Ocean Supercluster Named Winner

Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has been named one of five groups to share $950 million in federal funding to establish innovation hubs across Canada over the next five years.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the five winners at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday, and the Atlantic Canadian finalist made the cut.

What this means is that Ottawa will contribute more than $125 million over five years, which will be matched by investment from private industry. This will go toward establishing a collaborative network across the region, which will allow large and small companies, government and academia to work together in developing ocean-related technologies.

“The government’s investment in the Ocean Supercluster will position Canada as a global leader in the ocean economy of the future,” said Robert Orr, Managing Director of Cuna del Mar, one of the private sector sponsors of the Ocean Supercluster. “It catalyzes unprecedented private investment in collaborative innovation across Canada’s ocean sectors, including energy, food and bio products, shipping, defence, and ocean technology. This will kick start new partnerships, innovations, and economic opportunities.”

Last year, the federal government outlined a plan to develop several “superclusters” of technology across the country. The idea is that by growing hubs of expertise in specific locations, partnerships will emerge that encourage innovation and economic growth.

The Ocean Supercluster is overseen by a multi-province steering committee, which has proposed a structure comprising three layers of participants. At the top is a group of major private investors, which is now made up of: Clearwater Fine Foods and the electricity company Emera, both of Halifax; Petroleum Research of St.  John’s; and investment firm Cuna Del Mar. Below this segment are: other corporations involved in ocean-related businesses; and institutions that support research and the ecosystem.

Luna, Pelagis Win Blue Solutions Competition

The organization must come up with at least $125 million in private investment, which will be matched by the federal program. The group, which will probably have bases in all four provinces, will then channel the money over five years into a series of projects that will advance ocean-related industries.

The committee envisages a structure that would encourage innovators to provide solutions to problems common to all ocean-related endeavors. Startups and other SMEs would be integral to devising the solutions – especially digital solutions, such as data-analytics products – that could be adapted by companies in Canada and elsewhere.

The other winners are:

- The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec), which will build intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
- The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario), which will connect Canada’s technology strengths to its manufacturing industry;
- The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies), which aims to make Canada a leading source for plant proteins;
- And, the Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia), which will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in such sectors as healthcare, forestry, and manufacturing.

A group centered in New Brunswick had also proposed a smart grid supercluster, but did not make the list of finalists. It is pushing ahead with its work and finding funding from other sources.

A Rental Service for New Parents

Kiera Devine: 'Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market.'

Kiera Devine: 'Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market.'

When Kiera Devine flew to New York with her baby girl, the new mom left her bulky stroller at home because she expected to be able to rent baby equipment in New York. When she couldn’t, her new business — Parental Marketplace — was born.

Parental Marketplace is an online platform that allows parents to rent baby equipment.

“My husband and I were travelling with our daughter Kingsley last year,” said Devine, who is based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

“I didn’t want to take my stroller and car seat. I didn’t want to lug them around New York or risk the airline damaging them.

“I thought, surely I can rent. There should be a stroller rental on every street, but I found I needed to give 72 hours’ notice and have a fax machine.”

She decided there must be an easier way.

“By the time I was travelling home with a sleeping baby on my knee I was trying to figure out the business model,” said the entrepreneur, who is known in Saint John as the former owner of women’s boutique Je Suis Prest and men’s clothing store Ready Man.

Devine believes the growth of the sharing economy, popularized by Airbnb and now including many product-sharing options, means the time is right for her venture.

She is starting off with parents renting to parents. She is initially targeting Toronto where, she said, apartments can be so small that parents have to store bulky baby items such as car seats in bathtubs. Then she would like to get thousands of baby rental companies on her site.

“Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market,” she said. “I’d like to work with companies like Airbnb and airports and hotels to provide service to their clients.”

Devine launched her venture in December and went through programming offered by regional accelerator Propel ICT. She’s now happy to be one of five Atlantic Canadian female-led companies to be participating in the prestigious Fierce Founders Bootcamp and Pitch Competition, run by Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.

Read About the Five Atlantic Canadian Companies in Fierce Founders

Devine is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow New Brunswick entrepreneur Bethany Deshpande, CEO of SomaDetect, who recently won $50,000 at Fierce Founders.

“I’m at the point where I’m looking for funding,” Devine said. “I’m honing my pitch, figuring out what my company needs.”

What her company needs is $150,000 in pre-seed funding. So far, Devine has received funding from private sources and government agencies, allowing her to launch the initial iteration of her website.

The new funding will allow her to advertise in Toronto.

“I want to infiltrate the market fast through social media and feet on the ground,” said the entrepreneur, who also runs active-wear company Lole in partnership with her mother.

Devine said she is the first in Canada to offer baby equipment sharing on a large scale (there are many local rental businesses) although she has a competitor called goBaby in the U.S.

“I had a bit of a sinking heart when I heard about goBaby,” she said. “They got a six-month head start on me. But the fact that other parents are thinking the same way means the market and business can grow.”

She wants her site to make life easier for parents by allowing them to test a product before buying.

“In Saint John, for example, we have limited options about where to purchase products. We can buy online, sight unseen. We can’t try before buying.”

Her site will maintain quality control by inviting both sides in a rental agreement to leave reviews, and by requiring deposits. Only approved brands not subject to recalls will be listed.

Although she is setting her sights on the Toronto market, Devine plans to stay in New Brunswick.

“I’ve had so much support here, including from economic development agencies and Propel ICT, with this and my other businesses,” she said.

Island Capital Invests in Garago

Garago Software Inc., which makes software for local governments, has received a $205,000 investment from Island Capital Partners, with which it hopes to sell its product across North America this year.

Founded in Moncton, Garago has developed a cloud-based software that provides an accessible solution to local governments by offering so-called e-permits to their citizens. The company works with municipalities and other local entities to implement e-permits within their administration.

Garago – which now has offices in P.E.I. and New Brunswick – believes its interactive platform brings citizens and governments closer together, allowing for enhanced citizen engagement, modern user experience and reduced costs.

“We are ecstatic to launch our product across North America in 2018,” said Garago CEO Francis Thériault in a statement. “Obtaining seed funding at this stage was timely, and having Island Capital Partner’s support is invaluable.“

The Kent Regional Service Commission in New Brunswick, which provides municipal services for about 30,000 residents, now uses Garago’s platform, and Executive Director Paul Lang says it has become an “essential tool” in improving service to clients. “Garago brought a solution that is affordable and adaptable to our needs without compromising quality,” said Lang.

The investment group – a partnership between private investors and the P.E.I. government – announced the funding on Thursday. With the Garago investment, Island Capital has now backed four companies, including Island Water Technologies, Onset Communications and Forestry.io.

“Garago's software for improving the efficiency and transparency of municipalities addresses a very real need for a sizable market,” said Stephen Nicolle, Investment Director at Island Capital Partners.  “They have the key initial ingredients of a company that has the potential to become a big player in the enterprise software industry.”

Island Capital Invests in Garago

Garago Software Inc., which makes software for local governments, has received a $205,000 investment from Island Capital Partners, with which it hopes to sell its product across North America this year.

Founded in Moncton, Garago has developed a cloud-based software that provides an accessible solution to local governments by offering so-called e-permits to their citizens. The company works with municipalities and other local entities to implement e-permits within their administration.

Garago – which now has offices in P.E.I. and New Brunswick – believes its interactive platform brings citizens and governments closer together, allowing for enhanced citizen engagement, modern user experience and reduced costs.

“We are ecstatic to launch our product across North America in 2018,” said Garago CEO Francis Thériault in a statement. “Obtaining seed funding at this stage was timely, and having Island Capital Partner’s support is invaluable.“

The Kent Regional Service Commission in New Brunswick, which provides municipal services for about 30,000 residents, now uses Garago’s platform, and Executive Director Paul Lang says it has become an “essential tool” in improving service to clients. “Garago brought a solution that is affordable and adaptable to our needs without compromising quality,” said Lang.

The investment group – a partnership between private investors and the P.E.I. government – announced the funding on Thursday. With the Garago investment, Island Capital has now backed four companies, including Island Water Technologies, Onset Communications and Forestry.io.

“Garago s software for improving the efficiency and transparency of municipalities addresses a very real need for a sizable market,” said Stephen Nicolle, Investment Director at Island Capital Partners.  “They have the key initial ingredients of a company that has the potential to become a big player in the enterprise software industry.”

IWT Lands $500K, Joins Imagine H2O

Charlottetown cleantech company Island Water Technologies has closed a $500,000 round of funding from Island Capital Partners and Natural Product Canada.

The company announced the financing, which will be used to commercialize its new bio-electrode sensor technology, at a reception today in Charlottetown. IWT also said recently that it has been accepted into the San Francisco-based water-focused accelerator Imagine H2O.

In an interview, CEO Patrick Kiely said that both investors are contributing through convertible loans, meaning the investment will become an equity stake when the company raises its next funding round. Island Capital is a relatively new group of investors based on P.E.I.  NPC is a national organization based in the P.E.I. capital that supports companies across the country that use natural products in their businesses. The IWT investment is the first in Atlantic Canada for Natural Products Canada.

“This is absolute huge,” Kiely said of the investment round. “This really fills that gap. We needed 12 months to validate certain technical milestones and this cash allows us to get across that chasm of doom.”

Based in Montague, P.E.I., IWT now has two products on the market, both of which offer efficient means of treating water away from urban locations. Regen is a solar-powered system that can treat waste water for remote facilities ideally housing 75 to 250 people. And the company also offers ClearPod, an efficient septic system for individual households.

The company now has three installations of its Regen product, and Kiely said the company is working on more sales, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, though he declined to name potential customers. He added that ClearPod is selling, not only in Canada but also in such countries as China, Honduras and Kenya. Kiely admitted ClearPod is not yet selling in the numbers he would like, though the company hopes to increase its sales soon.

Read About Island Capital's Investment in Onset Communications.

IWT will use part of the proceeds from this round to commercialize its bio-electrode sensor technology, which it calls Sentry and has been working on for 4.5 years. Sentry is a monitoring system that resides in the water treatment system and allows the operator to view the biology within the system in real-time on a computer or mobile device.

“Our plan is to form partnerships with leading waste-water groups in Europe and North America and we hope to install 15 of them in the next year, starting in May,” said Kiely.

In a statement, the two investors said the demand for systems that treat and clean water is growing around the world and IWT fills a market need by providing systems designed for outlying areas.

“There is increasing need and demand for sustainable, reliable and cost-effective solutions for waste water treatment and water purification,” said Alex MacBeath, CEO Island Capital Partners. “Island Water Technologies Inc. has developed innovative products with significant global market potential. We are pleased to be investing in Island Water Technologies as it begins to commercialize next generation solutions.”

Natural Products Canada CEO Shelley King added that the aspect of the funding round that pleases her is the way so many parties are contributing to the ecosystem for such companies. “The various players working at multiple levels to guide and support promising companies like IWT is the thing that is putting Canada on the map. We’re proud to be a part of that system,” she said.

IWT announced last month that it would attend Imagine H2O, which involves spending time in San Francisco, New Orleans and Las Vegas. Kiely said he hopes to use the program to deepen relationships with large corporations that back Imagine H2O and to work on a Series A financing round.

“Imagine H2O -- that was a big coup for us,” said Kiely. “I’m not a big fan of general accelerators, but I am a fan of accelerators that are targeted at the industry you’re working in. And this is the world’s leading accelerator for the water industry.”

B4checkin Unveils B4easypost Sales

B4checkin, a Halifax company that offers Software-as-a-Service solutions to the hospitality industry, is installing one of its main products in two prestigious Canadian hotels – One King West Hotel & Residences in Toronto and the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff, Alta.

The company issued a statement last week saying the two hotels were installing b4easypost, which it called the industry’s first online payment and posting software solution.

B4easypost is an online platform that allows guests and meeting planners to seamlessly make deposits and payments to a hotel. The platform then automatically and securely posts those payments to the property management system. This eliminates the need for paper credit card authorization forms, which are inconvenient, prone to human error and contrary to payment card industry compliance standards.

The company also said the solution reduces credit card chargebacks to the hotel and saves the establishment money.

“In an age where hotel properties – or any company for that matter – are still dealing with paper-based credit card authorization forms or having to manually post transactions into their PMS and accounting systems, our software is the only fully integrated and PCI-compliant solution,” said b4checkin CEO Saar Fabrikant in the statement. “As guests now expect every form of payment to be available to them online with a safe and seamless presentation, there is no reason why all properties shouldn’t do their best to uphold strict data security standards without manual work.”

The Rimrock and One King West, which have 343 and 355 rooms respectively, join a range of properties using b4easypost.

B4checkin offers several products to hotels around the world. In November, the company said it had installed its hotel booking engine chameleon in two large American casino hotels – Black Bear Casino Resort in Carleton, Minn., and Pahrump Nugget Hotel Casino in Pahrump, Nev.

Tieӧs Takes New Approach to Cancer

Tieӧs Pharmaceuticals, a Moncton- and Toronto- based biotech company, is taking a whole new approach to finding a cure for cancer.

For generations, the scientific and medical communities have been attacking cancer with the understanding that the tumors are created by genetic mutations. But Tieӧs is questioning that tenet, saying instead that cancer tumors originate from metabolic causes rather than genetic mutations.

What that means is that Tieӧs is rethinking how to kill cancer tumors.

“If you want to cure the disease, you have to know the cause of it,” said Tieӧs Co-Founder and CEO Arun Anand. “We’re redefining the future of cancer therapy.”

Anand notes that cancer cells are different from other cells in that they do not use oxygen to create most of their energy. Instead, they use glucose, glutamine, lactate and other amino acids at a disproportionate rate compared to normal cells.

Tieӧs aims to exploit these unique metabolic changes in cancer cells by coming up with groups of remedies that can starve cancer cells of the fuel they need to produce energy.

Tieӧs has partnered with Cyclica, a Toronto company that applies artificial intelligence to medical research, to help in creating new classes of medications. The two companies use artificial intelligence algorithms and computational biology to create “polypharmacological compounds”, which are drugs that act on several disease pathways at once. Tieös aims to simultaneously attack cancer tumors in various ways, while using intelligent design elements to minimize drug resistance and collateral damage.

Sona Nanotech To List on the TSX Venture Exchange

 “We’re doing something that only a handful of companies in the world are capable of doing,” said Rishi Anand, Senior Vice-President and Head of Operations. “The science of cancer metabolism has been around for about 100 years but it’s only recently that we’re starting to see traction [in the field].”

Tieӧs was a finalist in the BioPort Atlantic pitching competition BioInnovation Challenge in the autumn and has become a member of such support groups in the region as BioNB and the Charlottetown-based Emergence life sciences accelerator.

“We believe that the Tieös approach to cancer treatment . . . represents an important hypothesis for developing a novel, and potentially disruptive, approach to cancer therapy,” said Emergence CEO Martin Yuill in an email.

The Tieӧs team now comprises five people, and includes Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Roberts, who is based in Moncton.

The team aims to produce pharmacological drugs that can target a number of cancers, but its first step is to focus in on renal cancer. This is a Top 10 cancer for both men and women and is a serious health problem because of its low survival rates.

Tieӧs is now in the pre-clinical stages of its development and is studying the impact of five drug candidates on cancer tumors. It expects to have initial data in March.

So far, the founders have invested $250,000 of their own money into the project. Arun Anand said the company hopes to raise external investment once it has completed gathering its initial data. He said the target for the first round will probably be about $2 million.

 

Disclosure: Emergence is a client of Entrevestor.

Applewhite To Deliver R3 Keynote

Ashton Applewhite, an ageism activist and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, will present the keynote address at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s R3 awards gala on April 12.

“Ashton’s refreshing manifesto assures us that it's not all doom and gloom, and that negative stereotypes only further compound the problem," NBIF said in a statement Tuesday. "Over the course of her keynote, she will explain how these myths affect our brains and bodies, explore what an age-friendly world would look like, and end with an enthusiastic call to action.”

The keynote will be given on the last day of the three-day R3 Innovations in Aging conference in April. This year, NBIF is extending its celebration of the province’s research and innovation by turning its biennial R3 awards gala into a three-day conference filled with seminars, success stories and workshops for different industries.

The conference will focus on themes of aging and ageism in entrepreneurship, said the statement:

“Aging is a topic that can often have negative connotations, and conjure feelings of worry, fear, or pity," it said. "This especially rings true in New Brunswick, where an aging population is one of the province’s greatest challenges.”

The event kicks off on Tuesday April 10 at the Fredericton Playhouse, and concludes April 12 with the R3 awards gala, which is when Applewhite will give her keynote.

The R3 awards will honour five New Brunswick researchers who specialize in innovations around aging and for the aging population. Three of the five honourees will receive $50,000 in NBIF research funding, and one public choice recipient will win $15,000.

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Sona Nanotech To List on TSX Venture

Darren Rowles: 'We've got huge plans for Sona.'

Darren Rowles: 'We've got huge plans for Sona.'

Sona Nanotech, a Halifax company that produces gold nanorods, has brought on board a new CEO from Great Britain and is preparing for a stock market listing within a few months.

In a statement in September that attracted little notice, the company said it had agreed to merge with publicly listed Stockport Exploration and raise about $700,000 in a private placement. The company is also bolstering its executive team by appointing Darren Rowles, an executive with extensive experience in nanotechnologies, to be its CEO.

“We’ve got huge plans for Sona but we’re going to have to take it one step at a time,” said Rowles in an interview Monday from Cardiff.

“The next two to three years is our main focus right now and we want to build a sustainable company.”

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

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

Appili Therapeudics Raises $4.3M in Equity Funding

The company officers are saying little about the listing, which is now going through the regulatory process, other than to say they hope it’s completed in the first quarter.

The statement in September said that Halifax-based Stockport Exploration, which had been involved in mining ventures, would swap shares with Sona to effectively merge the two companies. After the transaction is completed, the merged company will be called Sona Nanotech and be involved exclusively in the development of the nanoparticles.

Concurrent with the transaction, the merged company is issuing stock through a private placement, which it says will raise $700,000. Stockport president and CEO James Megann is also a shareholder in Sona.

To grow the business, the company has brought in Rowles, who has 14 years with the Welsh medical devices company BBI Solutions, where he gained extensive experience in nanoparticle technologies.

Rowles said in the interview that the team behind Sona knew it had a commercially viable product, but needed a better plan to reach the market and sufficient capital to execute the plan. So it opted to merge with Stockport to gain the company’s financial assets and listing, and grow the business.

“I’ve been brought in because the business as it was wasn’t really doing anything,” said Rowles. “It was not generating significant revenue . . . and since I got involved, we’ve adopted a new business plan and are moving forward on it.”

Sona, which now has three full-time employees, is gaining steam and hopes to hire four to five people this year. A new vice-president of business development is expected to join the company in the next few weeks.

Sona is now going to market with the original product that Marangoni, MacAlduff and Singh developed several years ago, a diagnostic product that Sona now calls Gemini. Meanwhile, the R&D team has produced a second product called Omni, which Rowles said is “more bio-friendly” and will be pushed toward medical applications.

Propel To Unveil New Program

Barry Bisson

Barry Bisson

The regional tech accelerator Propel ICT has decided not to hold its customary Launch and Build cohorts this spring as it prepares to launch a new program later in the year.

Propel issued a statement Monday announcing that a new program is on the way and will begin in September. It gave few details of what the new program will look like, other than to say it will be focused on the founders of early-stage ICT startups regardless of where they are based in Atlantic Canada. It will also aim to extend the organization’s relationship with the entrepreneur beyond a 12-week program.

Founded 15 years ago in Saint John, Propel ICT has grown to become the primary group for mentoring ICT startups across the region. Last autumn, it hired Barry Bisson, former head of the Shad organization, as its CEO. He and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Trevor MacAusland consulted with more than 100 stakeholders across the region in determining what direction the organization should take.

“Atlantic Canada’s founders and startups are everywhere,” said Bisson in the statement. “We must learn to work with our broad geography and dispersed population, and find new ways to support talent development. We have an Atlantic mindset and truly believe we are one region, and one population.”

For more on the new Propel program, read Huddle reporter Cherise Letson’s interview with Bisson.

Though Propel’s statement gave no details of the new program, there were two themes that emerged in the material released Monday: first, Propel will aim to support entrepreneurs across the whole region; and second, it wants to maintain longer relationships with entrepreneurs, rather than just putting them through a 12-week program and sending them off.

In recent years, Propel has delivered a two-track program across the region. Its Launch program helped companies still developing their product work on the product-market fit. Each cohort had programs in Halifax and Fredericton, and rotated between Charlottetown, St. John’s and Sydney. The Build program was held in Moncton and aided companies with traction to scale.

One challenge that has plagued Propel is geographic distance. We think of Atlantic Canada as a small place, but even if you exclude Labrador the region is an area about the size of France and Germany combined. Flights are expensive and transfers can be inconvenient. And Propel’s people – staff and entrepreneurs – often have to make trips in ugly weather conditions.  

The organization said it will open applications for the new program later in the year.

"This is going to be great for founders in Atlantic Canada,” Nicole LeBlanc, a BDC Capital executive and Propel director, said in a blog on the Propel website. “I love seeing something that really connects the startup community across the four provinces."

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor. 

Our Virtual Pints and Pitches

If you were as disappointed as we were that Pints and Pitches was scrapped due to weather, here’s your chance to make up for it: Entrevestor’s Virtual Pints and Pitches.

The regional IT accelerator Propel ICT had planned to combine a pub crawl into the demo day for its latest cohort – staging pitches in craft breweries around Fredericton. Sadly, the gods were against the idea, and Pints and Pitches was called off twice because of the weather.

But now you can familiarize yourself with all the Atlantic Canadian companies that were due to pitch at the event. As of last week, we have reported on all the East Coast companies that were due to present. Some companies we’ve reported on more than once and have posted a few stories.

So, grab a beer, find the companies that interest you and start reading.

Build Cohort:

Guild, Halifax

Guild Solutions Banks $500,000 in sales

SomaDetect, Fredericton

SomaDetect Wins US$1M at 43North

SomaDetect Making Waves in US

TripNinja, Halifax

TripNinja Lines Up Deals with Major Partners

TripNinja One of Five Volta Cohort Winners

Securicy, Sydney

In Techstars, Securicy Releases New Product

Securicy Ramping Up Paid Beta Tests

Launch Cohort

CoLab Software, St. John’s

Hyperloop Success Leads to Creation of CoLab

Unicare, Miramichi, N.B.

A Digital Aid for Home Care Providers

SafeAlert, St. John’s

SafeAlert's App for Monitoring Remote Workers

UpFront Tickets, Halifax

UpFront Battles Scalpers with Blockchain

SeaSmart Technologies, Mahone Bay, N.S.

Making the Lobster Fishery More Efficient

Passiv, Fredericton

370 Users Are Testing Passiv's FinTect Product

Prooflo, Fredericton

Prooflo Enhances Creative's Workflow

Zambara, St. John’s

Zambara Targets Group Benefit Plans

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor. 

We Need Survey Responses from NB

We’re approaching our targets with the 2017 Entrevestor Survey, but we still need more startup founders and CEOs to fill in our questionnaire – especially in New Brunswick.

This survey is the foundation for the data we collect on the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Policymakers rely heavily on that data when making decisions about programs that affect the ecosystem. So the higher the response rate, the better our information is.

By late last week, we had received responses from about 28 percent of the startups we’ve identified in Atlantic Canada. But in New Brunswick, we’ve only had a response rate of about 23 percent. We really need more responses overall, and we’d really love to up the tallies from Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John and other parts of the province.

To take the survey, just click here.

We believe a lot of people mean to fill in the survey, but just haven’t got around to it. Our survey comprises only 18 questions. It takes TWO MINUTES.  All the answers are completely confidential. We only publish aggregated data.  And you can just skip any question you don’t feel comfortable answering.

We’re trying to complete this exercise with as little bother as possible to founders and CEOs. So please just take two minutes now and fill out the survey. And a huge thanks to everyone who has already filled out the questionnaire. We really appreciate it.

Jobs: Harbr, Dash Hudson, Forests

Our job board is really full this week with a total of five openings from Dash Hudson, Harbr and Community Forests International.

Dash Hudson, a Software-as-a-Service company that helps clients optimize visual marketing strategies, hopes to hire a Sales Development Representative and Customer Success Representative for its Halifax team.

Harbr, also in Halifax, has developed a mobile app for big construction companies to manage data on large projects, improving efficiency over time. It’s looking for a UI/UX designer and Backend Developer to join its team. In October, Harbr announced its commitment to maintain gender-parity among its team.

Lastly, Community Forests International in Sackville, NB, is seeking a Social Enterprise Director to help with its mission to fight climate change.

Read our Recent Report on Community Forests International.

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

Here are excerpts from the postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

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

Responsibilities

Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.
Deliver training content to potential customers.
Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.
Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests…

Sales Development Representative

You are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.
Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule. . . 

Harbr

UI/UX Designer

We're looking for an experienced, creative, collaborative UI/UX Designer to inspire, teach, and lead the design of our new and existing web and mobile products.

Responsibilities

Help lead a collaborative and supportive culture that upholds your and the entire company's high standards and encourages growth and improvement as an individual, team, company, and ecosystem.

Be passionate about our mission and vision. Work closely with product owners and engineers to create and execute S.M.A.R.T. goals in short iterations. . . 

Backend Developer

Your primary focus will be development of all server-side logic, definition and maintenance of the central database, and ensuring high performance and responsiveness to requests from the front-end.

Responsibilities

Building reusable code and libraries for future use

Optimization of the application for speed and scalability

Implementation of security and data protection

Sackville, NB

Community Forests International

Social Enterprise Director

The Social Enterprise Director will help Forests Intl. build out an ecosystem of mission-driven people and organizations by providing business supports to partners around the world. 

Responsibilities

Assist people and companies in the fair trade and low-carbon sectors with market assessment, financial modeling, and sales with the goal of increasing revenues and creating 2 new businesses (currently incubated) over 12 months.

Pursue capital opportunities for social enterprises including community capital options such as New Brunswick’s Community Economic Development Corporations (CEDCs).

Establish a data collection and evaluation system to track collective impact and guide strategic decisions within the ecosystem. . . .

Find out more about all these jobs here. 

Supporting Forests in Canada, Africa

Daimen Hardie in Tanzania: 'We have a strong carbon sink in Atlantic Canada.'

Daimen Hardie in Tanzania: 'We have a strong carbon sink in Atlantic Canada.'

Atlantic Canada’s woodlot owners could benefit from the growing tendency of jurisdictions to require businesses to offset their carbon emissions, said Daimen Hardie, executive director and a co-founder of Sackville, NB-based Community Forests International.

Atlantic Canada has between 70,000 to 80,000 family woodlot owners who are ideally placed to form carbon offsetting partnerships with polluting companies, said Hardie.

He said carbon offset initiatives are being led by California, where companies that emit excessive carbon must pay a penalty or invest in projects that draw carbon from the atmosphere.

“To date, 60 million tonnes of forest offsets have been issued by the California Air Resources Board worth more than US$600 million in sales,” Hardie said.

He said this region’s mature forests, including the remnants of the Acadian forest, are diverse and stable and can store a lot of carbon.

“We have a strong carbon sink in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “Healthy old forests sequester more carbon, and young forest that’s maturing stores more carbon than young, planted trees.

“Carbon offset is like a new forest product that can be harvested, just not all at once. It’s the opposite of clearcutting. It creates a financial incentive to leave trees growing and curb clearcutting.”

Forests International Seeks a Social Enterprise Director

Hardie said the income generated for regional woodlot owners participating in such schemes would depend on the price of carbon. In any case, in order to access the regulated carbon markets, Atlantic Canada would need to sign up to the standards outlined in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).

WCI was founded by several U.S. states in 2007 with the aim of finding ways to reduce their greenhouse gases. WCI now includes Canadian signatories Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba, although only Quebec has taken steps to implement the program.

Hardie said that Forests International has been working with companies that have voluntarily chosen to reduce their carbon footprint since 2012. This work has saved 700 acres of old forest and generated revenue of $350,000, he said.

“We’ve been leaders in this field, selling into the voluntary market. We want this opportunity to be extended to small family woodlots. To do that, we need to serve a larger regulated market,” he said.

He said Forests International is building a support network to move on developing this opportunity if and when it arises, while also developing the voluntary market.

MUN Launches MBA for Social Ventures

Forests International was founded by a group of New Brunswick tree planters passionate about using forests to fight climate change. The group helps rural communities in Canada and East Africa, specifically Tanzania, create enterprises that help combat climate change.

Despite being a non-profit, Forests International has started spinning out certain ideas to commercialize valuable innovation.

The group has recently launched Jaza Energy, a startup that is focused on delivering solar power to the world’s poorest communities.

“They’re commercializing the technology,” Hardie said of Jaza co-founders Jeff Schnurr and Sebastian Manchester. “They’re raising capital and bringing energy to way more people than we could in-house.”

Hardie, who is from rural Port Elgin in New Brunswick and still lives in the forest with his wife Estelle Drisdelle, who is a Forests International co-founder and homestead farmer, is delighted to be able to stay in New Brunswick after studying international relations at Mount Allison in Sackville. “Our partners in Africa and the European Union allow us to remain here and work on global issues with the global community,” he said.

“The challenges of climate change are huge. But forests are our greatest allies, and there are opportunities in the challenge. We can build our own ecosystem to fight climate change.”

China Program Launched in Halifax

Institutions that foster education and innovation are banding together to run the China Program, a series of free events for innovators in the Halifax area.

The programming begins on Feb. 26 and runs on a further five days through March.  It is designed to give attendees a better understanding of China, with the possible aim of exporting their technology into the vast Chinese market.

Organizing groups include LaunchDal, St.Mary’s University’s Business Development Center, the Confucius Institute, Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Nova Scotia International Network Society.

The programming includes a panel discussion, export training, a pitch session, a Chinese Spring Festival Celebration and a final pitch competition.

There is a $2,500 cash prize and the chance to win a possible trip to China to meet with incubators, accelerators and landing support programs.

Click here to apply.

SMU Grad Chiang Dives Into Chatbots

Janet Chiang: 'Everything is growing so fast and we’re just trying to catch up.'

Janet Chiang: 'Everything is growing so fast and we’re just trying to catch up.'

When the chatbot-building company ChatFuel held a global competition for chatbot development recently, Halifax's Janet Chiang was delighted that her company, GoSky AI Digital Marketing, placed fourth. 

Taiwan-based GoSky is a global digital marketing and ad optimization company that builds chatbots, and has offices all over the world. Chiang, a graduate of the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary’s University is the lone representative at GoSky’s Halifax office.

Chiang, who is also from Taiwan, came to Canada during high school as a part of the Nova Scotia International Student Program.

“I came here alone at 16 years old and I spoke no English,” said Chiang in an interview. That was eight years ago. Today, she is the business development manager for GoSky. 

Over the past six months, GoSky has experienced substantial growth. In December, it placed fourth in ChatFuel's global chatbot-building competition. Chatfuel, a world leader in chatbot design, accepted over 800 submissions worldwide.

“Our thought was to give it a try and, surprisingly, we got in and made it to the final round,” said Chiang. “After the competition, everything is growing so fast and we’re just trying to catch up.”

GoSky works with clients in 28 different countries across multiple industries. It services nearly 130 accounts by managing online marketing, and building chatbots for around 40 of those customers.

Curv's Jouney from LaunchDal to Superbowl

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems or “bots” that users can interact with via text conversation. Companies usually use them to advertise with or gain feedback from consumers. You may have already seen this technology with companies like Facebook or Dominos Pizza.

The idea behind chatbots is to simulate informative and clear dialogue with users. But designing natural conversation flow is tough, especially when English is not your native language.

“We’ve worked in languages that I don’t even understand, which I find fascinating,” said Chiang.  “But really it’s the logic behind it.”

“It’s a lot of coding and adjusting back-end settings,” added Fash Chang the company's marketing director. He was kind enough to speak with Entrevestor from Taiwan at 5 a.m his time. When GoSky started in 2013, it was a one-man show run by Chang, in Taiwan. He, and another employee do all the coding and bot-building.

In the beginning, GoSky only offered digital marketing services for its customers, helping them increase their online traffic. 

“It was that simple to start with, but then one day we were looking at other things and we found chatbots,” said Chiang. “And we got some bona fide results from combining the two tools.”

Moving forward in 2018, GoSky plans on designing a platform for its customers to create their own chatbots.

“Six months ago, I didn’t even see that we’d be where we are today so it’s hard to say where we will be in the future,” said Chiang.  “We’re trying to think of one simple solution for everyone.” 

Curv’s Journey from Dal to Superbowl

The Curv team receives their award from NFL lumniaries like Russell Wilson and Roger Goodell.

The Curv team receives their award from NFL lumniaries like Russell Wilson and Roger Goodell.

Shea Balish did at Super Bowl LII what Tom Brady couldn’t: he came away with a win.

Balish, who cut his entrepreneurial teeth at LaunchDal and Propel ICT, is now the Co-Founder and CEO of Toronto-based Curv, which uses artificial intelligence to help athletes improve performance and avoid injury.

Last weekend, the company was in Minneapolis to participate in a pitching event hosted by the National Football League in conjunction with the Super Bowl. Curv walked away with the US$50,000 first prize.

“To be brutally honest, the money was nice,” said Balish in an interview Wednesday. “But what’s great is the validation of the app and the connections we now have with the NFL and its network. I spent Monday morning on the phone with two NFL superstars — well respected athletes who have the ears of people around the league.”

Balish played basketball and received a PhD in social psychology at Dalhousie, and went through the university’s entrepreneurship program to turn his research into a digital product. Now a Banting Fellow at University of Toronto, he heads a young company that is using computer vision and “deep learning” to help athletes improve their movement.

Formerly known as Rep-AI, Curv has developed software that helps an athlete, trainer or coach to use a common mobile device to analyze how an athlete moves and suggest improvements. The team started with the notion that sports experts can gain a wealth of insights — such as predicting injuries or finding weaknesses in skills — from an athlete’s movement, but such insights are usually brought out only by costly consultants.

Read about other recent entries into the Techstars accelerator:

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Curv’s consumer product allows users to video their motion (whether it’s walking, exercising or performing a drill) and carry out a digital analysis of how they move. The software uses deep learning — a subset of machine learning — to analyze the motion, identify problems and suggest improvements.

Balish initially learned entrepreneurship in Halifax with such groups as LaunchDal and the regional accelerator Propel ICT, then took it to Toronto. There he was accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab’s artificial intelligence program, and NextAI, part of the Next Canada suite of academic-entrepreneurial programs. And last year Curv was accepted into the prestigious Techstars accelerator, which brings with it almost US$120,000 in funding.

On Wednesday, he was flying to St. Louis to pitch to Stadia Ventures, one of the leading sports accelerators in the U.S.

Curv’s most recent gambit was to enter the third annual NFL 1st and Future event, a pitching competition for startups whose products could help professional football players, as well as other athletes.

Curv was the only Canadian team among the nine competitors in the competition, which the NFL hosted in conjunction with Comcast NBCUniversal and the Mayo Clinic.

Balish pitched on Saturday and claimed the first prize — US$50,000 in development funds, and two tickets to the Super Bowl.

Curv, whose five-member team includes Halifax-based R&D expert Jason Hopper, is now in the middle of raising a round of equity, so the timing of the NFL award was great.

And it didn’t hurt that Balish and a partner got to see one of the best Super Bowls ever.

“We debated whether to sell the tickets and give the proceeds to the company,” he said. “But we went and what a game.”

Appili Raises $4.3M in Equity Funding

Kevin Sullivan: Expanding the pipeline of anti-infectives.

Kevin Sullivan: Expanding the pipeline of anti-infectives.

Halifax drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics Inc., has raised $4.3 million in equity financing to further its operations and add to its number of drug candidates.

The company said in a press release it raised the money through a private placement, which was over-subscribed. It received money from new and existing investors, including Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s innovation and venture capital organization. Appili, which previously has raised money with the help of the Toronto investment boutique Bloom Burton & Co., said it has now raised a total of $11.8 million in less than two years.  

Appili also said it would borrow a further $500,000 through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Business Development Program.

“The second wave of financing in the last quarter of 2017 and into early 2018 confirms the confidence of our investors in the company’s strategy to bring to market new anti-infective drugs for resistant or neglected infections,” said CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement Wednesday.

Appili has been working to develop a portfolio of anti-infectious drug candidates. In the statement Wednesday, the company said it plans to “expand its pipeline of anti-infectives with additional in-licensed assets.”

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In October, Appili’s first drug candidate ATI-1501 received approval to begin clinical trials in both Canada and the U.S. It treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children. ATI-1501 removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the drug.

Last month, the company struck an agreement to work on a vaccine that could protect people against a potential bioterror threat. It signed a licence agreement with the National Research Council of Canada to help develop ATI-1701, to vaccinate against tularemia. The vaccine will protect against bacteria called Francisella tularensis, which can cause tularemia, a highly infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.

The company is also working on a compound called ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. Sullivan has said the drug could combat viruses that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s a longer-term, riskier project than the other candidates.

“Appili Therapeutics was formed with the intent to create a portfolio of research and development assets, and this funding will allow us to be opportunistic in our in-licensing activities,” said CFO Kimberly Stephens in the statement.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Startup Weekend for Social Ventures

The startup community in Fredericton is organizing Startup Weekend New Brunswick: Social Impact Edition, to take place Feb. 23 to 26.

Startup Weekends are part of a global movement in which people with an interest in starting a business come together for one intensive weekend to work on the early stages of a startup. On the Friday evening, they present ideas and break into teams. By Sunday, they pitch their companies.

The interesting thing about the Fredericton event is it will target social ventures, or companies that aim to produce a profit but also want to benefit society or the environment.

“This year we will be encouraging entrepreneurs from all corners of our province to come out and participate in creating ideas and opportunities that drive real-world social change,” said the organizers in a statement. “In order to help foster ideas of how you can effect real change in your community, we have the City of Fredericton as a partner. They will be presenting a list of challenges that they are working on as part of their 'Digital Fredericton' initiative.”

The organizers have lined up several mentors to aid the teams, and there will be talks by serial entrepreneur David Alston and SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande.

The event will begin at 5:30pm Feb. 23 at the The Ville in Fredericton. You can find more information and registration here.

Prooflo Enhances Creatives’ Workflow

Though his main goal is to help web designers collaborate more efficiently with their clients, Shane Long could provide a few lessons for entrepreneurs on bootstrapping.

Long is the Founder and CEO of Fredericton-based Prooflo, which is developing a Software-as-a-Service product that will help website designers communicate and collaborate with their clients. With a background in design, he has marshalled the resources needed to produce a minimum viable product, and expects it to be ready in a month or two.  

Not only has he done it without raising money or giving away equity, he even sold the product before it was developed. To build the MVP, Long contracted the work out to a developer in Miami, trying to save money as he brought the product to market.

“Our goal is to hire someone local but there’s only so much money,” said Long in an interview last week. “You’re really milking every penny out of a limited budget. We’re now bootstrapping as the product is being completed.”

As a designer, Long came to understand that web designers and graphic artists have a hard time going back and forth with their clients during the process of creating a website. Clients have to view the work-in-progress, provide feedback, then be sent the changes again. Long estimates the designer and client can go back and forth as many as 35 times before they get it right.

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“As the freelance, there are so many clients and interactions that this is a problem,” he said. “The average web designer might have 50 clients and that means they could have tens of thousands of interactions.”

What Prooflo plans to do is provide the designer with a tool that lets him or her share the work-in-progress with the client. Together, they can go over the design and functionality together, removing the endless exchange of emails or phone calls. It helps them manage their workflow, organizing their projects and keeping track of each piece of work.

Long began the development of the company by talking to freelance designers and agencies – the people who felt the sharpest pain with this problem. Some 70 to 80 percent of them said this endless back-and-forth was a pain for them, and three even bought the product before Long had built it.

Long, who recently graduated from the Propel ICT Launch program, said he and his developer now have about 75 percent of the product built, and he hopes to complete his minimum viable product in March or April. Within three to six months, he hopes to be ready for a market launch.

The long-term goal is to build out the product so it could be used by a range of creatives and improve their efficiency in collaborating with clients.

“In the long term, we want to empower the creatives, whether they’re website designers or videographers or whatever,” said Long. “We want to empower them to keep their project on track. . . . It allows the designers or creatives to focus their thinking on the creative aspects and not have to manage all the tedious tasks. The workflow is automated.”

Stuart To Give Starting Point Keynote

The Sobey School of Business at St. Mary's University this month will host the 2018 Starting Point Student Entrepreneurship Conference, a three-day event that brings together student entrepreneurs for a series of classes, seminars, and presentations.

The conference will host many events for its student participants, including master classes, funder speed-dating and an entrepreneur “triathlon”. Opening ceremonies for the conference will start at 6 p.m. on Feb.20.

Tristram Stuart, an entrepreneur, food waste advocate and the author of such books as The Bloodless Revolution and Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, will give a keynote address on the second night. Stuart is the founder of Toast Ale, a brewing company that makes beer from surplus bread scraps. His speech will be open to the public.

There will be a few changes to the conference this year. Starting Point will now offer its master classes -- sessions taught by entrepreneurs -- over the course of two days instead of one. Organizers say these classes are always the highest-rated events at the conference so they decided to spread them out, as well as adding an additional session.

Attendees will learn from the founders of local companies such as Skyline, Halifax Paper Hearts and A Million Moving Parts.

As another new aspect for the 2018 conference, Starting Point is opening its doors to student entrepreneurs in high school. About 50 students at the high school level are expected to attend.

This is the fourth year for the Starting Point conference, which aims to “change the world through entrepreneurship” by teaching students to hone their entrepreneurial ideas.

You can read more on and register for the event here. 

Disclosure: SMU is a client of Entrevestor.

Four Join NS Cleantech Program

Four Halifax clean technology startups have been accepted into Innovacorp’s CleanTech Development Program.

The provincial venture capital and innovation agency established the program to help early-stage companies meet technical and business goals. It awards each winner as much as $50,000 in non-dilutive, non-repayable funds to help them bring their products to market. The goal is to help these businesses access international markets.

The CleanTech Development Program, which is funded in part by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, opened applications in January to companies with less than $1 million in cumulative sales. 

Here are the companies that will participate in the program, as well as the amount of funding each received:

Global Spatial Technology Solutions, $50,000: 
This company, headed by Richard Kolacz, uses data monitoring and analysis via satellite data to optimize routes for the region’s shipping industry.

Peer Ledger, $50,000: 
Dawn Jutla’s company uses blockchain technology to identify and ensure ethical supply of precious metals and minerals for the electronics manufacturing industry.

Rimot.io, $25,000:  
Founded by Andrew Boswell and James Craig, Rimot monitors and manages remote infrastructure like radio towers, marine navigation equipment etc. to lower disruptions and maintenance costs.

B-Line Analytics, $25,000:   
Founders Aaron Short and Torrin Swanson are developing a technology that helps property managers and engineers easily collect transportation-usage data from occupants to maintain green-building certifications.

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

SMU Places 2nd at VCIC in Boston

The SMU team: Stephanie Fitzner, left, Ellen Farrell, Findlay Hilchie, Anu Gupta, David Hatcher and Avinash Chandrapati

The SMU team: Stephanie Fitzner, left, Ellen Farrell, Findlay Hilchie, Anu Gupta, David Hatcher and Avinash Chandrapati

A team from the Sobey School of Business had an exciting weekend at the Venture Capital Investment Competition in Boston, taking home the silver medal and beating teams from prestigious schools like Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dartmouth.

The team from the St. Mary's University business school, comprising students from the university’s venture capital fund Venture Grade, attended the competition in Boston and tied for first place with Rochester University. SMU ended up taking home second place after a tie-breaking round.

The VCIC is a tri-continental event in which student teams are given an imaginary $100 million to invest in one of three pitching startups at the event.

“It is an unbelievably gruelling competition,” Ellen Farrell, professor of venture capital and entrepreneurship at SMU, said in an email after the competition.  “The excitement is palpable around the university.”

Twelve venture capital investors served as the panel of judges to assess which teams did the best job. A total of six teams participated: SMU; Yale University; Rochester University; Dartmouth University; Babson College; and MIT.

Three participating entrepreneurs pitched the teams to start the competition, after which the VC teams had 14-minute one-on-one meetings with each presenter. Then the teams had one hour to complete a term sheet for their investee of choice.

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SMU’s team turned in a four-page term sheet, which included an analysis of its favourite company. It also detailed the reasons for rejecting the other two pitches.

From there, the top two teams were chosen to come back and negotiate with their chosen entrepreneur. The judges, who were all experienced venture capitalists, voted on the winner. 

SMU’s team made it to the final, where the judges’ votes were split, six for Rochester and six for SMU.

In order to break the tie, the head of the organization was called on to look at the teams’ discussions with the entrepreneurs during the first event. In the end Rochester came out on top with SMU right at its heels. 

In March, SMU will host its own VCIC event, becoming the first Canadian University to host the competition. For ethical reasons, the Venture Grade team is not allowed to compete in SMU’s competition but was invited to go to Boston.  

“We are the new hosts for the Canadian event, which means we cannot compete in our own event,” said Farrell. “Being invited to participate against the Boston elite was an unexpected win-win of securing the Canadian host bid."

Venture Grade’s team was made up of six SMU students: Findlay Hilchie; Stephanie Fitzner; David Hatcher; Avinast Chandrapati; Anu Gupta; and Stu Clow as a stand in. The team prepared for the competition with support from Build Ventures, Innovacorp and a representative of Progress Partners of Boston. 

Venture Grade is a student-run venture capital fund at SMU. Its students are responsible for raising the funds on their own and so far, it has raised over $200,000 since its inception in 2016.

Disclosure: SMU is a client of Entrevestor. 

Ulnooweg Plots Tech-Ed for Natives

The Ulnooweg Development Group, a non-profit organization that encourages economic development among the Mi’kmaq people, will lead an initiative to teach digital skills to First Nations children in Atlantic Canada.

Chris Googoo, the chief operating officer of Ulnooweg, said the initiative will focus on key sectors like animation, big data, robotics, artificial intelligence and web development.

By partnering with organizations like the Canadian Space Agency and Acadia University, Ulnooweg will show First Nations students from kindergarten to Grade 12 the fundamentals and real-world applications of digital skills.

“They’ll come into schools and teach robotics,” said Googoo in an interview. “Our goal is to teach the kids about not just robotics but how it’s used in society, like to put a man into space.”

The initiative comes after a recent funding announcement by the federal government, which granted $1 million to Ulnooweg from its CanCode program. CanCode is a two-year program that will contribute $50 million into organizations to teach digital skills, like coding.  The government says CanCode will provide funding to 63,000 teachers so they can provide students with the education needed to enter the digital workforce. In particular, the government hopes to encourage such education in segments of the population who have so far been under-represented in the new economy.

Ulnooweg, which roughly translates as “to make Indigenous”, works with 26 First Nations communities across the region, providing loans and resources to Indigenous entrepreneurs. The organization hopes to form key partnerships to help deliver the tech education program, including the Acadia Robotics Program.

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Googoo said Acadia “is really excited about our partnership because there currently are no First Nations students in their robotics programs and competitions.”

Ulnooweg will use its CanCode funds over an 18-month period. In addition to bringing digital skills into the classroom, “creative micro-labs” stocked with up-to-date learning resources and equipment will be set up in centers in six different communities. The first micro-lab will be up and running in the spring.

But for Ulnooweg, the effects of the CanCode funding will go beyond those 18 months.

“This is a long-term game for us, though it’s an 18-month program,” said Googoo. He said innovation and digital skills will help bring Indigenous children and their communities out of poverty.

“This investment is huge for us and we don’t think short-term here.”

Indigenous children, the fastest-growing population in Canada, face a large gap when it comes to access to technology. Googoo said there is a $2,500 disparity per student in funding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools.

By enhancing students’ knowledge in digital skills, Ulnooweg hopes to eliminate the barriers that stand in the way for Indigenous children. He believes that digital skills and innovation will create a sustainable economy to bring their communities out of poverty.

“There is a cycle of dependence on the government,” said Googoo. “It doesn’t provide the necessary role models or resources to innovate, and innovation will be the key to getting out of poverty. We want kids to go out there and explore other communities and see the world.”

Here’s Why our Survey Matters

Last week, we were able to introduce facts into an emotional debate. We want to be able to do that again in the future, but we need your help.

When columnist Diane Francis wrote recently about governments wasting money on “fake startups”, her column had no data to back up her assertions. What was needed was hard data to show that startups in Atlantic Canada are actually selling products to customers.

We had that information. Our response cited the2016 Entrevestor Data Analysis as saying that 56 percent of the East Coast startups surveyed in late 2016 had at least $100,000 in revenue. Some 31 percent had revenue of more than $1 million.

This illustrates why Atlantic Canadian startup CEOs should take two minutes to complete our survey. It produces data that demonstrates what is really happening in #startupeast. We’re getting a great response, but we need more people to fill in its 18 questions. You can find it here:

Remember, all the answers will be 100 percent confidential. And if you don’t feel comfortable answering some questions, just leave them blank.

Many thanks to everyone who’s filled it in so far. For all other founders and CEOs, keep ‘em coming in.

Jobs: 7 Openings at Brilliant Labs

Brilliant Labs, a New Brunswick-based non-profit organization that works with schools to teach students about robotics and coding, is looking to hire seven program specialists across the region.

The candidates will help facilitate Brilliant Lab’s school and community activities, and provide support to teachers, school boards and the provincial Departments of Education.

“Those positions will be to help kids and teachers and educators in libraries or community centers to help kids to code and develop their creative and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Jeff Willson, the executive director at Brilliant Labs.

Five of the seven postings can be found on our job board, and two more were posted on Huddle. The posting said the hours are flexible but the candidates must be prepared to work 37.5 hours per week.

Brilliant Labs is looking for someone who is bilingual and passionate about youth learning in science or technology fields.

This hiring blitz is a part of an expansion that was made possible by a recent $1 million contribution from the federal government’s CanCode program. In an effort to teach Canadian students the fundamentals of robotics and coding in the digital age, the feds committed $50 million to invest into organizations like Brilliant Labs.

Brilliant Labs’ mission is to give all students in Atlantic Canada the opportunity to learn to create, code and innovate for the growing business and technology sectors. 

The openings on our board are in Summerside, PEI, Truro, NS, Moncton, Yarmouth, NS, and Corner Brook, NL.

Jobs: Dash Hudson Seeks a CSR

Dash Hudson, a Halifax Software-as-a-Service company that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies, hopes to hire a Customer Success Representative.

The CSR will help train and engage potential customers during a trial period with its software.

With its platform, Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

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

Here are excerpts from the job posting:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

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

Responsibilities

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

Apply for the job here.

We Hate To Nag, So Fill In Our Survey

We’re in the middle of our campaign to get Atlantic Canadian startup founders and CEOs to complete our survey. We’re thrilled by the response and want to remind all startups that haven’t completed the 18-question questionnaire to please do so.

We’ve contacted a lot of people personally, and we’ll be posting reminders throughout this week to complete the survey. There are some companies that we haven’t heard from yet. We don’t want to send out more reminders – we really hate pestering people! So please just take TWO MINUTES and complete the survey. Just click here.

 

Thanks so much to the 100-plus entrepreneurs who have filled it out.  A huge thanks to Michelle Simms of the Genesis Centre for sparking a wave of responses from St. John’s on Friday. We’re going to have better data from Newfoundland and Labrador this year than ever before.

These surveys allow us to produce our data reports. It’s really important for our business and the Atlantic Canadian startup community at large. We believe it will help improve the ecosystem.

All your answers will be 100 percent confidential – we publish aggregated data but never divulge information on individual companies.

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017.  If there is information you choose not to reveal, just leave the slot blank.

The companies we’re targeting are majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians, commercializing technology and producing a product for the global market. We use the term “startup” but we’re not just looking for new companies. Most of the companies are several years old.

In Techstars, Securicy Unveils Product

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

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

Securicy, the Cape Breton company that helps SMEs implement cybersecurity plans, has been accepted into TechStars Boston as it launches its first product, Policy Builder.

The Sydney company issued a statement Thursday with the announcements, highlighting an acceleration of its growth over the past two years.

“In general, everything seems to have hit a fast track since we landed here on the 17th of January,” said Securicy Co-Founder and CEO Darren Gallop in an email from Boston Thursday. “This ecosystem is unlike anything I have ever been exposed to.”

Gallop founded Securicy in 2016 having previously built up his initial business Martcato Digital Solutions into a leading provider of admin software for music festivals. Securicy is a software-as-a-service product that helps enterprises navigate the complex routes to make sure they are compliant with their clients’ and partners’ cybersecurity standards. This field is so complex that even tech entrepreneurs are often asked for material they’ve never heard of.

“Cyber attacks are growing both in frequency and sophistication,” said Gallop. “Their increased propagation is taking a toll on small and medium-sized businesses, which typically lack the resources required to properly protect customer data. At Securicy, we’re solving this growing issue by providing a cost-effective, end-to-end cybersecurity solution for SMBs.”

Five Atlantic Canadian Companies in Fierce Founders Accelerator

Gallop said that Securicy expects to announce a small fundraising round in February. (All Techstars companies receive almost US$120,000, or C$148,000, in funding.)

“Techstars is helping immensely,” said Gallop. “So far most of the committed funds are U.S. money which wouldn’t be on the table had we not got into Techstars.”

The company, a recent graduate of the Propel ICT Build program, also announced that it has launched Policy Builder, the first product in its suite of cybersecurity solutions. Securicy describes Policy Builder as an easy-to-use, web-based software solution that empowers businesses to quickly develop clear and concise cybersecurity policies tailored to their business needs.

“We are talking to small to medium businesses all over Canada and the U.S., and seeing that most of them do not have privacy officers, security policies or cyber awareness programs,” said Laird Wilton, President and Co-founder of Securicy. “This is leaving many businesses exposed to significant risks and potential fines.”

Securicy was one of two Nova Scotian companies to be accepted into Techstars’ most recent cohort. Halifax’s BlockCrushr Labs and its TokenClub unit were also accepted into Techstars Anywhere, a virtual accelerator for companies that can’t commit to a specific location.

A few years ago, it was rare for Atlantic Canadian startups to be accepted even into leading Canadian accelerators. But in the past few years, there have been a select but growing group of startup founders that have entered U.S. programs. These include Charlottetown-based Forestry.io attending TechStars New York and 500 Startups in Silicon Valley accepting Alongside of Moncton, WellTrack of Fredericton and Swept of Halifax.

Techstars Key to BlockCrushr Expansion

Scott Burke: 'We have notable customers around the world.'

Scott Burke: 'We have notable customers around the world.'

As it expands into the U.S. by opening a Wyoming subsidiary, BlockCrushr Labs and its TokenClub unit have been accepted into the prestigious Techstars accelerator.

Halifax-based BlockCrushr is a skunkworks for blockchain. Established two years ago, it aims to produce various projects and companies based on blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s gaining traction with TokenClub, which is a subscription service for initial coin offerings, or ICOs.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be joining the Techstars family,” said BlockCrushr Co-Founder and CEO Scott Burke in a statement. “The mentorship and network they offer will be invaluable to us as we grow and scale our offering, and in true Techstars fashion we’ll do our best to give as much back to the network as we gain.”

TokenClub allows subscribers to receive monthly allotments of tokens from leading ICOs, which are offerings of cryptocurrencies mined by companies working with blockchain. TokenClub says its subscription service delivers a curated, vetted selection of eight to 10 top ICO tokens monthly. The company is already gaining clients around the world.

“Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to disclose customer numbers, but we have notable customers around the world, including top Silicon Valley CEOs, venture capitalists, traders and analysts,” said Burke in an email.

Sydney's Securicy Also Accepted into Techstars on Thursday

BlockCrushr and TokenClub have been accepted into Techstars Anywhere, a virtual accelerator for companies that are unable to commit to attending in one of its 25 locations. Like all Techstars companies, BlockCrushr is receiving about US$120,000 (C$148,000) in funding. Burke said the company is not raising money now, but noted that a lot of Techstars training prepares companies for fundraising, and Techstars companies go on to raise an average of US$2 million of outside capital after the program.

Meanwhile, BlockCrushr announced the opening of a Wyoming subsidiary to recognize the state’s support of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

“Wyoming is one of the best places in the U.S. to do business,” said Burke. “Between low startup costs, the most business-friendly tax system in the country, and lawmakers who are focused on supporting and fostering the growth of innovative fintech business and technology, Wyoming just makes sense.”

The company has filed incorporation for BlockCrushr Wyoming, LLC and joined Cheyenne’s co-working space The Second Floor @ The Paramount.

Formed in 2016, BlockCrushr Labs first attracted attention for its project Hypergive, which aimed to use blockchain to improve donations for homeless people. Hypergive would let people make donations, which are then downloaded on to cards that are given to street people. These cards include a QR code and possibly photo identification so they can only be used by the person who received the card. He or she can use the card to purchase goods at retail outlets.

“We're not actively working on Hypergive at the moment but it's inspired other projects around the world and interest continues,” said Burke in the email. “We're looking at potentially bringing on two more co-founders to that project to help move it forward to the next phase.”

Island Capital Backs Onset with $230K

Brian Sharp: Expects to close more funding within three months.

Brian Sharp: Expects to close more funding within three months.

Onset Communication Inc., a Charlottetown company that enhances communication within film crews, has raised $230,000 from Island Capital Partners.

The P.E.I. investment group, led by local tech and investment veterans, issued a statement this week announcing the investment.

Onset has developed The Visual Assistant, a visual communication tool that reduces miscommunication, delays and mistakes on production sets.  The company has been testing a prototype over the past 18 months and has signed a distribution agreement with William F White International, the largest film equipment rental company in Canada.

“It's been a three-year journey to turn my vision and passion into a funded business,” said Onset Co-Founder and CEO Brian Sharp in a statement. “We could not have arrived at this starting line without the support of our investors at Island Capital Partners, the mentoring and guidance provided by Startup Zone, and the constant engagement and support of our distribution partner, William F White.”

In an email, Sharp said that as well as the funding from Island Capital, he expects to close more funding from private investors in the next three months. He also said Onset, which employs six people, plans to convert its prototype into a minimum viable product this year and penetrate markets in Canada and the U.S.  

Island Aquatech Preps Prototype for Oyster Industry

Film crews often communicate now by using walkie-talkies – a verbal tool in a visual medium. Crews are frequently bogged down as a few members need to iron out some detail. For instance, the director of photography wants to tell a gaffer to redirect a spotlight but is unable to explain in words over a walkie talkie how to make it right. This can hold up the whole production and increase overtime costs, which can add $50,000 an hour to production costs.

Onset, a graduate of the Propel ICT Build program, rents film crews the Visual Assistant kit featuring tablets loaded with proprietary software and a server so people can instantly send out a visual message – that is, a still shot or video with instructions written over it. It means each crew member immediately understands the message and can act without holding up the whole crew.

“We had a small budget, a tight schedule and small crew,” said Renee Laprise, producer and director of The Lovely Witches Club series, one of the beta-testers. “The Visual Assistant was crucial to us successfully getting all the content we needed at the quality we needed. The efficiency the device brought to the shoot was so important.”

The Island Capital statement also quoted Rick Perotto, William F White’s Vice-President of Business Development, as saying the Visual Assistant has the potential to “revolutionize” the production workflow.

Having worked with Onset for two years,  Island Capital Investment Director Paul Lypaczewski  said: “Over my years spent delivering production solutions to the media creation industries, it’s been clear that the primary focus must be on the user experience, using technology as a core underpinning. What we saw in Onset Communication was a unique combination of technological expertise coupled with a deep understanding of the film and video production process, all led by an experienced management team.” 

QRA Corp sells to DND

Jordan Kyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis

Halifax-based QRA Corp announced Thursday the successful sale of its QVscribe software to the Canadian Department of National Defence.

QRA develops software that helps businesses across industries make better design choices and streamline design processes. The company sold an advanced version of its commercially available QVscribe for Microsoft Word and Excel to be used by The Royal Canadian Air Force.This sale, which is worth $645,000, is the first time QRA has made a sale to the Canadian government.

QVscribe is a software system that can tell if there are problems in the written instructions or specifications describing a mechanism. This helps businesses catch inconsistencies in the early-stage of development.

“Despite the increased presence of advanced technology in today’s sophisticated systems, despite the increased infusion of software throughout our most capable machines, the fist step remains the written word,” said QRA Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement.

He continued: “Clear, consistent, and verifiable requirements, are the first line of defence in building safe, robust, and secure physical systems. We are very happy and proud to be providing the RCAF with our tools and we look forward to working with them to ensure our products meet their present and future needs.”

The contract was issued through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, a program that helps Canadian innovators get their products to market faster. 

“Although we have been commercially available in 27 countries since 2017, and early adopters include industry titans such as Ultra Electronics and Honeywell, this will be our first sale to the Canadian Government," said Alex McCallum, the company's COO. 

In October QRA was accepted into the next cohort of 48 Hours in the Valley, a program offered by C100 to introduce Canadian companies to the network of investors and mentors in Silicon Valley.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is interested in QVscribe to assist in building complex equipment and systems as part of the Strong, Secure and Engaged Defence Policy. The QVscribe software will improve the overall quality of the project, said QRA. 

The Air Programmes group is testing the software over a two-and-a-half month period, which started in January. The statement said feedback has been positive so far and it is projected that QRA’s tech will save on project costs and time. 

Data Proves Startups Are For Real

Our research shows more than half of Atlantic Canada's startups booked more than $100,000 in sales in 2016.

Our research shows more than half of Atlantic Canada's startups booked more than $100,000 in sales in 2016.

Financial Post columnist Diane Francis popped a few entrepreneurial noses out of joint this week by saying Canada’s innovation craze is creating government-funded “Bombardier-like boondoggles”.

The founders and supporters of startups have taken issue with her claim that governments across the country are propping up “fake startups.” Francis’ main target is the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, which supports R&D by small and medium-sized businesses across the country.

The ire is especially frothy in Atlantic Canada, where Francis says “provincial agencies hand out money like Halloween candy.” Rory Francis, the head of the PEI BioAlliance, wrote a spirited rebuttal on the Post’s website, and several others weighed in on the New Brunswick Startup Community group on Facebook.

I want to add my two cents, and I have to disclose that these provincial agencies (along with universities, fund managers and private companies) are clients of Entrevestor. I don’t believe we’re creating “Bombardier-like boondoggles” and the data proves the point.

Diane Francis’ prose is not weighed down with excessive use of data, and the greatest evidence that the East Coast startups are not white elephants is found in their revenue metrics. If these young businesses are finding customers, then they are bona fide companies.

Read about our 2016 Analysis of the Atlantic Canadian Startup Community:

Highlights of our Data Report

Study Shows Exits Bring $1.8B, 2200 Jobs to Atlantic Canada

2016 Was a Record Year for Funding in Atlantic Canada

Data collected by Entrevestor for 2016 (the latest available) showed that 56 percent of the Atlantic Canadian startups surveyed produced revenue of more than $100,000 that year. A hundred grand in sales isn’t going to support a company. But it is an indication that more than half the startups in the region (and our survey has deep penetration across the startup community) have found a product-market fit. We also found that 31 percent of the total have annual sales of more than $1 million and 2 percent reported sales of more than $5 million.

These companies’ sales are growing at dizzying rates – those at the top of the pyramid are doubling or tripling sales annually. That’s how they got such high revenue in a few years. And in previous surveys, we’ve found more than 80 percent of the startups’ revenue comes from outside Atlantic Canada.

Yes, there are some weak Atlantic Canadian startups that are lingering about because they have government capital. But the majority of East Coast startups are finding clients and selling products.

What I find most troubling about Francis’ column is that Atlantic Canada is highlighted with British Columbia as the places where startups survive on government largesse. Like it or not, in corporate Canada, Atlantic Canada is seen as a little place where obsolete businesses are propped up by government. That’s our brand. Unfortunately, your brand is defined by others, not by yourself, and is really hard to change once it’s established. Consider Bombardier. Francis made a brief mention of the Quebec manufacturer in her column because all readers would associate the company with government-supported white elephants.

Diane Francis’ column highlights how this region and its young tech companies are perceived in some circles. It’s essential to change those perceptions. Several of those companies I mentioned at the top of the Atlantic Canadian startup pyramid are now raising capital, in some cases $10 millions or more. It can’t help if the investors they approach perceive their home as a place where fundraising is something akin to government-backed trick-or-treating.

MUN’s New MBA in Social Ventures

Enactus Memorial embodies the ethos of social entrepreneurship at MUN

Enactus Memorial embodies the ethos of social entrepreneurship at MUN

Memorial University of Newfoundland will launch Canada's first MBA program in social enterprise and entrepreneurship this year, and is already receiving applications for the program. 

The St. John's university is hoping for at least 20 students to enrol in September in the first year of the program, which it refers to as MBA-SEE, said Isabelle Dostaler, the Dean of MUN’s Faculty of Business Administration.

The MBA-SEE differs from other entrepreneurship degrees because of its focus on social enterprise, in which businesses aim to help people and the environment while making money. Students will learn how to run a business supported by the three pillars of social enterprise: people, planet and profit.

“All of the courses will be structured around social enterprise,” said Dostaler in an interview. "This is the first time something like this has been offered in Canada."

Instead of specializing their studies on fields like traditional finance or management, MBA-SEE students will take the courses tailored to social ventures as one cohort over 12 months.

Dostaler said integrative and collaborative learning is key for the new program. Students will take part in “living-labs” in which organizations will come into the classroom to provide one-on-one mentorship and hands-on learning opportunities.

“The life of the organization will unfold in the classroom.," said Dostaler. "We want to bring reality in the classroom as much as we can. Today, universities really have to redefine themselves.”

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Dostaler continued: “You can find so much information on the internet. Gone are the days where students come to class to be delivered a two- or three-hour powerpoint presentation. We really need to move away from that and make sure we provide meaningful learning experiences to our students and this program will do just that.”

The Dean also hopes the program will result in more social ventures,  which would keep graduates in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is especially important in a province where the effects of a declining population are taking their toll on the economy.

“It’s our duty at MUN to promote the province," she said. "We need to make sure we develop new organizations in the province and keep people staying here to run these new organizations.”

Dostaler said the MBA-SEE is a response to a “new rise of capitalism” that takes on a more collaborative and less competitive approach to sustainable business.

Students in the cohort are expected to complete 36 credit-hours, enrolling in such courses as The Rise of Sustainable Capitalism, Economics and Public Policy and Organization Behaivour in Social Enterprise, to name a few.

The students, who are expected to attend the course full-time, will spend the last four months of the program in internships.

MUN has already been recognized for social entrepreneurship. The university is home to Enactus Memorial, an organization that fosters student-run social ventures. The program has taken its participants all over the world to present their businesses ideas. It has been recognized as the best Enactus program in Canada nine times, and won the world championship in 2008 and 2016.

The MBA-SEE just received approval from the university in December and was formally announced at the beginning of January. Because of the late start, Dostaler said the faculty will accept applications later than normal.

You can apply for the MBA-SEE cohort here.

370 Testing Passiv’s FinTech Product

Brendan Wood, left, and Brendan Lee Young at work on their product for passive investors.

Brendan Wood, left, and Brendan Lee Young at work on their product for passive investors.

At this very moment, some $16 million in Canadian retirement accounts are being managed with the aid of a new investment tool managed by a young Fredericton company.

The company is Passiv. It’s the brainchild of Brendan Lee Young and Brendan Wood, two passive investors who wanted a better, more cost-effective tool to make sure their investment accounts were always properly balanced.

They built the tool and worked with regulators to make sure it violated no securities laws. Now there are more than 370 Canadians, who together have about $16 million in funds, testing it. The two Brendans are now planning a full commercial launch in late February or early March.

“Our product, Passiv, allows a do-it-yourself investor to turn their brokerage account into a personalized robo-adviser,” said Young in an interview on Monday. “We both manage our own retirement savings accounts because we don’t want to pay fees. But even if you are a passive investor, it still takes some time. We were spending more time than we wanted to.”

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

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Some brokerages offer “robo-adviser” services, which will do this automatically, but they cost money. What Passiv does is help passive investors to rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily. It notifies users when cash comes into their account and when their portfolio drifts out of alignment with their target. 

Young had the idea for the product last April and teamed up with his friend Wood, and they soon produced a basic product that could aid passive investors. To make sure that the product adhered to all rules, they ran their project by New Brunswick’s Financial and Consumer Services Commission, the province’s securities regulator. FCSC worked with the founders to make sure it conformed with regulations, even contacting other provincial commissions to make sure Passiv was all right.

With a green light from regulators, Young posted an article in Reddit explaining the product, which received about 5,000 views and led to 370 passive investors signing up for the beta test. The company has also secured a partnership with Questrade, the fastest-growing online brokerage in Canada.

Young admits that the $16 million held by the beta-testers is peanuts in comparison to the broad market, but working with them has given Passiv valuable insights into what the market wants from their product. Some testers have suggested they would pay for the product if it had a few more features. The team is now working on new features, such as one-click trading, and will have to again check with regulators to make sure new features meet the rules.

Passiv was a member of the recent Launch cohort offered by Propel ICT, and is now working on adding new features and striking more relationships with brokerages.  

Cannabis Congress Set for Saint John

Saint John will host the World Cannabis Congress 2018 in June, billing it as Canada's premier event for connecting players in the global cannabis industry.

The organizers announced the invitation-only event on Monday, saying they hope to attract innovative cannabis businesses, academia and policy makers. The event will take place June 10 to 12 – about three weeks before cannabis will become legal for recreational use in Canada.

New Brunswick is trying to capitalize on the growing economic potential of cannabis by not just producing or selling the plant but becoming a research leader in the field. In the past year, research chairs at two different New Brunswick universities have been created to study cannabis. The congress aims to deepen the province’s focus on cannabis.

"This event will be unlike any other in the cannabis industry," Derek Riedle, publisher of Civilized and Co-Chair of the congress, said in a statement. “Sessions will be delivered by the industry's most respected scientists, tech leaders, policy makers and business people, in addition to top leaders from other industries.”

The congress has received financial support from several levels of government and some corporations. Civilized, a New Brunswick publication for mainstream cannabis users, will co-host the event with the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce. Opportunities New Brunswick CEO Stephen Lund will co-chair the event.

“Other nations are looking to Canada right now – especially New Brunswick – as the example for recreational legalization and a progressive medical cannabis system,” said Ray Gracewood, Chief Commercial Officer of Organigram, a publicly traded cannabis-producer based in Moncton. “This summit will provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our culture of innovation on a world stage.”

The organizers expect more than 350 attendees at the congress at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre, including representation from Germany, Israel, Spain, U.K., United States and Uruguay.

You can request an invitation here.

5 East Coast Teams in Fierce Founders

Bethany Deshpande, right, landed a big cheque (literally) at Fierce Founders last year.

Bethany Deshpande, right, landed a big cheque (literally) at Fierce Founders last year.

When Fierce Founders named the 25 startups entering its latest bootcamp for women entrepreneurs earlier this month, five of them were from Atlantic Canada.

Yes, one-fifth of the intake in what’s undoubtedly the country’s leading program for female founders hails from the East Coast. It is only the latest sign that there is a special rapport between Fierce Founders and the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

Staged at the Communitech technology hub in Kitchener, Ont., Fierce Founders is in fact two programs. It offers a bootcamp for 25 female-led teams, which comprises two different week-long sessions within a month. The idea is that the teams come together in Kitchener-Waterloo and are instructed for a few days, then go away and implement the things they’ve learned. Then they come back and compete for a share of a $100,000 prize package.

Fierce Founders also offers an accelerator, a program of about four or five months for a fewer number of companies.

The 25 companies in the latest bootcamp, which has already held its first session, include the following Atlantic Canadians and their companies:

-- Chrissy Rossiter, Peachy (St. John’s) – Peachy has developed a digital program that helps seniors remember when to take medications or carry out other health-related tasks.

-- Natasha Dhayagude, Chinova Bioworks (Fredericton) – Chinova is using chitosan — a substance originally derived from shellfish that has a variety of agricultural and biomedical uses – to make a natural preservative in such foods as juices. The company has already attended accelerators in Ireland and Silicon Valley.

-- Kara Holm, Play the Field (Halifax) – Play the Field is developing a marketing-focused mobile game for the casino resort industry that uses augmented reality to simulate entertaining consumer experiences to attract new clients.

-- Lisa Pfister, Pfera (Fredericton) – The winner of the 2017 Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, Pfera has developed a product that can tell horse breeders when a pregnant mare is going to deliver her foal.

-- Kiera Devine, Parental Marketplace (Rothesay, NB) – Parental Marketplace provides an online network for families to rent their baby gear out to other people. It’s the sharing economy for families with babies.

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These entrepreneurs are joining a list of Atlantic Canadian luminaries who have gone down the road, if just for a few months, and excelled in the program originally called the Women’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp. In the roughly five years since the program began, two East Coasters have captured prize money. Sarah Murphy of St. John’s won $35,000 for her company Sentinel Alert. (Sentinel Alert later closed down, and Murphy has just joined Halifax-based construction software company Harbr as head of business development.) Last year, Bethany Deshpande of Fredericton-based SomaDetect, which identified illness in cows, won $50,000.

Two Halifax companies – educational software company Squiggle Park and urban wind energy company Aurea – both went through the Fierce Founder accelerator.

Atlantic Canadian companies have appeared repeatedly in several national programs, such as Montreal-based FounderFuel, Toronto-based Next Canada, and Creative Destruction Lab, the national program that originated at the University of Toronto. But there’s no program outside the region that East Coast startups thrive in like Fierce Founders.

I don’t know why Atlantic Canadians have done so well in this particular program. It could be that there is a wave of female tech entrepreneurs in the region that needs greater recognition.

Nexus, Vertiball Win Apex Competition

Nexus Robotics of Nova Scotia and Vertiball of University of New Brunswick were the two big winners at the Apex Business Plan Competition in Fredericton last week.

Eighteen teams from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario competed in either the undergraduate or graduate track at the three-day event, hosted by UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre. The winners took home a total of more than $19,000.

Nexus Robotics won the $5,000 first prize in the Grad Track, while Vertiball won the same amount in the Undergrad Track.

With a team from Dalhousie and St. Francis Xavier Universities, Nexus Robotics is an AgTech company that is developing an autonomous weeding robot. It will be able to remove weeds on a farm without the supervision of a farmer. The company, which previously won $25,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Competition, has secured a proof of concept and is now developing a working prototype.

Vertiball is producing a line of muscle-relief products that take a different approach to easing pain. The patent-pending design uses an ergonomic suction cup so the device can be placed on a wall at specific heights to easily target knotted muscles. Users have the ability to apply as much pressure as they feel necessary for comfort.

The other major winner in the competition was Eggcitables, which is producing a vegan egg alternative that can make egg-based meals like omelets, scrambles or quiches. The main ingredient, chickpea flour, provides comparable protein to a real egg with less fat and zero cholesterol. Eggcitables, a St. FX venture that won the 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ competition in Halifax this month, won a total of $4,000 with three different prizes at Apex.

Here is a list of the winners:

Apex 2018 Grad Track Winners:

Nexus Robotics       $5,000.00

Pi Security                 $2,000.00

Person Centred Universe      $1,000.00

Apex 2018 Undergrad Track Winners:

Vertiball                     $5,000.00

Eggcitables               $2,000.00

Potential Motors    $1,000.00

Best Elevator Pitch                 

Eggcitables               $1,000.00

Viewer's Choice    

Eggcitables               $1,000.00
Vertiball                     $1,000.00

Activator Grad Track              

Nexus Robotics       $500.00

Aqualitas Receives Cannabis Approval

Liverpool, NS-based Aqualitas is on track to be the third licensed producer of medical cannabis in Nova Scotia after receiving Health Canada’s approval to cultivate the crop.

The new licence is in line with Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. Currently, there are 89 Health Canada approved producers of cannabis across Canada, 48 of which are in Ontario. Aqualitas makes three for Nova Scotia.

Aqualitis Co-Founder and CEO Mryna Gillis said in a statement that Aqualitas stands out against its competition because of its use of aquaponic cultivation. 

“We’re particularly proud of how we’ve been able to combine scientific research with our commitment to growing quality cannabis,” said Gillis in a statement last week.  

“Our outstanding team of scientists, business professionals and creative thinkers has made Aqualitas a disruptor in this industry.”

Another noteworthy part of Aqualitas is its research and development subsidiary, Finleaf Technologies. The R&D team is finding solutions to problems common to aquaponic cultivation, a method in aquaculture that harnesses the symbiotic relationship between fish and hydroponically grown plants.

Cultivating cannabis using aquaponics can be tricky since plants that flower or produce fruit need higher amounts of potassium or phosphorus. Finleaf is developing proprietary nutrient recipes that will give the plant the right amount of extra nutrients, without harming the fish.

Finleaf, which operates out of a lab at Acadia University, was accepted into Innovacorp’s Cleantech accelerator program and also took home $25,000 at the Spark West competition. The subsidiary’s traction attracted investors to Aqualitas, which recently closed a round of funding totalling $8.8 million.

“Myrna and her team have excelled in their execution,"said Matt Shalhoub of Toronto-based Green Acre Capital, one of the investors. "We're thrilled to support this strong and passionate team as they create such a positive impact in their local market. This investment stretches our ecosystem of investments from coast to coast, and we look forward to continuing to be a part of the Aqualitas growth story.”

Aqualitas aims to have all-natural, aquaponics-grown cannabis ready for market by this summer.

“It’s been three years of intense work, propelled by our passionate and committed team, to reach this stage,” said Gillis. “We’re excited about the company’s future and what this new industry is bringing to Nova Scotia’s beautiful south shore.”

Solace Power Unveils Equus35

Solace Power Inc. has released the latest version of its wireless recharging technology, creating a “workhorse” product that customers can install easily.

Based in Mount Pearl, NL, Solace launched Equus35, the first in a family of complete wireless charging solutions, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The new product delivers 35 watts of power across gaps of more than 10 centimeters.

Solace Power specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. Until now, it has worked on projects for specific customers, such as Boeing and data solutions company Byrne, and then licensed the technology to them.  Now it is offering Equus35 to allow other customers quicker access to the technology.

“Solace’s Equus extends wireless power beyond convenience for consumer electronics,” said Solace CEO Michael Gotlieb in a statement. “This workhorse technology unlocks wireless power as a solution to real-world challenges for designers who are re-architecting power environments.”

Added a company spokesperson in an email: “Through Equus, we have accelerated going to market with a commercial product, that results in a lower cost and shorter time-to-market for customers.  It means that more industries will be able to take advantage of wireless power in their product design, through a more standard, simple offering. “

Solace said it has made a series of breakthroughs in developing wireless technology, enabling single- and multi-device power transfers that do not heat surrounding metal.

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The Equus35, which is designed to excel in harsh, low variability environments, can be used for industrial and warehouse automation, automotive systems, portable medical devices, reconfigurable furniture as well as traditional wireless power applications.

“This commercial release opens years of Solace Power research and successful integration into some of the world’s most demanding power-transfer environments,” said Gotlieb.

He added the company is planning additional product releases later this year.

Now with 36 employees, Solace has been growing rapidly in recent years. In October, it brought in Gotlieb in the fall to work with Founder and President Kris McNeil. In the second half of 2017, Solace Power announced a total of $3.3 million in government financing and a US$2.3 million investment from Lockheed Martin.

The company is now raising a Series A round of financing, which the spokesperson said is going well.

“We are in discussion with a number of strategic investors,” said the spokesperson. “The capital will enable us to expand our team to include additional resources in engineering, business development, and operations.”

Jobs: Outshine Seeks a Marketer

An opening at Outshine, an online marketing company in Halifax, is featured in our Jobs of the Week column today. 

The company is looking to hire a marketing consultant to guide Outshine’s advertising practices, while reporting directly to the company’s president.

Outshine uses digital advertising, data science and analytics to serve its clients in the B2B space. Its work primarily aids Software-as-a-Service companies to make better, more informed business decisions.

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

Here are excerpts from the job posting:

Halifax

Outshine

Marketing Consultant

Propel some of the world’s fastest growing B2B companies forward. Outshine is looking for a brilliant colleague to join its performance-driven consultancy in Halifax.

Responsibilities

-Play an important role in the growth of our clients’ businesses, using advertising to drive demand, leads, and revenue

-Guide our team of analysts and associates in determining and executing the best digital advertising strategies for our clients

-Work with the team to develop and refine internal standards and processes across all strategies and deliverables

-Develop custom advertising campaigns, including strategy, copywriting, execution & monitoring for enterprise clients

-Consult with clients on a range of opportunities, tools, and platforms in the digital marketing space, primarily as they relate to overall marketing strategy, digital advertising, reporting, demand & revenue generation

-Serve as the go-to contact for clients, including responsibilities as they relate to project and account management

Click here to read the full posting. 

Black Arcs: Digital Tool for Land Use

Jake Arsenault: 'The problem we are trying to solve is silos of thinking.'

Jake Arsenault: 'The problem we are trying to solve is silos of thinking.'

Jake Arsenault and Lori Clair wanted to solve a relevant problem. So, for 18 months, they considered options before creating The Black Arcs, a company that is developing an online tool for exploring the inter-relatedness of land use issues.

Designed for consultants, city planners and anyone with an interest in the core issues impacting their town, the simulator is modelled on a video game to make it engaging and accessible to use.

Arsenault said the technology was built by blending art, design, math and the humanities. The simulator is designed to allow people to see the bigger picture around land-use issues.

“The problem we are trying to solve is silos of thinking,” he said. “We are about showing how all these issues connect with each other in a human way.”

With the simulator, users can change the lay-out of a city. They can move buildings, such as schools, around. Artificial Intelligence is then used to predict changes in who would drive, walk or take the bus with the school in the alternative location.  This gives an estimate of the total financial, health and environmental impacts of the change.

Having formed a previous company -- Inversa Systems, which uses gamma-ray imaging technology developed at University of New Brunswick to assess infrastructure – Arsenault knew that relevance was hugely important to building a company.

Before starting The Black Arcs, he and Clair pondered the issues facing the world, before incorporating their venture in April 2015.

“We talked to professionals, academics and many others,” he said. “We spent 18 months asking questions and trying not to even think of solutions. The subject of land use blew our minds regarding the timing, need and potential.”

Unicare Developing Digital Aid for Home-Care Providers

Arsenault said a study has shown that if Calgary could densify its land use, the city could save $11 billion in capital costs alone.

“Our tool can help make discussions more reality-based and help society save a lot of money,” he said.

The development of the simulator has been guided by consultations with governments who have also provided early-stage funding. 

The design is still being tweaked and is being piloted with a digital simulation of the town of Sackville, N.B., which, at around 6,000 residents, is a good size.

“We didn’t want to push the limits of size on our first deployment,” Arsenault said.

 He said CivicTech – technology that links governments and citizens – is an emerging market in the U.S., worth $7 billion and growing. Black Arcs has big competitors, including Google and IBM. But Arsenault said his team is creating their own niche with their simple idea.

“We are going for just the aspects that matter,” he said. “This is a low-fidelity model.  It’s simpler and accessible.”

He said the plan is to link their game to individual city sites so citizens in many communities can become involved.

 “The move to making data more accessible is a big reason for this. Many parts of government are trying to open up,” he said. “This is making urban analytics practical.

“Sometimes decision-making isn’t fully reality-based,” he continued. “It comes from too narrow interests, emotions, misconceptions and just plain habits. Accessible analytics is the differentiator that can make collective decision-making better.”

UNB Competition To Award $19,000

Students from three provinces are competing for more than $19,000 in cash and prizes in a business plan contest at University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus.

UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre is hosting the BMO Financial Group Apex Business Plan Competition at the Wu Conference Centre. The three-day event wraps up today.

Eighteen teams from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario are competing in either the undergraduate or graduate track. They are developing, directing, organizing and presenting their business plans in a practice round, and gaining advice from a panel of New Brunswick business leaders before going head-to-head.

Five thousand dollars will be awarded to the winning team at each of the two levels, with additional cash prizes going to first and second runners-up as well as the winner of the Viewers’ Choice Award, voted for by teams, judges and the audience.

The public is invited to attend the finals today at 12:30 pm in the J. Harper Kent Auditorium.

Lovett Launches EO Accelerator

Ron Lovett: 'Accountability is key because there's none for the young entrepreneur.' (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

Ron Lovett: 'Accountability is key because there's none for the young entrepreneur.' (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

A year after exiting his security company , Ron Lovett is giving back to the Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurial community.

Lovett, who sold Source Security and Investigations in late 2016, has founded an accelerator for entrepreneurs under the auspices of the Atlantic Canadian chapter of the Atlantic Canadian Chapter of the Entrepreneurs' Organization. 

The EO is a global network of 12,000 entrepreneurs in 53 countries who aim to help one another through peer-to-peer mentorship. Its Atlantic Canadian chapter has been going since 2010 and it now has 49 members that employ about 1700 people. Now, thanks to Lovett, it has an accelerator to help companies increase revenues. 

“I jumped around on the board of EO Atlantic and I was thinking of where can I add value to the chapter now,” said Lovett in an interview. “And then I heard about the accelerator program.”

Over the next two years, the program will work with 18 Halifax-based businesses with annual revenues of $250,000 to $1 million each. Its mission is to help these companies earn over $1 million in revenue, and hopefully join the EO Atlantic chapter.  This accelerator program is the first of its kind for EO Atlantic. 

"It’s a great way to give entrepreneurs who don't yet meet the EO revenue threshold a chance to gain access to expert coaching, accountability, and a peer network to help them aggressively grow their businesses," said Lovett.

Lunney Sisters of Elsipogtog First Nations Develop Tech Businesses

The program features quarterly learning days with EO coaches, panels, seminars and frequent accountability meetings, which are something that immediately drew Lovett to the program.

“That accountability is key because there really is none for the young entrepreneur. If you’re really going to be successful, it's about focus.”

The program will give its participants the tools they need to aggressively grow and properly handle their business. Lovett said 26 companies applied to the program and 18 were accepted. The businesses are involved in industries like design, restaurants, construction and marketing, to name a few.

“As a business owner, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the business,” said Doug Townsend, a participant whose family runs The Canteen and Little-C Takeout in Dartmouth. “The EO Accelerator forces me to step back and think strategically about how we run our company and position ourselves for long-term success.”

Adam Conter, from Priority 1 Real Estate,said: “I hope to immerse myself in my business through a network of experienced and dedicated entrepreneurs. Surrounding yourself with those who have created success in their field is incredibly motivating to constantly improve your own business.”

The EO Atlantic chapter has seen significant growth leading up to the accelerator launch. In the fall, EO Atlantic had the highest growth in members of all the chapters in Canada. It also had the highest percentage of women in its chapter. 

Six Win Halifax Business Awards

Six entrepreneurs captured first-place prizes at the 18th annual Halifax Business Awards at the newly opened Halifax Convention Centre on Thursday night.

The sold-out event, hosted by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, featured 30 finalists, who were recognized for their achievements and impact on the business community.

“We’re recognizing the new, the innovative, the exporters, the big, the small businesses and the leaders who continue to grow our city," said Chamber President and CEO Patrick Sullivan in a statement. "We’re thrilled to be able to highlight some of the risk-takers in our community.”

The winners are:

New Business

Appili Therapeutics Inc., an anti-infective drug development company. In November Appili recieved a US$1.2 million grant to develop its drug, ATI-1503, to treat drug-resistent bacteria. 

Small Business

AeroVision Canada Inc., an aerial inspection company based in St. Margarets Bay. In 2018, AeroVision plans to work on projects involving offshore oil and power grid and wind turbine inspection.  

Export Business

InterTalk Critical Information Systems, a 20-year-old company that provides an "exact fit" customized critical information system to agencies, providing safety and security to its customers. InterTalk has systems implemented all across North America.

Innovative Business

Nautel, which manufactures radio broadcast transmitters. The company is branching out into new ventures including rocket propulsion systems that could help humans reach Mars.

Business

PAVIA Gallery – Espresso Bar & Café, is a local chain of italian cafes and adjoining art galleries. In November the founders were awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Business Leader

Dave O’Connor, the President of Glow Parties and WOW Factor Event Design and Decor Rentals. 

Battling Scalpers with Blockchain

A year after coming up with the idea of using blockchain to battle outrageous ticket prices, Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner are well on their way to having a basic product to sell to ticketing agencies.

The two Halifax-based founders of UpFront Tickets have graduated from the Propel ICT Launch accelerator and are now preparing to market their technology. They are about two-thirds of the way to completing their minimum viable product, or MVP, with which they plan to attract early customers.

Eventually, Daly and Gardiner hope the product will help people in the entertainment industry rein in scalpers who gouge bona fide fans at popular entertainment events.

“It’s been popping up a lot more and the issue is becoming more and more unpopular,” Gardiner said of excessive pricing in an interview Monday. “People are starting to get sick of it, so the (ticketing agencies) can change or get left behind.”

As business students at Dalhousie University, Gardiner and Daly were struck by the genuine fans who were priced out of the final Tragically Hip tour because of the ticket prices demanded by scalpers. They came up with the idea of using blockchain — the technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — to control ticket purchases and ensure tickets are purchased (and possibly sold in a secondary market) in a more orderly way.

Blockchain is a series of ledgers in which transactions are recorded so each entry is almost impossible to change. Daly and Gardiner set out to use blockchain to identify the owners of tickets throughout the life cycle of an event and ensure tickets are priced at a reasonable level.

Unicare Develops a Communication Tool for Home-Care Providers

They took the idea through a few accelerators at Dal, then last year won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition. Using these programs and other funding sources, they produced enough money to hire two full-time developers who are building out the product.

UpFront is developing a “white-label API” that ticketing agencies can use as part of their online ticketing services. What that means is that the company is building an Application Programming Interface, a piece of technology that would plug into the back end of a ticketing agency’s website. Consumers would never see the UpFront brand name, as the new system used blockchain to ensure all transactions were legitimate and executed at a reasonable price.

Daly said the agencies — some of whom UpFront has been having conversations with — are incentivized to use their API largely to protect their brand image and to combat ticket fraud, which can cost ticketing agencies, venues and performers money.

The pair of entrepreneurs expect to have their MVP completed in the spring. Armed with a product they can demonstrate to ticketing agencies, they hope to begin trials. They said the sales period would probably depend on the size of the customer — for instance, they could probably reach an agreement faster with an Atlantic Canadian company than a larger ticketing agency based elsewhere.

UpFront is planning to raise a bit of equity capital — about $50,000 to $75,000 — and then raise additional funds from various programs. That money should help to finance the company until it has genuine revenue and can carry out a larger round of funding.

 

Disclosure: Dal, Innovacorp and Propel are clients of Entrevestor.

MTI Forms Partnership with Artemis

Dartmouth-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc, a smart materials and photonics company, has signed a three-year business development and technology partnership with U.K.-based Artemis Optical to develop a hybrid coating for the defence industry.

Metamaterials is developing various technologies that influence light.  In a partnership with Airbus, it is testing a product that protects cockpit windows against laser attacks. Artemis Optical is an expert in the design and manufacture of optical thin film coatings.

In a statement, the companies said they are harnessing their thin film coating technologies to create a new, hybrid filtering solution to combat laser threats for the users of periscopes and sighting systems in armoured vehicles.

The statement said that Artemis is the only independent, non-U.S. coating company to be qualified to supply laser protection filters to the U.S. military. Globally, the company’s products can be found on all frontline British Ministry of Defence vehicles as well as vehicles in France and Norway.

SimplyCast Launches Agent Program

Customers of SimplyCast can now promote and sell the company's many services to their clients with the help of the new SimplyCast Agent Program. 

Dartmouth-based SimplyCast, a communication automation company known for its customer-flow application SimplyCast360, launched its new Agent Program on Tuesday.

The program allows individuals or businesses to offer SimplyCast-branded services to their clients and earn a commission with SimplyCast on their sales for up to two years.

If a client is interested, SimplyCast will take care of closing the sale, as well as all the onboarding, giving the SimplyCast customer more time to create new marketing strategies and reach new clients.

Those who purchase the Agent system will receive a 35 percent commission on sales they make for up to two years as well as access to SimplyCast educational resources, platform training, and a SimplyCast University certification.

This program differs from SimplyCast’s White Label Reseller program, which lets customers use the 360 application and rebrand SimplyCast products as their own. With Agent, clients will sell SimplyCast-branded products.

The Agent Program is more suited for individuals and smaller businesses that haven’t developed a solid clientele and want to offer a product under the name of SimplyCast. 

A Digital Aid for Home-Care Providers

Lisa Williams employs about 200 home-care specialists working with about 250 seniors in New Brunswick, and she needs a digital solution that will help her communicate with them. She expects to have one soon – one that her company Unicare Home Health Care Inc. is developing.

Based in Miramichi, N.B., Unicare provides home-care services in several communities in the province. And Williams has just gone through the Propel ICT Launch program, with the goal of developing a business around the digital solution her company is creating.

“I’m a home-care operator, and right now there is no real way to know what’s going on in a home,” said Williams in an interview on Tuesday. “So, we’ve developed a database and backend office solution to help with that and there’s a communication piece.”

Williams was scheduled to present the innovation at the Propel Demo Day on Tuesday night in Fredericton. However, the organizers had to cancel the event due to freezing rain.

Unicare is a bit of an outlier in the tech community as the digital product is being developed within a traditional business. The story began in 2008 when Williams began her home-care business, which helps senior citizens who need support but wish to live in their own homes. The company now has operations in Miramichi, the Acadian Peninsula, Bathurst, Campbellton, and Moncton.

One problem that Williams encountered as she grew her business was that no digital product existed that met the specific needs of her industry. To use digital aids, she said, she had to link together a series of different solutions.

SafeAlert Develops Tool for Monitoring Remote Workers

Two-and-a-half years ago, she set out to develop a product that she and other home-care operators could use. Hiring her own developers, she has built a solution that should be ready by the end of February. It will handle administrative functions like payroll and scheduling, but what’s really key to Williams’ operations is its communications function.

Williams said the software will work off a mobile device and allow real-time communications between the care-giver, the Unicare office, health care professionals and the client. The product will likely feature voice-to-text communications to allow ease of use, and there will also be on-screen forms that can show what tasks have been carried out.

Unicare plans to pilot the product at its own facilities, starting in the spring, then sell the product into a larger market. Williams has relationships with several other home-care organizations in New Brunswick, and she hopes some of them will serve at early adopters. She also plans to apply to the Build in Canada Program, in which the federal government adopts Canadian-made technology, to get the product used outside the region.

With the population aging across North America, Williams sees a huge market and a strong social benefit because the solution can help the elderly avoid having to move into assisted-care facilities.

“It’s quite a large market,” said Williams. “In North America, there are 14 million people in long-term care and it could be passed on to other areas – to anyone on a care plan.”

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.

Lunneys Become Founders at Jedi

Sisters Katie, left, and Melissa Lunney of Elsipogtog First Nation are growing their tech busnesses.

Sisters Katie, left, and Melissa Lunney of Elsipogtog First Nation are growing their tech busnesses.

One perk of the region’s startup community is its close-knit environment makes it feel like one big family. That’s especially the case for Melissa and Katie Lunney.

Melissa, 30, and Katie, 27, are sisters and members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, who got into entrepreneurship through the Joint Economic Development Initiative, a non-profit in Fredericton that encourages Indigenous entrepreneurship.

“I didn’t even think about starting a business until my sister told me about the program,” said Katie, who completed JEDI’s incubator program in September. There, she created her company Lunney Development, which develops websites and manages social media for its clients.

Katie is now in the second week of the accelerator program, which is focusing on scaling and exporting. She still works closely alongside her sister, who is a market access officer with JEDI.

On top of working full-time with the non-profit, Melissa is the CEO of AppDigenous, a company devoted to enhancing accessibility. The company’s product, Doorable, is a mobile app that automatically opens doors for people with disabilities.

With the help of JEDI, the New Brunswick research organization RPC and about $80,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Melissa is now in the first phase of piloting Doorable’s technology in four different locations around Fredericton.  

Melissa also needed help revamping her website and managing her company’s social media as she pressed on with product development.

“Melissa is my first client actually,” said Katie, who will also be managing social media for another app development company that designed Mind Your Mood, an app to help users track their mental health.

Jaza Energy Secures $750,000 in Equity Funding

In addition to being her first customer, it was Melissa who encouraged Katie to join the incubator program to build Lunney Development. Katie paid that forward by giving Melissa the push she needed to enroll in JEDI’s mobile app development course, which she graduated from about a year ago.

“It’s great working with someone who is so much like you,” said Melissa. “We don’t even have to speak sometimes, we can just look at each other and know what the other one is saying.”

The sisters also spoke about the barriers for Indigenous entrepreneurs – mainly the issue of property ownership.

Business owners cannot own their own land in their community under the laws of the Indian Act, which says land reserves are owned by the Crown.

Not only does this mean Indigenous entrepreneurs have a harder time building equity, it also buries them under extra layers of paperwork that non-Indigenous businesspeople don’t need to consider.

“You can’t own your own property so you can’t get your own equity and the banks won’t touch you,” said Melissa, before adding how much JEDI has helped those in the Indigenous community become entrepreneurs.

“They offer a service catered to and by Indigenous people who understand the barriers that we face, and work to overcome them within the community,” said Melissa. “If we’re going to solve the problems in Indigenous communities then we need people from those communities.”

Venn, YEC Strike Partnership

Venn Innovation and the Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, or YEC, have announced a new multi-year partnership to create entrepreneurship opportunities for youth.

Under the agreement unveiled Tuesday, YEC will have a stronger presence in the Venn Centre, the startup house in downtown Moncton, and Venn’s support for YEC programs across the province.

“For us it’s about creating a pipeline for young people who are creative and curious to channel it,” said YEC Founder Sarah Short. “That’s a goal we share with Venn.”

Last year, the two organizations affirmed their commitment to provide more opportunities for the province’s young entrepreneurs and YEC established an office in the Venn Centre.

Short added: “For the past four years, our partnership with Venn has been a perfect example of how impactful collaboration can be. Today’s announcement shows that we’re getting more intentional with what we hope to achieve.”

The YEC aims to pave the way for youth under the age of 25 with a good business idea. The organization hosts an annual pitching competition, which gives young entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their ideas and get them on track to starting a business.

“The YEC has proven to be a remarkable vehicle to expose New Brunswick youth to the possibilities of being an entrepreneur,” said Venn CEO Doug Robertson. “Each year we are so inspired by the energy, creativity and enthusiasm they bring to their entrepreneurial ideas at the YEC competition.”

Over the past two years, the YEC and Venn have brought over 100 youth into the startup community through the Venn Centre, which aims to help tech companies grow and sustain their business.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. You can apply up until midnight on Feb. 23.

 

Disclosure: Venn Innovation is a client of Entrevestor. 

SafeAlert: Monitoring Remote Workers

Kyle Goulding learned from his father the importance of monitoring remote workers – a lesson that has shaped his business, SafeAlert.

The St. John’s entrepreneur said in an interview his father was an air conditioning technician, whose eight to 10 employees often had to work alone, sometimes in remote locations. Their safety was always a concern, especially after one employee was killed in an accident while working alone.

“After that, my father looked for something that would help but there was nothing out there,” said Goulding. He took up his father’s challenge and started SafeAlert, which has produced a mobile app that monitors remote workers.

The product was still in its developmental stage when Goulding made a sale to one of the largest construction companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The client base has grown and Goulding has taken the company through the Propel ICT Launch program. He will be one of the company founders presenting tonight at the regional accelerator’s Demo Day in Fredericton.

SafeAlert describes its solution as a simple tool that is easy to use. Employees download the app on their smartphones and can begin to work almost immediately. The app gives the workers regular reminders that they have to check in with the central office. The employees push a button to respond and then go back to their work. There is also a button they can push to call for help.

If there’s an emergency call, or if the employee is not checking in on time, SafeAlert can contact the employer immediately. Employees, Goulding said, can be trained in five minutes to use the system, which uses something virtually all of us carry – a smartphone.

Read about Another Propel Grad, SeaSmart, Improving the Lobster Fishery

Goulding began working on the company last February in the Evolution program at the Genesis Centre in St. John’s. He had the idea for the product but had no developer. At one public meeting, he stood up and explained the idea and asked if there were any developers interested in participating. That’s when he linked up with Mohomad Mohebifar, who became his developer. Within a week, they had a simple prototype, and Goulding began to sell the SafeAlert product, starting with a major construction company.

“We had very early traction,” he said. “I knew I had a customer in my father but that’s not the traction you wanted. So, it was super important to me to go out and get a big player. If we got a big fish then the smaller fish would follow.”

Other fish have indeed followed. SafeAlert now has 12 customers.  Through these customers, the product is used by 130 people in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and SafeAlert now has five paid employees. 

In the near future, Goulding hopes to get funding for the company (which has so far relied on revenue and non-dilutive government funding) and further develop the product.

“We want to go the VC route, locally and elsewhere in Canada, and use it to leverage other funding,” said Goulding. “And we want to get AI in [the product] to protect the employees even more and reduce accidents.” 

 

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT and Genesis Centre are clients of Entrevestor.

30 Vie for Halifax Business Awards

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce will host the 18th annual Halifax Business Awards at the new Halifax Convention Centre on Thursday.

The chamber said in a statement it expects hundreds of attendees for the event, in which 30 finalists are vying for six awards. The dinner is sold out.

“We’re recognizing the new, the innovative, the exporters, the big, the small businesses and the leaders who continue to grow our city,” said Patrick Sullivan, President and CEO of the chamber. “Our finalists represent a variety of industries, but what they all have in common is their drive, determination and passion. We are thrilled to be able to highlight some of the risk takers in our community.”

The finalists are:

New Business

Appili Therapeutics Inc.

The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

Halifax Distilling Co.

J Farwell Sailing Co.

Sattva Boutique

Small Business

AeroVision Canada Inc.

BlueLight Analytics

Quantum Communications

Twirp Communications Inc.

WeUsThem

Export

B4Checkin

BlueLight Analytics Inc.

InterTalk Critical Information Systems

VERB Interactive

World Link Food Distributors Inc.

Innovative

Afishionado Fishmongers

BlueLight Analytics Inc.

Nautel

Squiggle Park

Third Wave Consulting

Business

Archway Insurance

Home Instead Senior Care

InterTalk Critical Information Systems

Mezza Lebanese Kitchen

PAVIA Gallery – Espresso Bar & Café

Business Leader

Ross Argante, Partner of Integrated Staffing Ltd.

Martina Kelades, Co-Founder of Shattered Silence Mental Health.

Joe Metlege, President of Templeton Properties.

Tony Nahas, Founder of Mezza Lebanese Kitchen.

Dave O’Connor, President of Glow, The Event Store.

Jaza Secures $750K in Equity Funds

The Jaza Energy team at work in Tanzania.

The Jaza Energy team at work in Tanzania.

Jaza Energy, an Atlantic Canadian company that helps to bring sustainable electricity to African villages, has raised $750,000 in equity funding to help it increase installations.

The company said over the weekend it received $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and $100,000 from members of the Maple Leaf Angels network, the largest network of angel investors in Toronto. The remaining $550,000 came from private investors. Jaza has also secured $450,000 in additional funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

NBIF had previously invested in Jaza Energy in 2016, as part of an initial $226,000 round.

Founded in 2015 by Jeff Schnurr and Sebastian Manchester, Jaza Energy sets up central charging stations in African villages that have never had electricity. Like another New Brunswick company, Mbissa Energy, it aims to provide people with enough sustainable power for lights and phones, so their businesses can operate more efficiently and their children can study after dark.

The company, which was one of the 20 tech companies named to the Canadian Innovation Exchange last year, is now using the money to continue its mission of connecting 1 million households to electricity within five years.

“This is a huge milestone for us here at Jaza,” said Schnurr. “We’ve got a great group of investors ready to help us take the company to the next level. Our team is now head down working on both our hardware and our approach to getting more and more customers electrified.”

Read Our Recent Coverage of Mbissa Energy

The funding is the latest step in a company that began when Schnurr was working on a not-for-profit organization in Tanzania that planted trees in a reforestation effort. He had been working on this project for several years when a woman said to him, “Trees are great, but where can I recharge my cell phone?” Schnurr realized the greatest social good he could perform would be to help bring electricity to people’s homes.

The company is now establishing central hubs in villages that produce sustainable electricity using solar power. Each station allows as many as 100 households to come and recharge batteries for their homes. The customers pay up front for the batteries, which can be swapped out and carried home, and last for about 40 hours. It means they no longer have to burn kerosene lamps at night or travel to other jurisdictions to charge their phones.

Schnurr said only about 5 percent of the people in rural Tanzania have access to electricity, and that there are an estimated 1.2 million people globally that don’t have electricity.

So far the company has operations in Tanzania, which Schnurr describes as its “launch market.” Jaza hopes to bring in neighbouring countries as early as next year.

Asked where his employees are based, Schnurr thought for a moment and said Jaza has an office in Sackville, N.B., engineers in Halifax and about 11.5 employees in Tanzania. “When you’re working across so many cultures and so many people, geography is just an idea,” he added.

In Tanzania, the company hires only women as technicians staffing the charging stations. “It’s a pretty interesting paradigm because girls now grow up in these communities thinking, ‘Hey my dad’s a fisherman and my mum is a technologist in the energy station.’”

With the new funding, Schnurr and Manchester hope to accelerate their installations and eventually move into direct hookups to people’s homes. 

“The beautiful thing about the price of solar now is that it’s the cheapest way for us to do it,” he said, adding that it’s great that the first wave of electricity in these villages is from a sustainable source. “It’s really just the perfect time in history for us to do this.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Luna, Pelagis Win Blue Solutions

Innovacorp has awarded two Nova Scotia ocean-tech companies $50,000 each through its Blue Solutions Start-Up Challenge.

The Nova Scotia venture capital and innovation agency said in a statement Thursday that Luna Ocean Consulting and Pelagis Data Solutions won the competition after pitching their prototypes and business models to a panel of judges.

Luna and Pelagis both specialize in collecting and analysing data but do so within different ocean sectors.

Luna, founded by Gregory Trowse, tracks water flows for tidal energy projects. Engineers can use this information to optimize the location and power output of tidal turbines. The system could be used, for example, with Cape Sharp Tidal Venture’s in-stream tidal turbines.

The company said its technology can reduce turbine failures and improve energy predictions, which lead to lower operational costs.

Pelagis, founded by Glenn Laughlin in Sydney, provides a resource management and analytics platform for ocean food producers.

“Blue Solutions opened doors to collaborate with many other Atlantic Canadian start-ups, each with a common goal towards supporting growth and innovation in our ocean-based economy overall,” said Laughlin.

“We plan to use the funding from the competition across three initiatives: engage with academia and industry associations, acquire our first customers, and maintain our momentum by leveraging the ocean tech community and collaborating with other start-ups.”

This was the second round of the startup challenge for Luna and Pelagis after winning $10,000 during the first round in October. The first Blue Solutions Challenge received over 47 applicants after its call for submissions in September and offered $200,000 in cash prizes.

Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency accepted applications from all over the world for Blue Solutions, which is an effort to find innovative solutions to problems in the ocean sector.

The competition aims to build on the ocean technology sector across Atlantic Canada and attract new founders to the start-up community in Nova Scotia.

Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Jobs: Manifold, Springboard Atlantic

In this edition of Jobs of the Week, we’re highlighting openings for an office administrator at Springboard Atlantic and a lead front-end engineer at Manifold.

Springboard Atlantic works with 19 colleges and universities across Atlantic Canada to try to amplify the economic impact of their research and development capacity. The organization acts as a dating service between industry and academia. It also offers funding and other support for faculty and students creating new companies.

Manifold, which closed a US$15 million ($18.7 million) venture capital deal late last year,provides a single platform on which developers can access a range of services, thereby simplifying the process of building digital products. Software developers often need an array of services that they can incorporate into their products to accelerate the development process. But finding and accessing all these services can be cumbersome.

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

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Springboard Atlantic

Office Administrator

We are looking for an Office Administrator to join Springboard Atlantic's central office team. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation that represents the network of 19 post-secondary institutions doing research in Atlantic Canada. The central office is a team of 5 who are based in Halifax, NS and Fredericton, NB and support this network. We are a diverse team who work together to fulfill an exciting mandate and we are passionate about innovation and getting ideas to market.

The Office Administrator reports to the President and CEO and is responsible for the efficient administration of Springboard’s central office. This primary role will encompass all general office administration including receptionist duties, meeting coordination, and member support. There will also be time dedicated to supporting our President and CEO. In addition, the administrator will be tasked with data management that supports our needs. If you are not already social media savvy you will have the opportunity to learn and support our communications strategy.

This job might be for you if:

You communicate clearly. You write well. You speak eloquently. You can explain just about anything to anyone, in writing, in person or on the phone.

You have very strong computer skills, and you are especially good with excel.

You are obsessed with details and organization, you like to figure out how to make processes better.

You are comfortable working with minimal supervision. You are capable of prioritizing multiple tasks efficiently and working individually and in a team. . . .

Read the full job description here.

Halifax

Manifold

Lead Front-end Engineer, React/Redux

At Manifold, we’re an ambitious and well-funded startup, making it compelling for developers like you to break your deployments free from the closed ecosystems of cloud providers. We connect applications, wherever they are hosted, to independent cloud services made by developers who care.

We are looking for an experienced, collaborative front-end engineer to inspire us, teach us, and bring our React architecture and coding forward.

Our partially distributed engineering team is fun-loving, knowledgeable, and extremely productive. We’re organized to let you explore and grow a variety of skills and capabilities, with many opportunities to make a significant impact. Many of us have strong ties to the open-source world, and have experience building tools at companies like Heroku, Red Hat, and Canonical.

We value diversity and supporting a distributed culture. Gender diversity is currently about one quarter. About half of the company work outside of the home Halifax, Canada office, including the product and engineering leaders.

Responsibilities

Help lead a friendly, supportive engineering culture that encourages you and the entire company to improve as engineers, teams, and people.

Be a model and mentor for building well-architected, performant, well-tested, and understandable code.

Prevent and manage technical debt. Help us find the right corners to cut for speed, and the right problems to invest in for maintainability.

Be passionate about our mission, and help us imagine Manifold’s future. Work closely with design and product in short design-first iteration.

Be curious. Learn, practice, share, and improve our knowledge and best practices in technologies, security, engineering, design and collaboration. . . .

Read the full job description here. 

Global Mentoring in Social Ventures

Stephanie Pronk: 'Around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship.'

Stephanie Pronk: 'Around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship.'

Common Good Solutions has been helping the region’s social entrepreneurs since 2012. Now the Halifax-based mentoring and consulting company is pushing ahead with marketing its online training platform for social entrepreneurs, before others emulate the idea.

CGS started its Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) platform in March last year and later introduced it to the world at the Social Enterprise World Forum in New Zealand.

SEI chief operating officer Stephanie Pronk said running a social venture — one that prioritizes people and the planet as well as profit — is particularly challenging.

“Social entrepreneurs are trying to sell, just like any other business, and do the social aspect, which is hard,” Pronk said.

CGS decided to create their online training tool after realizing there were many groups looking for help that couldn’t get what they needed due to budget and time commitments. CGS decided that online training would be especially useful for social entrepreneurs in rural areas and developing countries.

Pronk believes the SEI is the first site in the world that provides action-based modular content — information accessible on demand for particular problems — for social entrepreneurs.

So far, entrepreneurs have shown the most interest in courses about social procurement (selling to government and bigger corporations) and measuring the social impact of work. Sales training and marketing are also popular, and the staff are currently expanding their sales content.

JEDI Launches New Cohort for Indigenous Accelerator

Curriculum is being developed with help from all over Canada and the U.K. The latter is further ahead in social enterprise development, especially in Scotland, Pronk said.

The creators hope the online learning tool will lift people around the world out of poverty by enabling them to grow their own social ventures. They’re aiming for the tool to help bring a million people out of poverty by supporting 100,000 users globally by 2030.

“Although a great deal of progress has been made in alleviating poverty in the last 70 years, in 2013 there were still 2 billion people living on less than US$3.20 a day,” Pronk said.

“In developing countries, internet connectedness is growing. We felt this could provide a better way for organizations to access this assistance.”

Now they need to get the site established before the idea is copied. In the last year they’ve hired a team to push it forward and now have five full-time staff focused on SEI who, incidentally, are all aged under 30.

“We have IT and marketing expertise. Now it’s a race to market,” Pronk said.

Use of the site is being fuelled by the fact that CGS’s existing partners in the U.K. and Canada — groups like Momentum in Calgary, the Canada Business Network, and the University of New Brunswick — are buying content.

Pronk said these partnerships are key to the success of the site.

“Our partners have deep networks in their communities and we can augment the training they offer. It helps us expand our impact.”

The site has users in 14 countries and offers more than 60 courses as well as help from expert coaches. So far the site has received 3,400 course enrolments. Novice entrepreneurs can often obtain free training through sponsoring organizations.

Pronk said the site is also acquiring users through word of mouth.

“The site has had international exposure through our work in Scotland and New Zealand. And around the world people are searching online for training in social entrepreneurship and happening upon our site.”

Globally, there is more and more interest in social entrepreneurship, she said.

“Our research shows that social ventures are finding more customers, and governments at all levels are increasingly keen to support and buy from social ventures.

“I hope the site inspires people to see that social entrepreneurship is a great tool to make change in the world.”

Vesuvius’ Campaign Raises US$119K

Halifax-based game maker Vesuvius Media’s crowdfunding campaign for its latest board game has drawn US$118,563 in commitments, making it the top-grossing tabletop game on Kickstarter over the holiday season.

Vesuvius said in a statement Thursday that the campaign for the game Dwar7s Winter ended Jan. 15 with 1,689 backers. The original goal for the campaign had been US$15,000.

The statement said TabletopAnalytics.com rated Dwar7s Winter as the top-rated board game on the crowdfunding site over the Christmas period. The game also ranked in the top 10 of Kicktraq's Hot List, which includes all Kickstarter projects, during the same period, said the release.

“This is amazing!” Luis Brueh, the designer and illustrator of Dwar7s Winter, said in the statement. “We had so much fun with this campaign. We received great character ideas from backers. I loved sketching them out and bringing them to life.”

The second game in a series, Dwar7s Winter is a hand-building, worker-placement, resource-management game with tower defence elements for one to four players.

Eggcitables Wins 100 Seed$ Event

In the first game of the series, Dwar7s Fall, players prepared for the harsh Winter while defending their kingdoms against ogres. In Dwar7s Winter, players work to survive against the elements and battle scary monsters.

“Dwar7s Fall is our most popular board game, so there was a lot of anticipation for the next season in the Dwar7s series,” said Konstantinos Manos, Vesuvius Media's CEO and Lead Game Designer. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we couldn't be happier.”

Dwar7s Winter was successfully funded in the first 10 hours of its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Late pledges are available for a limited time in the Vesuvius Media Web Shop. Production is scheduled to start within the next few months and games are estimated to be delivered in August.

Much like Dwar7s Fall 2nd edition, Dwar7s Winter is text-free and the rulebook will be available in several languages. Players eager to get a sneak peek can play the game online on Tabletopia.com. A seven-minute quick start tutorial is available on YouTube by the Cardboard Stacker.

In December 2016, Dwar7s Fall surpassed its crowdfunding goal with 1,622 backers worldwide pledging US$82,479 during a three-week Kickstarter campaign. A third print run is now in production as it has been picked up by distributors in the United States, Brazil, France, Russia, Greece, and China.

The third and fourth games in the series, Dwar7s Spring and Dwar7s Summer, are in development.

5 Takeways from SkySquirrel Deal

SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put

SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put

The significance of SkySquirrel Technologies’ transformative deal announced last week far outweighs the number attached to it. The transaction will send ripples through the AgTech sector in the region and points to a few important trends in the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

CEO Richard van der Put announced that the company had raised $3 million and would use most of it to finance a cash-and-stock acquisition of its Napa Valley-based partner, VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging.

As separate companies, they had produced imaging and data for the wine industry — possibly the highest-margin segment of the agricultural sector. Now they will be a single company called VineView, based in Bedford, N.S., with offices in northern California and France.

Here are five takeaways from the announcement:

1. Atlantic Canada is getting some serious strength in AgTech data analytics. In 2016, Fredericton-based Resson raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors and opened a Silicon Valley office. Partnering with Monsanto was huge for Resson, which already worked closely with McCain’s Foods. Now the new VineView has a Napa Valley base, staffed by its new CSO Matt Staid and his CFO wife Melissa Staid. These two companies are well-positioned, well-connected and adequately funded.

2. SkySquirrel finally has IP. Resson was always seen as the stronger company because its intellectual property had been developed in-house by CTO Rishin Behl. In the SkySquirrel-VineView partnership, VineView owned the IP and data while SkySquirrel specialized in using drones and cameras to collect data. It was like the Nova Scotia company owned the Brinks truck while VineView owned the gold inside. Now SkySquirrel owns the whole kit and caboodle.

Read About Another Big Life Sciences Deal: Nautilus' Exit

3. Corollary to No. 1: We’re getting serious strength in AgTech overall. Resson and the new VineView are just two high-flyers among the East Coast AgTech companies. Having raised $8.5 million two years ago, Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture is close to completing its indoor farm in Guelph, Ont. It’s interested in AI and data analytics in its farms. Two young Fredericton-based companies are gaining loud plaudits hither and yon. Pfera, which tells horse owners when their mares will give birth, won New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition and the regional BioInnovation Challenge. And SomaDetect was a co-winner at the Fierce Founders bootcamp in Kitchener and won US$1 million at North43 in Buffalo.

4. M&A is becoming more common (and Atlantic Canadian companies aren’t always the sellers). Two years ago, Halifax’s Metamaterial Technology bought the business of Silicon Valley peer Rolith Inc. to accelerate the development of its manufacturing facility. Now SkySquirrel has merged with VineView, with the Canadian partners in the driver’s seat. Conclusion: A select few Atlantic Canadian startups have the ambition and access to capital to grow through acquisition.

5. There’s a reason they call it “hard”-ware. Building a business around devices is difficult. There are usually bigger, better-financed competitors who can do it better. SkySquirrel began as a drone company and now it's focusing on the gathering and interpretation of visual data.

Startup Moncton Launches

Startup Moncton is the latest addition to the Startup Canada Community, a grassroots, non-profit that aims to provide infrastructure and connect startup communities across the country.

Said Debbie Collins, the founding entrepreneur of Startup Moncton: “We foster an atmosphere of inclusivity, welcome diversity, and encourage more entrepreneurs to act as a community leader.”

Startup Moncton is part of a movement that brings together entrepreneurs and community stakeholders to build and connect the startup ecosystem in Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.

Many community organizations have partnered with Startup Moncton including Opportunities New Brunswick, 3+ Corporation and NBCC Oasis. Startup Moncton will use these partnerships to grow and advance the province’s startups.

 “We're so excited to have Startup Moncton as part of this provincial strategy that helps local entrepreneurs,” said Raphael Albert, a Business Development Associate with ONB.

Eggcitables Wins 100 Seed$ Event

Hannah Chisholm

Hannah Chisholm

Eggcitables, a company that makes a vegan egg substitute from chickpeas, won the $10,000 cash prize at the third annual 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ pitching competition, an initiative put on by the Halifax non-profit, 100 Seed$ Atlantic.

Hannah Chisholm, founder of Eggcitables, will mainly use the winnings to finalize her chickpea recipe so it has the same texture, smell and taste as an egg and with more nutritional value than current egg substitutes.

“I was really excited to even hear that I was a finalist and now that I’m here and got to actually pitch my product and then actually win, I am just really excited,” said Chisholm after she won the competition.

“The first on the to-do list is to incorporate . . . and work out the legal situation. Then I’ll develop a marketing plan to get this thing going.”

Chisholm was one of three finalists who presented at the event, which was held at the Halifax Public Library.

The other finalists are Elwood Pens, a handmade wooden pen company from New Glasgow and Creative Urban Timber, a custom furniture business that uses locally sourced live edge wood from firewood lots to make custom, modern furniture.

The annual event sells 100 tickets to folks in the startup community at $100 per head. That money makes up the $10,000 prize that is awarded to the company with the most successful pitch.

Read the Latest on Last Year's Winner Aurea

100 Seed$ was started in response to Ray Ivany’s Now or Never report which said only 12 percent of youth between the ages of 16 to 24 aspire to start their own business. The micro-funding pitching competition was the organizers’ solution to improve that statistic.

“It gets better and better every year,” said Allyson England, one of the co-founders and organizers of the event. “The pitches are awesome and I’m just happy to see more young people in entrepreneurship.”

The 2018 event was the third pitching competition held by 100 Seed$, which in November, registered as a non-profit organization and formed an advisory board which includes Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Don Mills, the chairman of Corporate Research Associates. 

The past winners of Seed$ competitions were Canada Cold Press Juices in 2015 for its idea to make juice from wasted fruit in local orchards and Aurea, a cleantech company that outfits small-scale wind turbines to high rises, in 2016. 

Yanky: Wiping Runners’ Runny Noses

It’s an unflattering problem for runners everywhere. You work up a sweat, your face is dripping and your nose starts leaking like a faucet. With no tissues or towels, you turn to the next best thing; the sleeve of your shirt or a good ol’ fashioned snot rocket.

Ryan Jacobson, a Fredericton marathoner who’s fired hundreds of these mucus missiles himself, found a way to put an end to them.

He developed the Yanky, a stylish-handkerchief that clips on to a retractable reel that athletes can clip on to their waistbands. It’s a more presentable way to wipe your nose while you work out and the simplicity of its design is why runners worldwide are adding Jacobson’s invention to their workout gear.

“I think that’s appealing to people – it doesn’t beep, it doesn’t sing a song,” said Jacobson, the Founder and President of Yanky Sports. “You wear it, go for a run, play tennis, and wipe your golf-ball with it and that’s it. It’s a simple solution to a common problem.”

Its simple design is attracting notice beyond New Brunswick. For example, Jacobson is showcasing the Yanky at the PGA merchandise show in Florida at the end of January.  

The idea for the Yanky came out of necessity for Jacobson, who is an avid runner. After years of encouragement from family and friends, Jacobson started the company, which now serves over 20 retail locations locally and throughout Canada.

In addition to retail and online sales, Jacobson promotes the Yanky heavily through social media. He has nurtured solid leads in the U.S. and Europe by connecting with athletes on platforms like Instagram. Jacobson collaborated with professional boxer Brandon Brewer to create a plaid Yanky, a nod to Brewer’s fan base dubbed “The Plaid Army”.

Read About the Latest Cohort at Fredericton's JEDI Accelerator

The company has been gaining traction in terms of consumer interest and retail partners. It is in talks with The Running Room as the Canadian retailer is interested in stocking the Yanky online during a trial period.

In the meantime, Jacobson is working through different industrial design trademarks to secure his IP as well as looking for other avenues to get the Yanky to global markets.

Yanky Sports is also one of the five companies that will take part in Ignite Fredericton’s Export Igniter this month. The program, which is the first export accelerator program in Atlantic Canada, helps growth-stage companies build a comprehensive export strategy.

“I want this to be a global thing,” said Jacobson, “I want to see Yanky sports as a household name.”

Jacobson was able to start Yanky Sports through programs and resources at Opportunities New Brunswick and Ignite Fredericton, where he was given a $20,000 startup loan and introduced to mentors within the province’s ecosystem.

“Beyond the financial support, it’s the community that you get put into that I really can’t put a dollar value on.”

Student VC Event Needs Startups

Ellen Farrell

Ellen Farrell

Ellen Farrell is looking for a few startup founders or CEOs to help with an international venture capital event for students this spring.  

The entrepreneurship prof at St. Mary’s University’s Sobey School of Business is hoping to find two or three startups interested in pitching at the international Venture Capital Investment Competition, which SMU is hosting in March. The startups would be required to pitch to the competitors in the student event, then work through the day with the teams as they try to put deals together.

The VCIC is a tri-continental organization that hosts competitions at universities around the globe, and the SMU tournament will be the first ever held in Canada. It’s designed to teach students about venture capital and the funding of startups.

Farrell said there are residual benefits for the entrepreneurs that help out as they will learn a lot about the VC process and rub elbows with experts in the field.

“This opportunity is an brilliant role-playing drill for entrepreneurs seeking to raise funding in the future," said Farrell in an email. “Entrepreneurs receive a very effective immersion in venture capital: vamping up their pitch decks, responding to multiple term sheets, conducting mock negotiations with top graduate level students, and having lunch with a panel of venture capitalists."

Venture Grade – the $200,000 VC fund overseen by SMU students -- will host the competition March 2 and has already received applications from Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick, Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University.

At the VCIC, student teams are given an imaginary $100 million to invest. They must pick one of the pitching startups to back. Real venture capital investors serve as a panel of judges to assess which teams do the best job.

Farrell is looking for companies in need of about $2 million to $4 million to pitch, but would also like to hear from companies needing more or less than that.

The judges include Atlantic Canadian investors Gerry Pond of East Valley Ventures, Lidija Marusic of Innovacorp, Chris Moyer of Pelorus Venture Capital and Brenda Hogan of the Ontario Capital Growth Corporation. Farrell said the organizers continue to add judges from across Canada. 

One entrepreneur will receive the  “VCIC Regional Start-up of the Year” award, and Farrell said that the history of the VCIC shows that about one-quarter of the participating startups go on to get funding.

Any interested entrepreneurs should contact Farrell at Ellen.Farrell@smu.ca.

 

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

Sequence Names Michael Phillips CSO

Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips

St. John’s-based Sequence Bio has named Michael S. Phillips as its new Chief Scientific Officer.

Phillips brings more than 25 years of experience in large-scale genomic projects, drug target discovery and leading research teams to the job.

Sequence Bio, which made the announcement Tuesday, plans to lead a large-scale genetic research project in Newfoundland and Labrador, called the NL Genome Project. This community-based initiative aims to create a powerful drug-discovery platform to help with the identification of diseases and drugs that could treat them.

Phillips has extensive expertise leading large research groups in academia, biotech, pharma and hospital settings for drug target discovery, biomarker research, clinical diagnostics, and technology development. Most recently, he was VP Genomics at Genomics Medicine Ireland. He was responsible for developing a state of the art clinical genomics laboratory, building highly skilled teams and contributing to the company's scientific direction. He has published over 70 articles in leading peer-reviewed journals and delivered hundreds of international presentations on his work.

"We are incredibly proud to have Dr. Phillips and his international expertise with population genetics research projects join the team,” said Sequence CEO Chris Gardner in a statement. “He recognizes Sequence Bio's unique opportunity to innovate drug discovery and embraces our participant-centric approach to benefit the people of Newfoundland & Labrador.”

As Chief Scientific Officer, Phillips will lead all scientific development projects and genomic and precision medicine research for Sequence Bio. He joins the team full-time as it prepares for a period of rapid expansion and growth in its operations. 

EhEye Raises $500K, Led by NBIF

James Stewart: 'I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised.'

James Stewart: 'I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised.'

EhEye, the Saint John company that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics in video surveillance, has raised $500,000 in funding after courting 250 potential investors.

CEO James Stewart said in an interview Tuesday that the round was led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which came in with $150,000. EhEye raised the same amount from friends and family. As well as these equity investments, the company borrowed $100,000 from Business Development Bank of Canada and received other funding from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency and NRC-Irap.

“I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised,” said Stewart with a laugh. A former auxiliary policeman with a PhD in data analytics, Stewart said he was spurred to get out and meet investors by  Isaac Souweine, General Manager of the Montreal-based accelerator FounderFuel, who has become a personal mentor.

EhEye has produced technology that notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack.

The company was a finalist in NBIF’s Breakthru competition last year, and won several other awards. It was a co-winner of the Grandmothers’ Choice Award, a pitching competition in which a panel of grandmothers chooses the winners, at Startup Fest in Montreal last summer. Through that win, Stewart was introduced to Souweine, who helped to connect the company with investors and customers.

“Artificial intelligence is an emerging tool often associated with cybersecurity,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in a statement. “This is one of the first instances we’ve seen where a company has leveraged AI for personal security, and we’re proud to support them. EhEye’s widespread potential for positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of both people and infrastructure is incredibly promising.”

Feds, Emera Fund Smart Grid at UNB

The past few months have been active for EhEye, which now has a team of nine people with offices in Saint John and Fredericton. It’s hiring more people.

In September, the company deployed its minimum viable product to its first customer, Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. The initial product had the ability to recognize weapons or public disturbances. EhEye has since tapped the Build in Canada Innovation Program (through which the federal government adopts innovative Canadian products) to work with a sea port and an airport.

Stewart said EhEye plans to release its version 2.0 in March, and add a couple more early adopters to its client list through the first quarter.

Meanwhile, he’s already looking forward to the next funding round, and is reconnecting with some of the venture capital investors he approached last year.

“I have developed a lot of relationships,” said Stewart. “I knew very little about fundraising so I was targeting the wrong level of VC. I’m meeting with one of them next week. He knows how gritty we are and what we’ve gone through. We’re still too early for them but he’s told us what we need to do to be prepared for them.”

 

 Disclosure: NBIF, ACOA and BDC are clients of Entrevestor.

PEI-Based Nautilus Bought by Croda

Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Charlottetown-based Nautilus Biosciences Canada Inc., a marine biotechnology company, said Monday it has been purchased by the British specialty chemical-maker Croda International Plc for an undisclosed price.

Founded in 2007 by University of Prince Edward Island Professor Russell Kerr, Nautilus focuses on using marine microbial organisms to discover new bio-medical materials and other products. East Yorkshire-based Croda now plans to use Nautilus’ operations and patents for applications across all its market sectors. Including the UPEI lab it works with, Nautilus has a staff of about 30 people. 

Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Croda has a market capitalization of £5.8 billion ($9.9 billion) and in calendar 2016 had sales of £1.2 billion. The company is so acquisitive that it has a tab on its website to show the companies around the world that it has purchased.

“We have enjoyed a very positive and collaborative relationship with both Croda and the University of Prince Edward Island for a number of years and have always been impressed with Croda’s drive to develop the opportunities from marine biotechnology,” said Kerr in a statement. “Becoming part of the Croda group will provide Nautilus the resources and support to establish a key centre for the research and development of marine-derived natural products.”

He added that the P.E.I. operation aims to provide Croda with new products that it can sell. Nautilus has worked closely with Croda for the past six years, developing specific applications for skin care, hair care, and crop care.

The company said Croda intends to establish the base at UPEI as a Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology. This location has already attracted and facilitated partnerships with many other biotechnology-based companies, said the statement, and Nautilus has exclusive global access to the Marine Microbial Library, which is based at UPEI.

Created at UPEI, Island AquaTech is Prepping its Prototype

“This is another clear example of how sustainable innovation is underpinning our growth plans,” said Croda CEO Steve Foots. “With Nautilus as part of the Croda Group, we further expand our expertise in biotechnology. The Nautilus team that will join us have extensive knowledge and expertise in marine biotechnology, also known as ‘blue biotechnology.’”

The Nautilus sale is the latest in a spate of exits in P.E.I. in the past year. In June, Charlottetown-based iWave Information Systems Inc. sold out to San Francisco private equity fund Sverica Capital Management LLC, after almost three decades as an independent company. Last April, global education publisher Scholastic purchased online literacy company Ooka Island.

PEI BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis described the Nautilus purchase as “another important success story for the PEI Bioscience Cluster”, which two years ago announced the establishment of Natural Products Canada.

“Croda’s investment in Nautilus and Prince Edward Island is a great return on everyone’s commitment,” said Francis. “It’s how a cluster works. The Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology will be an outstanding addition to the PEI Cluster and Atlantic Canada’s expertise in ocean technologies, strengthening the Atlantic proposal for an Oceans Supercluster in the region.”

Planting Seeds Win Was Aurea’s Start

Cat Adalay

Cat Adalay

Since winning the 100 Seeds Atlantic pitching competition last year, Cat Adalay, the founder and CEO of Aurea Technologies, has taken off with her company, which aims to outfit high-rise buildings with modular wind turbines.

In an interview Adalay discussed how 100 Seeds, a pitching event in which 100 attendees donate $100 dollars to make up the $10,000 cash prize, was the first step in launching the business, which she started in December 2016.

“Before we started at 100 Seeds, this was just a concept,” said Adalay, who took home the prize money at last year’s competition. This year’s Seeds competition is happening today at the Halifax Public Library. The competition was previously called 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$. 

“That really kick-started it for us. It wasn’t just the money. It validated the idea and made us realize we were on to something.”

Her company is developing small-scale wind turbines to power high-rise buildings. The turbines are positioned on to buildings so that they are directly in the path of the natural wind tunnels that form around tall buildings.  

The system can be retrofitted on to existing structures or installed during construction and, when paired with an energy storage system, has the potential to run a building entirely off-grid.

Learn about the 100 Seeds Event Taking Place Tonight

In the spring, Adalay took the company to Kitchener, Waterloo, where she was accepted into Communitech’s Fierce Founders accelerator program, a six-month learn-by-doing program that helps female-led companies to scale.

The program gave Adalay more than $30,000 in funding to grow Aurea’s brand.

“It was an incredible experience and they wanted us to stay but we felt coming back to Halifax was the right choice for us,” said Adalay.  

“There is a lot of talent here that tends to be more affordable than Ontario, and there is decent funding here in Atlantic Canada for the stage we’re at,” said Adalay. “In Toronto, it’s so competitive so it’s sort of hard to make yourself heard in such a big ecosystem.”

Adalay, who developed an interest in renewable energy in her teens and even built a generator at 17, has been working on completing the prototype turbine while also raising $61,000 in non-dilutive funds.

“This prototype has been the sole focus of Aurea since we started,” said Adalay, who also explained the advantages of renewable wind power. 

“Solar is great for residential homes but when it comes to high-rises, wind is the answer.”

Building developers and industry professionals, who Adalay won’t name yet, have taken interest in outfitting their projects with Aurea’s turbines. Its modular system makes it easier to repair and adaptable to different building designs. Most important, it cuts down on carbon emissions, something building managers have to consider in this age of climate change.

In the next few months, Aurea plans to complete its prototype and start to raise pre-seed rounds of funding.

 

Disclosure: Cat Adalay is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.

An Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Lessons

Pernille Fischer Boulter: 'It baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of (immigrants') insights.'

Pernille Fischer Boulter: 'It baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of (immigrants') insights.'

The need to develop international sales is a hot topic in the region. Entrepreneurs often need to work hard to win introductions. When Danish-born Pernille Fischer Boulter arrived in Nova Scotia, she wrote letters introducing herself to 100 of the province’s top CEOs.

In her new book, Tales from an Immigrant Entrepreneur, the author describes how this enabled her to meet influential people, including John Risley, then CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods.

Pernille, the founder of Kisserup International Trade Roots, has worked on export development with small, micro and medium businesses in 90 countries. But when she arrived in Chester in 1998, after marrying Canadian entrepreneur Keith Boulter, she struggled to find what she wanted – a sales job in an IT company.

“I’d worked in a high-paid, high-stress sales job in Europe (for American computer manufacturer Commodore). I’d been responsible for hundreds of dealers, budgets of millions of dollars, profit and loss responsibility and daily international contact,” she said.

“Now, my contacts were limited to my husband and the people I called or tried to initiate contact with.”

Most of the 100 CEOs she contacted did respond, although some were dismissive. Stephen Wetmore, a former CEO of Canadian Tire and Bell Aliant, was helpful. He said she wouldn’t find an IT job in Atlantic Canada. He said the region didn’t yet think of Europe as a possible market, and that its IT companies hadn’t grown large enough to hire someone with European experience.

“Focus larger and focus on multi-sector,” he advised. That message was echoed by others. It’s advice Pernille is still grateful for.

John Risley led her to several opportunities, including with Lee DeWolfe, who ran Hawboldt Industries, an engineering and fabrication firm in Chester that Risley co-owned. Hawboldt made propellers and winches for fishing trawlers. Pernille helped the company enter the oil and gas sector by finding leads in the North Sea.

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Many challenges in trade relationships result from differing perspectives, she said.

“I was in the Netherlands, matchmaking for a Nova Scotia delegation, when two Dutch business people said, ‘We really like Canadians, but we like doing business with Americans better.’

“They said Canadians are so polite, you never know what they think. They never really say no, they never really want something.  It’s always balanced, no excitement, no rejection.”

Pernille promotes diversity among her own staff and regularly offers immigrants work experience.  She believes immigrants are a huge, unrecognized resource for Canada.

“Immigrants have a lot of knowledge and it baffles me there’s not a better system in place to take advantage of our insights,” she said.

“Companies will hire Kisserup to brief them on the cultural differences between Canada and China. Meanwhile, there’s a huge, untapped immigrant community. Many immigrants would love to share what they know if only there was a formal way of doing so.”

In 2007, Kisserup developed a searchable database through which potential exporters could find immigrants with relevant experience. But, she said, the private sector didn’t take up the idea. She would like to reinvigorate the project and take it national.

“I envision matching businesses that don’t have transition planning with immigrant entrepreneurs who might take over companies,” she said.

“I’d also make funding available so small and medium-size enterprises could pay an international business graduate or immigrant for a year to help with their business development, international marketing, and social-media development.

“I’d set up a program to help small businesses achieve global certifications. These certifications are the main hindrances for businesses looking at exporting.”

She believes immigrating to Nova Scotia made her an entrepreneur.

“If I’d stayed in Denmark, I would probably not have started my own company,” she said. “I believe anyone can develop as an entrepreneur in the right environment, with the right people and the right support.”

JEDI launches New Accelerator

The Joint Economic Development Initiative is starting the new cohort of its accelerator for indigenous entrepreneurs today, with a special focus on scaling and exporting.

JEDI, a non-profit that aims to foster Indigenous economic growth, said the 10-week program will accommodate seven companies, ranging in specialties from software development to 3D printing.

Unlike previous iterations of its accelerator, this program took in companies that are already well positioned for high growth with strong, validated business plans.

“This accelerator will take people from the point of market validation to full-blown go-to-market activates,” Mark Taylor, the Shipbuilding Strategy Manager at JEDI, said in an interview.

JEDI, which has partnered with organizations like BDO Canada, Lockheed Martin and BMO, will help companies create pitch decks, protect their IP, and learn hiring procedures. Taylor said the cohort will focus on exporting, global reach and investment.

“This particular cohort with have a huge emphasis on raising investment,” said Taylor. He added: “Throughout the whole process, they have to be knocking on doors, raising funds, whether it’s with angels, government funding, what have you.”

Taylor also discussed the obstacles Indigenous entrepreneurs face, pointing to how negative perceptions and property laws make it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise capital.

“To date there has not been a lot of interaction between traditional investment sources and indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Taylor.  

“The starting point is giving them more opportunities, and doing a better job to get Indigenous entrepreneurs with their very innovative ideas in front of angel investors and seed stage venture capital opportunities, as well as educate the banks to adapt their rules to understand that reality of property ownership.”

Genesis Centre Launches Diversity Program 

The organization shows entrepreneurs how to navigate those obstacles and works with its partners to shed light on the challenges. In November, JEDI received $2.2 million in funding, which helped the non-profit evolve its accelerator.

Taylor hopes that by focusing on scaling and exporting, the province’s next big exit will be an Indigenous-owned company.  

“We’ve heard a lot of great stories of the non-Indigenous community in Atlantic Canada and we’re working hard to create more Indigenous success stories.”

The companies in the new cohort are:

  • Lunney Development, a software development company founded by Katie Lunney.
  • PLATO Testing, a network of Aboriginal software testers.
  • Aboriginal Millennium Health Products, a biotech company founded by Roche Sappier that uses “raw forest resources” for products that treat different ailments.
  • Smak'nis Maritime Security, a marine security and safety training company founded by Adam Kennedy.
  • Woolastoq Marine, a marine-focused 3D printing company founded by Monty Paul.
  • Atlantic Hydrogreens, a hydroponics company founded by Cody Brooks.
  • And Down to Earth Productions, co-founded by Michael Stemm and Andrew Martin, which uses drone technology for video production.

Both Down to Earth and Atlantic Hydrogreens were runners up in JEDI’s pitch competition at its last accelerator program. 

We’re Ramping Up Survey Campaign

We’re about to ramp up our campaign to ask the founders and CEOs of Atlantic Canadian startups to take two minutes to complete our 2017 survey.

We’re working with partners across the region to enhance our annual analysis of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. We believe it will help improve the ecosystem.

Now we need your help. We’ve already received responses from a lot of founders, and this week we will be contacting founders who haven’t responded, asking them to take two minutes to answer the 18 questions in the survey. You can find our survey here:

All your answers will be 100 percent confidential – we publish aggregated data but never divulge information on individual companies. You can find the survey here:

We aggregate the data we collect and produce a report on the state of the East Coast startup community. We can't stress this enough: we only reveal aggregated data and your data will be completely confidential. We sell this report to clients, who use the information to help shape the ecosystem. It’s a pillar of Entrevestor’s business model and helps us to continue providing news for you.

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017.  If there is information you choose not to reveal, just leave the slot blank.

The companies we’re targeting are majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians, commercializing technology and producing a product for the global market. We use the term “startup” but we’re not just looking for new companies. Most of the companies are several years old.

Many thanks to those who have already filled out the survey, and thanks in advance to everyone who completes the survey.

Proposals for $15M Fund Sought

Innovacorp is calling for proposals from private fund managers to oversee an early-stage venture capital fund – a fund whose value has been boosted by 50 percent.

The Nova Scotia government’s VC agency said last month it would invest $10 million in an early-stage fund. But when it released its request for proposals on Friday, Innovacorp said the fund will actually be worth $15 million.

The announcement is part of a two-track policy to provide both early-stage and follow-on funding for Atlantic Canadian companies. The Nova Scotia government in 2014 said it would invest $25 million in a private fund manager, as long as the manager brought in additional capital.

Last month, the government announced it would sink $15 million into Halifax-based Build Ventures, which makes follow-on investments of about $1.5 million to $3 million in companies across the region. The investment will be the first commitment to Build’s second fund, which is expected to be worth $50 million to $75 million.

Innovacorp said at the time it would also channel money into an early-stage fund – initially outlining a $10 million investment and now saying it will be worth $15 million. The announcement Friday did not say the early stage fund manager will have to bring additional capital into the fund.

Creating two funds was recommended to the government by the selection committee responsible for evaluating responses to Innovacorp’s 2016 request for proposals for a fund manager, said the statement. The committee will remain in place for the new process.

“It was important to enable Build Ventures to continue to provide follow-on capital for the most promising startups in Atlantic Canada,” said Gilles Duruflé, a selection committee member and consultant for venture capital and private equity funds and governments across Canada. “It is also important to ensure Nova Scotia’s start-up community continues to grow, which is why we need to bring an additional new private-sector-managed fund for early stage start-ups to the region.”

The deadline for proposals is Feb. 15. 

 

Disclosure: Build Ventures and Innovacorp are clients of Entrevestor.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, Modest Tree

Dash Hudson has posted an opening for a Sales Development Representative while Modest Tree Media is looking for an Intermediate eLearning Software Developer in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Modest Tree is a Dartmouth-based Software-as-a-Service company that offers 3D simulation and training software with its Modest3D suite. In today’s column we’re highlighting its search for a software developer to create and design eLearning training solutions.

Dash Hudson, which is also a SaaS company, helps corporate clients optimize their visual marketing strategies.  With its platform, Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for their clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

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

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Description

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more…

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.
Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.
Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.
Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.
Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . . 

Read the full job posting here.

Borden, Ont.

Modest Tree

Intermediate eLearning Software Developer

Description

We are looking for a passionate developer who enjoys a good challenge and is able to contribute to the design and development of innovative eLearning training solutions. 

To be an ideal candidate, you will have the following skills and attributes:

Must have at least 3 years’ experience in programming web applications using Java, C# or C++.

Must have developed and integrated at least two eLearning courses over the last 3 years…

Responsibilities

Work closely with team members to define and create effective and creative interactive eLearning training solutions

Consistently write, translate, and code products according to specifications and best practices

Identify and resolve bugs efficiently

Assist in identifying, defining and documenting development requirements and specifications

Assist in quality assurance activities, as required…

Read the full job posting here.

Genesis Launches Diversity Program

Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

The Genesis Centre, the venerable startup house in St. John’s, will launch a new diversity program on Monday to offer support to more startups founded by women and immigrants.

Dyanna McCarthy, who has worked for the past four-and-a-half years with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, will head up the three-year program. She will be charged not only with developing curriculum to support female and immigrant founders but also researching what other jurisdictions have done to promote entrepreneurship in these groups.

“The diversity program is a really exciting one for us,” said Genesis Centre CEO Michelle Simms in an interview. “When we look back at the 20-year history of the Genesis Centre, if we had started companies founded by women at the same rate as companies started by men, we’d have almost twice the number of companies we have now.”

Simms said the Genesis Centre – which this year will move from its base on the Memorial University campus to new digs in the Battery complex near Signal Hill – has been interested in diversity for some time. It sought and received provincial funding to develop the program.

Four years ago, Genesis began a Women In Technology peer group, which has expanded to more than 100 members. Simms said the peer group is large enough now that it is developing sub-committees, such as one group for female CEOs and another for female software developers.

”We’re building an environment where these women can move easily into C-suite roles because they have a strong network around them,” said Simms.

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With the new program, McCarthy will oversee networking and educational events and deploy services to support founders from groups that have been under-represented in tech entrepreneurship.

The research aspect of the job will look into different places in the world that have had success in nurturing female and immigrant entrepreneurs. Chile, for example, has been a hotbed of female entrepreneurship. Simms and McCarthy want to know how these places ended up with so many female founders and replicate their best practices in St. John’s. “We want Dyanna to get on the phone and talk to these people,” she said.

The Genesis Centre, which has a total of 11 tenants, has been working with several exciting startups headed by women and immigrants, said Simms. One of the hottest companies on the rock is HeyOrca, whose CEO is Malaysian-born Joseph Teo. Emily Bland, who headed Enactus Memorial’s world championship team, is working on a company called Project SucSeed. And Judy Reid, who’s been involved in call centres since 1992, has established an automated service for realtors called Clientime.

Outside the Genesis alumni, Startup Canada last year named Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s, its national Entrepreneur of the Year.

Simms wants more of these success stories in the St. John’s and Atlantic Canadian communities. 

Read About HeyOrca's Success in Raising Capital and hitting $1M in ARR

 

Disclosure: The Genesis Centre is a client of Entrevestor.

SimplyCast Updates its 360 App

Saeed El-Darahali: 'We built all these hooks to make it more dynamic.'

Saeed El-Darahali: 'We built all these hooks to make it more dynamic.'

Clients of SimplyCast would have noticed a big change in their SimplyCast360 application yesterday.

The Dartmouth-based company, which aims to simplify and automate communication flows for businesses ranging from startups to enterprises, revealed the worldwide update of its 360 Marketing Automation Manager with the new Automation Flow Editor.

The 360 communication application lets users map out day-to-day interactions by channeling communication channels (emails, texts, voicemails) into one interface. The 360 system also allows users to automate responses to business correspondents.

The upgrade gives the program new features, an updated interface and quicker loading times. Some of the new features will allow users to track and check histories of different interactions. 

Founder and CEO Saeed El-Darahali, who aims to list SimplyCast on a stock exchange late next year, said one of the biggest things with the update is it’s simpler to use.

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“When we started the technology about four years ago, it wasn’t as sophisticated as it should be so we built all these hooks to make it more dynamic,” said El-Darahali in an interview.

“Non-profits are using it, governments and banks are using it, so everyone is using the system now, where in the past it required people with a little more programming experience to use it.”

SimplyCast, which started in 2010, has customers in over 175 countries and has a little under a million users in its database. In September, the company released its 9.0 version of its multi-channel platform. That update allowed businesses to increase engagements and strengthen relationships with clients.

The new update for 360, which launched in 2013, took over two years and over $1.5 million to complete. El-Darahali said customer feedback has been great and clients are pleased with the user-friendly features.

SkySquirrel in $3M Raise and Merger

Emily Ennett at the Startup Halifax event Wednesday

Emily Ennett at the Startup Halifax event Wednesday

SkySquirrel Technologies, the Bedford, N.S. company that uses aerial imaging to improve vineyard productivity, has raised $3 million and merged with its Northern California research partner VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging.

The new company will be known as VineView and will change its business model so it uses high-altitude images taken from airplanes to map entire grape-growing districts. Previously, the company used drones to capture images of individual farms. What’s more, the combined company will own all the intellectual property, or IP, associated with its business.

Emily Ennett, SkySquirrel’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, announced the transaction at Startup Halifax’s showcase of tech companies at the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday night.

"We realized that we’re not that great at building drones, but what we are good at is providing grape-growers with extremely high-quality data,” said Ennett. “What we are good at is detecting grape vine diseases that nobody has figured out how to do and what we are good at is developing data products that grape growers are really excited about."

SkySquirrel began as a drone company in 2012 and three years ago decided to focus its efforts on providing data and imaging services to the wine industry, which is worth $20 billion annually in Europe alone. Early in its development, the company struck a partnership with St. Helena, Calif.-based Vineview, which owned invaluable IP used to collect data on vineyards.

For the past year, the companies have been in talks about merging, and SkySquirrel carried out the deal by raising $3 million in capital -- $1 million from Innovacorp and $2 million from an unnamed private investor.

Richard van der Put in the early days of SkySquirrel

In an interview after the announcement, SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put said the new funds will be used in part to finance the merger. VineView co-founders Matthew and Melissa Staid will receive a mixture of cash and equity in the new company to carry out the merger. Van der Put said there will be some capital left over to use as working capital. He is now talking to other potential investors and hopes to announce a follow-up funding round in a few months.

The merged company will be headquartered in Halifax with offices in Napa Valley and Toulouse, France, two of the world’s biggest wine markets.

Van der Put will remain as CEO, and Matthew Staid will serve as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“This has been a very important deal for us,” said van der Put. “We now have access to all the IP that we were licensing from VineView before. And they have a very important client base in the Napa and Sonoma areas.”

The Halifax company, which now employs 21 people, also gains important staff in the Staids. As well as being an expert in agricultural imaging, Matthew Staid conducts research with NASA, where he has worked on the Moon Minerology Mapper.

“After working in partnership with Richard and his team for the past few years, we are excited to officially join forces with SkySquirrel and combine our two companies,” said Matthew Staid in a press release. “Together we will be able to scale globally and offer our customers enhanced data solutions.”

Van der Put said the company’s new strategy came about last summer when VineView developed imaging technology that could map large areas from planes with the same resolution that it formerly got in a single field from a drone. It means that VineView can now map a wine-growing region like the Napa Valley once a week and get all the data needed for all the vineyards in the region.

Said Ennett: “We are very eager for the new harvest season to take place and for the new VineView to take Flight.”

 

With reporting by Jennifer Lee. 

 

Making Lobster Fishery More Efficient

Jim Richard, left, and Mark Lowe

Jim Richard, left, and Mark Lowe

When Premier Stephen McNeil toured the Volta Labs startup house in Halifax last month, one company that seemed to catch his eye was SeaSmart Technologies, a new oceantech company based in Mahone Bay.

SeaSmart is the sort of company that oceantech proponents had in mind when they conceived of the supercluster. At the outset, its technology will improve the efficiency of a traditional industry — the East Coast lobster fishery. But as it grows, its founders believe it can use the data it collects to produce predictive analytics and it hopes to improve other industries, such as the crab fishery in Asia.

Led by CEO Mark Lowe, the SeaSmart team has developed “smart lobster traps” that contain sensors to tell whether lobsters have entered the trap. The system tells fishermen, while they are still on dry land, whether there is enough product in their traps to justify going out to sea to harvest them.

“It’s a decision-making tool,” said vice-president Jim Richard in an interview Tuesday. “If we get the information in their hands on whether they should go out, they can decide whether they should go out for four hours or eight hours or wait for another day.”

Going out to check lobster traps is always expensive, given the labour and fuel costs. Richard estimates the North Atlantic fishery between Newfoundland and Boston goes through $300 million to $400 million in fuel each year. By telling fishermen how much they’ve caught, SeaSmart can reduce costs and the industry’s carbon footprint.

The product can even tell fishermen late in a trip whether the traps they laid earlier that day are full or empty — meaning they can be harvested or relocated.

“All of a sudden they’ve doubled their productivity for that day without even leaving the fishing ground and going back to the wharf,” said Lowe. “Because there’s no limit on where they put their traps, once you find a really hot zone they want to concentrate on it.”

The product can also tell lobster buyers back on the wharf and the processing plants what a day’s overall catch will look like, so they can plan before the boats return.

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Lobsters tend to go where the underwater biomass is located, but that biomass moves around the ocean floor. The company is looking into using the data it collects to make predictions on how the feeding grounds move to improve the profitability of the industry.

The SeaSmart team — which includes mechanical engineer Jordan Braun and electrical engineer Sam Harrison — is now testing the product in tanks, and is planning open-sea testing in the spring. Lowe has had discussions with accelerators in New England but is reluctant to accept equity investment (which many accelerators require) before he raises the value of the company. SeaSmart has just gone through the Propel ICT accelerator and will present at the group’s Demo Day in Fredericton on Jan. 23.

Last year SeaSmart was a co-winner of the Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition in Halifax, which secures the company a relationship with the marine technology community in Qingdao, China. Lowe, who is also a founder of Lobsters Made Easy, said the connections could prove useful because the Chinese are huge buyers of seafood and SeaSmart wants to expand internationally.

“For all the traffic in lobster, it’s a small industry compared to the crab fishery and most of it is in Southeast Asia.”

CarbonCure Lands 16 Installations

Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies, whose technology reduces CO2 emissions in the making of concrete, plans installations in 16 facilities owned by Atlanta-based Thomas Concrete this year.

The Halifax cleantech company said in a statement Tuesday the installations will help Thomas further establish itself as the world’s largest supplier of concrete made with this CO2 recycling technology. Thomas now uses the CarbonCure system at 22 plants.

"CarbonCure Technologies is continuously seeking opportunities to assist the concrete and cement sector to create scalable solutions to reduce emissions today,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in the statement. “We are honoured to partner with forward-thinking international organizations like Thomas Concrete who are integrating CarbonCure across their broad fleet of plants.”

CarbonCure recycles carbon emissions by liquefying CO2 from local industry and mixing it into wet concrete. Its system can be retrofitted into any concrete processing facility.

Find Out How CarbonCure Made our 2018 Outlook

Not only does this process cut down on the amount of CO2 released into our atmosphere but it also improves the structural integrity of the hardened concrete because the CO2 converts into a hardened mineral when it’s blended into the cement.

Said Alan Wessel, CEO of Thomas USA: “Thomas’ growth has been maneuvered by prioritizing consistent quality for our customers and using CarbonCure’s technology really aligns with that.”  

The company has also been a key partner in CarbonCure’s efforts to win the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a $20 million global challenge to accelerate businesses that specialize in repurposing carbon emissions.

“Thomas Concrete has been an incredible partner as we lead the global carbon utilization industry, which is expected to be worth $1 trillion by the year 2030, and reduce global emissions by up to 15 per cent,” said Niven.

CarbonCure is one of the 23 semifinalists for the competition, which has also been dubbed as the Nobel Prize for cleantech. 

LaunchDal Seeks Collide Applicants

LaunchDal, Dalhousie University’s business accelerator program, is taking applications for its Collide Winter 2018 program, which is set to start on Jan. 25.

The program is open to anyone with a business idea and is free. 

Participants will attend four pitching sessions and present their business idea as it currently stands. After taking the idea through a series of workshops and fireside chats, participants will have the chance to take part in the Pitch Competition.

The top teams from the program pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win prize money to launch their business. First, second and third place are awarded $3000, $2000 and $1000 respectively. 

Applications are due Monday, Jan. 22. Apply for the program here.

Appili To Work on Anti-Bioterror Vaccine

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Appili Therapeutics has struck an agreement to work on a vaccine that could protect people against a potential bioterror threat.

The Halifax drug discovery company said Monday it signed a licence agreement with the National Research Council of Canada to help develop ATI-1701, to vaccinate against tularemia. The vaccine will protect against bacteria called Francisella tularensis, which can cause tularemia, a highly infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.

People can become infected with tularemia through tick and deer fly bites, drinking infected water or by simply inhaling the disease if it becomes airborne. This is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists F. Tularensis (the bacteria that causes the disease) as a Category A pathogen, a bacteria that poses the highest threat to national security and public health.

“Francisella tularensis is a very infectious bacteria,” Sean McBride, Appili vice-president of business development, said in the announcement. “A small number (of bacteria) can cause tularemia disease. If used as a weapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne for exposure by inhalation.”

He added: “People who inhale an infectious aerosol would generally experience severe respiratory illness, including life-threatening pneumonia and systemic infection, if they are not treated,”

Aerosolized F. tularensis was studied by the Soviet Union during the Second World War and the Cold War for military purposes. The Soviets also developed a vaccine, but with limited effectiveness.

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The NRC’s ATI-1701 compound was developed through genetic engineering and has shown a strong immune response to the F. tularensis strain.

“The NRC has developed an elegant attenuated vaccine that is showing dramatic results, better than the current vaccination,” Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan said in an interview.

Wayne Conlan led the team that developed NRC’s ATI-1701 compound. In the statement, he said: “It is very rewarding to see our team’s research on this vaccine progress from our labs to the next stage of development. We are delighted to partner with Appili on this important program designed to protect the health of Canadians exposed to bioterror threats.”

Part of the funding to develop the vaccine is from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, which has invested $6.2 million into a five-year program to develop the tularemia vaccine.

The licence agreement with the NRC grants Appili -- which has raised money from Innovacorp and through the investment boutique Bloom Burton  & Co. -- exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the tularemia vaccine.

Under the agreement, Appili is responsible for the preclinical and clinical testing to evaluate the safety of the ATI-1701 vaccine in humans as per the guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.

The vaccine won’t be commercially available for another 3-5 years but Sullivan says this is the right step to hinder the development of a tularemia bioweapon.

“It’s one of the goals of the West to develop the tularemia vaccine in case there is a bioterror attack,” said Sullivan. “We want to minimize the threat of a bioterror weapon to a point where the adversary doesn’t even bother making one.”

4 To Present at Startup Halifax Event

Saar Fabrikant, CEO of B4Checkin

Saar Fabrikant, CEO of B4Checkin

Startup Halifax is hosting an event to showcase the many startup success stories from this province on Wednesday at the Halifax Central Library.

The event, called An Insider’s Look at Startup Success, is free and will include presentations from at least four different homegrown companies. John Hamblin, the organizer of the event, is hoping to add two more companies to the roster.

Here's a quick look at the companies listed to present, and the most recent Entrevestor stories on them:

B4Checkin

B4Checkin is a Software-as-a-Service company that offers a wide variety of solutions for the hospitality industry. Its clients can manage hotel check-ins, reservations, transactions and bookings on one simple platform and, most recently, installed its tech in two large American casino hotels.

B4Checkin Books Sales with US Hotels

Blue Light Analytics

Blue Light solves a problem in the dental industry regarding the light that is used to cure resin (the material used for fillings etc.) in dental procedures. Its product checkMARC helps ensure dentists are curing dental resin for the appropriate amount of time. Last year Blue Light partnered with industry giant, 3M Corp, to expand sales in the United States.

BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

SkySquirrel

SkySquirrel Technology caters to some of the most prestigious wine brands with their crop diagnostic technology for vineyards. By using drones, SkySquirrel is able to detect diseases in grape vines.   

SkySquirrel Enters Dublin Accelerator

Aqualitas

Aqualitas is a cannabis producer in Liverpool that uses an all-natural aquaponics system involving a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. Aqualitas has raised nearly $11.5 million since its inception three years ago and is also researching ways to improve on the aquaponics method.

Aqualitis Set To Raise, then Launch

The event will take place at the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday Jan. 10 at 5:30pm to 8:30. Register for the event here

Propel Names Demo Day Pitchers

Propel ICT, the regional accelerator, has revealed the companies that will pitch at its demo day on Jan. 23 in Fredericton.

Eleven companies will definitely pitch at the event, which will feature a pub crawl to Fredericton craft breweries. Two others are eligible to pitch, though they may not be able to due to previous commitments.

Dubbed Pints and Pitches, the event is an opportunity to combine the traditional regional demo day with a tour of Fredericton’s craft brewers. You can sign up to attend here

The event will begin at Planet Hatch, where BrewHopper buses will take groups to four different craft breweries to listen to two or three different pitches, all while sipping on some of New Brunswick’s top craft beer. After 20 minutes at one bar, you hop back on the bus and go to the next one until you make your way back to Planet Hatch.

Pints and Pitches had been set for last month, but had to be postponed because of weather concerns.

All the grads of the Propel Build cohort (for scaling companies) are eligible to pitch at Demo Day, and the more promising grads of the Launch cohort (for new companies) can present as well.

Here are the startups pitching, including Entrevestor articles on some of the companies:

Build Cohort:

Guild, Halifax

Headed by CEO Colin Gourlay, Guild has developed administrative software for the association management industry, and has already found clients in the space. Specifically, it targets professional colleges, which are the organizations that oversee the credentials and membership of licensed professions. The product automates the process of digitally registering and renewing memberships and collecting fees. It helps members to update their qualifications.

Guild Solutions Banks $500,000 in sales

SnapSuite, Toronto

SnapSuite has created an online dashboard that helps small and medium-sized businesses manage their processes. From a single platform, business owners can carry out such tasks as controlling inventory, dispatching instructions to workers or providing quotes to clients. The goal is to help SMEs eliminate the most time-consuming inefficiencies, increase productivity and view real-time reports.

SomaDetect, Fredericton

Founded by Bethany Deshpande and COO Nicholas Clermont, SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly and precisely while testing the quality of their milk. Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of the disease mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day. The company has won several competitions across the continent.

SomaDetect Winns US$1M at 43North

SomaDetect Making Waves in US

TripNinja, Halifax

Trip Ninja serves people who want to travel to several different cities in a single trip and don’t care about the order in which they visit these locations. CEO Andres Collart’s team has created a product that takes someone’s travel dates plus the cities they want to visit and plots the trip to find the lowest-cost flights. The company is partnering with online and traditional travel agents to provide better service to multi-stop travelers.

TripNinja Lines Up Deals with Major Partners

Launch Cohort

CoLab Software, St. John’s

Founded by Memorial University grads Jeremy Andrews, Adam Keating and Roy Brushett, CoLab is developing collaboration software for people working with 3D designs. Its product Gradient allows mechanical engineers, interior designers or others to work in different cities on 3D designs in real-time, rather than sending one another PDFs of two-dimensional images.

Hyperloop Success Leads to Creation of CoLab

Unicare, Miramichi, N.B.

Unicare Home Health Care Inc. provides home care services to several New Brunswick communities, and is now developing a digital product. It is owned and operated by Lisa Williams, who is a member of the New Brunswick Home Support Association. She has recently become involved with the Education and Training Committee for New Brunswick that worked to establish a standardized training curriculum for all home support caregivers.

SafeAlert, St. John’s

Headed by CEO Kyle Goulding, SafeAlert is designing a mobile app that will help companies monitor the safety of employees who work alone in remote locations. The product can be installed within 24 hours of placing an order, is customizable, affordable and scalable.

Upfront Tickets, Halifax

UpFront plans to use blockchain in a ticket-management system for concerts. Co-Founders Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner want to use blockchain to create an identity for each concertgoer, and the ticket would be added to a digital wallet attached to that identity. By working with concert ticket sellers, UpFront aims to get rid of ticket scalpers and make sure customers are not buying fraudulent tickets.

SeaSmart Technologies, Mahone Bay, N.S.

SeaSmart is developing hardware products that would allow lobster and crab fishermen to check their traps from the safety of dry land. These fishers often go through the time, expense and risk of going to sea to check their traps, only to find too little harvest to justify the trip. SeaSmart, headed by CEO Mark Lowe, would let them check the traps from home on a mobile device.

Passiv, Fredericton

Co-founded by Brendan Lee Young and Brendan Wood, Passiv aims to help retail investors do index investing with a brokerage account. Their accounts are consolidated into one easy-to-use dashboard, with automatic notifications when something needs your attention. Passiv works off of accounts in Questrade, the fastest-growing online brokerage in Canada.

Prooflo, Fredericton

Prooflo provides website designers with immediate, stress-free feedback on their designs. The company’s website indicates it is planning a launch in 2018, and is now gathering names of users to test the product.

The following companies have been chosen to pitch, but may have conflicting engagements:

Zambara, St. John’s (Launch Cohort)

Zambara, founded by Jason Trask, has developed a product that helps providers of group benefits to identify members who are under-insured and thereby increase sales to these customers. In the next year, Trask hopes to build on the product so Zambara will help families have an easier time claiming policies after someone with life insurance has died.

Zambara Targets Group Benefit Plans

Securicy, Sydney (Build Cohort)

Securicy, headed by serial entrepreneur Darren Gallop, is a software-as-a-service product that helps enterprises navigate the complex routes to make sure they are compliant with their clients’ and partners’ cybersecurity standards. This field is so complex that even tech entrepreneurs are often asked for material they’ve never heard of.

Securicy Ramping Up Paid Beta Tests

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs of the Week: 2 at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is looking to hire a CFO and Account Executive in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service business here in Halifax that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies.  Its visual intelligence platform, Vision, provides a one-stop solution for their clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

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

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

CFO

Description

As CFO, you will work closely with the cofounders (CEO and CTO) to deliver financial clarity that enables the company to confidently pull levers for rapid growth…

Responsibilities

· Equity fundraising.

· Create briefing documents for approaching new prospective investors.

· Maintain strong, ongoing relations and communication with existing investors.

· Own all lender relations.

· Identify and where appropriate access all available leverage sources.

· Maintain strong, ongoing relations and communication with existing lenders.

· Ensure maximum visibility regarding future revenues and cash levels (support CEO in sales forecasting process).

· Maintain rolling 12-24 month pro formas.

· Ensure management is regularly briefed on and understands budget expectations.

· Implement policies and controls over budget vs. actual performance…

Read more about and apply for the CFO position here.

Account Executive

Description

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

Responsibilities

Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.

You can learn more about the job here.  

After TopLog, Yeloglu Moves On & Up

Ozge Yeloglu

Ozge Yeloglu

Two years as a data scientist at Microsoft in Toronto has taught Ozge Yeloglu the importance of enterprise sales — something she wishes she’d known more about when she was running Halifax-based data analytics startup topLog.

Yeloglu is known locally for being a co-founder and CEO of topLog, a venture that made life easier for IT operations teams by analyzing the events that take place over IT systems and identifying anything unusual. TopLog ran for three years before folding in 2016.

Yeloglu then joined Microsoft as a data scientist working in fintech. Since September, she’s been the chief data scientist leading Microsoft’s artificial intelligence team in central Canada. She and her staff work with sales teams and clients building cloud-based solutions using Microsoft’s Azure Data Services.

In her leadership role, she is also working with startups and finding ways for Microsoft clients to work with the young companies.

At Microsoft, she’s learned that enterprise sales, which focus on high-volume or high-dollar sales often over months or years, are complicated.

“I’ve learned about enterprise sales by working with banks, governments, insurance companies,” she said. “I’ve realized you need to be where your clients are — remote selling is not feasible. You need to build relationships.”

Not that she didn’t build relationships at topLog. Yeloglu visited Silicon Valley to get to know potential investors and partners and she succeeded in raising seed money. The company went through Launch36, the early Propel ICT accelerator. In some ways, the learning curve at Microsoft has been similar to the one she experienced at topLog.

“We were so lucky to get into Volta (the Halifax incubator for startups). It’s not just about a cheap rent; it’s about networking, connections, mentorship. Also, we did accelerator Launch 36; that was very useful, too.”

Volta Academy Applications Open Till Jan. 17

Originally from Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, Yeloglu came to Halifax in 2005 to take her masters in computer science at Dalhousie.

When she joined Microsoft she had to leave Nova Scotia, which was not easy.

“I worried about leaving Halifax. I loved life there, loved living in the Hydrostone area. But we now live in Etobicoke. We walk our dogs by the lake and are 25 minutes by train from downtown.”

She is still learning about life in a big corporation and says she may return to entrepreneurship one day. She keeps in touch with the Atlantic scene by volunteering with Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic as a mentor for Halifax entrepreneurs.

“I know the challenges of entrepreneurship,” she said. “Adaptability is important, being able to learn many things at once. That helps at Microsoft, too — being comfortable with things I don’t know and having the drive to learn and keep growing.”

Looking back, she says there were several reasons for topLog’s demise, including, perhaps, raising investment too early.

We're Watching These Atlantic Canadian Companies in 2018

“Another main thing was enterprise sales. We didn’t know how to sell our product to enterprise companies and our product was designed for enterprise companies. None of us had that specific experience, and our investors and mentors didn’t have experience in our specific market. . . . Technology and product are great, but if you can’t sell it, it doesn’t matter.”

She expressed surprise that no regional university has yet taken up Gerry Pond’s challenge to create a program for teaching international sales. Pond, a well-known New Brunswick-based investor, offered $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that would do so back in 2015.

But, she said, perhaps sales is best learned in the workplace.

“Now I’m seeing how Microsoft salespeople close deals. Learning from them is a whole different experience. . . . As I said, I’ve learned how much of sales is relationship building.”

Business Model Contest Seeks Entries

Canada’s Business Model Competition, which aims to steer student-led startups away from failure, has opened applications for its sixth annual competition in March.

Dalhousie University, which initiated the event in 2013, is currently accepting video submissions from student-run businesses for the competition, which begins March 2.

To apply, teams no larger than five must submit an eight-minute video that concisely explains the idea, problem and solution to their business model.  Video applications are due on Jan. 28. To read more on the requirements, and to check out sample video, click here. You can click here to apply.

Last year, more than 80 applicants from 20 Canadian universities applied to the competition, with about 30 teams making the cut.

The top three winners of the 2018 competition will split $50,000 and in-kind prizes. The top winner advances to the International Business Model Competition in May at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Both the Canadian and International competitions place a particular emphasis on the use of the lean canvas model and stress the importance of fostering connections with potential customers and partners to grow a business.

The top three winners at last year’s CBMC were:

The Landmine Boys, now Demine Robotics, is a group from the University of Waterloo who built a robot that safely removes land mines.

Axem, a company from Dalhousie, created a wearable device that tracks athlete’s brain activity.

RockMass Technology from Queen’s University, collects and analyses data from different rock structures. 

What’s Ahead in 2018? Funding News

A look-ahead to the New Year for the Atlantic Canadian startup community draws attention to the financing of our most successful companies. The companies I’m watching this year either raised money in the last couple of years, or could be raising money this year. Or both.

During the holidays, I thought a bit about what the highlight of 2018 will be for the East Coast startup group. There are pre-scheduled events that will capture attention, but the big news events this year will probably focus around financing. Maybe it’s that way every year — our readers flock to articles about venture capital funding. But this year there are a few wrinkles that will make it different from other years.

For the past two years, there have been more big VC rounds — announcements of funding ranging from $4 million to $18 million. There will be a few more of those announcements this year, though it’s difficult to say which companies will announce these so-called Series A rounds.

What will be interesting will be to see what announcements come from companies that had big raises in 2016. The companies that had big funding rounds last year — like Affinio and Manifold of Halifax — are now putting that money into action. But the companies that raised in 2016 will hit some interesting milestones.

Halifax-based TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture (which raised $8.5 million in 2016) is due to open its major indoor farm in Guelph, Ont. in June. Resson of Fredericton, which raised US$11 million, is completing the beta tests of its agricultural analytics system and anticipates a full launch this year. St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which raised US$3 million, is on track to demonstrate this year how it can use genetic research in drug discovery.

Check Out our Review of the Good and the Bad in 2017

There are a couple of companies that haven’t announced big rounds recently but bear watching. One is CarbonCure of Halifax, which is a semifinalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The four-plus-year international competition will name finalists in February. If CarbonCure makes the cut, it will be in the running to walk away with US$20 million.

Then there is SimplyCast, the Dartmouth company that specializes in multi-channel marketing. For years, CEO Saeed El-Darahali has indicated he wants a public listing for the company. If the public markets remain strong, there will be more attention paid to SimplyCast listing next year.

“We are planning a listing in mid to late 2019 as we finalize some major projects in 2018,” said El-Darahali in an email Wednesday.

These are some of the companies that are on my radar this year, and of course there will always be the companies that outperform expectations and come out with surprising announcements.

Here’s one final thing to keep in mind: The regional accelerator Propel ICT has the stated goal of producing the first IT company in Atlantic Canada valued at or above $1 billion. Saint John investor Gerry Pond, the driving force behind Propel, has stated publicly that he believes a tech company in the region will hit that mark in 2019. Pond made the statement a few years ago, but if he’s right, we’re within 23 months of seeing it happen. We could see some signs in 2018 of big news on the horizon.

Energia Seeks 2018 Cohort Applicants

Joe Allen

Joe Allen

Energia Ventures, an accelerator in Frederction, is seeking companies in the energy, cleantech and cybersecurity sectors to apply for its 2018 accelerator program. 

The program, which is now accepting applications, will run from April 30 until Energia’s demo day on July 20. Participants can expect intensive mentoring, funding for their startups, programs, and business support.

“Energia offers early-stage companies the mentorship, guidance, support and access to investors to truly accelerate their business,” Energia Managing Director Joe Allen said in statement.

“The end goal is to create stable, high-growth potential companies worthy of venture capital investments on a compressed timeline.”

There is no cost to participate at Energia Ventures, which grew out of the University of New Brunswick's Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program. Instead, the successful applicants for the program are granted seed funding in exchange for equity in their company.

The program will operate in Fredericton, so successful applicants will need to be based out of the city during that time, though Energia can help locate accommodations, and assist with visas for any international applicants.

Energia encourages interested startups to apply through F6S, an online tool that links startups across the globe with programs and funders. The deadline to apply for the program is February 5. 

 

Read Our Coverage of Energia Alumni:

Mbissa Energy Set To Expand in Africa

Trispectra Creates Product To Help With Power Outages

Stash Explores Energy Storage Systems

Beauceron Moves Past Adopter Stage

NBIF Extends R3 to 3-Day Event

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has unveiled the new format of its biennial R3 event, extending the celebration of New Brunswick research to three days for the first time.

The conference, running from April 10 to 12, will also be the first R3 event that will have a theme. Given the aging population in the region, the organizers have chosen the theme of Innovations in Aging.

 “Aging is a topic that poses a unique urgency for our province,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury. “The opportunities are endless for innovations in care options and support systems. We want to get people talking and making connections. Collaboration is the key to solving such a complex challenge.”

The three-day event starts on Tuesday, April 10, at the Frederiction Playhouse. The first night will showcase talks from New Brunswick researchers foucsing on aging populations.

On Wednesday and Thursday, there will be a conference at the Fredericton Crowne Plaza that will feature a keynote address, success stories, and workshops for government, industry and researchers.

The conference will wrap up on Thursday evening at the Fredericton Convention Centre with the R3 awards gala. Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks and an expert on ageism, will present the keynote speech at the gala that focuses on themes of age and aging.

The R3 awards, which are now in their 10th year, will honour five New Brunswick researchers who specialize in innovations around aging and for the aging population. Three of the five honourees will receive $50,000 in NBIF research funding, and one public choice recipient will win $15,000.

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor

2018 Resolution: Fill Out Survey

Now that we’re into the new year, we’re renewing our call for founders and CEOs of Atlantic Canadian startups to take two minutes to complete our 2017 survey.

This annual exercise is a win-win for the region. The region gets leading-edge data on the startup community, and the survey helps to finance the cost of producing daily news on startups.

Our 2017 survey comprises only 18 questions and can be filled out in a jiffy. All your answers will be 100 percent confidential. You can find the survey here:

We aggregate this data and produce a yearly report on the state of the East Coast startup community. We can't stress this enough: we only reveal agregated data and your data will be completely confidential. We sell this report to clients, who use the information to help shape the ecosystem. It’s a pillar of Entrevestor’s business model and helps us to continue providing news for you.

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017.  If there is information you choose not to reveal, just leave the slot blank.

The companies we’re targeting are majority-owned by Atlantic Canadians, commercializing technology and producing a product for the global market. We use the term “startup” but we’re not just looking for new companies. Most of the companies are several years old.

Many thanks to those who have already filled out the survey, and thanks in advance to everyone who completes the survey.

Island AquaTech Preps Prototype

Island AquaTech Co-Founders Dylan MacIssac, left, Brett McDermott, and Jordan Sampson.

Island AquaTech Co-Founders Dylan MacIssac, left, Brett McDermott, and Jordan Sampson.

What started as a class project for the three engineering students at the University of Prince Edward Island is rapidly showing signs of becoming a viable business.

Island AquaTech is the creation of three engineering students who designed a machine for the oyster farming industry as a part of their end-of-year project during their second year.

“We were paired with a client to build a solution for a real industry problem,” said co-founder Jordan Sampson in an interview from Charlottetown.

Sampson, along with classmates-turned-business-partners Dylan MacIssac and Brett McDermott, built a device that flips oyster cages, which is a critical and labour-intensive task for fishermen in the industry.

In oyster farming, the shellfish are grown in floating cages that need to be flipped often during growth to kill off parasites like barnacles, algae and mussels. When the cages are flipped, these parasites are exposed to the sun, which kills them.

“Currently the cages are all flipped manually, usually by two or three guys and (the cages) weigh about 200 or 300 pounds,” said MacIsaac. “They also work right up until the ice forms. They’re basically doing 200-pound dead lifts for 10 to 12 hours a day.”

With help from UPEI and Synapse, an accelerator at UPEI, the students were shown just how big the potential market is for their oyster-flipping technology.

The province’s oyster sector reportedly had its biggest catch this year. According to Statistics Canada, the industry produced 3,422 tonnes of farmed oysters in 2015 alone. P.E.I. is known for its Malpeque oysters and produces roughly 30 per cent of the farmed oysters in Canada.

To date, the young company has raised $55,000 in non-equity funding with $20,000 from Springboard Atlantic and $25,000 from Innovation P.E.I.’s Ignition Fund. The co-founders plan to use the funds to help produce their prototype.

Ocean Executive Adds 2 International Clients

The team is also enrolled in the Creative Destruction Lab in Halifax and completed the first session in November.

Sampson said the CDL program has opened their eyes to the business side of the machine and said the company has a lot of catching up to do in terms of business knowledge.

“It made it very clear to us that we were the underdogs in the room.” said Sampson who will return to Halifax in January for the next CDL session. “They’ve been helping us with the business side and helping us get to market.”

The co-founders, who all grew up on the Island, built everything on-site at UPEI. They took advantage of the resources from the university’s engineering department and worked on the prototype between their classes.

In 2018, the company will finalize its boat attachment design and iron out last-minute kinks — the team tested its last prototype before winter and with good success.

“The concept is definitely proven — there are just a few small changes that need to be made,” said Sampson.

As the ice settles on the oysters in the Malpeque Bay, Island AquaTech is working to make the growing process much simpler (and certainly less cold) for P.E.I.’s fishermen.

Said Sampson: “We had one guy say to us: ‘I don’t care how it works, as long as it gets me out of the water.’”

Jobs Postings: CoLab, Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is seeking a Sales Development Representative while CoLab Software needs a new Lead Developer in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company in Halifax that designed a platform to help companies optimize their visual marketing strategies. It is looking for a Sales Development Representative to manage its outreach strategy to potential customers in a number of industries.

CoLab, based in St. John’s, is a SaaS company that developed Gradient, a design review platform that operates in real-time. It is looking to hire a Lead Developer to direct a small team in developing an initial product for early adopters.

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

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Description

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

Responsibilities

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.
Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.
Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . 

Read more about the posting here

St. John’s

CoLab Solutions

Lead Developer

Description

We are recruiting for a lead developer with strong python and web development experience to help us create an initial product for our Early Adopter Program participants. You will lead a team of 3-4 developers while also making major contributions of your own. 

We're looking for someone that's willing to take on more risk/responsibility in return for:

- high growth potential
- creative license
- an open, collaborative, engaging, enjoyable and flexible work environment
- the opportunity to be a leader
- a stake in our success with competitive compensation
- pizza . . .

Read more about the posting here

Happiest of Holidays to Our Readers

We'd like take this opportunity to wish all our readers, advertisers, clients and friends the happiest of holidays. We're shutting down until Jan. 2, and are looking forward to a great holiday. We hope all of you have a great break as well. 

2017 Has Been Great for Entrevestor

Jennfier Lee: A great addition to the Entrevstor team.

Jennfier Lee: A great addition to the Entrevstor team.

Before we take our year-end break, we want to update our clients and readers about our progress in 2017.

It’s been a wonderful year for Entrevestor, and the highlight has been hiring a tremendous young reporter, Jennifer Lee. Jennifer is a graduate of the King’s College School of Journalism and she’s a great addition to our team.

With Jennifer, Carol and I all hard at it, we’re producing more stories on Atlantic Canadian startups, and they’re reaching more people than ever. In its six-year history, Entrevestor has published more than 3,000 blogs, and more than 1,000 of them were published in 2017.

As of November, our number of readers had increased 49 percent year-on-year and our pageviews were up 31 percent. We’re reaching readers beyond Atlantic Canada – about 30 percent of our sessions were initiated by readers outside the region, and 13 percent of them were outside Canada. In Montreal, for example, our readership increased almost 60 percent since November 2016. Both Toronto-based Betakit and PEHub, Thomson Reuters’ private capital publication, both picked up Entrevestor articles on several occasions.

One of the highlights of the year was working with our marketing partners Charcoal Marketing to put on “Atlantic Canada's Startup Industry - By The Numbers” – the luncheon in Halifax that presented our most recent data. We’re looking forward to working with Charcoal more in the future.

Many thanks to all our clients and readers – and especially to the startup founders and staff. Entrevestor is growing only because you’re growing your businesses so rapidly. May it continue in 2018.

The Good and The Bad in 2017

At Entrevestor, we’re about to take our annual Christmas-to-New-Year’s break, so this column will try to sum up what’s been good and bad in the startup ecosystem in the past year. The community grows each year, but here are some high and low points for the ecosystem that leap out for 2017:

GOOD NEWS

Startups are joining the oceans extravaganza. We’re seeing the first evidence that Atlantic Canada can produce waves of oceans-related startups. Last year we identified 414 startups in Atlantic Canada and 19 of them could be considered “OceanTech” companies. Today we’re looking at 36 startups in the oceans space, and they’re popping up in the broader startup programs.

Dozens of companies applied to Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions competition. Seaformatics of St. John’s went through the Propel ICT accelerator in 2016, and SeaSmart Technologies of Mahone Bay attended this year. The Startup Yard at the COVE marine industry park in Dartmouth will open next year. The oceans supercluster steering committee has made provisions for startups to help its members develop new technologies.

Startups and the Halifax business community are linking up. In Fredericton, tech startups are a pillar of the business community. In Halifax, the region’s business capital, startups have been outsiders, moving in different circles than the corporate establishment. It’s hindered the innovation community’s growth because support of traditional industry is essential for a startup community. (Brad Feld, author of the book Startup Communities, refers to them as “tentpole industries” because they elevate everything around them.)

There are more bridges now. The oceans supercluster has the potential to link startups with established companies, and the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic has named businesspeople like George Armoyan, Ken Rowe and Rob Sobey as fellows. It’s a healthy development.

BAD NEWS

We may not be keeping pace with the rest of the country. The Atlantic Canadian startup community is a bit like Andre De Grasse. No one would argue that the Ontario sprinter isn’t fast. The problem is there are other guys who are faster. Similarly, Atlantic Canada is producing fast-growing startups, especially in IT. The problem is the Toronto-KW Corridor, Vancouver and Montreal are producing more startups that are growing faster. This matters because of the ever-increasing race for late-stage capital, and East Coast companies have yet to join that race. There are some startup founders with colossal ambitions for their companies, and it will be a shame if they have to sell prematurely because of lack of funding. Note that I said this “may” be a problem. It’s too soon to say there’s trouble, but it bears watching.

There’s still no sales program at an East Coast university. As of New Year’s Day, 800 days will have passed since Mariner Partners chairman Gerry Pond offered $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that sets up an international sales program. Yet we’re no closer to having a sales program. No university in English Canada offers a full sales program at its business school, even though Canadian businesses big and small are screaming for sales talent. Any one of our business schools still has an opportunity to offer the first such program in the country, but it’s doubtful any will overcome the bureaucratic inertia to seize this golden opportunity.

There it is — more good than bad, but still things that need some work. Many thanks for reading this column this year. Have a great holiday and we’ll be back Jan. 2 (the 801st day since Pond made his offer).

Five Named to Export Igniter Cohort 2

Amanda Betts, CEO of eChart Healthcare

Amanda Betts, CEO of eChart Healthcare

Five New Brunswick growth-stage companies will join the second cohort of Ignite Fredericton’s Export Igniter in January to learn how to build a viable export strategy.  

Cleantech, sporting goods and natural beauty products are what some of the companies will bring to this 12-week program. The five companies are:

  • Anointment Natural Skin Care Inc: This Sackville-based company has been making all-natural body products with a focus on pregnant women or new moms and babies for nearly 15 years.
  • Yanky Sports International Inc: This company, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in January, offers a solution for runny noses for athletes. The ‘Yanky’ is a clip-on handkerchief that runners or other athletes can use as an alternative to a shirtsleeve.
  • eChart Healthcare: Based in Frederiction, eChart creates connective healthcare between senior care facilities and families. Its software-as-a-service solution digitizes patients’ charts into a cloud-based system for health-care practitioners to easily share and record patient information.  
  • WEnTech Solutions Inc: WEnTech is a waste-to-energy SaaS company that helps engineers find the most efficient way to turn waste into energy. The company, which went through the Propel ICT accelerator, won $176,000 at the Breakthru competition last spring.
  • The Best Deodorant in the World: The name speaks for itself. This New Brunswick company sells an all-natural deodorant called PitShield. The formula has been in the works for over six years and is packaged in biodegradable wrapping.

Export Igniter – the first export accelerator program in Atlantic Canada – helps companies prepare for navigating the landscape of international business. The companies will be paired with mentors, students and other professionals to learn how to reach new markets and develop a comprehensive export strategy.

 “The participants in the first Export Igniter cohort have experienced sustained growth resulting in nine full-time-equivalent jobs,” Adam Peabody, Investment Attraction and Growth Specialist with Ignite Fredericton said in a statement Wednesday.”

“We’re confident this year’s cohort is poised for similar success and look forward to working with them.”

Zambara Targets Group Benefit Plans

Jason Trask: 'The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.'

Jason Trask: 'The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.'

Jason Trask’s journey to San Francisco has followed a long, hard and often personal road, but he hopes it will eventually lead to clients and funding for his fintech startup.

Trask is the founder and CEO of Zambara, a new St. John’s company that has developed a product that helps providers of group benefits identify members who are under-insured and thereby increase sales to these customers. In the next year, he hopes to build on the product so Zambara will help families have an easier time claiming policies after someone with life insurance has died.

Zambara is a young company with only two Canadian clients. But last week it was chosen as one of nine companies to attend the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Get There: San Francisco program, which will be held in the California city in February. (The other Atlantic Canadian companies invited are Halifax-based Guild Solutions and Moncton-based Fitiv.)

A serial entrepreneur, Trask understands the need for this product because he spent more than a decade in the financial services industry, and because his family had to go through the pains of claiming on a life insurance policy.

“A little more than four years ago my father passed away,” he said in an interview Wednesday, explaining he had to help his mother make the claim. “Seeing how that process worked, even with all the advisers we had involved, I really saw that there were major problems. And that was the final catalyst to get this going.”

Zambara’s current product is aimed at group benefit providers — the companies that sell life, injury and disability insurance to unions, associations and corporations for their employees or members. The product searches for people within these groups who are under-insured — for example, a 50-something executive with young children and only $100,000 in life insurance. By identifying under-insured members, Zambara helps the providers sell more suitable products to existing customers.

GroupThinq, which makes software for consultants, gains an international client base.

“What really makes this interesting for the broker is that . . . we’re not introducing them to new customers or leads,” said Trask. “What we’re doing is helping them build a stronger relationship with the people they already know and who know them.”

Trask said the company expects to sign up four more clients — two Canadian and two American — early in the new year. Overall, he hopes for “a couple of dozen” customers in 2018 and to work with them in developing a more comprehensive product. He envisages a tool that will ensure that life insurance policy-holders have all the information they need and take all the proper steps to ensure their families can claim with the fewest hassles possible.

Trask admits “that’s a big nut to crack” so he decided to launch the initial product that identifies the under-insured, then work with clients on the broader product.

Zambara is Trask’s second attempt at developing a tech company. During the dotcom boom, he began a company that would allow students to buy and sell books and chat online. The company failed and now he’s back. As with the past company, he is working out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s. And he has just completed the Launch program of the regional accelerator PropelICT.

“I had to learn a new lingo,” he said of returning to the entrepreneurial fray after 15 years. “The business models are different (than 15 years ago). I really like it and it scares me, because things move so fast. The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.”

Feds Unveil 2 Innovation Programs

The federal government has announced two new programs in the last week that should channel hundreds of millions of dollars into startups and innovative companies.

Last week, the government launched Innovative Solutions Canada, under which 20 federal departments will spend $100 million annually to work with innovative companies to develop new products. And on Monday, the government announced that the Business Development Bank of Canada will pump $400 million into venture capital funds through the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative. One-eighth of the CVVI funding will be dedicated to funds that promote diversity, such as funds run by women or operating in emerging sectors.

“The goal of VCCI is to support the growth and scaling up of our best startups to turn them into global champions,” Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said in a statement. “This program will support Canadian firms in creating the jobs of today and tomorrow. I am also very proud of the fact that this new initiative is putting forward concrete steps to promote diversity and gender equality in the innovation ecosystem.”

These are the latest programs launched by the federal government to encourage growth in innovative industries and reduce Canada’s dependence on resources, especially fossil fuels. The government in 2018 will name about five projects that will divide $950 million in funding for the so-called “supercluster” projects.

Here is a look at the two latest announcements:

Innovative Solutions Canada

This program is similar to the Build In Canada Program in that they both use federal funds to procure innovative products built by Canadian companies. The difference is that in the Innovative Solutions programs, federal departments will work with small and medium-sized businesses to develop new products to solve the departments’ pain. BICP targets products that are already on the market.  

The 20 departments and agencies will set aside 1 percent of their research and development expenditures for the initiative. Some departments have already posted the problems for which they are seeking solutions. For example, the Canadian Space Agency wants a big data and artificial intelligence solution for autonomous space systems, and the Department of National Defence is looking for advanced coatings that can protect personnel from chemical or radiation threats.

Qualifying companies will be able to post their details beginning on Jan. 18, and sign up to receive notices whenever the departments post additional projects.

"The Innovative Solutions Canada program announced today will help Canadian companies gain early customer traction while also allowing Canadians to benefit from the adoption of homegrown innovative solutions," Sandi Gilbert, Chair of the National Angel Capital Organization, said in a statement.

Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative

Earlier this week, the government also announced it would contribute $400 million to the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative – a successor to the $400 million Venture Capital Action Plan launched in 2013.

VCCI will be managed by BDC over three years and will be awarded to VCs that meet specific criteria. Every fund that accepts money from the program will have to produce at least twice as much money from other sources, so the total value of the program will be more than $1.2 billion.

The government is trying to encourage diversity within the innovation community, so recipients will have to report on the gender balance of the fund managers and entrepreneurs they support.

The program will comprise two streams:

  • Stream 1 will allocate $350 million to funds-of-funds, with the goal of supplying late-stage capital. Proposals will be favoured if they meet additional criteria, such as supporting the long-term ecosystem and underserved sectors and regions.
  • Stream 2 will allocate $50 million for alternative investment models. These models must aim to provide returns to investors while supporting groups that traditionally have been under-represented in the VC community. These may include women-run funds and emerging sectors.

It’s still not known whether the CVVI will directly benefit Atlantic Canada. There is no “fund of funds” (an investment body that provides capital to a range of fund managers) in the region, but Build Ventures, the regional VC fund, may qualify as it supports the regional ecosystem. Build Principal Rob Barbara said the group is studying the federal announcement. 

 

Disclosure: Several federal departments and agencies are clients of Entrevestor. 

Feds, Emera Fund Smart Grid at UNB

The federal government and Halifax-based Emera Inc. have committed more than $4.3 million to develop smart grid expertise and infrastructure at the University of New Brunswick.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a press release Wednesday saying the organizations are working on clean energy technologies that will advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy.

“The partnership we’ve formed to become leaders in advanced smart grid technologies is having a global impact,” said UNB President and Vice-Chancellor Eddy Campbell in a statement. “Our success would not be possible without our government and industry partners. After more than a decade of work by many researchers and students here, UNB is now playing a key role in advancing the transformation of conventional power grids around the world.”

Centred in New Brunswick, the Smart Grid Initiative is developing a range of products that utilities can use in their grids to accommodate the coming revolution in electricity production. Its proponents applied for federal supercluster funding but did not make the short-list. They have said they are looking for funding from other sources.

The goal of the smart grid movement is to use cutting-edge technology in the grid to optimize the introduction of new electricity generation and monitoring technologies. Add in improvements through data analytics and mobile applications, and you can understand that in the future the electricity grid will be far more than a series of wires.

Trispectra Is a Shining Example of a Smart Grid Startup

With the money committed by the federal government and Emera, UNB will build on existing Smart Grid expertise and refine its technology. 

The Government of Canada is contributing more than $2.8 million through ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, as well as $82,100 through NSERC. Emera Inc. is providing $1.4 million.

The project includes designing, building, testing and demonstrating a suite of Distributed Energy Resource solutions for commercialization by industry and implementation by utilities.  Emera, the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, will deploy and test the project results within its system network at its subsidiary Barbados Light and Power. After testing in a real-world environment, the results will be refined and validated through industry players, users, suppliers, regulators and others. 

The Smart Grid Initiative began several years ago when Siemens signed a deal with NB Power to work together on the energy system of the future. Over the years, it grew with Emera and UNB joining the initiative. The four organizations today form the pillars of the Smart Grid Initiative.

Spring Loaded Cited in Forbes Article

The Dartmouth-based company that developed a bionic knee brace has been listed in a Forbes article titled, “The Top Seven Startups for Souped-Up Senior Care”.

The American business magazine praised Spring Loaded Technology’s shock-absorbent knee brace Levitation and commended its potential to meet a real need in Canada, where seniors outnumber children under 15.  

The carbon-fibre brace is equipped with a hinge that absorbs stress and assists muscle movements.  The brace is ideal for seniors who struggle with joint pain or for athletes with sports injuries.

The article came about because John Hamblin, a Halifax resident and investor in Spring Loaded, recently gave a talk at a convention on the silver economy in the U.S. He mentioned Spring Loaded in the speech, and a reporter in the audience asked him about the product afterward.

Headed by CEO Chris Cowper-Smith, Spring Loaded has raised several million dollars from such groups as First Angel Network and Innovacorp, and was named to the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program at Wilfred Laurier University in the fall.

Other companies named in the article were Rendever, which provides VR tech to seniors and Steadiwear for its product Steadiglove that helps ease motor control for people with Parkinson’s and tremor disease.  

Ocean Executive Adds 2 Clients

Halifax-based Ocean Executive, which provides an online marketplace for the seafood industry, has signed enterprise software licensing agreements with two major clients.

The company said in a press release Tuesday that it has signed deals with Ocean Perfect, a live seafood supplier based in The Netherlands, and an oyster company based in New York City, Empire Oyster.

Ocean Executive is offering a Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, product and will build private online marketplaces to support these clients’ existing businesses. Securing new clients is a major step in its plans to build a network of buyers and sellers in the seafood industry, thus creating a transparent, online market with benchmark pricing.

The company, which has named December “Cyber Seafood Month”, also said it has signed its marketing partnership with Undercurrent News, the leading news source for the international seafood industry. Ocean Executive Founder and CEO Mike Budreski previously discussed this partnership in an interview in October.

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“We’re convinced that the future of the seafood industry is trending towards technology advancements in the sales process, and Ocean Executive is offering an enterprise tool for traceable, transparent sales and purchasing to seafood professionals around the world,” he said in the release.

By connecting buyers and sellers online, OE aims to eradicate supply-chain inefficiencies and supply market players with more real-time information about seafood prices.

On the OE platform, sellers post their product offers, providing a range of details such as species, format, location and sustainability certificates. Buyers can bid and sellers can counter-offer until they make a match and a purchase order is sent out to finalize transaction.

OE only collects a commission on a successful match and takes 0.5 percent of the total from both parties.

As of October, Ocean Executive had raised a total of $380,000 in equity financing, including $250,000 from Innovacorp

OE also offers a marketing subscription for USD$199 per month to showcase offers on Undercurrent News. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Undercurrent News and presenting our industry-leading online marketplace to their global audience,” said Budreski.

GroupThinq’s International Traction

Rob LeBlanc: 'We now have 25 small business owners.'

Rob LeBlanc: 'We now have 25 small business owners.'

GroupThinq is a Halifax startup that has been in stealth mode for a few years, and its coyness is surprising when you consider the international traction it’s gained.

The company, which grew out of Ekistics Planning & Design, has created a cloud-based software that helps consultancies with project management and other tasks associated with accounting. The product is now being tested with about 100 consultancies, including some in foreign countries such as Australia and Norway. And GroupThinq is looking at a full launch in the new year.

Ekistics CEO Rob LeBlanc, who presented the company at the recent Volta Cohort funding competition, said the idea for GroupThinq began about five years ago when his consultancy was doubling its headcount in a year. Such rapid growth exposes “cracks in the foundation” of an organization, said LeBlanc in an interview, and he needed a tool to perform various tasks.

“Originally, I thought it was project management . . . but I learned it was two things,” said LeBlanc. “First, there’s a missing step before accounting — it’s called project accounting. It’s a more finely grained level of accounting. And the other thing is overall collective intelligence. If you give the team the information they need to manage the budget, it can revolutionize how you can manage a consulting company.”

LeBlanc said his team spent about a year building out the software, first for internal use and then the Ekistics team began to use the GroupThinq software about two years ago. The goal was to give the entire team the tools they needed to make smart, cost-effective decisions in the projects they were working on.

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“We saw a very significant jump in productivity and profitability at year-end,” said LeBlanc. “I attribute 90 per cent of that to the software. We now have 25 small business owners in here now, rather than 25 staff.”

LeBlanc is now working with a team of four on GroupThinq, and lately they have expanded the functionality to include an educational program that teaches professional processes. In fact, he said seven universities are now using the curriculum to teach professional practice. The plan now is to use the curriculum as a Trojan horse for potential clients — in other words, as consultancies take the courses to improve their operations they will be persuaded to subscribe to GroupThinq to apply what they’ve learned.

LeBlanc said he has so far invested about $300,000 in the product and has taken on no outside investment. He did pitch for the Volta Cohort funding and wouldn’t rule out further attempts to attract investors. An investment of $500,000 would help the company operate over two years, he said.

GroupThinq is now on the cusp of a full release of its first product, and the team is giving some thought to what Version 2 will look like.

“We have some very ambitious plans in Version 2,” said LeBlanc. “We’re looking at artificial intelligence to mine the data the software produces, to give you the equivalent of a CFO to tell you about the company. In 2018, the plan is to work on the AI piece.”

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