack, based in Vancouver and San Francisco. 

Press Release: BioInnovation Challenge

BioNova, the association of life sciences companies in Nova Scotia, has issued the following press release:

Semi-Finalists Chosen for BioInnovation Challenge

Halifax, NS – August 17, 2015 -- The semi-finalists have been chosen for the 2015 edition of The BioInnovation Challenge (BIC).

Scott Moffitt, Managing Director of BioNova, the host of BIC, announced today that a selection committee has chosen the semi-finalists who will take part in the program. The semi-finalists will receive professional pitch training between now and the semi-final run off, which will be held in Halifax on October 27.

This year will mark the second time a New Brunswick company and one from Prince Edward Island will be taking part in the competition. BioNova has partnered with BioNB and the PEI BioAlliance, its sister organizations in NB and PEI, to allow up and coming life sciences companies from all three Maritime Provinces to compete in the challenge.

“We’re very impressed with the diversity and quality of this year’s participants,” said Moffitt. “We have representation of semi-finalists from across the Maritime provinces which shows that we have excellent pipeline development for the region.”

The semi-finalists are:

-  Help Method Inc., Nova Scotia

-  ChimieCell Inc. (intended name), Nova Scotia

-  Amorphous Biomaterials, Nova Scotia

-  Heterogeneous Nanosystems, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

-  8RUA, New Brunswick

-  Cliff Worden-Rogers Consultant Ltd., Nova Scotia

-  RetiCAD, Nova Scotia

-  IOBio Digital Equipment, Nova Scotia

The winner of the BioInnovation Challenge will receive a $15,000 seed investment and a package of support services and mentoring valued at more than $30,000. The 2015 BIC is presented by BioNova in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BioNB, Cox & Palmer, Dalhousie Office of Industry Liaison and Innovation, Jennifer Cameron PR, Jardine Lloyd Thompson Canada, PEI BioAlliance, PwC Canada and Sandler Training.

BIC will take place over two days in October. The 8 semi-finalists will present to a panel of judges on October 27 at the Life Sciences Research Institute. The top three presenters will then pitch to the judges and the conference audience at BioPort Atlantic, BioNova’s annual conference, the following morning.  The winner will be announced at the close of BioPort Atlantic on the afternoon of October 28.

BioPort Atlantic will take place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel on October 27 and 28. Built around the theme “BOLD IDEAS for BIG OPPORTUNITIES”, BioPort  provides a forum to educate, inform and inspire the life sciences community to develop their ideas, commercialize their technologies and build links within the region and with guests brought in from the US and from around the world.

About BioNova:

BioNova is Nova Scotia’s life sciences organization, representing companies working in drug & vaccine development, medical technologies, natural health products & nutraceuticals, digital health and bio-products, as well as research organizations, service providers and other supporters.

Bridgit & The Condo Boom

Brodie and Hasegawa: 'We're just getting started'.

Brodie and Hasegawa: 'We're just getting started'.

Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Hasegawa certainly had perfect timing when they decided to launch an app that improves efficiency in the construction industry.

The co-founders of Kitchener-based Bridgit decided to launch the product they call Closeout in Toronto in March 2014 amid one of the most explosive construction booms in the city’s history. And it didn’t hurt that their thorough research had identified a key point of pain for the industry.

The result: the company, which is going through Communitech’s Rev accelerator, is now operating in seven cities, and revenues are growing 30 percent per month.

“Lauren has a background in civil engineering and we both come from construction families -- we both grew up in the industry,” said Brodie in an interview on Friday. “When we started, we took a very research-based approach and we went out and interviewed more than 500 stakeholders in the industry. … We found out what really annoyed them.”

What really annoys site managers – and what Closeout addresses – is something called deficiency management.

A deficiency is a problem in a construction project --- say, a door that won’t close, or wiring that was installed improperly. When site managers learn of these deficiencies, they have to assign a subcontractor to fix them. In a highrise condo project, there are probably about 50 subcontractors. So assigning and checking up on all these odd jobs is a pain for someone overseeing a multi-million-dollar project. It’s usually managed on a wall chart in the site manager’s office with post-its stuck all over it.

Closeout is a cloud-based mobile app that lets the site manager take a smart-phone picture of the deficiency and assign the task of fixing it to a subcontractor. They can write a description, the location and deadline. Once the job is done, the subcontractor can report back to the site manager, even send a photo of the completed job.

A graduate of the Next 36 program, Bridgit ran a beta-test at 10 projects in the spring of 2014, after which it raised an undisclosed round of financing from angels. The company has since added functionality to the product, such as task assignment to subcontractors and an installation checklist.

The app is now being used in 10 high-rise projects in seven cities in the U.S. and Canada, including two in Seattle.

The GTA is still its main market, and Bridgit – which now employs seven full-time staff and two coop students—plans to target one U.S. city for growth in 2016. In terms of features, Brodie and Hasegawa are considering enhancing the app so developers will be able to stay in touch with condo-owners after the project is completed.

Though they’re aware that the Toronto condo boom could end, overall they’re optimistic about their prospects because of the broad global market for the product. If Toronto slows, another market will pick up. And if there’s a broader economic downturn, governments will likely address it by infrastructure and public works spending.

“We’re just getting started,” said Brodie. “We focus first of all on a very specific geographic area and a specific type of project, say residential highrise, but there’s still a massive opportunity to expand.” 


Eye on KW is a regular feature that showcases startups in Kitchener-Waterloo. Prepares for Journey Launch

Andrew Russell: 'Athletes are looking for a longer-term connection with their supporters.'

Andrew Russell: 'Athletes are looking for a longer-term connection with their supporters.', the platform that helps elite athletes crowdfund sponsorship, will launch the next version of its technology in late October, allowing users to interact with supporters for longer periods of time.

The Halifax organization is planning to unveil Journey, the new version of its platform that will feature enhanced marketing and continuous fundraising tools.

“The biggest thing we’ve found is athletes are looking for longer-term connection with their supporters,” said CEO Andrew Russell, a paddler who competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“So we’re looking to extend the timeline of the crowdfunding experience.” is a not-for-profit launched in 2012 by Halifax technology entrepreneurs Julia Rivard, also a former Olympic canoeist, and Leah Skerry to help elite athletes raise money for training through crowdfunding. Rivard and Skerry are best known as principals of the web-design company Norex, and Skerry is now the CEO of the educational technology startup Eyeread.

The idea behind is that Olympic-level athletes have a tough time raising money to cover the costs of preparing for international competitions, and there is only so much government money or corporate sponsorship to go around. lets them post videos of themselves and co-ordinate crowdfunding campaigns so they can draw funding more easily from the general public. In the last three years, the company has raised more than $500,000 for a range of athletes.

Last November, USA launched and is working with about 10 American athletes.

Russell said has already assembled a pool of athletes to beta-test the new version of the platform. That will start in mid-October, with a view to having a full launch late that month.

There are crowdfunding sites, including some for artists, that allow longer-term engagement, and is examining those. Many users of have training cycles that extend through the Olympic calendar, so it may be advantageous to allow a four-year engagement, said Russell. Journey will also allow athletes to connect with supporters and fans in new ways, possibly by offering training sessions to more generous backers, posting tips for the sport or updating results more often.

“The term ‘give back’ is what we use,” said Russell.

“We just want to give the athletes more tools. And as we experiment, I would imagine that what we have in terms of the give-backs will change over time.”

The company will celebrate the launch of Journey by hosting a five-kilometre run in partnership with Saint Mary’s University on Sept. 26. It will serve as a fundraiser that will support not only the development of Journey but also Canadian national team runner Dan Gorman. The run will be followed by a varsity football game at SMU.

Invest Atlantic Focuses on Funding

Tickets are now available for the sixth annual Invest Atlantic conference, which will focus on how to attract investment to Atlantic Canadian startups from beyond the region.

The conference, which will take place September 29 and 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, will feature some of the region’s leading business people, and investors from inside and outside Atlantic Canada.

“[We’re focusing on] new ideas for sourcing angel-type funds”, said Invest Atlantic founder Bob Williamson in an interview. “We’re bringing new angels to the region to talk and also discovering what many of our startups have to showcase.”

Williamson began Invest Atlantic in 2010 as a forum for investors and entrepreneurs from across the region to meet, network and discuss ways to improve the ecosystem. In recent years, the event has included a pitching competition on the first day of the conference. It offers entrepreneurs some coaching and a chance to deliver a 60-second pitch to a panel of judges in front of an audience that includes potential angel investors.

The contestants receive valuable feedback while drawing attention to the region from external investors.

The chair for the 2015 conference is Nancy Mathis, the founding Executive Director of the Wallace McCain Institute at the University of New Brunswick. She hopes to expand upon Invest Atlantic’s traditional focus on early stage startups in the pitching competition and include more developed businesses as well.

“In accepting to chair, I wanted to tweak the design to move beyond start-ups,” said Mathis. “This year there are three streams.”

The first stream is for startups seeking money, the second for growth-stage companies looking for partners and the third for late-stage companies looking for successors or acquisition.

Mathis hopes that the interaction between different streams of entrepreneurs will add more depth to the event. For example, a Stream 3 entrepreneur might invest in a Stream 1 startup.

Williamson said the main conference will focus on ideas that will help to channel money into the Atlantic Canadian startup community from outside the region.

The speakers include Catherine Mott, past Chair of the Angel Capital Association and the founder and CEO of BlueTree Allied Angels, located in Wexford, PA. Williamson plans to soon announce more investors from outside the region who will also speak.

Francis McGuire, the CEO of Moncton-based Major Drilling Group International, will also speak at the conference. And Clearwater Seafoods Chairman John Risley and East Valley Ventures Chairman Gerry Pond will sit down for a lunchtime discussion on how to draw more investment to the region.

Applications for opportunities to pitch are open until Aug. 31. More details can be found at the Invest Atlantic website

Deadline Extended in Gigabot Voting

The deadline for voting in the Great Big Gigabot Giveaway has been extended to next Saturday, so we’re re-issuing our call to vote for the Atlantic Canadian entry, The Creator Program.

Our daughter Cat Adalay has initiated this program for young teens in the Halifax area, starting in St. Margaret’s Bay. The program is teaching coding, the design and assembly of electronic circuits, and 3D design and 3D printing.

There are now three main projects in the running for the Gigabot Giveaway – an international competition for projects with social goals using 3D printers. The winner will receive a large format 3D printer to help develop their project.

The three competitors see-sawed back and forth in the standings over the weekend, but as of this morning 3D Nigeria, which aims to develop a maker community in the country, was in the lead. The Creator Program was second and From 2D to 3D, an educational program in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was third.

The Creator Program needs all our help because the judging is based in part on public voting. You can vote by clicking here.

Cat, who runs Adalay3D, came up with the curriculum because she believes these skills can provide the basic knowledge students need to create their own hardware prototypes.

In creating the program, Cat was inspired by the maker, open-source and entrepreneurial movements, which she sees as fulfilling vital roles in our rapidly changing society. She intends to enhance the program so it becomes a commercial venture. 

Have your say, post a comment


Entrevesor is expanding!

Choose your location below for regional news: