Build Opens Fund II with $15M from NS

Patrick Keefe: 'We are heads down and focused on this.'

Patrick Keefe: 'We are heads down and focused on this.'

Build Ventures, the Atlantic Canadian regional venture capital firm, has officially started building its second fund with a $15 million commitment from the Nova Scotia government.

The provincial government and its VC agency Innovacorp announced the commitment to Build on Friday. The government will also devote $10 million to another fund for early-stage investments to complete its longstanding commitment to provide $25 million to VC funds.

Build invests in scaling companies and so far its first fund has backed 14 companies with initial investments of $1.5 million to $3 million each. It’s the only organization in the region meeting this need, and it will need to close its second fund to ensure there’s a funding body for companies that are starting to scale.

“It means that we are now in the fundraising phase for Fund 2  . . . which we’re targeting at $50 million to $75 million,” said Build Partner Patrick Keefe in an interview on Saturday. “We are heads down and focused on this.”

NS Commits $2.25M tp Volta Labs

In July 2014, the Nova Scotia government signaled that it would ask for private sector fund managers to set up and manage a fund or funds in the province. The government would contribute $25 million, but the managers would be required to bring in capital from other sources as well.

So far, Build II is developing the same way Build I did -- with a $15 million commitment from Nova Scotia. Build then attracted funding from other governments and private investors for the first fund: $15 million from New Brunswick; $10 million from Newfoundland and Labrador; $2.5 million from Prince Edward Island; $10 million from the federally owned BDC Capital; $5 million from privately owned Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton. There were also a few other private investors.

Keefe said it is “far too early” to say that the second fund will have a similar makeup, though he and partners Rob Barbara and Patrick Hankinson will approach these parties about the second fund. Keefe added that the VC industry across the country is trying to encourage more private sector investment and Build is hoping to attract backing from pension funds, insurers and money managers.

This time, he said, the team will be able to showcase the portfolio of companies it has assembled in the first fund over four years.

“It helps to have a track record,” said Keefe. “It’s always more difficult to be a startup fund manager. . . . Unfortunately, four years is not enough time to fully evaluate the fund, given that it’s a ten-year fund.”

With US$9M, Affinio Eyes More Brands

The first fund does not yet have any exits, but several of its companies have shown their strength by booking major funding rounds led by VCs from Silicon Valley or Ontario: US$15 million by Halifax-based Manifold; US$12 million by Fredericton-based Resson; and US$9 million by Halifax-based Affinio. Build has also invested in Halifax-based Dash Hudson, which has been profitable since the spring.

While Build is continuing with its fundraising, the Nova Scotia government must now continue the process of selecting an early-stage VC manager – a process that’s now taken three-and-a-half years.   The goal is to have this yet-to-be-named fund providing rounds of, say, $50,000 to $200,000 while Build can provide seven-figure rounds.

“Build Ventures already plays an essential role in developing Nova Scotia’s venture capital ecosystem, and moving forward it will be able to continue to provide follow-on capital for the most promising start-ups in Atlantic Canada,” said Gilles Duruflé, a selection committee member. “To ensure Nova Scotia’s start-up community continues to grow, it is also important to bring a new private-sector-managed fund to the region to support early stage companies.”


Disclosure: Build Ventures, Innovacorp and the Nova Scotia government are clients of Entrevestor. 

Propel Delays Demo Day Until Jan. 23

Propel ICT has postponed its Fredericton Demo Day.

Due to concerns about the weather, the regional ICT accelerator said Friday that the Pints and Pitches event scheduled for Tuesday night will now be held on Jan. 23. You can sign up for the event here.

“We were really looking forward to getting together in Fredericton, but the weather is not on our side,” said a Propel blog, festooned with snowman and happy face emojis. “Snow, freezing rain, and traveling is never a fun (or safe) mix.”

Pints and Pitches is an opportunity to combine the traditional regional demo day with a tour of Fredericton’s craft brewers.

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.

The pitchers will be the five companies that went through the Build Cohort, which is designed for growth-stage companies, and some of the stars from the Launch Cohorts in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s. The Launch Cohort is intended for companies that are developing an idea and looking for a product-market fit. 

Jobs: CloudKettle, Dash Hudson

Two openings at CloudKettle and a posting from Dash Hudson steal the headline of our Jobs of the Week column today.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company that developed a platform to help companies optimize their visual marketing strategies. It is looking to fill the role for an Account Executive to work with the sales team in lead generation, sales outreach and progress tracking.

CloudKettle, a consulting company that helps business-to-business SaaS companies build their revenue. It is looking to hire a part-time office manager and a marketing automation manager for its Halifax location.

The candidate for the Office Manager would work for 20 to 24 hours per week and would be responsible for organizing the team calendar and coordinate team meetings. The Marketing Automation Manager is a full-time position. The candidate will have to work with team members, vendors, and clients to prepare them for growth. He or she will also ensure the stability of their clients’ HubSpot ecosystems.

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:


Dash Hudson

Account Executive


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.


Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.
Review and qualify inbound leads.
Manage CRM and sales pipeline.
Assist in creation of custom marketing and sales materials.
Liaise between sales, product & marketing teams.

Apply for the job here



Office Manager (part-time)


Overall ownership of the team calendar: based on awareness of business activities and associated requirements to address competing priorities.
Overall coordination of team meetings: from preparing material, to logistics, to confirming and communicating with attendees (both in advance and follow- up).
Including coordination of travel and associated meetings/events.
Be aware of senior team member’s obligations and accommodate same in schedule planning.
Record, transcribe and distribute meeting minutes.


Three years experience working as an office manager or executive assistant
Ability to achieve goals and meet deadlines in a fast paced environment.
Ability to perform and prioritize multiple tasks with excellent attention to detail.
Demonstrated problem-solving and strong decision-making capability.
Very strong interpersonal skills and the ability to build relationships.
Strong written and verbal communication skills.

Apply for the job here

Marketing Automation Manager


Helping clients acquire new leads through better calls to action, landing pages, and workflows
Optimizing clients’ marketing automation efforts to improve how leads are nurtured and the number of leads that mature to a marketing status and eventually sales
Developing documentation and training for clients’ marketing automation instances to help ensure they are well-maintained


2 – 3+ years of hands-on experience managing an implementation of Hubspot
An excellent understanding of email marketing concepts and metrics
A proficiency in reporting on digital marketing performance
A Bachelor’s degree or college diploma

Apply for the job here. 

Peace by Chocolate Aims for Top 5

Tareq Hadhad

Tareq Hadhad

The Hadhad family, operators of Antigonish-based Peace by Chocolate, have got their treats into Sobey’s stores across the Maritimes in time for the holidays. Next year, they intend to expand nationally and into the U.S. All of this comes less than 18 months after the Syrian chocolatiers began operating in Canada.

The Hadhads arrived in Nova Scotia as refugees from Syria and formed Peace by Chocolate in a small barn in Antigonish in August 2016. Success was immediate and accelerated when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the chocolate in a speech he gave to the United Nations in the fall of that year. Trudeau’s praise precipitated so many orders the company was forced to shut down its website for a while.

The box of 15 chocolates now sold by Sobey’s features white, milk and dark chocolate. Ingredients include local fresh organic honey and pure juices.

“Our chocolate caters to Canadian and Syrian tastes. It includes traditional Syrian ingredients such as pistachio, cashews, almonds, hazelnut, coconut, orange, cherry and strawberry,” said Tareq Hadhad, the face of the company.

The family’s history makes their current success particularly heartwarming, and Canadians have embraced the family and their entrepreneurship.

In Syria, Tareq’s father Assam was a chocolatier, running his own thriving export business in Damascus for 20 years. Assam shipped chocolates to countries such as Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon. But the Hadhad chocolate factory was destroyed by bombs in 2013. The family fled to Lebanon where they lived for three years as refugees.

The family have jumped at the chance to start over and contribute to their new community. Peace by Chocolate’s popularity since opening in Antigonish has meant rapid expansion. The company recently moved from the barn into a large Sobeys-owned space and now employs 35 people.

Their treats were initially supposed to be on Sobey’s shelves in September, but were delayed by two months because of the time needed to perfect quality controls and adapt equipment imported from Europe.

NS Commits $2.25M to Volta Labs

Tareq said that next year will see further expansion nationally and into the U.S., with new channels for distribution and enhanced online shopping. He said the family’s ambitions include becoming one of the top five chocolate companies in Canada within five years.

Tareq said the experience of building a chocolate company in Canada has offered new perspectives.

“Canada has provided our family with other deep meanings for chocolate, life and success,” he said.

“We feel honoured to have our product be our ambassador to Canadians and the world. . . . We weren’t focusing on the real value of Peace in our company in Syria. . . . By sharing our business and social values with millions of Canadians we are reflecting our traditions, and we feel proud for Peace by Chocolate to be a Syrian family tradition as well as made in Canada.”

Expounding on the theme of peace, the Hadhads have also designed their own peace logo T-shirts, introducing them on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace. Like the chocolates, the T-shirts can be purchased from their website. Hadhad said they have plans to expand the clothing line.

Province Raises NBIF Funding 20%

The New Brunswick government is increasing its five-year funding for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation by about 20 percent in an effort to further boost innovation in the province.

Premier Brian Gallant announced Wednesday that his government would increase funding for the organization by $10 million over five years. The money will be used to expand the foundation’s role in supporting research and development and venture investments.

“To grow our economy, we must foster innovation so New Brunswick businesses can compete on an international stage,” Gallant, who is also the minister responsible for innovation, said in a release. “To strengthen education and healthcare in New Brunswick, we must also foster innovation so we can deliver these vital services and opportunities to New Brunswickers.”

In May, Gallant announced $45.6 million in funding for NBIF over four years. That works out to $11.4 million per year and allowed NBIF to devote $1 million annually to its Innovation Voucher Fund, which helps businesses work with researchers to develop new products.

NBIF Portfolio Company RtTech Unveils Transformative Deal

With Gallant’s announcement on Wednesday, the NBIF funding is closer to $13.4 million a year, though Milbury said in an email that actual spending in 2017-18 will be closer to $14 million.

“We continue to work to secure additional funding from GNB and other sources to ensure we can meet demand and realize our five-year vision for NBIF,” he said.

NBIF is a private, not-for-profit corporation that supports start-up businesses in New Brunswick and fosters research and development. It promotes innovation in the province through venture capital investments and through its Research Innovation Fund in support of publicly funded universities and colleges in the province.

In venture capital, the foundation invests funds through its Venture Capital Fund for scaling companies, and its Startup Investment Fund in support of early-stage businesses.

According to the NBIF’s 2016-17 annual report, the organization invested in 29 different companies in the 12 months to March 31, 2017. The two funds invested a total of $4.6 million, whereas in the 2016 fiscal year, NBIF had invested a total of $3.8 million in 22 companies.

“This additional investment enables the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation to continue to help even more startups, entrepreneurs and researchers deliver meaningful impact on New Brunswick,” said Milbury in the statement. “Continued investment in innovation is essential to supporting the province’s economic growth and well-being.”

Daily Planet Features Chancellor

The Chancellor of the Universe, a game created in Halifax that features machine learning, augmented reality and robotics, has been featured on the Discovery Channel.

Three weeks ago, we featured an article on Brave New World, a Halifax web development company that has added a robotics division to its business. The company is developing a mixed-technology game called Chancellor of the Universe.

At first glance, it’s just another board game, but there’s one difference – it features a robot (called the Chancellor) that uses machine learning to understand the people playing the game. The Chancellor rules the universe and players have to try to overthrow him. Players can not only interact directly with the Chancellor but can use an augmented reality feature on their phones to enhance the experience.

The Discovery Channel this week featured the Chancellor on its Daily Planet segment, showing the development team in the BNW office playing the game. Click on the image to view the click.

 “We're doing something completely crazy,” Brave New World CEO Mike Rizkalla explained in the clip. "We're doing something that's never been done before."

Brave New World’s grand vision is that this robot will just be the first step in a line of mixed-reality, robotics-based games. The robot will just be a platform, and the company will release new games so players can remove the Chancellor’s outer shell, replace it with another exterior. The player will end up with a whole new game with a different-looking robot.

RtTech Software Sells Cipher Product

RtTech Software of Moncton has sold a key product to Bedford, Mass.-based Aspen Technology, providing a capital injection for the company and the growth of two operations in the Moncton area.

Aspen said in a statement Tuesday it purchased RtTech’s Cipher Industrial Internet of Things software and associated assets for an undisclosed price. The buyer will bring on board RtTech CEO Keith Flynn and seven other Moncton-based employees to continue with this business.

Meanwhile, RtTech itself will continue to build its business with the products it has been selling since the beginnings of the company six years ago.

“This is a phenomenal exit,” said Flynn in an interview this morning. “It had the unanimous approval of all our shareholders.”

RtTech’s IIoT applications help large industrial companies monitor and make decisions on energy consumption and operations using data captured by sensors installed in the plant’s machinery. Its main products are RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy, and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The company had released a cloud-based product in 2015, but then learned it was difficult to scale the product profitably. So a big part of the work in 2016 was reworking the product so it would meet demand.

Flynn said in the interview that for a few years the company has had two divisions – the R&D division working on the Cipher product, and the established portion dealing with RtEMIS and RtDuet. He added that Operations Manager Jeff Milton has been promoted to President of RtTech and will oversee the company going forward. “RtTech is in good hands,” he said.

Trispectra Developing System for Power Outage Alerts

Aspen said in the statement the Cipher software it is buying delivers on the IIoT promise of high performance connectivity for a range of industrial equipment without having to rip out existing apparatus. It spares industrial users the expense of having to build their own IIoT systems to tap the productivity gains associated with having machines communicate with one another and react in real-time.

That makes the solution, which is based on Microsoft’s Azure Internet of Things platform, an affordable option for a range of industrial customers.

Aspen Technology, which has 2100 industrial clients, plans to integrate Cipher into its aspenONE software to enhance its modeling and machine learning abilities.

“The acquisition of RtTech Software technology delivers another essential piece in support of our asset-optimization strategy,” said AspenTech President and CEO Antonio Pietri in the statement. “Combining RtTech’s capabilities with AspenTech APM software will offer our customers comprehensive solutions for Industrial IoT, Analytics and Machine Learning, with both on-premise and cloud-based deployment options.”

Though the value of the deal was not announced, the deal is undoubtedly good news for RtTech’s shareholders. Flynn was unable to provide any information on whether the proceeds of the sale would remain with RtTech or be distributed to investors.  

RtTech in 2015 raised $2.5 million in funding from McRock Capital, a Toronto-based venture capital fund specializing in IIoT enterprises. As of March 2017, RtTech had received a total of $1.25 million from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, making it the largest single investment target of the provincial innovation agency. In 2012, the company also raised $250,000 in funding from individual investors, including the founders of ADM Systems Engineering, the Saint John company from which it was spun out in 2011.

As of February, RtTech had customers in 28 countries and now the Cipher team hopes to continue to grow its client base with the help its new payment.

“We look forward to being a key part of AspenTech’s Asset Optimization strategy, leveraging our best-in-class Industrial IoT and cloud-based technologies,” said Flynn in the statement. “ AspenTech will also provide us with the go-to-market capabilities to bring Cipher to a broader range of customers.”

NS Commits $2.25M to Volta Labs

Premier Stephen McNeil at Volta on Tuesday.

Premier Stephen McNeil at Volta on Tuesday.

The Nova Scotian government has committed $2.25 million to the expansion of Volta Labs, which plans to triple the size of its facility in downtown Halifax.

The government’s contribution to the startup house follows on a $2 million commitment announced by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovacorp in September. The government bodies are helping to establish a major tech hub in the Maritime Centre in Halifax as a cornerstone for the city’s innovation district.

The funding comes as Volta prepares to triple its size, and thereby triple its capacity to house and mentor high-growth companies. The organization said in July it had signed a lease to take out 60,000 square feet of space in the Maritime Centre. The startup house this winter will take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office tower on Barrington Street.

Premier Stephen McNeil toured the existing two-storey facility on Tuesday with Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers, meeting several entrepreneurs and learning about the operations.

“Thank you for taking the risk,” he said to one group of founders attending the Propel ICT cohort at Volta. “I hope you all get rich, and that you provide jobs for the next generation.”

Volta Labs was established in 2013 by a group of emerging entrepreneurs and is now a cornerstone of Halifax’s innovation district.

MyMem Proceeds with Funding from Volta Cohort

The expansion will make Volta one of Canada’s largest technology hubs. The expansion will include more office space for startups of all stages and sizes, and a new event space on the Barrington Street level. The investment will also support operational costs related to the expansion over the next three years.

More than 50 early-stage companies have worked out of Volta Labs since its inception in 2013, and more than two-thirds of them are still in business

“This investment will help us support entrepreneurs and create a home for the technology community in Halifax,” said Rodgers in a statement. “As Volta expands and our startup community grows, we will continue to be the place where high-potential founders come together, learn from each other, and build globally competitive companies. This is key to building Halifax’s innovation district.”


Disclosure: The Nova Scotia government is a client of Entrevestor. 

CarbonCure Client List Passes 80

Dartmouth-based CarbonCure Technologies, creator of a process that buries carbon dioxide in concrete, has partnered with St. Louis-based Breckenridge Material Company and Eastern Missouri Concrete to lift its number of concrete-producing partners above 80.

The new partnerships allow the American companies to recycle waste carbon dioxide into concrete to increase its environmental, material, and economic performance, CarbonCure said in a release.

The rapidly growing company said the CO2 is permanently converted into a solid mineral within the concrete, and the addition of CO2 also improves the compressive strength of the concrete, allowing producers to unlock operational savings.

The release said CarbonCure is part of a growing industry of CO2-utilization technologies that aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030.

CarbonCure’s concrete-producing partners include several of the world’s largest vertically integrated cement and concrete companies.

CarbonCure is one of 23 semi-finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge, which has been called the Nobel Prize for climate technologies.

A family company for four generations, Breckenridge supplies aggregates, ready mix concrete and building materials to customers in metropolitan St. Louis. The company has recently quadrupled in size and reached a revenue of over US$100 million. In partnership with CarbonCure, they seek to increase their share of the growing green building market in the St. Louis area.

Eastern Missouri Concrete has been supplying ready mix concrete to customers in the St. Louis metropolitan area and surrounding communities since 2008.

HotSpot Closer to Regional Vision

The logo of Fredericton startup HotSpot Parking is about to become very familiar to Haligonians, as the company has won the contract to offer mobile parking services in Halifax.

The four-year-old company — whose radiating parking meter logo is already a fixture in most cities in the region — was named Friday as the provider of mobile parking services to the 3,000-odd parking meters in Halifax. The city-owned meters went live with HotSpot on Monday, and the Waterfront Development Corp. is now working with HotSpot to bring its meters onstream as well.

What this means is that HotSpot now has operations in every city in the Maritimes except Sydney. The company really wants to add Sydney and St. John’s, N.L. to its portfolio so that it can move toward an integrated transportation product for Atlantic Canadian citizens.

“We're excited to provide a Maritime-wide solution launching . . . with Halifax Regional Municipality and Waterfront Development that will allow us to really innovate in the new year,” said CEO Phillip Curley in a Facebook post on Friday. “This support from our neighbours is cherished and we’re happy to rise to the occasion and provide the best parking/mobility solution that can be made.”

HotSpot started in 2013 with technology that allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.

Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for businesses.

Hyperloop Success Was Driving Force for CoLab

HotSpot provides its service free to municipalities, and individuals pay $2 a month to use the service. Last winter, the company began to work with the Moncton transport system, so that people could use their phone to pay for the bus as well as feed the parking meter.

Curley is now watching how the service unfolds in Moncton in the hope that existing parking customers will have a convenient way to pay for transit and may take the bus more. It can also collect data to tell transit authorities whether, for example, the buses are going near people’s final destinations.

Curley was unavailable for an interview late last week, but in recent discussions he’s outlined a vision of developing a company that helps Atlantic Canadians with transport issues regardless of which city they’re in. The HotSpot app can now help a Monctonian pay for a bus trip in his or her home town, or pay for parking during a trip to Charlottetown or Fredericton.

One other thing about HotSpot and Curley: This is a CEO who’s not giving a minute’s thought to raising capital. In the past, he’s tapped the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation for $250,000, but now what Curley wants is revenue, revenue, revenue. And with that revenue, he hopes to build out his pan-Atlantic provinces transport product.

Rovault Plans Pilot for Its Seafood Tech

Halifax-based RovaultAI has designed a marine camera solution that could potentially save $2 million per year for some of the region’s seafood plants.

The algorithm-based visual recognition software is specifically designed for the oceans sector and identifies species based on size, growth and health. Rovault plans to integrate its technology into shrimp processing plants to help increase the yield in an industry where usable meat is often wasted.

Co-Founder and CEO Ehsan Lavasani said the technology caught the eye of Louisbourg Seafoods while he was presenting it at a local pitching competition. The Cape Breton fisheries company invited Rovault to come to its processing plant.

While spending time on the factory floor in July, Lavasani learned that Louisbourg loses about 60 percent of its shrimp during processing.

Low yield is common with shrimp because the crustacean is so small and its delicate meat is encased in a shell. Good meat is often destroyed and wasted through the peeling and sorting process.

Louisbourg processes nearly 70,000 to 100,000 pounds of shrimp every day but only 25 percent of that shrimp is used, which is common in most shrimp processing plants. 

Lavasani said even the smallest increase in shrimp yield can boost revenues substantially for shellfish processors.

“Even if you can increase the yield by a conservative 1 to 3 percent you can increase revenue of $20 000 a day which is $2 million for one plant.”

To achieve this, Rovault plans to add a step to the production line where its advanced camera will scan the rejected shrimp pile and filter out more good meat.

Rovault is committed to getting its technology to market through its partnership with Louisbourg and plans to pilot its first prototype with the company this coming spring.

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Lavasani is confident the solution solves the problems for this market but validating the technology to the industry has its own challenges.

“As everybody knows, the seafood industry is very traditional and they do things the way it’s been done for centuries,” said Lavasani. “They use technology but only to facilitate what they already have. They don’t really seek new technology.”

Rovault has to work closely with the people in rural fishing comminutes though they are often reluctant to implement new technology that could replace human jobs.

“It’s their way of life and you want to be on their good side.”

Rovault recently raised $25,000 in non-dilutive funding through Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions Startup Challenge and $10,000 through Dalhousie University’s LaunchPad competition. In November, the company also received a $25,000 equity investment from the Volta Cohort pitching competition.

Lavasani said visual recognition software customized for the ocean sector is a new application for this technology and the $50,000 in total funding has given him confidence the technology can make fisheries more efficient. 

“As a founder of something you have to dedicate all your time and energy and effort to something that doesn’t exist,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing—having to believe that you can create something out of thin air.”

Trispectra Aims To Help Fix Outages

Emmanuel Albert: 'Utilities understand they need a product like ours.'

Emmanuel Albert: 'Utilities understand they need a product like ours.'

Trispectra is a Fredericton startup dedicated to solving a problem common to pretty well every electrical utility – quickly finding and identifying faults on their grids.

The company is made up of a trio of University of New Brunswick engineering grads who have embraced the work of New Brunswick’s Smart Grid Initiative in a big way. They are working on a solution that will help utilities find outages on their grids more quickly, and eventually help to reduce power interruption.

The company has been going for about three years, but it pivoted 18 months ago to develop a system of sensors that can go on the network of powerlines. These sensors, which are powered by the wires they sit on, can tell the utility’s headquarters where there’s a problem in its grid so it can be fixed quicker than is currently the case.

It’s a little-known fact that utilities don’t have the ability to detect a power outage as soon as it occurs. They find out there’s an issue when customers phone to say their power has gone out. Then they send out crews to try to find the problem. Once a crew locates the problem, they have to identify it and hope they have the right equipment to correct it.

“Our solution was to provide a sensor-based monitor system that would provide a map of the power lines and detect faults,” said CEO Emmanuel Albert in an interview. “We can alert the utility if there’s a fault – not just location but also the type of problem.”

New Brunswick's Smart Grid Initiative Is Gaining Momentum

Albert, CFO Shawn Cunningham and COO Jamie Willar have built out several laboratory prototypes and are now working on a full working prototype of their product. Not only will the system alert the utility if there is a problem, it will also assess the state of each wire, saying how much it’s sagging or swaying, or what its temperature is.

By analyzing the data produced by this system, Trispectra hopes to produce a predictive feature that can identify wires where problems could occur so they can be upgraded before there is an outage.

So far, Trispectra has been working in the Energia accelerator at UNB, which provided $20,000 in non-dilutive funding and introduced the company to such mentors as Pierre Mullin of Siemens Canada.

The founders’ main focus now is to perfect certain components that will go into the sensor mechanism, and they are talking with potential manufacturers about ironing our sundry kinks in the design. Once these problems are sorted out and the product has gone through alpha tests, Trispectra hopes to run two pilot projects with municipal electricity providers in the second and third quarters of 2018. Albert has already spoken with utilities about the product.

“The feedback we’re getting is that they understand the product,” said Albert. “They think this is a problem that needs to be resolved. What we’re trying to do is not just make a cool technology with no customers – utilities understand the need for a product like ours.”

Acadia Award $10K to Startups

Three environmental studies students at Acadia University won $6000 to help launch their business Highway 101, a mobile food truck that serves healthy produce sourced from local farms.

Emilia Ganslandt, Gillian Hollebone and Alisha Christie won first place at the LaunchBox Start It Up program last month, in which 16 teams developed business solutions to solve industry problems in just 28 hours.

Start It Up is a two-day workshop that takes its participants through a Lean Canvas Model to solve an industry problem. At the end of the workshop, teams present their ideas to a panel of judges with a chance to win cash prizes totaling $10,000.

The workshop was coordinated by the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, which manages LaunchBox.

Findlay MacRae, the Executive Director of Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre said the competition is designed to challenge participants to build on their entrepreneurial skill sets including problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication.

The second-place team won $3500 for its solution to connect students to retired seniors who want to stay in their homes and need help maintaining their property.

Third place, $500, was awarded to a team for their solution Cultiv8, an app designed to harmonize a work/life balance.

Over 50 participants took part in the program, which is open for anyone to attend. The teams included Acadia students and alumni, community members, four students from Horton High School and a very entrepreneurial 12-year-old. 

Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, NBIF

In our Jobs of the Week column today, we’re highlighting Dash Hudson’s search for a Sales Development Representative and New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s opening for an Investment Analyst.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service company that developed 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 variety of industries.

NBIF is searching for an Investment Analyst to manage its growing investment portfolio and review potential investment opportunities. NBIF is a non-profit private investment corporation that has invested $85 million into startups and research development.

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:


Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative


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. 


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


New Brunswick Innovation Foundation

Investment Analyst


This individual will play a pivotal role in managing and growing our investment portfolio, and review prospective investment opportunities to positively impact business development.


Review and examine incoming investment opportunities
Determine investment strategies that positively impact business development and the New Brunswick community
Conduct financial analysis and the due diligence required to make sound investment decisions
Actively support our investee firms
Monitor market trends, opportunities, and risks. . . . 

Read more about the job here.

Smart Grid Project Gains Steam in NB

While Atlantic Canada’s nautical types are pushing ahead with the oceans supercluster proposal, there’s another major initiative in the region that has captured less attention but still offers great potential.

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. The work has been going on for about five years, and recently received a push from its application for federal supercluster funding.

The initiative didn’t make the shortlist of proposals that will divide $950 million in federal supercluster funding (the oceans proposal was the only Atlantic Canadian finalist), but the Fredericton team is continuing with the hopes of tapping other federal programs for funds.

Senior members of the smart grid team say that just applying for the supercluster program helped to sharpen their focus.

“Originally, this was a bit more university-driven, and then the supercluster came out and there was the demand for it to be industry led,” said Pierre Mullin, vice-president of Digital Grid Software Solutions, at Siemens in Fredericton.

“One message that industry is giving the federal government is that we’re really good at doing research here in Canada but we’re not very good at commercializing that research.”

Like the oceans initiative, the smart grid program is not a single project. It’s many projects that aim to improve the distribution and consumption of electricity — from generators to consumers and all the networks of wires in between.

This distribution model is changing as large- and small-scale renewable producers are brought on to the grid. Soon storage systems will change the industry more, and some household generators may even be able to sell surplus electricity to the grid.

Shukla Mulls What's Next for TME Program

The goal of the smart grid movement is to use cutting-edge technology in the grid to optimize the introduction of these new 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.

The work began about five 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 Halifax-based Emera and University of New Brunswick joining the initiative. The four organizations today form the pillars of the Smart Grid Initiative.

UNB, which has opened the Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies, now has about 22 graduate students doing research on these projects, said professor David Foord, who has been working on the research. The plan is to increase that number to 60 graduate students, many of whom would go on to become employees for the private-sector partners in the initiative.

The work will include some specialized institutes in Fredericton, such as the Institute of Big Data, which could work on data analysis to improve efficiency, and the Institute of Cybersecurity, to make sure that smart grids cannot be hacked.

Foord added that the plans include working with startups — such as Fredericton-based companies SimpTek Technologies and Trispectra — which can develop and implement the innovation needed to improve the efficiency of the grid.

Participants in the plan say the market for these products is huge because all utilities realize they have to keep abreast of the tsunami of changes about to hit their industry.

“What we’re facing is a pretty disruptive change in the way the electrical power grid works,” said Mullin. “And we’re seeing (government) policy impact on that as well. Utilities are facing challenges in that if you don’t keep your eye on the ball you could be facing some serious changes in your business.”

Ashored Wins $3000 from LaunchDal

Aaron Stevenson

Aaron Stevenson

Ashored Innovations, a young venture that aims to help automate the lobster and crab fisheries, captured the $3,000 first prize at Dalhousie University’s Collide Fall 2017 Pitch Competition on Thursday night.

LaunchDal, the university’s entrepreneurship program, awarded a total of $6000 to three early-stage businesses at the event.

Ashored is developing an “intelligent buoy”, which can be used to locate lobster or crab traps at sea. The buoy’s rope is coiled on the trap until the fishing boat approaches, which reduces the risk of whales becoming entangled in the gear. There is a backup system in case the buoy doesn’t deploy, decreasing the risk of lost traps. And the system collects data, which can be used to improve operations.

On Sunday, Ashored also won $1000 at Dalhousie’s Launch Oceans event, a weekend-long program for oceantech entrepreneurs that follows the Startup Weekend format.  

Aaron Stevenson, Founder of Ashored, said the recent winnings will allow the company to build its prototype and begin testing the buoy with a few partners.  

“Coming into this program has opened my eyes to see how big and how strong the startup community is in Nova Scotia,” said Stevenson, who is attending the MTEI program at St. Mary's University.  “It really opened my mind to what’s possible for an Atlantic Canadian company to achieve out of here.”

KNIT, which is proposing a social network for the elderly, won the $2,000 second prize at the Collide event, and Si Connectors, which is making an inexpensive device that can fix broken phone or computer chargers, took home $1,000 for third place.

The competition is the final event that rounds off the Collide fall program.  Collide is a series of workshops and pitching sessions to help individuals build and potentially launch a company with the chance to win prize money.   

NBCC Offers Cybersecurity Program

The New Brunswick Community College has announced it will offer a one-year program in cybersecurity beginning next September. By introducing this advanced post-grad program at its Saint John Campus, NBCC, in partnership with CyberNB, aims to help meet growing demand for cybersecurity expertise in New Brunswick.

“This new program will provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that industry is seeking and help expand the cybersecurity infrastructure in New Brunswick,” said Marilyn Luscombe, CEO and President at NBCC in a statement this week.

CyberNB, a special agency of Opportunities NB, said that New Brunswick is the Canadian hub of cybersecurity and the first province to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Allen Dillon, the managing director of CyberNB said “partnering with academia and industry is a critical component of our strategy to help mitigate the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals.”

The new program will provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that industry is seeking, and help expand the cybersecurity infrastructure in New Brunswick.

Prerequisites for this program are a diploma or degree in network administration or computer science or equivalent experience in network administration.

Aqualitis Set To Raise, Then Launch

Aqualitas, the Liverpool cannabis producer, is set to close a $6.5-million funding round with private investors next month, with the hopes of getting to market next year.

The close of this funding round will bring the total equity capital raised by CEO Myrna Gillis to about $11.5 million — an audacious number for a three-year-old Nova Scotia startup. But the interesting part of the story — at least for a column about startups — is what she has done to differentiate Aqualitas from the 73 other cannabis producers in Canada.

“We’ve got a great project and people who are familiar with the industry know we have something very special in this team,” said Gillis in an interview on Tuesday.

An interesting aspect of Aqualitas is its research and development subsidiary Finleaf Technology, which is receiving $2.5 million of the money raised by the parent company. It is developing proprietary technology for use in the cannabis industry that Gillis says could be exported to other producers. Finleaf was in the local tech news recently as it was accepted into Innovacorp’s Cleantech Accelerator Program, which could bring the company as much as $50,000 in financing, and was a $25,000 winner of the Spark West competition.

TruLeaf Plans To Bring AI, Data to Vertical Farming

The R&D unit is solving a common problem in aquaponics (a branch of aquaculture in which the effluent from farmed fish provides nutrients for hydroponically grown plants, then clean water is returned to the fish tank). Growing flowery plants and fruits in aquaponics is a challenge because it’s difficult to make sure the plants get enough potassium and phosphorus to nourish them, and to make sure these chemicals don’t return to the fish tank and harm the fish.

Working in a fully staffed lab at Acadia University, Finleaf has devised a delivery system that can solve this problem, ensuring plants get enough nutrients and the fish are protected from toxic chemicals. As it preserves water and avoids harmful runoffs, aquaponics is a growing industry, especially in parts of the world where fresh water is becoming scarce.

Aqualitis is now waiting for Health Canada approval for its growing facility for medical cannabis in the former Bowater land outside Liverpool. Assuming it receives regulatory approval soon, it hopes to produce a sample stock in the first quarter of 2018 and be in production next summer.

The excitement about the company is shown in the amount of money it has raised, and also the success it’s had in international competitions. Aqualitis applied to pitch to Arcview Group, an umbrella organization for investors in the cannabis industry that gets 1,500 to 2,000 applications from entrepreneurs each year. Aqualitis made it through several rounds of the Arcview competition, and last summer placed second at the group’s finals in Las Vegas.

Cannabis is, of course, a hot sector, but Gillis looks forward to diversifying the company’s crop and using its technology to address food security. Aqualitas, whose board and C-level executives are mostly women, wants to develop more facilities in the provinces so that more food can be grown indoors with minimal environmental impact.

Said Gillis: “Food security is not just lettuce and fish, so we’re going to have a variety of crops.”

Gardner Named to Biotech Panel

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner, the co-founder and CEO of Sequence Bio, a Newfoundland and Labrador genomic data company, has been appointed to the newly created federal Health/Bio-sciences Economic Strategy Table.

“Canadians are known for finding the better, smarter way - and it’s time we brought that thinking to health care,” Gardner said in a statement. “I’m proud to join this team of disruptors to drive real, meaningful change that will improve the health of Canadians while promoting our innovation sector around the world,”

Sequence Bio 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.

“At Sequence Bio, we’re striving to transform drug discovery and develop more effective, safer medicines. We’re taking a new approach by engaging research participants in the research process and in their own healthcare by returning findings about their genetic makeup.”

The Health/Bio-sciences Economic Strategy Table, a group of about 15 CEOs and leaders in the health and bio-sciences field, will set growth targets and help develop strategy to grow the sector.

The strategy table will meet regularly and present a report of findings and recommendations in 2018.

Bringing Life to the Island Sandbox

Darren MacDonald:

Darren MacDonald:

Like the other managers of Nova Scotia’s innovation-promoting sandboxes, Darren MacDonald is an entrepreneur. He’s an ergonomist with more than 20 years’ experience of design thinking and seeing experiences from the perspective of the user. It’s a skill set he shares in his role as manager of Cape Breton’s Island Sandbox. 

“I try to teach user-centred design—how to ask good questions, look at data. If you work on design thinking, your solution may change from your original idea. That’s part of the process of looking at a problem from different angles,” MacDonald said. 

A Cape Bretoner born and raised, MacDonald left the island in 1991 and returned 15 years later, having worked as an ergonomist in 42 U.S. states and every Canadian province. He’s worked across many sectors and now pursues his work as an ergonomist through his consulting company Creative Variant.

But his main focus is the sandboxes. Nova Scotia’s sandboxes were set up three years ago at groups of post-secondary institutions as places where students and others could get together, swap business ideas on specific themes and collaborate on forming startups.

There were four initial sandboxes, and that has now grown to seven. They focus on sectors including agriculture, ICT, social innovation and product development.  

The province’s sandboxes are designed to emulate those at Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and MacDonald said they are important because they fill a unique niche in the very early stages of idea development. 

“Students are building valuable skill sets even if they don’t launch businesses immediately, even if they don’t become entrepreneurs for 20 years,” he said. “And we are feeding students into accelerators like PropelICT and Common Good Solutions. We have all had companies go into those programs. 

“One of the winners of the recent Volta Cohort (a new micro fund for Atlantic Canadian early-stage companies) was one of our teams from Shiftkey Labs.  They are creating MyMem,  an app that helps people with dementia remember key events in their lives.” 

MyMem AimsTo Roll Out App in 2018

MacDonald and the other sandbox managers are hoping such successes will encourage the provincial government to maintain their funding. In 2014, the government gave each group $150,000 per year for three years.  This has now been extended to March 2018.

“We have funding until March, and the rest is in the hands of the province to see what they want to do,” said MacDonald, whose sandbox focuses on clean technology, as well as supporting entrepreneurial international students and new Canadians, and social entrepreneurship. 

He said the sandboxes have been focusing on collaboration with the aim of being maximally useful and cost-effective.  

“This past year, we came together and worked across boxes,” said MacDonald. 

“We had workshops and lectures and bootcamps. It was great to bring students from all the campuses together. We’re running various events and don’t want to duplicate or coincide.

“We are about to launch an app that will help us coordinate and collect data around our events. We’ve found our rhythm. The programing is becoming more consistent across campuses.”

The sandboxes are also focusing on getting non-business students involved.

“It’s easy to get business students excited, the challenge is to get students from other faculties keen to explore opportunities and problems,” he said.  “A lot of ideas sit in engineering or biology and liberal arts programs.” 

The outreach extends to high schools. MacDonald said that Island Sandbox is partnering with Brilliant Labs and the Cape Breton Partnership to run a hardware hackathon in a high school in Richmond County. 

The father of a nine-year-old boy, MacDonald intends to remain on the island whatever becomes of the sandboxes. Cape Breton’s innovation community is growing and gathering momentum and he intends to remain involved. 

“It’s nice to be part of the change happening in Cape Breton,” he said.

PropelICT To Host Pints and Pitches

Instead of startups pitching to one big audience, the folks from PropelICT have partnered with BrewHopper to offer something very different for its coming Regional Demo Day.

Pints and Pitches, which will take place in Fredericton on Dec. 12, is the new spin on the regional ICT accelerator’s big Demo Day, where about a dozen startups from around the region pitch to investors, alumni, and supporters.

In past Demo Days, companies pitched their ideas as a formal presentation to a large audience. This time around there will be a more casual vibe, brought on by lots of craft beer.

“It’s like a high-end pub crawl for startups,” said Sarah Murphy, a Propel entrepreneur-in-residence. “We wanted to try something new this year. Based on feedback from past years we wanted to offer something more interactive and engaging.”

The event will begin at Planet Hatch, where 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.

“The companies get to interact much more intimately with everyone who is there,” said Murphy. “They have to give their pitch four times but then they also get to have conversations with four different groups of people when they’re finished. And then we all get together at the end.”

Pints and Pitches will feature the members of the Build cohort, which comprises more advanced companies, and some of the leading startups from the three Launch cohorts, for early-stage companies. All the Launch graduates will have an opportunity to pitch at the Local Demo Days in the cities where they took the program: Fredericton on Dec. 4, Halifax on Dec. 5 and St. John’s on Dec. 6. Companies that present during the Local Demo Days could be chosen to pitch at the pub crawl the following week.

Propel wanted to give the region a more fun and casual event with Pints and Pitches and allow the companies to interact more with the community so they can spend time with everyone who sees their pitch. 

“We think about companies from Newfoundland or some of the other regions who don’t always get to get up to things, so its nice that they are getting this fun opportunity to go and they can actually spend time with everyone,” said Murphy.

To register for Pints and Pitches and the Local Demo Days, click here.

Densitas, EnvoyAI Ink Distribution Pact

Mohamed Abdolell

Mohamed Abdolell

Densitas, a software company that analyzes the density of breast tissue, has signed a contract that will help integrate its flagship product DM-Density into customers’ imaging systems.

The Halifax company signed the integration agreement with Cambridge, Ma.-based EnvoyAI, an artificial intelligence distribution platform, which is dedicated to incorporating software like DM-Density into health care systems.

“They are already integrated in healthcare systems so we can rapidly penetrate the market through that platform and leverage the already-established foundational framework they built over many years,” said Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell in an interview. “This way our entry into the market is a lot more rapid.”

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells as healthy tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

The software is now used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density.  

Abdolell andSullivan Tout US Biotech Ecosystem

The software is set to be deployed throughout Canada through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, under which the federal government purchases and tests technology from Canadian innovators.

Densitas recently signed a contract with BCIP for $565,069 and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will test its technology.

“It’s a great validation that the market is ready for this type of technology and we’re coming into the market at the perfect time for that,” said Abdolell. He also said there has been increasing patient-awareness around breast density and its role in breast-screening procedures. 

DM-Density uses machine-learning technology, meaning the software, through the use of algorithms, is able to process the information and provide personalized data.

Densitas says its ability to support appropriate patient management based on an individualized risk profile has the potential to radically change breast cancer screening.

“It’s an appropriate care issue – you don’t want to expose women to unnecessary screening,” said Abdolell. “This can help to avoid that.”

In 2015, Densitas raised $250,000 in venture capital funding from Innovacorp and other private investors to launch DM-Density. Since then, Abdolell said, the company has raised undisclosed amounts of funding and is committed to raising more. He also said the technology has been approved by Health Canada and is pending approval from the FDA.

Densitas recently won the Innovation Award at the 2017 Discovery Awards in Halifax, where it was competing against local companies Kinduct and QRA Corp.

Moving forward, Abdolell said Densitas is focusing heavily on commercialization.

“We’re excited to move forward,” said Abdolell. “The opportunities are immense. Our position (in the province) is going to demonstrate a huge value because we can do this type of work here in Nova Scotia.”

Densitas, EnvoyAI Ink Distribution Pact

Densitas, a software company that analyzes the density of breast tissue, has signed a contract that will help integrate its flagship product DM-Density into customers’ imaging systems.

The Halifax company signed the integration agreement with Cambridge, Ma.-based EnvoyAI, an artificial intelligence distribution platform, which is dedicated to incorporating software like DM-Density into health care systems.

“They are already integrated in healthcare systems so we can rapidly penetrate the market through that platform and leverage the already-established foundational framework they built over many years,” said Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell in an interview. “This way our entry into the market is a lot more rapid.”

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells as healthy tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

The software is now used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density.  

The software is set to be deployed throughout Canada through the Build in Canada Innovation Program, under which the federal government purchases and tests technology from Canadian innovators.

Densitas recently signed a contract with BCIP for $565,069 and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will test its technology.

“It’s a great validation that the market is ready for this type of technology and we’re coming into the market at the perfect time for that,” said Abdolell. He also said there has been increasing patient-awareness around breast density and its role in breast-screening procedures. 

DM-Density uses machine-learning technology, meaning the software, through the use of algorithms, is able to process the information and provide personalized data.

Densitas says its ability to support appropriate patient management based on an individualized risk profile has the potential to radically change breast cancer screening.

“It’s an appropriate care issue – you don’t want to expose women to unnecessary screening,” said Abdolell. “This can help to avoid that.”

In 2015, Densitas raised $250,000 in venture capital funding from Innovacorp and other private investors to launch DM-Density. Since then, Abdolell said, the company has raised undisclosed amounts of funding and is committed to raising more. He also said the technology has been approved by Health Canada and is pending approval from the FDA.

Densitas recently won the Innovation Award at the 2017 Discovery Awards in Halifax, where it was competing against local companies Kinduct and QRA Corp.

Moving forward, Abdolell said Densitas is focusing heavily on commercialization.

“We’re excited to move forward,” said Abdolell. “The opportunities are immense. Our position (in the province) is going to demonstrate a huge value because we can do this type of work here in Nova Scotia.”

Halifax Slips in Tech Talent Ratings

Halifax has slipped two places to eighth spot in CBRE ranking of Canadian tech talent markets, as the strong hiring boom of 2013-2015 lost its oomph.

CBRE Canada last week issued the report titled Scoring Canadian Tech Talent, which ranked Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver as the top three centres for human resources in technology in Canada. Halifax had claimed the No. 6 spot in the same report last year, but has fallen in the past year due to a lack of employment growth in 2016.

The report is not completely gloomy about the tech community in Halifax, and it highlights the startup community and the opportunities created by the nascent oceans technology initiative.

“The presence of Volta Labs has helped to develop the tech sector in Halifax and spark entrepreneurial action,” said the CBRE report. “The Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) is developing a $20 million institute on the Harbourfront to support ocean technology development and commercialization. Marine Bio-Tech has found a home in Halifax due to its accessibility to open waters and deep-water dock access.”

CBRE rates 10 cities based on several metrics, and in the major categories, Halifax places eighth in tech talent employment, sixth in education, seventh in high-tech clustering and fourth in cost competitiveness.

The report said there were 11,000 people employed in tech positions in Halifax in 2016, an increase of 25 percent over five years, better than the national growth rate over the half-decade. The numbers are disappointing given that Halifax had shown signs of accelerating growth in the 2016 report.

The CBRE report includes a category called the “Momentum Growth Rate”, which charts growth or shrinkage in tech employment in the two most recent years. In the report last year, Halifax had the second-strongest momentum in the country as tech employment in the city increased 54 percent over two years to 2015. In the 2017 report, the category actually showed a decline of 6.7 percent.

Halifax rates as having a “good” pool of tech talent, the lowest rating in the survey. CBRE assesses talent based on the number and concentration of software engineers who have graduated from leading institutions and have at least three years of job experience.

Halifax performs best in the cost comparisons to other cities. CBRE assesses the costs of operating a 500-person operation in terms of office rent and salaries, and Halifax is the second-least expensive. It says Halifax is about 23 percent less expensive than the highest-price market, Calgary. Only London, Ont., is cheaper.

Halifax also performs well in the educational rankings, though there may be cause for concern. Some 36 percent of the city’s work force have university degrees, a level exceeded only by Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. But the CBRE report also assesses the coming growth rate in the number of people with degrees over the next five years, and Halifax comes in dead last with an expected growth rate of 10.2 percent.  

With US$9M, Affinio Eyes More Brands

Tim Burke, left and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke, left and Stephen Hankinson

Halifax-based Affinio has announced a US$9 million (C$11.4 million) Series B funding round, with which it hopes to gain deeper penetration brand advertising for its consumer-analytics solution.

The venture capital round – the second-largest this year in Atlantic Canada – was led by Toronto-based Round13 Capital, a new investor in the company. The other participants in the round are Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto and Halifax-based Build Ventures, both of which invested in Affinio previously.

In an interview, CEO Tim Burke said the funding will help Affinio to deepen its relationship with major partners and add new ones. The company now has about 70 clients, including such global enterprises as Unilever, BBC Worldwide and Paramount and it wants more of a similar scale.

“We’re talking about major channel partners, those who have massive amounts of consumer data,” said Burke. “They own the data and we’re overlaying our technology on top of theirs.”

Burke, CTO Stephen Hankinson and a few other co-founders started Affinio about five years ago as a company that could monitor social media data and present a visual analysis that would help users understand consumer intentions. In its first few years, the team targeted largely advertising agencies, which found the technology useful because Affinio would supply the data it collected on social media.

More recently, the company has found a more profitable market by working with major brands, especially in the consumer packaged goods and media sectors. These companies have their own data, and lots of it. The Affinio system can work with that data and also with social media, bringing machine learning and visualization platforms to a range of data to understand the market.

2016 Was a Record Year fro Equity Funding

The money raised in the current round will be used to build out the sales and development teams, allowing for further growth. Burke said the company now has about 60 employees and the team envisages doubling that by the end of 2018. He also said the company has just about doubled revenue in 2018, and expects to continue that pace of growth in 2018.

The funding by Affinio means that for the second year in a row, at least three Atlantic Canadian startups have booked funding rounds of more than $8 million. Halifax-based Manifold, which helps software developers assimilate a range of services, raised US$15 million in September; and another Halifax company, Metamaterial Technologies Inc., announced an $8.3 million funding round in April.

Affinio's Series B round comes two years after Affinio raised a $4 million VC round from Whitecap, Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures , and several angel investors. Before that, Build backed the company in its $1.5 million seed round in 2013.

That means the company has raised upward of $15 million in five years, and Burke said the company may not be finished courting venture capital investors. The company’s current plans envisage using this round to finance growth over the next two years, after which it may seek an even larger funding round.

Said Burke, “We are tracking toward a Series C after fulfillment of this 18- to 24-month plan.”

Radient360: The Art of Development

“Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar” by Mel Patey

“Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar” by Mel Patey

Late in an interview about his SaaS product for the oil and gas industry, Steve Taylor began to describe bringing in artists on his staff to enhance the software development process.

Taylor is the CEO of radient360, the St. John’s startup that announced a $3.3 million funding round from Build Ventures and Killick Capital last week. He thinks deeply and with originality about the management of his four-year-old company, and that outside-the-box mentality may be one reason the company is on track to record 1,500 percent revenue growth over two years.

A case in point: Taylor knew he had artists on staff so he proposed collaborating on an oil painting with the theme of “the original Newfoundland risk-taker.” He envisaged fishermen in a dory, putting their lives on the line to catch fish that they couldn’t see but believed were beneath the surface. It meshed well with the idea of entrepreneurship, he thought.

The result was a painting by admin staff member Mel Patey titled, “Thro' Spindrift Swirl, and Tempest Roar”. She collaborated with several staff members to produce the work, which now hangs in the radient360 office near the St. John’s airport.

“We wanted to find out, how is art influencing the product and the user experience?” said Taylor. “We think you lose something if you only focus on the technology.”

Taylor says the creative process encourages his development team to come up with better products. They are now meant for an industry rarely associated with the arts – the oil and gas sector. The product helps to simplify workflow processes in the industry, where there are often vast amounts of data that are inaccessible to workers in the field. Radient360 allows executives in an office and workers in the field to communicate and access all the information they need, and updates data in real time. That can lead to 40 to 60 percent cost savings.

Hyperloop Success Leads to Creation of CoLab

Taylor said the number of customers is now “in the 10ish range”, but the company is extracting increasing revenue from its client base. It increased revenues 500 percent this past year, and the team expects 300 percent growth next year.

Unlike most other Software-as-a-Service companies, radient360 books its customers for an extended period of time, which allows it to introduce customers to a range of services and extract value from each contract. He said the company is “just getting started” in sales to petroleum companies.

In three to five years, radient360 hopes to bring its core technology to other industries with similar requirements, such as utilities, mining and logistics. “The oceans supercluster is very interesting to us because it is a way for us to find players we can collaborate with,” said Taylor.

The company now has 35 employees, and Taylor believes that number will grow. He said he looks for employees who embrace the three core values in the company’s culture – empathy, truth-seeking and value-creation. These traits help employees not only work well with one another but also to perform better when dealing with clients. If the employees can empathize with customers’ pain, he said, they do a better job of selling to customers, and that helps to move more of the company’s technology. And radient360 is on a mission to get its tech out to customers.

“Technology is like ripe fruit,” he said. “It’s only ripe for a certain period of time and you better make sure you move it while it’s ripe.”

Hyperloop Success Leads to CoLab

Adam Keating, left, and Jeremy Andrews.

Adam Keating, left, and Jeremy Andrews.

There’s a lot of buzz in St. John’s right now about a young company called CoLab Software, and a big reason is the story of how this startup started up. 

Founded by Memorial University engineering grads Jeremy Andrews and Adam Keating, 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.

Andrews and Keating got the idea for the product while competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition – an international contest to see which team of students could create the fastest ultra-high-speed ground vehicle. Their team, Paradigm Hyperloop, came second behind a German team at the 1,200-team competition in August. It gave them the idea and gumption to create CoLab.

“Before Hyperloop, I was a little bit nervous about what we could do,” said Keating, CoLab’s COO, in an interview in a St. John’s coffee shop last week. “Doing well in the competition has given me the confidence to do ambitious projects like this company.”

The team from Memorial competed in two SpaceX Hyperloop competitions, first in a team with five other universities, and then in the most recent event in partnership with students from Northeastern University in Boston.

In both cases, they encountered a big problem working on designs with teammates in other cities. It was a cumbersome process to capture designs in only two dimensions, distribute and discuss them, then go back to the 3D model to implement the changes the team had agreed on. They tried to find software that would allow them to work on 3D designs in real-time, but there was none.

Radient360 Closes $3.3M Round from Build, Killick

So after winning the silver medal in the international competition, they set up a company to solve this problem for all users of computer-assisted design, or CAD.

Gradient lets collaborators view a 3D design from any angle, create notes on issues and track them, and chat together over VoIP.

There are about 5 million CAD users in the world, and the number is growing all the time. The team is now trying to determine which is best niche to target as its initial market, and is leaning toward interior design and furniture manufacturing.

CoLab came into existence a few months ago, and the five-member team has already signed up two paying early adopters. It hopes to have five of these adopters to test Gradient as it builds out the full product. It is then looking at a full launch next year.

The company, which is now going through  the Propel ICT cohort in St. John's, secured $10,000 by winning the Mel Woodward Cup, Memorial University’s entrepreneurship competition in April. It has lined up $250,000 in non-dilutive financing and is working on an initial $125,000 round of equity financing.  Once they build up a larger customer base, the duo hopes to go to work on a larger funding round.

“It’s going to be a really interesting winter,” said Andrews, the company’s CEO. “In April or May, we hope to have about 20 paying customers and then we hope to raise a round of about $1 million.”

Techsploration To Back More Women

Techsploration, an organization that aims to attract young women to science-related careers, is expanding its scholarship program with the launch of its 20 Scholarships to Celebrate 20 Years campaign.

The campaign has already received more than $20,000 in total scholarship commitments, marking the organization’s largest scholarship total to date.

“Our aim is to help remove financial barriers to post-secondary education for our alumnae and young women in our region who want to pursue a career path in science, trades, or technology,” said Arylene Reycraft, the Executive Director of Techsploration. “In many cases, career paths in those fields are uncharted territory for women, and we want that to change.”

Techsploration works with young women in Grades 9 through 12 to encourage and support students with an interest in science. The Halifax non-profit’s scholarships and bursaries provide financial support for young women in Nova Scotia to further their post-secondary education in fields where women are typically underrepresented.

Dal Seeks to Double Female Computer Science Students. 

“I was awarded the first Techsploration scholarship in 2002,” said alumna Margaret Davidson in a statement. “I was one of two women in my program. This scholarship helped me focus on doing my course load, instead of worrying about how I would make my tuition payments.”

Organizations such as Acadia University, Dalhousie University, REDspace, and Digital Nova Scotia contributed the scholarships, which will be awarded for the coming school year. Organizations interested in contributing to Techsploration’s scholarship campaign can do so until Feb. 20.

Techsploration made the announcement at its annual launch and 20th anniversary kick-off to an audience of industry sponsors, alumnae, teachers, role models, and volunteers. Additional details on each individual scholarship will be available in January.

IP Seminar to be held at Planet Hatch

Charlottetown-based life sciences incubator Emergence and Fredericton’s Planet Hatch are teaming up to host a workshop focusing on intellectual property strategies for startups.

Noel Courage, a partner with the Ontario firm Bereskin & Parr LLP Intellectual Property Law, will conduct the 45-minute presentation. It will be followed by a Q&A session and an opportunity for one-on-one follow-up discussions with Courage.

The event will take place at Planet Hatch this Wednesday. You can register for the workshop here.

Courage, a Dalhousie and Memorial University graduate, has more than 20 years of experience working with startups, helping them to protect their IP. His practice focuses on the patenting and licensing of mechanical, chemical and biotechnology inventions.

According to Emergence Director Martin Yuill, the growth in the number of Emergence clients from across the Atlantic region has created the demand for this IP seminar.

“Emergence is witnessing unprecedented interest from bioscience ventures across Atlantic Canada,” said Yuill. “This IP event is a direct response to the growth in the number of Emergence clients in the region, and from New Brunswick in particular.”

Shukla Mulls What’s Next for TME

Dhirendra Shukla: 'I'm super-pumped.'

Dhirendra Shukla: 'I'm super-pumped.'

In the Engineering Faculty at the University of New Brunswick, there’s a lot of talk these days about what they refer to as “TME Next” or “TME 5.0”.

A familiar abbreviation on the Fredericton campus, TME stands for Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship. It is the university’s flagship entrepreneurship program, a 29-year-old program that now counts 540 students among its participants. Like some of the startups it produces, TME has been doubling in size recently, and now its overseers are wondering what the next stage of growth will entail.

In an interview in Old Head Hall, the faculty’s headquarters that has the feel of a 1920s schoolhouse, Dhirendra Shukla said the options include a PhD program in entrepreneurship, a ramping up of its Energia accelerator, a program to help mature companies grow, or all of the above.

“We are thinking about what’s next for us,” said Shukla, whose formal title is Dr. J. Herbert Smith ACOA Chair of TME. “Some are calling it TME Next. Some are calling it TME 5.0.”

In the late 1980s, UNB received funding to offer programs in entrepreneurship, and TME ended up in the engineering school. That turned out to be a fortunate development because UNB became adept at converting its engineering research into young businesses.  Since it started, TME has had four different heads, which is why the faculty is referring to the next phase as TME 5.0.

Since 2014, TME has produced 65 startups, including such high fliers as Resson, the agtech company that received US$11 million in venture capital last year. Shukla admits some of them are in the very early stages and may or may not last, but adds that’s simply the way of startup life.

EChart Ahead of Schedule in its 3-Year Roll-out Plan.

He said the current TME program has four pillars:

  • Academic. TME has offered a diploma to students throughout the university for years. Last year, it added a Master’s degree, and there are now 13 students taking this course. Shukla said the total enrollment in TME has increased 97 percent each year since 2007.
  • Research. The program’s R&D component is focused on the development of the “smart grid” in New Brunswick. This project, led by German industrial giant Siemens, NB Power and UNB, is developing new ways to assess and balance power demand and supply in the province’s electricity grid.
  • Experiential. The first component of this is the one-year-old Energia Ventures accelerator, which specializes in cleantech and cybersecurity. Shukla beams with pride when describing this facet of TME, noting that at least four of its first six companies now have attracted paying customers and/or investment. “I don’t think we’ve seen any other accelerator that has shown the success that Energia has,” he said. The second component is the Summer Institute, a three-month summer program that has special strength in culture-based ventures. Nine-tenths of the latest Summer Institute entrepreneurs were women.  
  • Engagement. Shukla said a major part of the TME mission is to help entrepreneurs throughout the university and beyond to prosper. The program offers a range of seminars, funding to new companies and promotes female leadership.

UNB is now trying to figure out how to build on this program. A PhD in entrepreneurship would be the first of its kind in the region, and the university is one of several groups in Atlantic Canada wondering what it can do to help mature companies grow. The faculty has just added an assistant professor David Foord as a Director of Innovation, and will soon name a new managing director of Energia.

“Now what we’re doing is building capacity to add greater scale to what we do,” said Shukla. ”I think we’ve got a strong team … and I’m super pumped and growing further.” 

Bahr-Gedalia Makes 3rd Top 100 List

Ulriike Bahr-Gedalia: Hopes 'young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless'

Ulriike Bahr-Gedalia: Hopes 'young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless'

A Halifax CEO, who is paving the way for more women to succeed in ICT, has been recognized for the third year in a row as one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, who has been President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia since 2013, was named Thursday to Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by the Women’s Executive Network.

In her nearly five years running the Halifax-based non-profit, Bahr-Gedalia has helped to grow the organization as well as advocating for diversity in DNS and across the province.

“I am exceptionally proud to represent the digital sector and Nova Scotia with this award, and hope that young female leaders, including my daughter, see that the possibilities are endless, if you embrace risk and take on new challenges,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

Bahr-Gedalia, a native of Germany who's worked in five countries, is the first female president and CEO of DNS and under her leadership the organization has seen many other firsts.  

She has increased the number of women on DNS’s Board of Directors, implemented gender-neutral language in the by-laws and advanced programming for women in the tech sector. DNS has almost doubled the number of members it serves from 60 to over 110 since Bahr-Gedalia took over.

Planting Seed$ Plans To Award $10,000 To Another Young Entrepreneur

She established the Digital Diversity Awards, which celebrate female involvement and gender diversity in the digital industry. What’s more, she has pushed national collaborators to enhance the profile of Nova Scotia’s leaders and had DNS join the Information and Communications Technology Council as the first East Coast representative in 25 years.

Bahr-Gedalia said her business philosophy revolves around smart decision-making and “approaching challenges with a positive attitude and without fear.”

DNS increased its funding from organizations like the Status of Women Canada, which funded the Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy initiative.

The 36-month project aimed to increase the participation of women in senior level positions in the growing ICT sector and was the first project of its kind for the province.

Among her many accolades, Bahr-Gedalia was also featured in Canada 150 Women, which featured profiles from 150 female role modes in Canada including, Elizabeth May, Kim Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser.

At the top of the list of her many achievements, Bahr-Gedalia said she will always be the most proud of her family.

Moving forward, Bahr-Gedalia plans to increase DNS’s work around the province, strengthening networks for the Nova Scotian tech sector and inspiring others take on her inclusive philosophy that earns her titles like the Top 100.

“I am not a woman in tech and business,” she said. “I am a human being in tech and business.” 

EChart Ahead of Curve in 3-Year Goal

Amanda Betts: Set out to keep families of elderly patients informed.

Amanda Betts: Set out to keep families of elderly patients informed.

EChart Healthcare of Fredericton has set a lofty three-year goal for its Software-as-a-Service product for seniors’ homes, but CEO Amanda Betts is undaunted by the task once she considers her first-year projections.

Surveying the young company’s current pipeline of new business, she believes eChart will hit its 2018 targets in July rather than at year-end due to strong customer response.

The company’s product is now being used by seven or eight seniors’ homes in New Brunswick, up from three in August. And Betts is optimistic about its sales given that she knows of no other product that helps both facilities and the families of their patients in the way eChart does.

“Our goal is to cover 10,000 beds by Year 3 and we don’t see that as being a real stretch,” said Betts in an interview Tuesday. “We’re already on target to meet our 2018 goals way ahead of schedule.”

Betts created eChart to solve a problem she experienced at Autumn Lee, the retirement home she runs with her family. The problem was that patients’ records were all kept on paper – reams of paper that filled row upon row of binders in the facility’s offices. Staff had to fill out endless forms, file and retrieve the records, and the residents’ family members couldn’t easily access them.

So Betts developed eChart, a cloud-based solution that simplifies the process of recording and sharing patients’ charts. Staff can enter all the data they need on to a tablet as they make their rounds of the home. And the information is available to family members, recognizing their right to be kept apprised of all developments in the patient's care.

“I really think we’re solving a problem with our platform,” said Betts. “There’s a gap that needs to be filled. There hasn’t been a lot of new technology within our sector to help us do our jobs and that’s why we’re meeting this need.”

Biotech CEOs Tout Benefits of US Ecosystem

When she began to work on the project a few years ago, Betts investigated what digital products were available to improve efficiency in seniors’ homes. What she found was a lot of solutions that helped with the administrative or financial side of the business. But there was nothing that helped to improve medical records and to keep family members informed about their loved ones’ well-being.

Betts and her five-member team have been developing and testing the product, and they consider 2018 to be Year 1 in terms of a sales strategy they hope will gain customers across the country. So far, she has financed the company from her own resources, and with the assistance of a number of organizations, such as Ignite Fredericton and the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick. The company has also graduated from Propel ICT’s Launch accelerator. Now that eChart is gaining clients, Betts is looking at taking on equity investment, though she will only say she has spoken with potential investors.

As the company progresses, Betts has plans to use the data that the company collects to improve the health of the elderly. She’s already begun discussions internally and with organizations specializing in Big Data.

“We’re not doing anything at the moment, but we have some more exciting things planned,” she said when asked about what she plans to do with the company’s data. “We plan to explore personal health predictive analytics and genetic testing. We have a really incredible technology team that bought into the discussions on this and they see the value of the data.” 

JEDI Lands $2.2M in Funding

The first cohort of JEDI's aboriginal business accelerator in 2016

The first cohort of JEDI's aboriginal business accelerator in 2016

Fredericton-based Joint Economic Development Initiative has received more than $2.2 million in funding from the federal and New Brunswick governments to continue to support indigenous entrepreneurs.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement last week announcing the funding, which it said would help JEDI continue its work supporting Aboriginal participation in the New Brunswick economy. Its programs include community economic development, workforce development, and partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Mark Taylor, the Shipbuilding Strategy Manager at JEDI, said the funding “confirms long-term support for the innovation and business incubation work of JEDI. It also comes at an important time as JEDI evolves to offer both an Indigenous Business Incubator and Indigenous Business Accelerator.”

The JEDI Indigenous Business Incubator Program is a new program that the Fredericton-based non-profit began offering in October. The 10-week program accepts budding entrepreneurs with a business idea and guides them to the point at which they are ready to go to market. The incubator provides skill training, mentorship and support with connections to JEDI’s resources. The companies that complete the incubator program will attend the JEDI Indigenous Business Accelerator, which will begin in January.

“This two-year funding agreement from ACOA and the Province of New Brunswick provides us with additional financial stability and allows us to focus our efforts on helping our Indigenous clients,” said Alex Dedam, the President of Joint Economic Development Initiative, in a statement. “The support that we receive from our funders is crucial to our continued work and carrying out JEDI’s vision of striving for full Indigenous participation in the New Brunswick economy.”

The federal government is contributing a total of over $2 million, including about $1 million each from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and ACOA’s Business Development Program. The Government of New Brunswick is also contributing $210,000 toward the initiative.

Jedi, which is governed by the four tribal councils of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Business Council, began in 1995 and launched its business accelerator in early 2016. The goal was to apply lean startup principles to a cohort of Aboriginal enterprises with a concentration on ICT and cleantech innovation. 



Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor. 

Radient360 Closes $3.3M VC Round

Mark Dobbin: Backed seven companies in the last 2 years.

Mark Dobbin: Backed seven companies in the last 2 years.

Radient360, a St. John’s company that has developed mobile software for oil and gas companies, has closed a $3.3 million funding round from Build Ventures and Killick Capital Inc.

The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps major oil and gas companies with such tasks as in-field inspection, maintenance, and logistics.

This funding increases the growing number of St. John’s companies that have booked multi-million-dollar funding rounds, all of which Killick has participated in. In the last two years, the St. John’s-based investment group of the Dobbin family has been involved in seven figure rounds by video production software maker Celtx, genetics-based healthcare company Sequence Bio, marketing agency software provider HeyOrca and now radient360.

“Radient360 has built a strong foundation in Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and gas sector,” Killick Founder and President Mark Dobbin said in a statement. “Now they can take that insight and expertise into new markets around the world. We see great things ahead for radient360.”

Now in its seventh year, radient360 has created a mobile application that helps oil and gas personnel – both in the field and in offices – improve a range of processes. It helps people locate assets, report on tasks and receive data reports in real-time.

The company’s website says that its solutions have been used in Newfoundland and Labrador for more than five years, and its clients are using radient360 software to track more than 17,000 assets.

2016 Was a Record Year for Atlantic Canadian Startup Funding

In its statement, the company said it plans to use the funds to expand its sales operations, including the opening of a Calgary office, and to enhance its development team. The company is now pursuing the first international deployment of its technology.

“As a young company, we have made great progress to reach this point in our development,” said CEO Steve Taylor. “With this round of funding and the support of the bright minds at Build Ventures and Killick Capital, we expect to continue that success as we expand our operations.”

Added Halifax-based Build Ventures Partner Patrick Keefe: “Radient360 is a company on the move. Its proven products and strong track record of performance have earned it a loyal following.” Radient360 is the second Newfoundland and Labrador company in Build’s portfolio, which also includes Celtx.

The radient360 funding is the latest in a chain of funding announcements for Killick, which announced two exits in 2014-2015 that replenished its capital base. The fund exited its investment in anti-fraud software maker Verafin in 2014, when that company attracted a $60 million private equity investment. And Killick sold four of six divisions of Texas-based  Killick Aerospace for about US$229 million in 2015.

Since then, Killick has made at least nine investments in seven St. John’s companies. Here are some of the larger funding deals:

Celtx Raises $3.3M from Build, Killick

Venture NL, Killick back Clockwork Fox, Sentinel, HerOrca

Sequence Bio Announces US$3M Funding

Empowered Homes Lands $600K

HeyOrca Unveils $2M Funding Round

CEOs Tout US Biotech Ecosystem

Kevin Sullivan and Mohamed Abdolell

Kevin Sullivan and Mohamed Abdolell

Atlantic Canadian biotech entrepreneurs have to look beyond the region to exploit the benefits of other ecosystems, two leading East Coast life sciences CEOs said Monday.

Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Appili Theraputics, an anti-infective drug discovery company, and Mohamed Abdolell, the CEO of Densitas Inc, a medical software company, spoke at Get the Scoop: JLABS Canada. Their discussion at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax followed a presentation by Johnson & Johnson Innovation on JLABS.

The discussion, moderated by Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser, contextualized the region’s role within the life sciences sector and focused on the differences between the Canadian and American ecosystems.

“There are certain advantages to American culture in that they’re extremely direct,” said Abdolell, reflecting on his time at the Canada-Chicago Mentoring Program. “They’ll tell you, ‘It’s crap,’ and it’s really good to hear that. People being nice over time is a killer.”

The blunt, risk-taking culture is popular in the U.S. because Americans have access to higher investment opportunities. The panelists said Atlantic Canada has the resources to help entrepreneurs raise their initial seed rounds but can’t offer them follow-on cash like they do in the U.S.  

“The runway is longer for medical software companies, like Densitas, to get to market,” said Abdolell, “There isn’t that kind of pool of money here as there is in the U.S.”

Densitas is best known for its product DM-Density, which enhances breast screening by assessing breast density. Breast density is a key determinant in a patient’s risk of contracting breast cancer, so Densitas helps doctors understand a patient’s risk profile.

MyMem Plans to Roll Out App for Dementia Sufferers

The panelists stressed the importance of leaving the region since the market and expertise for med-tech innovation are highly concentrated in the States and parts of southern Ontario. Traveling outside of the region is a must for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs.

“There is a good ecosystem here for that early first million or half-million,” said Sullivan, referring to equity funding. “But, you have to understand, as an entrepreneur you’re going to have to leave and look elsewhere once you get that [second] million.” 

Appili is working on two drug candidates: a compound designed to mask the bitter taste in Metronidazole, a drug used to treat infections among children; and a compound to battle gram-negative bacteria, which have two protective cellular walls making them resistant to existing antibiotics.

Both CEOs agreed networks like JLABS made growing their companies outside of the region much easier and affordable. They offer other avenues to accessing larger investments, said the CEOs.

Appili and Densitas both rent space at the Toronto location of JLABS, a network of incubators for the life science sector. JLABS provides office space and laboratories, stocked with top-of-the-line equipment and tools to build products.

Densitas currently rents office space from JLABS while Appili, which took advantage of JLABS’ laboratory space, will “graduate” from the space to its new office in Mississauga. 

Truman To Speak at Planet Hatch

Rosemarie Truman

Rosemarie Truman

Ignite Fredericton will host an Engage Talk Nov 30 at Planet Hatch to highlight how the commercialization of research and business startups can drive disruptive social impact.

Rosemarie Truman, CEO of the Bethesda, Maryland-based Center for Advancing Innovation, will present the keynote. In it, she will share her organization's approach to fostering the development of startups that commercialize government and university patents through a challenge-based accelerator.

She will also present and invite people to take part in the Freedom from Cancer Startup Challenge, which aims to help startups that make inventions for cancer treatment get to market. 

You can register for the event here

2016 a Record Year for Equity Funding

The year 2016 was a tremendous year for the funding of startups in Atlantic Canada – maybe the best ever.

According to data collected by Entrevestor, Atlantic Canadian startups raised $73.3 million in 2016 from venture capital, strategic and angel investors.  That’s up by about one-third from $55.5 million in 2015.

And the great thing was that the deals came in a broad range of shapes and sizes – a few investors (note the plural) from Silicon Valley, investments by super angels, and a swath of funding by local institutions.

Each year, Entrevestor collects and analyzes data on the startup community across Atlantic Canada, and equity funding is one of the closely studied portions of the study. Startup entrepreneurs and their supporters love funding data as it’s considered – rightly or wrongly – a barometer for the health of the startup community. And the data from 2016 suggest the East Coast community is healthy indeed.

What was exceptional about 2016 was that there were so many companies bringing in $3 million in funding, especially from outside the region.

“The recent participation of ‘super angels’ like John Risley in the local start-up scene, along with deeper funding commitments by well-capitalized VCs like Build Ventures, have contributed to the increasing average deal size,” said Gregg Phipps, Managing Director of Investment at Innovacorp.  “It’s a positive development, for certain.”

The main reason for the higher funding levels is a handful of large deals, led by three deals worth more than $8 million each. Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture announced an $8.5 million equity financing from a group of angels. Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raised US$9 million, led by Intel Capital. And Fredericton-based Resson raised US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures. They headed a list of 16 companies in the region that announced they raised C$1 million or more in 2016.

Entrevestor counted a total of 47 equity funding deals in 2016, of which 29 were worth less than $1 million. These smaller deals are vitally important. While founders in the rest of the country complain about a lack of seed funding, the Atlantic region is a hotbed of seed funding. According to data collected by Canada’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Atlantic Canada accounted for 10 percent of the VC deals in the country, though it had no deals in the top 10 in terms of value.

Patrick Keefe of Build Ventures also explains that seed rounds are essential to the ecosystem because the follow-on funding rounds are impossible without the small rounds. He said there tends to be a 30 percent attrition rate between rounds of funding. So, if 10 companies raise a seed round, only seven will survive to raise an A round. And of those, about five will be able to raise a B round, and so on. The A rounds financed by Build and the groups from outside the region can only happen if there is a broad range of seed rounds.

In all, Entrevestor counted 55 companies that received funding in 2016. That means more than 13 percent of the startups in the region received some funding last year. The main reason for the number of deals is the continued activity of the government-backed funds. In all, 35 companies in 2016 received money from these organizations (including Build Ventures). 

Planting Seed$ Plans Jan. 16 Event

Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England

Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England

The folks who started 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$, an annual pitching competition that awards one young entrepreneur $10,000, have registered the organization as a non-profit called 100 Seeds Atlantic.

Halifax-based 100 Seed$ has a more solid structure now, with a new website and advanced ticket sales for its pitching event, said Allyson England, owner of Nova Box and one of the co-founders of Seed$.

England said in an interview she’s excited about “the future potential of the organization and its ability to have an impact on more youth, both in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.”

Seed$ also formed an advisory board, that includes Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and leading business people, to help better understand and foster youth entrepreneurship. Don Mills, the chairman and founder of Corporate Research Associates, said he joined the board because it’s important to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“In fact, Nova Scotia and the entire Atlantic Canadian region need to rekindle the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that existed in the region prior to Confederation,” said Mills. “Our future prosperity depends upon it.”

The next Seed$ pitching competition is scheduled for Jan. 16 at the Halifax Public Library and you can buy your ticket here. Each ticket costs $100, and the organizers aim for 100 attendees to provide a $10,000 prize package for the winner.  All the contestants are young people developing a business in the region.

England said the advanced sales will streamline the operations on the day of the event because they previously had to collect 100 different cheques at or after the pitching event.   

MyMem To Roll Out App To Help People With Dementia

The first Planting Seed$ event was held in 2015 as a response to Ray Ivany’s report on Nova Scotia’s future, which said only 12 percent of youth between 16 and 24 in Atlantic Canada aspired to start their own business. Planting Seed$ aims to raise that percentage and encourage more youth to become entrepreneurs.

“My mission was to simply encourage young Nova Scotians to have courage, and to roll up their sleeves and test out their ideas right here at home,” said Stefanie MacDonald, the owner and designer of Halifax Paper Hearts and co-founder of Seed$.

“I am so inspired by the drive and determination of our past finalists, and continue to follow their stories of success and growth.”

The past winners of Seed$ competitions were Canada Cold Press Juices in 2015, and renewable energy company Aurea in 2016. 

MyMem Plans To Roll Out App in 2018

Aishwarya Ravichandran, second for right, poses with other Volta Cohort.

Aishwarya Ravichandran, second for right, poses with other Volta Cohort.

Armed with $25,000 in initial funding, Halifax startup MyMem plans to spend 2018 rolling out its Software-as-a-Service product that helps people with dementia remember key aspects of their lives.

The company is developing a smart phone or tablet app that uses voice-enabled technology to help people with cognitive challenges remember their life stories, or even simple matters like their grandchildren’s names. In the next year, it hopes to work with seniors’ facilities to test MyMem with dementia sufferers and assess the market for the product.

The company is funding its go-to-market strategy with a $25,000 investment that it won at the Volta Cohort pitching event last week. MyMem was one of five early-stage startups that divided $125,000 in equity financing at the event hosted by Volta Labs.

“We are in a good position with the funds we have from Volta Cohort,” said Co-Founder Aishwarya Ravichandran in an interview after the event. “We can achieve all those objectives with the funding we have at the moment.”

The story of MyMem’s goal to bring a digital “life story book” to dementia sufferers began when Ravichandran and others attended the Hacking Health Hackathon. The event in March aimed to bring entrepreneurs together to create digital health products.

Ravichandran was inspired by one participant, Luc Sirios, sharing the story of how his mother was suffering from memory loss. This reminded Ravichandran of her grandmother in India who also was losing her memory.

“Taking this inspiration to mind and believing that this app might be useful for people like my grandmother and many other older adults, we formed a team there and built a demo of the mobile app within 24 hours of the event,” said Ravichandran.

MyMem follows a Business-to-Business SaaS model, targeting home care and retirement facilities. Ravichandran said getting MyMem to market will happen in three different phases over the course of 2018.

PhotoDynamic Set for Clinical Trials

The first step will be launching the beta version of their app in January. To get there, MyMem is looking for an app designer as well as a marketing professional.

In the second phase, the app will be available for both Android and iOS devices in Canada and the US. At this stage, MyMem will test the app at different retirement and care facilities, and has begun discussions with a few organizations in Atlantic Canada about testing the device.

“Once we’re in the stage to actually launch the beta we will get back to them and see if they’d like to do a pilot study or beta test our app in their residencies,” said Ravichandran, who says they have all the resources they need to complete the first two phases.

MyMem’s third phase will involve adding a brain games feature to the app. To make this happen, Ravichandran plans to apply for funding from BDC’s Women in Tech investment program, which recently added an additional $20 million to its fund.

This feature would allow users to engage with games that can help improve their cognitive function as well as provide data to track how much the user is able to remember.

“Over a period of time when you start using the app and start playing the games part we will collect the data and analyze it,” said Ravichandran. “We can give that information to the family members and caregivers to help the user.”

MyMem functions with voice recognition technology that is simple to use, a priority for the elderly or those who struggle with technology. Ravichandran plans to offer a desktop version of the app once the mobile and tablet versions have been launched.

The MyMem team includes Ravichandran, Harish Gopinath, Arun Athisamy and Eric Fisher. 

Five Startup Press Release Fails

One of the key tools that founders have to get their message out beyond their immediate circle is a press release. But it amazes me how often common mistakes make their way into these important documents. 

Press releases may seem like trifles, but they demonstrate an entrepreneur’s ability to communicate important messages about a company. If media releases are posted in sequence on your website, they can tell the story of your company for potential investors, mentors and customers. And of course, a good PR can get you media attention.

In the next few weeks, I’m holding a series of communications seminars with Propel ICT cohorts, and one message I want to stress is how not to screw up a press release. Here’s what makes a bad media release.

Fuzzy Message – Anyone reading a company statement needs to know this: who is doing what? When, where, how and why are they doing it. And if “it” involves money, how much is involved. That should all be in the first sentence or two.

Here’s what you can leave out of the first paragraph: the company’s commitment to social justice and a clean environment; the founders’ charity work; the benefits of growing the middle class. It’s all laudable. But your press release should precisely and concisely tell the reader the important bits and very little more.

Jargon – Even if your audience comprises people in your technical community, don’t assume your readers will understand reams of technical bafflegab strung together. As a founder, you have to be able to describe your product in terms that can be understood by a range of people. If you litter your statements with jargon, a broad swath of your readership won’t understand it. Not that you’ll hear about it. People who don’t understand jargon rarely admit it. They’ll just ignore you.

On a related point, keep legalese out of your press releases. Your lawyer should sign off on your statement, not write it. No need to put (“the Company”) after the name of your company. We get it. Honest. Those TM marks after the name of your product – they look really dumb.

Not Explaining Why Your Statement Is Important – This mistake occurs in most press releases. People don’t automatically understand the significance of your announcement. Explain it to them. If you’ve raised capital, tell the reader what you’ll do with the money. If you’ve landed a customer, explain why that customer is important. If you’re launching a product, say what gap it fills in the market and why it will improve the industry or have a social impact.

No Contact Details – If you’re sending a media release to journalists, give a phone number and email address where the media can reach the CEO. If reporters phone a startup, they don’t want to talk to anyone other than the CEO. And they don’t want to talk to the CEO at 5 p.m. If your announcement is important, make the CEO available to chat with journalists in the few hours after the statement goes out. When you post the statement on your website, make sure you include contact details, even if it’s just an info-at email address.

Boring quotes – This isn’t a big deal. But if you’re looking for good press, give the journalist something to work with. Say something more than that you’re honoured or excited by the announcement. A quote is an opportunity to add some life to your statement. Don’t make it sound like it was written by a low-level functionary.

With the decline of traditional media, it’s harder than ever to get the notice of journalists. By crafting a concise, precise press release, you increase your chances of getting your message out – to journalists and their readers or viewers.

Jobs: Scientific Analyst at Appili

Appili Therapeutics is seeking a scientific analyst in our Jobs of the Week column today.

This contract position with the Halifax-based biotech company will work with drug development and business development and review its sources of information and identify promising new programs in infectious disease to report to the VP of Business Development.

The company is working on two drug candidates: a compound designed to mask the bitter taste in Metronidazole, a drug used to treat infections among children; and a compound to battle gram-negative bacteria, which has two protective cellular walls making it resistant to existing antibiotics.

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

Here is an expert from the posting:


Appili Therapeutics

Scientific Analyst (contract)

Key responsibilities:

Sourcing, review, and management of scientific, clinical, regulatory, commercial/sales, patent, financial and other data pertaining to the life science and healthcare industry;
Summarize information and results via preparation of reports, presentations to identify promising new drug development programs that align with Appili’s corporate strategy;
Prepare and develop presentations on findings for dissemination to internal teams and external advisors;
Work in a team based environment;
Support Drug Development and Business Development projects as needed.


Advanced degree in a life science or related field of study, preferably a M.Sc. or Ph.D. in microbiology, pharmacology, or toxicology;
Demonstrated proficiency with literature searching;
Effective written and oral communication skills;
Familiarity with the commercial biotechnology / pharmaceutical industry, work experience in healthcare, biotechnology, or pharmaceutical industry preferred;
Strong ability to approach new areas of science, learn key concepts, and synthesize ideas;

Read more about the job here

PhotoDynamic Set for Clinical Trials

Halifax-based PhotoDynamic Inc. will put its plaque-killing oral health product through clinical trials in the next month, the outcome of which will shape its strategy for the next few years.

The company will test its product with 20 patients at the Forsyth Institute in Boston, one of the world’s most prestigious research facilities in the field of oral health. If it gets good results from these tests, the company plans to work closely with a Fortune 100 consumer products company to bring the product to market.

That product — called PD Foam and PD Tray — is a system that kills plaque buildup on teeth through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. Because the plant is known to be safe for human consumption, the product has a relatively simple regulatory path. Its initial target market is the one-fifth of the population who suffer from excessive plaque buildup on their teeth regardless of how much they brush.

“We’ll start in a few weeks and have the results by January,” said CEO Martin Greenwood in an interview. “If the results are good, it will be easy to raise our next round (of financing) and then we’ll be moving on to a larger trial.”

In the spring of 2016, PhotoDynamic raised $250,000 in equity funding through the First Angel Network, and supplemented that capital with money from government programs. The company, which grew out of research by Acadia University professor Sherri McFarland, has remained lean with four employees and used the FAN money to build a working prototype.

PhotoDynamic has developed foam made from the plant extract, which the user places in the top and bottom trays of a special mouthpiece, like a mouthguard a hockey player would wear and which contains LED lights. Users turn on the lights, place the device in their mouth for one minute, and the plaque is gone.

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So far the system has killed plaque successfully in a petri dish and in animal tests, but surprises can crop up in human trials, Greenwood said. For example, 10 subjects will be given the PhotoDynamic device and the other 10 a placebo, to establish a clear gap between plaque buildup in the two groups. If a few of the 10 placebo-takers obsessively brush their teeth all day, it could skew the results.

Greenwood feels confident in the PD Foam and Tray and believes the company has positioned itself to proceed promptly with its commercialization. It has built up a strong working relationship with its multinational partner (whom Greenwood declines to name publicly), and that could help bring the product to market.

PhotoDynamic has also strengthened its board, recently adding former Johnson & Johnson consumer products CTO Neal Matheson and Barry Turner, a former vice-president of global complementary medicines with Warner-Lambert.

Assuming the trials are successful, Greenwood plans to raise about $1.5 million to take the company through the next two years. In that period he hopes to fine-tune the engineering of the product and carry out more thorough clinical trials, involving about 75-125 people over six months.

Then Greenwood plans to sell the oral health product to a large company that can develop it, and PhotoDynamic will use the proceeds to work on other applications for the plant extract.

“The way to really grow this company is to say, ‘We’re the people that can really take this technology to its potential,’” he said. “Let us be the R&D hub. . . . What we want to do is hit a home run and take the funds and reinvest them into the next one.”

Springboard Names Genge as CEO

Daryl Genge: 'Key role in those significant pan-Atlantic initiatives.'

Daryl Genge: 'Key role in those significant pan-Atlantic initiatives.'

Springboard Atlantic, the organization that promotes the commercialization of academic research in Atlantic Canada, has named Daryl Genge as its new president and CEO.

The non-profit network said Thursday that Genge would succeed former CEO Chris Mathis, who announced in September he would step down from the position. Genge joins Springboard from Newfoundland and Labrador, where he worked with the provincial government as the Deputy Minister for the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Genge, who is also a certified management consultant. “The economy in Atlantic Canada is changing and our universities and colleges are really a part of the foundation of that economy.”

Genge will officially join Springboard on Dec. 1. He said in an interview his main focus as CEO will be to foster and increase Springboard’s role in pan-Atlantic initiatives, like the oceans supercluster.

“We’re seeing bigger things happening here,” he said. “We’re seeing more pan-Atlantic types of initiatives and attraction of more investment into our institution for larger research and commercialization projects.”

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The Newfoundland native and graduate of Memorial University said he will begin by sitting down with Springboard’s board, members and investors to determine how the changing economy is affecting them.

“I’m going to be doing a lot of listening right out of the gate,” said Genge. “I really want to get a sense for what our members and our partners are experiencing and what the impact of those changes are having on them and where they see us adding value going forward.”

Last January, Springboard received $9.2 million from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency, which is being used to support 30 commercialization officers throughout the region over the next three years.

“Daryl is a strong leader, and his understanding of academia, industry and the public sector will be a significant asset to Springboard going forward,” said board chair Brian Lowe in a release.

Prior to joining the provincial government, Genge was also the founding director of Memorial University’s Atlantic Canada Venture Gateway, which prepared high-potential entrepreneurs to raise capital, and brought promising technologies to international markets.

Genge plans to apply that global perspective to his work with Springboard and plans to work on more initiatives that will see more collaboration between the provinces.

“I’m going to focus on ensuring we play a key role in those significant pan-Atlantic initiatives,” said Genge. “We’re kind of unique in that Springboard has been around for more than 10 years and has an understanding and real experience in collaboration and understanding of how to develop collaboration among its members.”

TruLeaf To Use Data, AI in Farming

The TruLeaf farm in Bible Hill

The TruLeaf farm in Bible Hill

With its indoor farm in Guelph, Ont., nearing completion, TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture is plotting its next phase of growth with more farms, a licensing model for its technology and a new round of funding.

Gregg Curwin, founder and CEO of the Halifax vertical farming company, also says the company is focused ever more on machine learning and data analytics to help it produce the most nutritious local food possible.

Halifax-based TruLeaf aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming — which combines proven hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater to allow year-round production of plants indoors.

Vertical farming is nearly 30 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 95 per cent less water, and takes up less land.

Curwin told a panel discussion at the Big Data Congress last week that the company is now focusing on applying advanced technology to the process of growing plants indoors.

The Guelph plant — which is due to be completed in June, will be fully automated and TruLeaf is looking into using data to improve the process of growing nutritious food.

“The light bulb that’s going off for us is all about machine learning and data,” said Curwin.

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Curwin said that in the controlled environment of its growing facilities, the company can monitor data produced over time from the creation of the seed to shipping grown food to the supermarket. Outdoors, a farmer can get 40 points of data in his or her career; TruLeaf can get 10,000 data points in 10 days at its indoor farms.

One example of TruLeaf’s experimentation is the work it has been doing with LED lighting.

The company is experimenting with how different plants grow under different light spectrums, and what lighting is best at specific phases of the growing process. It is even examining whether special lighting in a supermarket shelf can prolong the freshness of produce.

Curwin added that the company is investigating whether there is a direct link between adding certain greens to your diet and improving cognitive health.

It is interested in producing in Nova Scotia a vegetable prominent in West Africa, where dementia rates are really low.

“Can we make a defensible claim about the prevention of cognitive diseases?” he asked. “Making accurate claims is a significant goal of ours.”

The last 18 months have been busy ones for TruLeaf. It closed an $8.5-million financing round last December and has been working with Loblaw Companies, the parent company of Atlantic Superstores, on the development of its farms.

Appearing under the company’s GoodLeaf Farms brand, products grown in the company’s farm in Bible Hill are now available in a dozen Superstores spanning the three Maritime provinces.

According to the TruLeaf website, the products include broccoli shoots, kale shoots, daikon radish shoots, pea shoots, baby arugula and baby kale.

The company now has 38 employees in Nova Scotia.

“We’re eliminating low-level jobs and most of the jobs we are creating now are . . . in computer science, engineering and plant science,” said Curwin.

27 Oceans and Cleantech Winners

Days after naming 18 winners of its Spark Innovation Challenge, Innovacorp has awarded a total of $920,000 to 27 companies in its oceans and cleantech competitions.

Partnering with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Nova Scotia innovation agency on Wednesday named the winners of its Blue Solutions Startup Challenge for oceans technology companies, and its Cleantech Accelerate Program.

These companies will now have the opportunity to enroll in Innovacorp’s four oceans and two cleantech accelerator programs this fall. ACOA contributed $500,000 toward these programs, while Innovacorp contributed $420,000.


Blue Solutions Startup Challenge

The Blue Solutions Startup Challenge, which was open to companies from anywhere in the world, awards the first round winners $10,000 and entry to an accelerator. The companies will then pitch before judges with the goal of winning up to $50,000.

The first-round winners include two California entries: Redwood City-based Blue Ocean Gear, led by Kortney Opshaug, is developing smart fishing technology that enhances trap retrieval and enables sustainable practices; and Sunnyvale-based ThroughPut, led by Ali Raza and Khizer Hayat, is building a supply chain data analysis platform that eliminates costly bottlenecks.

The other participants in the Blue Solutions accelerator are:

Copsys Industries Inc. – Farzad Hashemi – Halifax

Corrosion management technology that protects assets and reduces maintenance.

Graphite Innovation and Technologies – Mo AlGermozi, Marciel Gaier – Halifax

Graphene-related products customized for specific applications and technologies, such as underwater vessels.

NovaSpectrum Analytics Inc. – Lawrence Taylor – Dartmouth

Lobster management software leveraging automated seafood processing, vision technology and operational data.

Ocean Executive – Mike Budreski – Halifax

Sales and procurement platform for the B2B seafood industry, with a focus on seafood sustainability.

Pelagis Data Solutions Inc. – Glenn Laughlin – Sydney

Resource management software and analytics platform that enables the transformation of ocean food producers into data-driven enterprises.

Rovault – Ehsan Lavasani, Jonathan Reyes – Halifax

Fish processing systems that use vision and machine learning technologies to identify potential efficiencies.

Ocean Technology Research – Calder Robinson, David Barclay – Halifax

Integrated trap system that uses cost-effective technologies to reduce the frequency of checking lobster traps.

ReconOcea – Ulaş Gunturkun – Halifax

Underwater acoustic communications systems enabling wireless communications over long distances.


OceanTech Development Program

Each of the winners in this program receive $20,000, acceleration workshops and guidance from seasoned business people. The winners are:

Enginuity – Alastair Trower, Ben Garvey – Halifax

Rapid connector technology for permanent mooring installations in dynamic and harsh environments.

Glas Ocean Electric Inc. – Sue Molloy, Craig Chandler – Halifax

Diesel to electric boat conversion, using stored energy from the boats to power coastal communities.

Jetasonic Technologies Inc. – Alex Ivanov – Halifax

Sonar for a wide range of applications, including high-resolution bottom mapping, search and rescue, and marine navigation.

Kraken Robotic Systems Inc. – Bill Spencer – Dartmouth

Autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with a suite of sensors and observing systems.

LeeWay Marine – Jamie Sangster – Halifax

Support systems for high speed operation, launch, recovery and recharging of autonomous subsurface vehicles.

Navita Digital Inc. – Scott Samson, Louisbourg Seafoods, VMP Group – North Sydney

Real-time 3D visualization simulations to improve harvesting techniques.

NovaSpectrum Analytics Inc. – Lawrence Taylor – Dartmouth

Lobster management software that leverages automated seafood processing, vision technology and operational data.

RDA Atlantic Inc. – Don Leblanc, Eric Sharp – Halifax

Intelligent mooring buoy to improve experiences for leisure boating.

Turbulent Research – Chris Loadman – Beechville

Underwater sound collecting and processing products to minimize downtime for offshore oil and gas explorers.


Demo at Sea Program

This program offers an opportunity to demonstrate pre-commercial ocean technologies in a genuine ocean setting. The winners are:

GeoForce Group Ltd. – Graham Standen – Dartmouth

Deepsea survey equipment for the geophysical and oceanographic industries.

DMR Boat Design Ltd. – Philip Slaunwhite and Susan Slaunwhite – Terence Bay

Marine hull and propulsion design that increases performance and stability for rigid inflatable search and rescue vehicles.


The Early Adopter Program

The Early Adopter Program contributes $20,000 toward the first deployment and testing of a product with an early adopter. The winners are:

Enginuity – Alastair Trower, Ben Garvey – Halifax

Ocean Executive – Mike Budreski – Halifax

Sales and procurement platform for the B2B seafood industry, with a focus on seafood sustainability.

Swell Advantage – Iaian Archibald – Halifax

Automated operations support and advanced analytics for marinas, boat clubs and waterfronts.

Turbulent Research – Chris Loadman – Beechville 


Cleantech Accelerator Program

This award provides as much as $50,000 for each winner, as well as acceleration activities, incubation space and business guidance. The winners are:

BioPolyOil – Mostafa Aghaei, Alma Zangeneh, Arian Shahnazari – Bible Hill

Agri-based technology for applications in the oil and gas industry.

Oceland Biologicals – Balakrishnan Prithiviraj – Bible Hill

Plant biostimulants that improve the growth, yield and resilience of crops to increase farmers’ incomes.

Finleaf Technologies – Myrna Gillis – Brooklyn

Aquaponics system that enables the delivery of supplemental nutrients to flowering plants.

Nexus Robotics – Teric Greenan, Jad Tawil, Thomas Trappenberg – Barss Corner

Autonomous farming robot that navigates its environment and performs agricultural tasks.

SURU – Michael Uhlarik – Hubbards

Zero-emission, electric-powered bicycles that let users travel 50 km without fuel or pedalling.

Graphite Innovation and Technologies – Mo AlGermozi, Marciel Gaier – Halifax

Green Power Labs – Alexandre Pavlovski – Halifax

Building energy management systems that use local predictions for weather, solar irradiance and energy demands.


Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

BDC Adds to Women in Tech Fund

BDC Capital announced Wednesday it will add $20 million to its Women in Technology investment program, which aims to support women heading tech companies. This investment builds on a previous commitment to invest $50 million, making the total $70 million to be invested over five years.

The federal Crown corporation will invest in early-stage Canadian tech companies led by women and will support these companies with a full spectrum of financing, advisory services and capital solutions.

“We believe it is our combination of smart capital, entrepreneurial thinking, strong relationships, and a long-term approach that will help women tech entrepreneurs build and scale the next generation of companies,” said Michelle Scarborough, BDC’s Managing Director of Strategic Investments and Women in Tech.

This investment complements a 2015 commitment to increase term lending to businesses that are majority-owned by women to at least $700 million over three years. BDC surpassed the mark in 30 months, having lent $809 million.

Under this investment program, $60 million will be dedicated to investments to support women-led tech firms. The program will invest equity at the seed stage, Series A stage and sometimes at the Series B stage, alongside other investors. The eligible companies at the seed stage must have some traction and a scalable product, and be seeking a round of at least $1 million.

The remaining $10 million is allotted to indirect investments through regional initiatives, including a $5 million commitment to the first close of StandUp Ventures Fund I earlier this year.

Since November 2016, BDC Capital has completed nine investments in women-led tech firms totalling close to $3 million.

“With the additional investment announced today, BDC's funding envelope to support Women in Tech becomes the largest of its kind in North America," said Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism in a statement.

Rabbit Hole Wins Gameacon Award

Charlottetown-based Rabbit Hole Studios has won Fan Favourite Digital Game at this year’s Gameacon Crystal Awards in New Jersey for its game The Lost Gardens.

The Gameacon Crystal Awards honour the best indie titles of the year, presenting awards for multiple categories such as best gameplay, best art, best music and sound, game of the year and fan favorite.

The Fan Favorite Award was given to the indie game that was voted by the fans on Twitter. It was the only award not chosen by a judge, but by the people.

Rabbit Hole was founded in 2014 and has since grown into a team that consists of seven people. In late October of this year, they released their third game, The Lost Garden.

The Lost Gardens is an action-adventure game where you are playing as a robot called “The Caretaker” saving the world from fear by the use of puzzles and problem solving.

Rabbit Hole Studios has a strong commitment towards consumer-developer relationships and do three live-streams a week to help the gaming community better understand game development. They do two streams on development and one on animation each week. 

Volta Cohort Selects First Winners

The first batch of winners of the Volta Cohort.

The first batch of winners of the Volta Cohort.

The Volta Cohort, a new micro fund for Atlantic Canadian early-stage companies, got its start last night by awarding a total of $125,000 to five Halifax companies.

Volta Labs, in partnership with Innovacorp and BDC Capital, launched the fund to provide capital for early-stage companies. The startup house’s CEO Jesse Rodgers said there’s a gap in the ecosystem in funding early-stage companies in the region, and he hopes Volta Cohort can fill it.

Some 15 companies – including Phased In from Cape Breton and Art Sharks from St. John’s – presented their companies before a panel of six judges and a full house of spectators. The $25,000 funding and mentorship packages were given to teams that demonstrated strength of team, impact, disruption and ambition. Traction was not a great consideration.

“This definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Rodgers after the event. “We had an amazing applicant pool and all the presenting companies did well in their presentations.”

Three of the presenting teams were led by female founders, and two of them were winners.

Rodgers declined to reveal the details of the funding vehicle, except to say that they are “very founder-friendly.” Applications for the next Volta Cohort, which will take place in six months, are now open here

The companies chosen to join the first Volta Cohort were: – a SaaS tool that is solving the timesheet problem for digital agencies and software consultancies.

Flock – a SAAS knowledge-collection platform helps large organizations to familiarize freelancers and new employees with their operations.

MyMem – An app that helps people with dementia remember key events in their lives and information about themselves and their families. Using voice-based software, it is technology that a person with cognitive problems can use with ease.

Rovault – A device for shrimp-processing facilities that improves the industry’s average yield by detecting good products from the waste pile. The company has designed a camera system that can identify species in terms of size, growth and health.

Trip Ninja – Unique search technology to leverage travelers’ flexibility to find them savings on airfare for multi-city trips. After attending a recent trade show, the company is now in talks with 11 online travel agencies to use its technology.

 “The quality of the pitches made this decision very competitive,” said Rodgers. “We are looking forward to providing these high potential founders with the opportunity to demonstrate some meaningful success.”


Solace Lone Mention in Deloitte 50

Michael Gotlieb: 'Honoured' to be named to Deloitte's Companies-to-Watch list.

Michael Gotlieb: 'Honoured' to be named to Deloitte's Companies-to-Watch list.

Let’s start with the good news from the Deloitte Technology Fast 50: Solace Power of Mount Pearl, NL, was named to the competition’s Companies-to-Watch group for 2017.

And now the bad news: for the second year in a row, not a single Atlantic Canadian company made the Fast 50, a club of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country. And that shutout may highlight a big problem for Atlantic Canadian startups.

Deloitte Canada announced the Fast 50 last week. The global consultancy requires that companies produce four years of revenue to enter the competition, and it ranks the top 50 based on the total sales growth over four years. The winner this year was London, Ont.-based, a social entertainment media publisher that achieved a four-year growth rate of 92,881 percent.

Along with the Fast 50, Deloitte also publishes its Companies-to-Watch list, which comprises highly regarded companies with “effective management experience and superior technology.” As a rule, these companies are at an earlier stage than the Fast 50 companies.

The only Atlantic Canadian company on the ones-to-watch list was Solace Power. Solace specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. It has devised a system called RC² technology, which it licenses to large customers, such as Boeing and data solutions company Byrne. RC² can safely transfer energy in non-traditional environments without heating metal, and it does so over what the company calls usable distances.

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"We are honored to have Solace's rapid growth, innovative RC² technology and team recognized with this distinction," said Solace CEO Michael Gotlieb in a statement.

But Solace was the only East Coast company recognized by Deloitte Canada last week. It’s difficult to say how many Atlantic Canadian companies applied. Saint John-based Partner Mark-Anthony Ashfield would only say the competition received “a positive response from Atlantic Canada-based companies.”

The last two Atlantic Canadian companies to be named to the Fast 50 underwent transformative deals not long afterward. Two years ago, Halifax-based STI Technologies secured the 41st place with revenue growth of 204 percent over four years. Earlier this year, STI was bought by American multinational QuintilesIMS, reportedly for more than $200 million.  In 2012, St. John’s-based Verafin placed 25th on the Fast 50 list, and 18 months later it attracted a $60 million buy-in from American private equity firm Spectrum Equity.

I’m not arguing that these deals happened just because Verafin and STI were named to the Fast 50. But it does highlight that companies in the Fast 50 have the metrics that investors and acquirers are looking for.

A close examination of these two recent Atlantic Canadian winners reveals a problem: It’s that the Fast 50 is getting faster all the time.

To quote Delotte itself: “This year, the Fast 50 winners achieved an average four-year growth rate of 4,625 percent, which represents a 74 percent increase from 2016.”

Or look it this way: to get on the Fast 50 this year, you’d need to have revenues growing 389.2 percent over four years – the level reported by No. 50 TextNow of Waterloo, Ont. To make the list just three years ago, a company needed four-year revenue growth of 182 percent. In other words, the bar hasn’t just been raised – it more than doubled in height in just three years.

The growth rate that landed STI at 41st place two years ago wouldn’t be good enough to make the cut today.

It would be easy to dismiss this by simply saying it just means that it’s harder to get recognition in national competitions. But it points to a far bigger problem. A broad swath of the Atlantic Canadian startup community is looking or will soon be looking for an A Round of funding. Some are even looking toward B rounds. These companies are competing in a forum packed with high-performance Canadian companies that are selling like all get-out. Our companies are going to have to do better and better to attract investors’ attention. 

Jeff Thompson Leaves Serenova

Jeff Thompson: 'Take time to really kinda chill.'

Jeff Thompson: 'Take time to really kinda chill.'

Winter might be moving in, but Jeff Thompson is lacing up his sneakers and hitting the road. One of the region’s most successful serial entrepreneurs, Thompson has recently moved on from his executive role at Contact-Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) provider Serenova. Now, he’s intending to get back to another passion—running.

Serenova was formed after Thompson sold his second company, UserEvents, to California-based LiveOps in 2014. The UserEvents product analyzed a corporation’s data to detect when a customer was having problems with a communications channel and then notified the company’s call centre.

Shortly after the sale, UserEvents’ LiveOps Cloud platform was separated from the LiveOps business process outsourcing business. LiveOps Cloud was bought by private equity firm Marlin Equity Partners and became known as Serenova.

At Serenova, Thompson’s roles included CTO, managing strategy for M&A, and overseeing Fredericton-based office comprising product, engineering, professional services and tier two customer support.

It was a new level of challenge.

“The level of expectation is very different with private equity compared to venture capital,” he said. “When you’re part of a private equity portfolio, there’s the expectation that the company will grow organically through gaining clients and sales and inorganically, through acquisitions.

“The question is--what big step up will we make, especially through acquisitions, to become a disruptor in the industry?”

As UserEvents showed, exits have been a boon for Atlantic Canada

Thompson had already gained experience of this kind of inorganic growth after he sold his first startup Conseros Software, which prioritizes and distributes work to a company’s best-skilled and available employees. Conseros was bought by Genesys Telecommunications in 2009, and Thompson worked with Genesys for the next three years, taking the product into the Asia Pacific region and garnering big clients like Telstra and PayPal.

He said Serenova became like his third startup.

“It was like being thrust into a marathon you have to win,” said the marathon-runner. “You have to get it right.”

Serenova has indeed grown, both organically and inorganically. Three years ago, Serenova had about 25 staff in Fredericton. The company has just hired its 47th employee.

The company recently made its first growth-boosting acquisition—of Dallas-based TelStrat, which offers a workforce optimization suite.

Thompson said the acquisition, and the fact a new CEO Tom Schollmeyer recently took over from Thompson’s longtime colleague Vasili Triant, made it feel like the right time to move on.

People keep asking him what he’ll do next. At 47, he does feel too young to be even semi-retired but he is determined to “take the time to really kinda chill.”

“I look forward to winter running. I’ll have the flexibility to run in the afternoon when the sun is high,” he said.

“It’s a welcome change, an opportunity to take a breath. People assume I’ll do another startup, but no, that’s it for me. I’m happy with three under my belt.” 

He plans to step up his community involvement. He will remain a board member at regional startup support group, Propel ICT as well as at Ignite Fredericton and Knowledge Park.

He said that when he mentors young entrepreneurs, and those who think they want to be entrepreneurs, he does not mince his words.

“I leave them with the message that it’s incredibly rewarding and challenging and it will test your confidence in yourself and test your relationships at home,” he said.

“It places stress on you and the people you share your life with. It’s easy to forget the drawbacks, even when you have prior experience of founding a company.

“I’m happy to be a mentor, adviser, and board member, to cheer from the side lines, to help grow the industry and the ecosystem. I’m happy to be an angel investor to the one or two startups you run across every year that look really good.”

Brave New World Dives Into Robotics

Mike Rizkalla

Mike Rizkalla

The leap from web design to robotics is a big one, but Mike Rizkalla and his company are making the transition and preparing to bring their first robotics product to the market.  

Rizkalla heads Brave New World, formerly known as Raised Media, a Halifax- and New York-based web design company that is adding robotics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to its business channels. It is now raising money to launch its first real product: a board game that features a robot that learns about the players as the game progresses.

For years, this company has showcased interesting projects, such as the game for the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch show, and the digital edition of the Canadian Encyclopedia. Now, Rizkalla wants the company to be a hybrid of service and product companies, targeting tech trends that will become mainstream in five to 10 years,  

“I wanted to basically take the company and make it a future tech company,” said Rizkalla in an interview, saying it therefore set up a robotics unit. “Our focus for the robotics division is that it involves personality robots, like the robots we were promised in movies, something like C3PO. . . . It came down to figuring out how we could go where no one has gone yet.”

Brave New World has assembled a staff of about 18 people, almost all based in Halifax, including specialists in advanced technologies attracted from such countries as Poland, India and China. The team still takes on contract work for clients, but the thing that gets Rizkalla’s blood racing is the robotics group.

Brave New World has developed a mixed-technology game called Chancellor of the Universe. At first glance, it’s just another board game, but there’s one difference – it features a robot (called the Chancellor) that uses machine learning to understand the people playing the game. The Chancellor rules the universe and players have to try to overthrow him. Players can not only interact directly with the Chancellor but can use an augmented reality feature on their phones to enhance the experience. “Nothing like this exists,” said Rizkalla said in a recorded session at the Collision 2017 trade show in New Orleans last month.

Brave New World’s grand vision is that this robot will just be the first step in a line of mixed-reality, robotics-based games. The robot will just be a platform, and the company will release new games so players can remove the Chancellor’s outer shell, replace it with another exterior. The player a whole new game with a different-looking robot.

Rizkalla is now raising money to finance the full launch of Chancellor of the Universe, and then to build out the products arm of the company. The goal is to build a team of experts who can be on the cutting edge of technology, especially in the entertainment field. He wants Brave New World to produce the next generation of things that people use for amusement as digital technology moves beyond computers and mobile devices.

“There are a lot of digital experience companies coming up, and a new segmentation of that space,” he said. “It’s really exciting. When we tried to come up with our approach, we decided that the screen will soon no longer be the screen in the coming years. What will be the screen in the future will probably no longer be a computer, it might not even be a mobile device. It’s the way things are headed, but we’re not there yet.” 

Highlights of our Data Report

If there’s one piece of data that stands out from our study of the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2016, it’s the number of companies that are gaining meaningful traction.

Last week, at the Halifax luncheon we co-hosted with Charcoal Marketing, we presented our 2016 research on the East Coast startup community to a full house. The highlight of the presentation was our research into exits in Atlantic Canada from 2011 to 2017, but we also delved into the metrics we collected just on last year.

Each year, Entrevestor tracks data on the startup community, basing the results on a survey of companies and on the hundreds of interviews we conduct each year. In 2016, we carried out our survey in conjunction with the Nova Scotia team going through the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program at MIT, and received 190 responses from company CEOs.  

One thing we found was that 46 percent of our respondents are reporting annual revenue of $100,000 or more – up from 21 percent two years earlier. This fact is important because it shows that startups in the region are validating their products with actual sales to actual customers. By landing $100K in annual sales, they are for the most part selling to different customers and have found their product-market fit. It’s a sign that the startup community is producing bona fide companies not just a series of experiments.

Another positive sign: 16 percent of the companies have more than $1 million in annual revenue.

Other nuggets of information we presented last week include our finding that the number of startups in Atlantic Canada continues to grow. We define startups as locally owned companies that are commercializing technology and developing a product for the global market, and we tracked 414 of these companies in 2016. That’s a gain of 12.5 percent from a year earlier.

Halifax is the home-base for 35 percent of the startups in the region, which makes sense as startups tend to occur in large population areas. The striking thing to notice about this graphic is that only 11 percent of the startups in the region are based outside urban areas.

We counted 70 companies that launched in 2016, down from 91 in 2015. We found that 2015 was an unusually strong year for company formation, though we don’t have a clear explanation for the surge. Nevertheless, the production of 70 new startups last year was the second strongest company formation we've seen in the last six years.

The two cities adding startups the most quickly in the last two years were Moncton and Fredericton, mainly because of the work being carried out by Venn Innovation and University of New Brunswick respectively.  We mentioned above that startups tend not to take hold in rural areas, but over the past two years the rural centres have been adding startups at a faster rate than all centres other than the two New Brunswick cities we just named.

One final note, IT rules. Seventy percent of the companies we track are involved primarily in digital technologies.

Next week, we will wrap up our series of articles on our data research by looking at equity funding in 2016.


Please help us continue to provide startup community data:

SMU To Host Student VC Competition

Ellen Farrell: 'It's a pretty spectacular opportunity.'

Ellen Farrell: 'It's a pretty spectacular opportunity.'

Venture Grade, a student-run venture capital fund at St. Mary’s University, has announced its successful bid to host the international Venture Capital Investment Competition.

VCIC is a tri-continental organizationthat hosts competitions at universities around the globe. It has been going on for a decade and no Canadian university has stepped up to the plate to host the event – until now.

“It’s a pretty spectacular opportunity,” said Ellen Farrell, professor of venture capital and entrepreneurship at SMU. “The nation will now realize that the Atlantic region has a real specialization in the area of venture capital.”

Venture Grade will host the competition March 2 and has already received applications from Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Because the university is the host, the team at SMU cannot participate in the Canadian VCIC.  However, it has been invited to an American competition in Boston in February, where it will be up against prestigious universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and Dartmouth.

At the VCIC, student teams are given an imaginary $100 million to invest, and 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.

In addition to giving VCIC its first Canadian home, Venture Grade has been meeting all of its targets for 2017.

Venture Grade has raised almost $200,000 since its inception in 2016 and is set to meet its $250,000 target in 2018.

Farrell said Venture Grade is the only program of its kind in North America because the students are responsible for making connections and raising funds themselves. Other programs often start its students off with the funding.  

“They went out and talked to high-net-worth individuals, significant business people, and got them to contribute the funds,” said Farrell.

Venture Grade has raised funding from: Innovacorp, East Valley Ventures, TD Bank and Killam Properties and has also cultivated strategic partnerships and mentoring relationships with Sobey School of Business, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and First Angel Network, to name a few.

“The students get the added value of what it’s like actually trying to raise the funds,” said Farrell. “We’re pretty proud of that business model.”

UNB Summer Group Seeks Applicants

Wear Your Label Co-Founders Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed.

Wear Your Label Co-Founders Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed.

The University of New Brunswick’s summer accelerator program—whose alumni include mental-health awareness clothing line Wear Your Label and energy storage solution Stash Energy – has opened applications for its fifth season.  

The Summer Institute is a three-month-long acceleration program that helps entrepreneurs launch their startup. The J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship began the program in 2014, and organizers are hoping the 2018 cohort will be the most ambitious yet.

“We’re looking for entrepreneurs that have a global mindset,” said program manager Melissa Erin O’Rourke in a statement. “We want folks that have an idea for a great product or service and are motivated to grow their business beyond our borders.”

Originally focused on helping businesses at UNB, the program has broadened its scope and accepts entrepreneurs of all interests, educations, and locations.

“We recognize that it’s often entrepreneurs outside the university community that are ready for what an accelerator has to offer and we want to open our doors to everyone,” said O’Rourke.

Sonya Burrill, who took her company Tilia Essential Oils through the Summer Institute this year, said the program was invaluable to her growth as an entrepreneur.

“In a few short weeks, the program took me from having an idea in the lab to managing my own company,” she said. “It was exhilarating, stressful, and worth it for the amount of progress that was made.”

 The Summer Institute will be held at UNB on April 28 to July 20. Applications, which are available here, are open to all aspiring entrepreneurs and close Feb. 5.

Pitchers Named for Volta Cohort

Volta Labs on Tuesday will host a pitching competition to select five startups that will receive a total of $125,000 in early stage investment in the Volta Cohort.

The Halifax startup house will hold the competition at the Discovery Centre beginning with networking at 5:30 pm. Volta already has a shortlist of 15 companies that will be pitching. You can get tickets for the event here.  

Last month, Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers said the organization has partnered with Innovacorp and BDC Capital to establish Volta Cohort. The new program will provide investments of $25,000 to up to five companies in each cohort through a micro-fund. The organizers hope there will be two cohorts a year.

“Volta Cohort helps early-stage, high-calibre founders attract and secure venture capital sooner,” said a statement from Volta. “Along with investment, Cohort companies are given space at Volta Labs and access to a board of mentors comprised of CEOs and founders of Volta’s Resident and Alumni companies.”

Digital marketing strategist Ross Simmonds will be the master of ceremonies and deliver a keynote address. 

Here are the companies that were short-listed as of Friday morning to pitch at the event:

Espial Vision helps the visually impaired see the world through specialized glasses and real-time vision decoding.

Trip Ninja uses unique search technology to leverage travelers’ flexibility to find them savings on airfare for multi-city trips.

Deprolabs Technology designs, develops and produces smart electronic devices in the domain of internet of things (IoT).

IIArena is a platform for the e-gaming industry that provides an arena for gamers to use their skills to compete for money.

B-Line Analytics is an analytics platform that helps real estate developers, municipalities and organizations develop and manage transportation and sustainability goals. They do this by  using mobile devices to collect mobility patterns.

SassyTuna Studio is a Newfoundland and Labrador-based startup and creative digital lab that has developed Art Sharks, a proprietary software platform and video game that will allow children to create their own custom mobile and web-platform video games and share them with their friends online.

IObIO Inc. builds custom automation platforms for industry and is currently working on a prototype platform for clinical data capture and analysis. Their focus is a disruptive tool in hearing diagnostics that will revolutionize the auditory industry.

GroupThinq is a B2B SaaS application that uses AI to provide real-time information about a project's status to every member of the team, across organizational silos, to improve group intelligence.

Rovault - creates smart solutions for the ocean sector to increase efficiency and accuracy. Rovault is creating a device for shrimp processing facilities to improve the industry’s average yield by detecting good products from the waste pile, and has designed a camera system that can detect and identify species in terms of size, growth and health. is a SaaS tool that is solving the timesheet problem for digital agencies and software consultancies.

HiveTrade is an exclusive digital investment club platform that provides investors with the ability to create and manage their own investment clubs and, through democratic voting, build and actively manage their group investment portfolio.

MyMem helps your loved ones with dementia hold on to their memories and experiences by creating a digital "life story book" that preserves the moments they cherish most.

Flock is a SAAS knowledge collection platform that facilitates onboarding freelancers and new employees.

Ceesix Health Inc. uses app-based technology to help diabetics live healthier lives. This diabetes management subscription service aims to provide everything a diabetic needs to manage their health in a cost-effective and user-friendly way.

Phased In allows mobile device users to experience shared augmented reality. Users will see the same virtual objects overlaid onto the real world and detect one another in augmented reality. Initially, this technology will be delivered through a mobile gaming experience.

DeLong Inspired by Kidney Donation

Kacy DeLong: 'All kidney donors are heroes.'

Kacy DeLong: 'All kidney donors are heroes.'

As she packages orders for her latest Christmas tree ornament—a blended kidney and heart design—Kacy DeLong is simultaneously growing her business, raising funds for kidney research and celebrating her husband’s health-saving transplant.

This is the second year DeLong has been operating DeLong Designs, a New Germany, N.S.-based venture that makes Christmas ornaments cast in heirloom-quality pewter. DeLong donates $1 from every ornament sold to the Atlantic Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada to help support patients and families.

Along with her early designs such as the Whale Tail Christmas Tree, this year sees the introduction of the design that tells the story of both DeLong’s business and her husband’s transplant.

“The kidney-heart design evokes the healthy kidney of the donor on one half. On the other, it represents the void the donor fills in the life of the recipient,” DeLong said. “All kidney donors are heroes.”

DeLong’s hero is Dave Langley, her friend since childhood. Langley offered to donate a kidney as soon as he learned that Thomas DeLong’s condition had worsened to the point that it required thrice weekly trips to Halifax for dialysis.

“Dave’s not a mystical kind of guy,” DeLong said. “We told him it wouldn’t be easy and it all depended on whether he was a match. But Dave insisted he knew he'd be the donor.  And, rather incredibly, he was right.

“Without Dave’s selfless gift, I don't like to think what life would be like. Thomas might still be on dialysis, I highly doubt we'd be expecting our first child.” 

The DeLongs know they are fortunate. About 10 percent of Canadians will develop kidney disease. According to the Canadian Organ Replacement Register, around 4,500 Canadians are waiting for an organ donation and about 75 percent of them need a kidney. Nearly half of all organ transplants come from living donors as only 17 percent of possible deceased donors actually become donors.   

Common Good Solutions: Growing as Social Ventures Increase

As her husband recovered, DeLong, who holds a fine arts degree from Halifax’s NSCAD University, pondered her own future. At NSCAD, DeLong had enjoyed woodworking and making jewellery and sculpture. She wanted to return to those skills.

Her husband and his family run a farm in New Germany where they grow Christmas trees, so designing seasonal tree ornaments seemed logical. The family production of Christmas trees and wreaths meant DeLong could tap into existing supply chains.

So, DeLong came up with some designs, and had them made in Quebec. She launched her business in a small way last year, attending craft fairs that allowed her to get her ornaments before the public.

This year, she’s extended her range and has her own website. She worked on her initial business plan with the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre. Recently, she’s been working with Common Good Solutions, a Halifax organization that assists Atlantic Canadian social enterprises (businesses that address a social or environmental problem). The group’s Lisa Lowthers has helped DeLong refine her business plan.

“I’ve made business contacts with other social entrepreneurs. A business like this is all about allyship,” DeLong said  

An important ally is former NSCAD classmate and 3D designer, Aidan Smith, who has helped DeLong with her work.  

Next year, DeLong plans to produce her own line of jewellery. Eventually, she’d like her own casting facility.  She’d love to make enough money to help fund research into kidney disease.

“It would be incredible if people could grow a kidney from their own stem cells. Research is ongoing into 3D printing kidneys. A robotic kidney is being developed, it does the job of the dialysis machine but works internally.”

Right now, DeLong’s kitchen table is covered with Christmas ornaments waiting to be packaged. She relishes the personal connections with customers.

“I share a personal story of illness and love, and, unsurprisingly, people reach back,” she said. “The stories of hardship, triumph and family I hear are incredible.” 

Halifax’s Website for Amazon HQ Bid

The group organizing Halifax’s bid for Amazon’s  second North American headquarters has launched its website,, so anyone can see the rationale for the bid.

The bid pits Halifax against more than 200 other cities, including Canadian competitors like Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

The site provides a snapshot of Halifax’s key business and quality of life advantages and requirements needed to become Amazon’s HQ2. The site claims that Halifax is the best financial deal for Amazon, and the technology, cultural and commercial heart of Canada’s east coast. The site includes letters from the prime minister, the mayor, Halifax Airport and Nova Scotia Power.

The project was led by Halifax Partnership, the city’s economic development organization, but the bid is the result of numerous organizations and individuals working together.

“Our proposal, like everything we do, is the collective work of many in our city and province. Our mayor, premier, First Nations, business and community partners, and our post-secondary institutions work together regularly, quickly, and effectively to attract business and people to Halifax,” Ron Hanlon, President and CEO of Halifax Partnership said in a press release.

The submission is an extension of ongoing work to attract investment opportunities, and a number of components will be repurposed to attract top companies and talent to do business in and with the city, the release stated.

Entrevestor Study Finds Exits Bring $1.8B, 2,200 jobs to Atlantic Canada

Sandy Bird Exemplifies What Exits Can Do For the Region

Sandy Bird Exemplifies What Exits Can Do For the Region

It’s a little-known fact that IBM’s R&D team for cybersecurity is headquartered in Fredericton — all because of a transformative exit announced in 2011.

IBM that year agreed to buy Q1 Labs, a Waltham, Mass.-based IT startup that had begun in the New Brunswick capital a decade earlier. Q1’s chief technology officer Sandy Bird now heads IBM’s research into the fight against cybercrimes from his lab in Fredericton, from which he oversees 20 major R&D labs around the world.

The 2011 exit of Q1 Labs demonstrates perfectly how a local or regional economy can benefit when a local startup is acquired by a multinational. Since 2011, Fredericton has become a centre for cybersecurity tech development, as IBM has grown its team and new startups like Beauceron Security have launched. The Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity has opened at the University of New Brunswick and the provincial government has made cybersecurity a pillar of its economic development strategy.

This is just one indication of the importance of startup exits in economic development.

Entrevestor on Wednesday released its latest report on the metrics of Atlantic Canada’s startup community, and we featured special research into exits in Atlantic Canada. We found that there had been 27 startup exits since 2011 — that’s the year that Fredericton-based Radian6 was bought by, the deal that really launched the startup movement in the region. We estimate these deals in total were worth at least $1.8 billion.

Novacap Buys Majority Stake in Leading Edge

The overwhelming majority of these acquisitions resulted in operations continuing in Atlantic Canada and growing their workforce in the region. We estimate there are now 2,200 Atlantic Canadians working for exited startups (including startups that exited before the Radian6 deal).

The benefits of exits extend beyond employment and include financing of other startups: Groups like Saint John-based East Valley Ventures, P.E.I.-based Island Capital Partners and St. John’s-based Killick Capital have used exit proceeds to back other startups. New investors like Halifax’s Jevon MacDonald and Patrick Hankinson are investing in companies because of the proceeds of exits.

As for the startup ecosystem, groups like Volta Labs in Halifax, Venn Innovation in Moncton and the pan-regional IT accelerator Propel ICT all were launched or received an early boost because of exits. Exits can even help to shape economic policy, such as the example of cybersecurity in New Brunswick mentioned above.

This research is important because exits are still discussed in policy circles in hushed voices, if at all. The thinking in some circles is that exits are great for the founders and investors, but the multinational buyers end up moving the operations to larger centres, taking jobs and technology with them.

The evidence simply does not support that theory. Exits are highly effective examples of direct foreign investment because the corporate buyers are usually acquiring proven teams with a rare combination of talent and technology.

It’s hard to find that combination (especially talent) so after purchasing the company the buyer is incentivized to grow the team, in its current location, and not screw things up by moving operations.

Government programs often aid this growth but there is no policy I know of that lays out how government departments and agencies can help founders as they are exiting. That should change. Development agencies should have transparent policies that tell business owners: If you’re selling your companies, let us help you welcome the buyer and grow the company after the sale closes.

Panel Calls for Continued Growth

The Panel: Robinson, Fraser, Rodgers, MacDonald and Peter Moreira

The Panel: Robinson, Fraser, Rodgers, MacDonald and Peter Moreira

Atlantic Canada needs more startups, more immigrants, greater links with hotspots like Toronto and Boston, and more capital from huge tech corporations, the panel at Entrevestor’s luncheon said Wednesday.

The panel of experts applauded the growth and collaboration in the current startup community. And they outlined how their organizations are going to help that growth to continue in the coming years.

“We need more startups,” said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta Labs in Halifax. “It would be great to see dozens and dozens of new start-ups in Atlantic Canada instead of just a few here and there.”

Rodgers said that Volta is working to help launch more startups with its Volta Cohort funding program, and by expanding its facilities in downtown Halifax. Rodgers is also a key organizer of the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, which he said will help improve the quality of companies in the region and improve links with mentors elsewhere in the country.

Innovacorp President and CEO Malcolm Fraser, who just took over his position last month, said his organization is focused on opening its Startup Yard at the COVE oceans technology park in Dartmouth and supporting new companies through a series of competitions. And Shaun MacDonald, Managing Partner of Toronto-based Extreme Venture Partners, said his fund is really interested in next generation mobile products – not “the app economy” so much as products featuring artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. The fund has already invested in one regional company, Ubique Networks, which is based in Toronto and Sydney.

Spark Competition Produces 18 Winners

The panel was held during Entrevestor and Charcoal Marketing’s “Atlantic Canada’s Startup Industry – By the Numbers” luncheon at the World Trade and Convention Centre. McInnes Cooper sponsored the event with the support of Big Data Congress 2017.

Julie Robinson, a partner at McInnes Cooper who specializes in startups, moderated the discussion that covered hot topics in the community.

Panelists kept coming back to such themes as acknowledging the infancy of the region’s startup community, and discussing methods for it to continue to grow and secure its position within the global economy.

Fraser emphasized that innovators, investors, and governments need to see that starting small business is the best way to enhance the region’s economy.

MacDonald added that Atlantic Canada could do a better job promoting the science and innovations that come from its universities.  

“I’m really impressed by the collaboration I’m seeing,” said Robinson, one of several speakers who noted that the ecosystem builders have done a good job of working together to develop support systems.

MacDonald also made an impassioned plea for Atlantic Canada to work harder to bring in more immigrants, saying the current numbers were insufficient.

The panelists were optimistic about the new oceans supercluster, saying it would be the next big thing for the region. The supercluster has potential to help Atlantic Canada stay relevant in the global economy and help boost the Eastern provinces into new global markets, they said.

The panel followed Entrevestor’s presentation on data from the Atlantic Canadian startup industry with a special focus on our recent research in startup exits in the region. 


Disclosure: McInnes Cooper and Innovacorp are clients of Entrevestor. 

Modest Tree’s 3-Year Deal with DND

Modest Tree Media Inc., a Halifax SaaS company that offers 3D simulation and training software, has entered a three-year licensing agreement with the Canadian Department of National Defence.

The agreement lets the department use the company’s Modest3D suite, a software that rapidly creates 3D interactive scenarios, which means anyone can create three-dimensional scenarios and animations without any programing experience.

Modest Tree’s technology is ideal for defense simulation training because of its ability to build a variety of training applications, from virtual task trainers, to immersive scenario based learning. The Canadian military had already been using Modest3D under a one-year licensing agreement.   

“The military’s decision for a three-year commitment to roll out our products across navy, army, and air force training establishments is a significant endorsement that our suite of products are hitting the mark in the defence training industry,” CEO Sam Sannandeji said in a statement.

Modest3D uses a drag-and-drop framework to apply actions, animations and interactions to 3D models to create an interactive scenario. The simple framework reduces the cost and time involved in making 3D training programs by as much as 85 percent.

“Our strategic objectives for modernizing military training include leveraging the most advanced training technologies available on the market,” said Bill Railer, the senior staff officer of Military Personnel Generation, Learning Support Centres.  “The Modest3D Suite delivers the capability we need for developing highly interactive 3D training.”

A graduate of Propel ICT’s former accelerator program Launch36, Modest Tree will showcase new features of the Modest3D Suite to the military this week at new Learning Support Centre in CFB Borden, Ont.

Red Meat Games Expands to Halifax

Red Meat Games, a video game development studio, has expanded its offices into Halifax to develop its new horror-puzzle game, Bring to Light.

“The expansion into Halifax made a lot of sense in terms of financing and talent perspectives,” said Keith Maske, the CEO of Red Meat Games, a video game development company.

Maske, who has more than 15 years of experience in the gaming industry, started Red Meat Games in 2013 in St. John’s, where he worked out of the Genesis Centre. The company, which develops games for mobile devices, consoles, personal computers and virtual reality, then relocated to Kitchener, Ont., in 2015. 

The new Halifax office employs over 10 programmers and artists, who will help create Red Meat Games’ newest project, Bring to Light, a first-person horror game. The project started in September and is funded in part by the Canadian Media Fund.

Bring to Light, which draws its inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, begins in a subway station after a terrible accident that leaves the player as the sole survivor, trapped and searching for a way out. The player has to navigate through the game and solve different puzzles to escape.

“The puzzles that we’re using makes you use light or shadow in different ways, and a lot of the storytelling were doing as well uses light and shadow,” said Maske.

Another Genisis Alum HeyOrca hits US$1M in ARR 

Because of its focus on light and realistic light movement, Maske said one of the biggest challenges in developing the game is designing an environment that is both immersive and scary for the player.

“We have all these parts of the game that go underground and are magical,” said Maske. “Trying to build that world as a scary environment that will put people on edge is a challenge.”

The challenge lies in the amount of work it takes for the small team of artists to design this mystical world. Maske said Red Meat Games, which has received support from Nova Scotia Business Inc., plans to hire another artist to lessen the load and help the company reach its goal of a 2018 release.

Bring to Light will be available for the PC and some consoles. Maske said he is looking into outfitting the game for VR but the company still has technical issues to iron out.

Maske said the expansion into Halifax has gone smoothly and his team is making a lot of progress with the new game.

“We have a team that is really capable and they get along great,” he said. “We already feel a sense of community and we’ve only been in Halifax for a couple of months. It’s awesome.”

Novacap in Leading Edge Buyout

Leading Edge Geomatics, a New Brunswick-based provider of aerial survey and geomatics services, has sold a majority stake to Montreal private equity firm Novacap for an undisclosed sum.

Though the price was not revealed, there’s no doubt this is a significant deal for Atlantic Canada. Founded by Canadian military veterans in 2008, Leading Edge has established itself as a leader in the field of geomatics, which involves the collection and analysis of geographic information. It has a fleet of several aircraft and a double-digit staffing level.

"Novacap is excited to join forces with Leading Edge and continue investing in people and products, and will support the company in finding new market opportunities to bring the business to the next level," NovaCap Partner Yong Kwon said in a press release. "Over the last decade, Leading Edge has delivered best-in-class aerial lidar services and industry leading solutions to the forestry, utility and other sectors."

Novacap is one of Canada's leading private equity firms, having raised $2.26 billion in capital since its inception. In July, Novacap closed its $840 million TMT IV Fund, which financed the Leading Edge deal. The private equity fund said Leading Edge will continue to be led by its co-founders Bruce Hogan, Bill Kidman and Will Lowry, who will retain a significant interest in Leading Edge.

“Novacap's investment will further accelerate growth through expansion into new markets, drive strategic acquisitions and continue investments in research and development of the company's industry leading decision-support solutions,” said the release.

In the 2016 fiscal year, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation provided Leading Edge with an innovation voucher worth $56,000, helping it to conduct research at a New Brunswick institution. NBIF President and Chief Executive Calvin Milbury said in an email Tuesday that Leading Edge is an “impressive growth company by any standard.”

Emergence Reaches Beyond PEI

Based in Lincoln, NB, Leading Edge provides end-to-end aerial surveying services that use lidar – a system based on the principles of radar with the use of laser beams. The company offers unique data processing capabilities and industry-leading decision support solutions.

The company’s Enhanced Forestry Inventory management solution combines lidar terrain and surface products to analyze forest metrics and terrain data. This combination can bring forestry companies an improved management strategy and efficiency in operations.

Leading Edge’s Powerline Mapping solution supports utility companies in better managing hazardous vegetation for thousands of kilometers of powerlines throughout North America.

"We see tremendous growth opportunities in the market for Leading Edge and know we have picked a strong partner with deep operational expertise to help us deliver on this potential," said Hogan, the company’s CEO. "We couldn't be more excited about the future for the business and what this means for New Brunswick and our key stakeholders."

Leading Edge was advised by the Charlottetown-based boutique advisory firm Confederation M&A.

“This deal was the result of a competitive bidding process that had substantial levels of interest,” said Confederation Senior Advisor Bob Brown. “After going through the due diligence process it became very clear that Novacap would be a good fit and ultimately, the preferred strategic partner. Their disciplined and proactive investment approach make for a great partnership and will help Leading Edge launch into its next phase of growth.”

Chamber Dinner Showcases Kinduct

Travis McDonough: 'A success story we want all Nova Scotia to hear.'

Travis McDonough: 'A success story we want all Nova Scotia to hear.'

Travis McDonough, the CEO of Kinduct Technologies, will be the keynote speaker at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s annual fall dinner on Thursday.

McDonough founded Kinduct, an athlete management system that helps clients find information on the human body and specific athletes. Kinduct supplies its software, which draws data from over 500 sources, to more than 100 professional and elite sports organizations like the NFL, and NHL. The product allows coaches and athletes to make informed training decisions to enhance their performance.

Last October, Kinduct announced a US$9 million (C$12 million) round of funding from Intel Capital. The health- technology company used the funds to enhance their software’s capabilities as the demand for specialized data management and analytics continues to grow in the spots industry.

Kinduct, which has offices in Halifax and Silicon Valley, employs over 100 people.

Patrick Sullivan, President and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release McDonough is “a success story we want all of Nova Scotia to hear. He spent time away from the province and returned to show that we can build and grow successful companies right here in Halifax.”

McDonough’s accolades include: the 2015 Ingenious Award, 2015 CBC Innovative Company of the Year, and the Best Places to Work Award in 2015 and 2016. He will take the stage at 8 p.m. on Thursday at the World Trade and Convention Centre following the dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Appili Receives US$1.2M Grant

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Appili Theraputics, an anti-infective drug development company, received a US$1.2 million (C$1.5 million) grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program.

The Halifax company said in a press release it will use the funds to develop a compound for its ATI-1503 antibiotic program. ATI-1503 will be able to treat drug-resistant bacteria called Gram-negative bacteria, which have two protective cellular walls making it resistant to existing antibiotics.  

ATI-1503 is a synthetic version of a natural antibiotic and has the ability to treat deadly diseases like Klebsiella pneumonia, caused by drug resistant bacteria.

ATI-1503 has a broad spectrum, which allows the compound to penetrate both cellular walls and break down the bacteria. Appili will focus on increasing the drugs potency to better break down the double cell wall layer.

Treating drug-resistant bacteria is a high priority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization since they cause at least 2 million infections and over 23,000 deaths in the US each year, alone.

The compound is also ideal for the Department of Defense because of its potential to aid doctors on the war front and in veteran hospitals.

“Drug-resistant bacteria threaten a doctor’s ability to care for battlefield wounds among military service men and women,” said Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Appili Therapeutics. “We are honoured to have been selected for this PRMRP award which helps us advance our most promising antibiotic candidate through the critical early stages of development.”

In the past few weeks, Appili was also given the go-ahead in Canada and the U.S. to start clinical trials of another compound, ATI-1501. This compound is designed to mask the bitter taste in Metronidazole, a drug used to treat infections among children.

Julie Robinson Leads Luncheon Panel

Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson

We’re delighted to have received such a great response for our luncheon in Halifax today, and to have Julie Robinson, a McInnes Cooper Partner specializing in startups, joining us as moderator.

At noon today at the World Trade and Convention Centre, Entrevestor and Charcoal Marketing will host “Atlantic Canada’s Startup Industry – By The Numbers”. This luncheon, sponsored by McInnes Cooper with the support of Big Data Congress 2017, will showcase Entrevestor’s latest data on the region’s startup community.

There are still tickets left for the lunch, which you can purchase here.

We’ll outline the metrics for the region in such areas as company formation, funding, revenue and what sectors are most active. And we’ll also present our research into exits in Atlantic Canada, which we believe is the first study of its kind in Canada.

Following this presentation, Robinson will moderate a panel discussion on the data and hot topics in the startup community. Robinson is the perfect moderator for such an event, as she has been practising corporate finance and securities law for several years, and has been immersed in the startup community.

The panel will feature: Shaun MacDonald, Managing Partner of Toronto-based Extreme Venture Partners; Innovacorp President and CEO Malcolm Fraser; and Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers.

This promises to be an outstanding discussion and we hope you’ll be able to join us. 

Graphene Company Heads to Forums

Maier and AlGermozi: Accolades have come quickly.

Maier and AlGermozi: Accolades have come quickly.

The two co-founders of Graphite Innovation & Technologies Inc. are set to fly off to international events this week — two different events on two different continents. It’s another step forward for two guys who a year ago were Dalhousie University students with no idea they were about to found a business.

Mo AlGermozi is scheduled to fly to Qingdao, China, for the finals of the 2017 Global Marine Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. Graphite Innovation won the regional competition in Halifax last month, which gave the company the right to fly to China and compete for the US$70,000 first prize.

“It means access to the Chinese market,” said AlGermozi during an interview on Friday. “China has one-third of the graphite in the world and graphite is our raw material.”

Meanwhile, co-founder Marciel Gaier is on a flight to San Diego to attend BlueTech Week, a conference for marine innovation. Graphite Innovation was invited to attend by the Canadian Trade Commission, which heard about the company from Iain Archibald, the CEO of Halifax-based Swell Advantage, which is working in San Diego.

The accolades have come quickly to the founders who last winter discovered a revolutionary way to produce graphene and spun it into a company in Dal’s entrepreneurship program. Graphene is an unusual pattern of carbon atoms aligned in hexagonal hives to produce a light, durable material. It is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. It was only identified and isolated in the past decade or so, so the commercial applications of graphene are in their infancy.

Since discovering an economical way to produce the substance, AlGermozi and Gaier have found their first application for graphene, which explains why they are now part of the oceans cluster.

Calof Brings Competitive Intelligence to Region

The duo has devised a product called GrapheneCoat, a graphene-based mixture that coats the underside of marine vessels to improve performance. The coating material simplifies the process of coating hulls, reduces the amount of copper in the ocean and prevents corrosion. What’s more, it’s effective in an “antifouling” material, which means it impedes the growth of barnacles, algae and marine organisms on ships’ hulls.

That’s important because the buildup of these organisms increases friction as a ship moves through the water. Huge ships use so much fuel that a reduction in friction can make ships more fuel efficient, saving the shipowners money and reducing CO2 emissions.

“The product is almost ready,” said AlGermozi, adding that the company is collaborating with the Dalhousie Centre of Water Sources Studies, the National Research Council and others on developing the product. Graphite Innovationis also working with The Boat Shop in St. Margaret’s Bay, which is helping them test GrapheneCoat on a boat in live conditions.

AlGermozi and Gaier expect to be ready to go to market next year, and are looking at licensing models to bring revenue into the company quickly and without a big manufacturing investment. Under this plan, they believe they will need about $600,000 to $700,000 in equity capital to reach the market. Then they want to begin to work on other graphene-based products.

Meanwhile, they intend to spend this week learning about potential markets in China and Southern California.

“We’re going to pitch for investment,” said Gaier when asked what he hopes to get out of the trip to San Diego. “We are most interested in piloting our product down there, so I’m hoping some of our meetings will be with key people so we can showcase the product and make connections.”

BDC 2017 Buzzword: ‘Predapt’

Rebecca Costa: 'We can't wait to adapt.'

Rebecca Costa: 'We can't wait to adapt.'

The delegates at Big Data Congress 2017 on Monday were advised to get used to the idea of “predapting” to changing technologies and economic conditions.

Predapting – according to BDC keynote speaker Rebecca Costa – is preparing to adapt. And the socio-biology from Silicon Valley told the Congress that we all better get ready to predapt because information is flooding over us in unprecedented volumes, speed and diversity. We have to adapt to change before the change takes place.

Now in its fifth year, the Big Data Congress brings together tech and business executives to discuss the onslaught of data analytics and how it is changing the way we live. As well as specialists like Costa, the congress in Halifax featured several startups that are using data to “predapt” and improve outcomes in such fields as food productions.

“We can’t wait to adapt,” Costa told the audience. “We have to ‘predapt’ and this is a revolutionary idea because if you can’t get our ahead of it . . .  the train will have left the station.”

Costa applies lessons learned from data to the disruption many industries face: from healthcare, finance, manufacturing, food processing, energy and social services to education, governance, transportation, technology and retail. Her book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was published in 26 countries and has remained in the top 1 percent of Amazon book sales for five straight years.

Her central message on Monday was that we’re so overwhelmed by data that we need to learn how to take it all on board. Bamboozled by the complexity of the modern world, many people ignore facts and base decisions on their beliefs, which leads to bad policy or business decisions.

Oceans Supercluster Group Courts Startups

The good news is that we now have more predictive tools than ever before and can use data to avoid catastrophes before they happen. For example, she said examining the gait of senior citizens can predict whether they are in danger of falling and injuring themselves. By monitoring their gait, it’s possible to extend their time living independently at home by two to three years.

There is no cure for addiction, she said, but questionnaires now exist that can identify whether someone is predisposed to addition. These surveys should be given to anyone receiving opioids for pain relief, because preventing addiction is easier than trying to cure it.

At various workshops at the Congress, various Atlantic Canadian startups were showing how they are using data for predictive analytics – or what you might call predapting.

In one room, Gregg Curwin, the CEO of vertical farming outfit TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, explained that his company is getting more into analytics to improve the production of food. “The lightbulb that’s going off for us is all about machine learning and data,” said Curwin, whose company is selling GoodLeaf Farm brand greens in the Maritimes.

The company is now building a state-of-the-art plant in Guelph to serve the Toronto market. It will be fully automated, and Halifax-based TruLeaf is digging into the data it will produce. Curwin said in the controlled environment of its growing facilities, the company can monitor data produced over time from the creation of the seed to shipping grown food to the supermarket. Outdoors, a farmer can get 40 points of data in the life of a plant; TruLeaf can get 10,000 data points in 10 days at its indoor farms.

Speaking after Curwin, Chris Baker, the CEO of Saint John-based IPSNP Computing, outlined how his Hydra product can use semantic-based searches of accessible databases to help agriculture in developing nations.

IPSNP has been working with the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative, or GODAN, to use data to help farmers understand what products will bring them the best return.

Hydra can tell farmers in real time what crops they can grow most effectively and profitably. What’s more, he said accessible data can even tell farmers what pesticides the crop would need and whether these chemicals could jeopardize other agricultural pursuits, such as keeping honey bees.

The Big Data Congress continues today and Wednesday.

McInnes Cooper Backs Our Luncheon

We’re delighted to announce that McInnes Cooper has come aboard as the sponsor of our luncheon on Wednesday.

We’re now down to the last day before the luncheon, and tickets are going fast. We’re hearing from community members from around the region that they’re interested in attending to learn about our data on startups in the region. You can register here.

The law firm is a long-time supporter of Entrevestor and a pillar of the startup community, and we’re delighted to have firm participating in the luncheon. McInnes Cooper has worked with startups for several years, and recently announced a new package of legal services for startups.

We’ve teamed up with Charcoal Marketing and the Big Data Congress to present the event titled “The Atlantic Canadian Startup Industry – By The Numbers”. This event at noon at the World Trade and Convention Centre is the best place to learn the metrics for the regional startup community. Entrevestor each year collects and analyzes startup data, which will be the basis of the presentation.

After we go over the data, we’ll have a panel discussion, and the audience will be welcome to join in with questions.

It promises to be a great event, with plenty of opportunity to network with people from around the region. We’re expecting a full house so please be sure to register.  

Job Posts: Dash Hudson, Swept

In our Jobs of the Week column today, we’re highlighting Dash Hudson’s search for a Sales Development Representative and Swept’s opening for a Quality Engineer.

Dash Hudson, a Halifax-based company who created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps companies better market through photos and video, is looking to hire a Sales Development Representative.

The company, which already has employees in Halifax, Miami and New York, is looking for someone who is “super organized, to the point of compulsion” to manage their outreach strategy and help build and maintain sales.

Swept, also based in Halifax, creates software designed for the janitorial industry with mobile and web based platforms to better connect with their customers.  Its mission is to help cleaning companies actually support their cleaners, not just check in with them.

Swept is looking to add a Quality Engineer to their team to implement and refine their Quality Assurance Program.

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:


Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative


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


•             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 job here


Quality Engineer


Swept is looking for a talented Software Quality Engineer lead to join our team. Your role within the team will be to implement and refine our Quality Assurance Program with the expressed objective of ensuring the best possible performance for both our Mobile and Web software.

You have a passion for learning and developing new skills, while working closely with production and client teams throughout the product life cycle. You'll plan methodically, act proactively and scrutinize relentlessly to ensure our products meet exacting standards of usability, and functionality.

You'll work on defining Acceptance Criteria and refining the business rules that are used in the application. You'll collaborate with development and design teams to plan and execute testing across a variety of world-class applications on the newest web and mobile technologies. You'll also have the unique opportunity to shape the tools, processes and culture of Quality Assurance at our company.


•             An aptitude for software testing and a passion for shipping quality products

•             Experience testing scalable cloud applications and/or enterprise-grade web applications across modern web and mobile technologies

•             Familiarity with scrum, agile and lean product development methodologies (BDD)

•             Exceptional exploratory testing skills to help define Acceptance Criteria

•             Expertise with UI automation frameworks (Selenium) on web and mobile platforms

•             Experience developing test strategies and plans that match our release calendar

•             Experience with Security and Load testing

•             Expertise with troubleshooting and debugging problems

•             Excellent written, verbal communication skills

•             A passion for ongoing education, with a desire to learn new skills and approaches to software testing

•             Attention to details; please include your favourite beverage in your cover letter

•             A keen interest in emerging design and technology trends

•             A desire to shape a cross-discipline product testing practice that is driven by growth, collaboration, and an unwavering commitment to product quality . . . 

Read more about the job here

Spark Contest Produces 18 Winners

Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency have announced 18 winners in the first province-wide Spark Innovation Challenge.

The winners will split $800,000, divided evenly between four regions in Nova Scotia. One of the hallmarks of the competition this year is that no winner has received less than $25,000. That means the competition and it organizers have strived to concentrate the capital in the companies they perceive have the best chance of getting to the market. Winners must use the prize money to build prototypes or take new products and services to market.

Innovacorp first launched the Spark competition in Cape Breton a few years ago to provide a bit of capital to a range of startups. And gradually it grew into a provincial competition, replacing the biennial I-3 Startup Technology Competition.

“Participating in the Spark Innovation Challenge will help us further develop our business,” said Tony Ingram, Co-Founder of Halifax-based Axem Neurotechnology, one of the winners. “Now we’re closer to finishing our prototype and testing our devices with local athletes.”

Axem co-founders Ingram and Chris Friesen are developing wearable devices that help professional athletes track and monitor performance. Their product is a brain-sensing headset that measures the quality of mental practice and connects to a smart phone application.

The Spark competition attracted 136 submissions. Thirty-eight finalists pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. Finalists also participated in several business workshops and received one-on-one financial advice.

The winners are listed below, and we have included links to the companies we have reported on:  

Spark Cape Breton

Campaign EA – Todd Graham – Sydney ($50,000)

Municipal election campaign management software provided through mobile and desktop applications – Todd Chant, Kevin Chant – Sydney ($50,000)

Golf tournament management platform

GoGo Groceries (now Full Plate) – Jay McNeil – Glace Bay ($25,000)

Personalized grocery shopping and delivery service

Hydrotroniks – Scott Aucoin, Stephane Sogne, Joel Lefort – Cheticamp ($25,000)

Carbon neutral alternative to fossil fuel boat engines through electric energy storage and propulsion options

Talem Health Analytics – Paul Travis, Matthew Kay – Sydney ($50,000)

Software for physiotherapists and orthopedic specialists to track, analyze and predict treatment regimens

Spark Halifax

Axem – Tony Ingram, Christopher Friesen – Halifax  ($50,000)

Wearable technology with built-in sensors to track brain activity and improve athletes’ mental training

Axem Logs Triple-Gain in One Weekend. 

HomeExcept – John Robertson – Halifax ($50,000)

Technology that provides non-intrusive monitoring of seniors for families and caregivers

HomeExcept Bags US Award

TripNinja – Andres Collart, Brett Ziegler, Rob Dumont and Julieta Collart – Halifax – ($50,000)

Navigation tool for flexible, multi-destination travelers to find the most cost-effective route

TripNinja Eyes Big Deal in August

UpFront – Conor Daly, Kyle Gardiner – Halifax ($50,000)

Ticketing and event management platform that uses blockchain technology to eliminate scalping and fraud

Spark North

BidSquid Online Marketplace – David Hachey – Scotsburn ($25,000)

Online marketplace for local food where farmers can reach new buyers

BidSquid's Hachey Traded Wall Street for Agtech

BioPolyOil – Mostafa Aghaei, Alma Zangeneh, Arian Shahnazari – Bible Hill ($50,000)

Agri-based technology for applications in the oil and gas industry

iCrowdX – Sean Sears – Antigonish ($50,000)

Natural, fruit-based drinks with health benefits

Oceland Biologicals – Balakrishnan Prithiviraj – Bible Hill ($50,000)

Plant biostimulants that improve the growth, yield and resilience of crops to increase farmers’ incomes

Spark West

Alias Earth – Jim Dorey – Morden ($50,000)

Database of virtual sets for the entertainment industry

Electric Puppets – Ryan Cameron – Chester ($50,000)

Virtual reality-based solution for the IWK Eye Care Clinic to improve diagnostic and therapeutic tools

Finleaf Technologies – Myrna Gillis – Brooklyn ($25,000)

Aquaponics system that enables the delivery of supplemental nutrients to flowering plants

Nexus Robotics – Teric Greenan, Jad Tawil, Thomas Trappenberg – Barss Corner (25,000)

Autonomous farming robot that navigates its environment and performs agricultural tasks

SURU – Michael Uhlarik – Hubbards ($50,000)

Zero-emission, electric-powered bicycles that let users travel 50 km without fuel or pedaling

Electric Bike Suru Launches in NS.


Disclosure: Innovacorp and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Entrevestor Lunch To Highlight Exits

One of the most misunderstood aspects of economic development is the subject of exits by high-growth companies. At our luncheon in Halifax on Wednesday, we’ll demonstrate the true economic power of exits.

Entrevestor and Charcoal Marketing are hosting Atlantic Canada's Startup Industry - By The Numbers, a luncheon we're staging with the cooperation of Big Data Congress 2017. We’ll present our latest data, focusing on funding, company launches, and the distribution of sectors and locations. And about half of the presentation will highlight our recent research into startup exits in Atlantic Canada.

There are still tickets available for the luncheon. Please register here and join our presentation and discussion.

We decided to research exits because we frequently hear that investments in startups – especially IT startups – are suspect because the ultimate goal is an exit, or a sale to a foreign multinational. The thinking goes that the founders make money, but the technology and jobs are quickly exported.

Our presentation will prove that that theory is wrong. We’ve tracked the Atlantic Canadian exits that have taken place since 2011 and examined how exits have altered the Atlantic Canadian business community. The financial and employment gains are profound, and the benefits extend to philanthropy, education and economic policy. It’s a powerful story.

The presentation will last about 20 minutes, and then we’ll discuss our findings with a panel of experts.

We’d love to have you join our luncheon. We’re getting a great response and it promises to be a lively discussion. You only have two days left to get your tickets. You can buy them here

Spinzo Attracting More Pro Teams

Emmanuel Elmajian: Providing a more experiential approach to ticket sales.

Emmanuel Elmajian: Providing a more experiential approach to ticket sales.

A New Brunswick startup is helping professional sports teams bring a more experiential approach to their group ticket sales– and some big names are taking notice.

Founded in 2012, Spinzo is a demand-based pricing platform where corporations like sports teams can run promotions for group purchases where the final price depends on the number of committed buyers. Prices drop as more people participate, and everyone pays the final low price.

But company CEO Emmanuel Elmajian said that company has expanded its platform to provide professional sports teams new and interactive way to facilitate these group sales. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle.

Oceans Cluster Group Courts Startups

The Oceans Supercluster Committee in Dartmouth on Wednesday: Finn, Richard, Hebb and Hanlon.

The Oceans Supercluster Committee in Dartmouth on Wednesday: Finn, Richard, Hebb and Hanlon.

The Atlantic Canadian group putting together the pitch for the oceans supercluster is reaching out to startups and small businesses, promising them a role in the ambitious scheme.

The steering committee this week has held information sessions in St. John’s and Dartmouth, with more than 150 people attending each session. The message has been two-fold: first, the oceans supercluster could be a huge opportunity for Canada and its East Coast; and second, small, innovative companies will be needed to provide solutions to industries that toil in salt water.

The idea of a maritime industries cluster has been gaining steam for several years. It received fresh impetus this year when the federal government said it would spend as much as $950 million over five years to support “superclusters” of innovation across the country. Atlantic Canada’s proposal of an oceans supercluster made the shortlist of nine finalists, and organizers hope it will be one of the three to five proposals to divide the federal jackpot. The final submission is due Nov. 24.

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.

“Digitization is coming,” said Jim Hanlon, CEO of the Halifax Marine Research Institute and a member of the committee. “The ocean economy is actually late coming to it. ... The question is, How do we bring these capabilities to the supply chain?”

Ocean Executive Prepares for Launch

The information session revealed an oceans cluster structure comprising three layers of participants. At the top is a group of major private investors, which is now made up ofClearwater 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 oceans-related businesses; and institutions that support research and the ecosystem.

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.

Hanlon and other committee members stressed that startup founders have difficulty connecting with boardrooms of large corporations; and big companies also are perplexed by the challenges of developing innovation. The supercluster organization could improve communications channels for both groups, they said, as in would include “technology brokers” to connect projects and innovators.

“This is an opportunity to bring your company, from an SME perspective, into a whole new market,” George Palikaras, the CEO of the Halifax startup Metamaterial Technologies Inc., said during the Q&A session. “This platform lets us expand – the big companies are basically opening up the channels to us.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t some skepticism at the Dartmouth session. One participant noted that the strength of the Quebec aerospace cluster was its capacity to manufacture airplanes and asked: “Where’s the plane here?”

NS Awards Funding to Nine Oceans Projects

The fact is there’s nothing akin to aircraft manufacturing here. Such a manufacturing cluster brings a range of players together in a single supply chain, but the oceans cluster isn’t a single supply chain. It comprises seven different sectors, ranging from aquaculture to offshore oil and gas to marine shipping.

Hanlon and the other committee members – Matt Hebb of Dalhousie University, Christian Richard of Emera; and Dave Finn of Petroleum Research – said repeatedly they thought initially such a fragmentation would be a weakness in their scheme. But the more they dove into it, the more they considered it a strength. All these industries – united only be the fact that they operate in the ocean – face common problems and can improve profits by collaborating to find solutions, they said.

“It’s a bit of a challenge to bolt this one together, but if can pull it together it will be even more disruptive,” said Hanlon.

Hebb said ocean industries account for 2.5 percent of the global economy, but in Canada that figure is only 0.7 percent, even though the country has the longest coastline in the world. In Norway, for example, ocean-related industries account for 7 percent of GDP. The committee argues that the entire country could gain greatly by increasing the percentage of national output derived from ocean industries.

One audience member asked what Plan B is if Atlantic Canada doesn’t win supercluster funding. The panel members said Ottawa has been working to find other funding sources for worthy entrants that didn’t make the short-list. However, the group does not want to settle for consolation prizes.

“It’s ours to lose,” said Hanlon. “We have to find ways to work together that are non-traditional, but if we can do that we can bring in back home to Atlantic Canada.” 

Pavia: A Model Ethical Coffee Shop

Pavia Owner Victoria Foulger accepting her EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Pavia Owner Victoria Foulger accepting her EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

After cementing relationships with suppliers of biodegradable plastics and ethically sourced sugar, the founders of Nova Scotia’s Pavia Gallery Espresso Bar & Café are now celebrating an EY Entrepreneur of The Year award.

Victoria Foulger, Pavia CEO and co-founder, was presented with the hospitality and tourism award for the Atlantic region last month.

“Pavia has won many awards but this turns the spotlight on Victoria’s leadership,” said her partner in business and in life, co-founder Christopher Webb.

That leadership includes making decisions that prioritize ethical concerns that are important to the founders and increasingly important to consumers — concerns such as sustainability and ethical sourcing.

Pavia is known for operating atmospheric Italian cafes and adjoining art galleries that showcase local and international talent. Pavia has four locations — Herring Cove Road, the Nova Scotia Art Gallery, and on the ground and top floors of the Halifax Central Library.

The cafes aim to be authentically Italian, serving imported Florentine espresso and a range of Italian pastries alongside fare such as paninis and soups.

What is less well known is that Foulger and Webb also strive to run an ethical business. Webb said that one of the reasons Foulger won the EY award was Pavia’s emphasis on buying locally and sustainably.

Pavia uses locally sourced and fair trade products wherever possible. They have recently begun receiving sugar from La Siembra Co-operative, a.k.a. Camino, in Ottawa.

All plastic products used in Pavia’s to-go orders will soon be biodegradable, supplied by Toronto-based Green Shift.

Bean Counter Aid Coffee, Vending Machine Deliveries

Webb said that Pavia buys 5,000 eggs each month from Coldspring Farms in the Annapolis Valley. The eggs are free range and organic. Meat comes from Meadowbrook farms, where the size of their order is responsible for 1.5 full-time jobs.

“We want to be a conduit for people in downtown Halifax to invest in our rural farms,” Webb said. “At times, it’s been difficult because of that. When we were growing, it was easy to think of cutting our egg prices — we could have saved $15,000 a year.”

He and Foulger have also created their own gardens and are working toward becoming a zero-waste food business.

Supporting local charities is another priority. The company donates around $24,000 a year to Halifax causes. Employees have swum in the ocean in January for the YWCA and run the Blue Nose Marathon for the IWK Foundation.

Webb, who is also a visual artist, and Foulger, a British-born nurse, began Pavia at their Herring Cove location in 2011, naming the café for Webb’s Italian grandmother, Maddalena Pavia.

Webb said the café and gallery seemed a natural progression for him and Foulger who, after they were introduced by friends, discovered a shared passion for Italy and began running art and cultural tours to the country.

The tours began in 2008 and the couple still take16 people a year to Italy for a celebration of “food, wine, art and wine.” Next year’s excursion will be to Umbria and Tuscany.

An Italian-themed café and an art gallery were perhaps not obvious choices for Herring Cove, but Webb said they felt they could make it work if “the difference was worth the distance.” That philosophy still applies. “If people are going to walk past all the other cafes on Spring Garden Road, Pavia has to be worth it,” he said.

Many clearly do find the distance worth it. Pavia now employs 35 people, both in the day-to-day businesses and in catering events.

Woodwards Donate $1.1M to MUN

The faculty of business administration at Memorial University will receive a $1.13 million donation from the family of the late Melvin Woodward, a Newfoundland business pioneer who founded the Woodward Group of Companies.

The money will be awarded to student entrepreneurs through an annual business competition, now called the Mel Woodward Cup.

The competition, which is a program of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, will award more than $40,000 in cash prizes and offer mentorship and support opportunities for student innovators and entrepreneurs. 

Woodward’s children, Peter, Melvin, and Tana, made the donation in memory of their father, who died in 2015. 

"My father strongly believed that you never know what you're capable of until you go out and try,” said Woodward Group President and CEO Peter Woodward in a press release. “With this donation, we want to give students interested in entrepreneurship that opportunity to try. We hope that this fund sparks potential entrepreneurs to follow in the footsteps of our father and, in doing so, do their own part to contribute to expanding the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Melvin Woodward began driving a single-fuel delivery truck in 1976, and grew his businesses into key players in the oil and gas shipping industry. The Woodward Group now includes: Woodward’s Oil, Woodward Aviation, Woodward Auto Group, Costal Shipping and Labrador Marine.  The company founder was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Hall of Fame in 2001 and won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

“This generous donation from the Woodward family shows incredible support for, and belief in, our students and their capacity as potential entrepreneurs," said Isabelle Dostaler, the dean of Memorial’s business faculty. “Through this donation and the Mel Woodward Cup, we will be able to provide a tangible investment in our students and support them on their journeys towards becoming the next generation of business leaders.”

Emergence Reaches Beyond PEI

A few years back, the National Research Council announced that two Atlantic Canadian companies would receive five years of funding from its Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP.

One was Propel ICT, the high-profile tech accelerator, and the other was the PEI BioAlliance, which launched a life sciences incubation program called Emergence.

Emergence — which received $3.8 million from CAIP and matching funds from other sources — has grown more quietly than Propel but it is still producing some impressive growth metrics, especially outside of P.E.I.

Some 15 per cent of the startups are based in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. A further 21 per cent are located in the rest of Canada, and 15 per cent are based outside Canada (and are interested in moving at least part of their operations to Canada).

In an interview last week, director Martin Yuill stressed that Emergence is neither a place where startups can occupy office space, nor a short-term program. The goal is to support companies across a broad geographic area over several years, in part because biotech companies take time to get to market.

“Emergence is a multi-year, virtual bioscience incubation program,” said Yuill, a dapper South African native who has also worked in Kelowna, B.C., and Peterborough, Ont. “Unlike a lot of the accelerator programs, we are not cohort-based. . . . We stay with them from the idea stage through to success.”

Because there are no set programs for the participants, Yuill said, what Emergence offers its companies is a customized program that suits their needs.

PEI Unveils New Biotech Facilities

For example, Emergence works with its group of mentors, first to identify the areas in which each company needs mentorship, and then to try to find a leading expert in the field to help the company.

The incubator also offers Specialist Services Projects, in which it will fund as much as 65 per cent of the cost of bringing in specialists to help a company with a specific project.

The group strives to help startups find funding, first by making sure they’re investment-ready and then by introducing them to potential investors. And it helps to provide services like market research and connections with professional service providers.

The program only got going three years ago and two-thirds of its members are early-stage companies, but already Yuill said there have been quantifiable results. In the 12 months to March 31, Emergence companies received $48.5 million in follow-on equity financing and filed 22 patents.

Now Yuill and the BioAlliance are looking at the long-term sustainability of the program. The CAIP funding expires in March 2019 and there is a question about whether the program will be renewed or whether other programs will step in to fund accelerators and incubators. In any case, Yuill said, life sciences companies take longer than a few years to get their products to market and there is a need for a long-term program.

“This program needs longer than three years,” he said. “Knowledge economy companies are location-agnostic, so there’s no reason to my mind why Atlantic Canada shouldn’t be able to punch above its weight in growing a bioscience sector.”

Envenio, TotalPave Sell to Feds

The federal government is buying more than $700,000 in engineering solutions from two Fredericton companies through its Build in Canada Innovation Program.

Build in Canada, which buys disruptive products and services from Canadian startups, said this week it has signed a $492,000 contract with Envenio Inc. and a $231,278 contract with TotalPave Inc.

The program aims to boost startups’ revenue and validate their technology, which is especially important for companies in Atlantic Canada where there are fewer big businesses to serve as B2B clients.

Envenio received funding for its air- and fluid-flow simulation software, EXN/Aero. It allows engineers to simulate air or fluid movement around objects, like testing the aerodynamics of a car. The company’s algorithms allow basic computers to simulate the flow of these substances. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can chart the interactions of liquids and gases in specific conditions and with certain solid shapes.

The Build in Canada contract will allow Defence Research and Development Canada, National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces to test Envenio’s simulation software.

“I’m pleased to have our innovation recognized by the Build in Canada Innovation Program and look forward to working with Defence Research and Development Canada on this project,” said Envenio CEO Ian McLeod in the statement.

“Envenio and DRDC have a long history of collaboration and a common goal of advancing CFD simulation technology. It is very exciting to have this opportunity to make Canada a leader in the CFD simulation space and to help DRDC take their work to the next level.”

Envenio presented its EXN/Aero software at Montreal’s International Aerospace Week at the Aerospace Innovation Hub in April and later received $1.3 million in venture capital in June.

Dragon Veterinary Profitable in Year 2

TotalPave signed a contract for its Pavement Data Collection System, which uses smartphone technology to gather and provide data on road and sidewalk conditions. This product will be tested out by Procurement Canada and Public Services.

“TotalPave is mobilizing our technology, providing Parks Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and two provincial departments with the tools they need to make data-driven pavement management decisions,” said CEO Coady Cameron.

“The smartphone-based system provides the same standard data at a fraction of the cost of traditional equipment. The Build in Canada Innovation Program was instrumental in unlocking the doors to working with the federal government, especially for a small technical team like TotalPave.”

In the TotalPave system, the user mounts smartphones into vehicles to collect data on road surfaces as these cars and trucks drive around on their customary routes. They relay this data to a central facility that automatically assesses it and reports on what roads need repair most acutely.

Since its launch in 2010, Build in Canada has awarded 260 contracts worth more than $115 million to Canadian innovation companies of all sizes. 

B4checkin Books Sales in US Hotels

Saar Fabrikant: 'All-in-one booking and payment platforms are the future.'

Saar Fabrikant: 'All-in-one booking and payment platforms are the future.'

B4checkin, the Halifax company that develops software for the hospitality industry, has 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., already use Visual One, a system offered by b4checkin’s partner Agilysys. Now, they have integrated b4checkin’s chameleon booking engine as well so hotel employees and guests can keep track of reservations and bookings with ease, b4checkin said in a statement this week. 

B4checkin offers a suite of cloud-based software solutions designed for hotels to process reservations, check-ins, and customer feedback. In 2014, b4checkin partnered with the Agilysys to offer its booking engine to the larger corporation’s Visual One property management system customers.

 “The chameleon booking engine has made the reservation process quick and easy,” Black Bear Hotel Manager Corey Van Guilder said in a statement. He added that the software’s mobile responsiveness helps guests, and its admin portal is straightforward for his team.

Black Bear Casino Resort also uses b4checkin’s software b4golf to book and reserve tee-times for its 18-hole golf course.

“All-in-one booking and payment platforms are the future,” said b4checkin President and CEO Saar Fabrikant. “Customers already demand and expect a fluid online experience, and b4checkin’s installations at these casino hotels are yet another demonstration of how our software solutions are helping to meet this need.”

B4checkin was founded in 2006 and now services properties throughout the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. The company received certification from the TripAdvisor website in 2013 and saw a 70 percent sales growth in 2015 after partnering with Agilysys.

“B4checkin will continue to service the global market for integrated solutions that can enhance the guest booking experience as well as offer guests a convenient method of booking additional amenities,” Fabrikant said. 

BDC 2017 To Feature Costa, O’Shea

Rebecca Costa: sociobiologist, author and speaker.

Rebecca Costa: sociobiologist, author and speaker.

The fifth annual Big Data Congress, to be held in Halifax Nov. 6 to 8, will feature noteworthy speakers to illuminate its focus on oceans and agriculture.

The speakers include keynote Rebecca Costa, an internationally renowned American sociobiologist, author and speaker. Costa is described as a provocative new voice in the mold of Thomas Friedman, Malcom Gladwell and Jared Diamond.

Costa applies lessons learned from nature to the disruption many industries face: from healthcare, finance, manufacturing, food processing, energy and social services to education, governance, transportation, technology and retail.

Costa’s book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was published in 26 countries and has remained in the top 1 percent of Amazon book sales for five straight years.

A second keynote, Tim o’Shea is the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based CleanFish, which works at creating market solutions to the crises in our oceans.

CleanFish promotes a network of responsible producers for eco-savvy chefs, market buyers and seafood lovers. The brand platform rewards better stewardship of ocean resources with premium brand positioning.

Since T4G President Geoff Flood launched the Congress in Saint John in 2012, it has sought to bring together the tech community and potential end-users of data analytics technology.

Its goal is to help traditional businesses, government and organizations understand how Big Data can assist them.

Congress Chair Michael Shepherd, former Dean of Computer Science at Dalhousie University, recently told Entrevestor that he is especially excited about the focus on the primary industries of oceans and agriculture at this year’s event.

“They are very important sectors here in the Maritimes,” said Shepherd, who oversaw the creation of Dalhousie’s Institute of Big Data Analytics during his tenure as Dean. He added that a central theme will be food security, which is important in both sectors.

As well as the keynotes, the event will bring together many global and regional thinkers and innovators to discuss what Big Data is and the global role it can play around oceans and agricultural industries.

The event will feature examples of data technology at work in Atlantic Canada and around the world, and discuss the shared benefits that accrue when the private and public sectors work collaboratively to solve real world challenges.

You can purchase tickets here.


Disclosure: The Big Data Congress is a client of Entrevestor.

Launching our 2017 Startup Survey

Today we are launching our 2017 Atlantic Canada Data Survey, and asking high-growth innovation companies across the region to take a few minutes to fill it out.

Collecting data is a pillar of Entrevestor’s business model, and it’s a win-win for the region. We analyze the data and produce a yearly report on the state of the East Coast startup community. We sell this report to clients. This is the first win: the community, including policy makers, receives metrics on the startup movement, which aids in the development of the ecosystem.

The second win is that it helps us continue to provide free news for the community daily. Every news organization in the world has revenue challenges, and our data report is a value-added product that offsets the cost of our news operation. By filling out the survey, you’re helping us inform and promote startups across Atlantic Canada.

Our 2017 survey comprises only 18 questions and can be filled out in a jiffy. All your answers will be 100 percent confidential as we only reveal aggregated data. You can find the survey here:

A few notes on the survey: We’re asking for metrics as of Dec. 31, 2017. We understand the calendar year hasn’t closed yet, but most startups know what year-end will look like. If you have a big deal pending – funding or a big sale – by all means wait until it closes. But we’d like the majority of companies that can predict the next two months to complete the forms now.

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.

Finally, if you want to witness our latest public data, please join us next Wednesday for a presentation of our data and panel discussion about it. Here are the details of the luncheon event in Halifax.

We want to thank the founders and CEOs who fill out our survey promptly. We’ll hold a draw to give out tickets for our luncheon to three people who have completed the survey by noon on Monday. Just complete the survey, and you’re entered. We’ll announce the results Tuesday.

Many thanks in advance to everyone who completes the survey. 

Calof Brings CI Program to Region

Jonathan Calof: 'It's about gaining insights into customers.'

Jonathan Calof: 'It's about gaining insights into customers.'

Jonathan Calof is an evangelist of competitive intelligence, and one place where he loves to preach his gospel is Atlantic Canada.

A University of Ottawa prof, Calof has recently been an adjunct professor at University of New Brunswick, working with Dhirendra Shukla, who heads the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program. Now Moncton-based Venn Innovation is organizing a series of programs across Atlantic Canada in which Calof will teach competitive intelligence to startups and other companies.

Competitive intelligence is the study of external factors that can determine success or failure for a company – in this case, a startup. A CI strategy will consider the medium- to long-term direction of technology, pending government regulation, competitors’ patent filings and the buzz around what competitors are planning. The idea is that a company should try to understand what the world will look like in three to five years – which in many cases is when a startup would be releasing its product.

Calof teaches such a strategy around the world – he departed Moncton to fly to Madrid last week – but he’s developed a certain affinity for Atlantic Canada. He’s impressed by the support all members of the ecosystem offer one another.    

“Every time I come out to this region … I see people helping each other,” he said, noting that this includes not just founders and economic development officers but also suppliers, customers, service providers and academics across provincial boundaries. “That’s how you create a strong regional advantage, not by acting like 1,000 small companies but by acting like one big region.”

Dragon Veterinary is Profitable in Year 2

Calof worked with the oceans industry in Newfoundland and Labrador a few years ago to come up with an industry-wide strategy. He said he was blown away that 90 percent of the businesses, academics and government officials in the sector participated in the program. Working together, he said, they were able to double sales within four years.

Calof teaches his charges to gaze outside the customary information points when devising strategy. They should be aware, he said, of coming regulatory changes and the political climate. They should follow the historical changes of big competitors’ websites – if the competitor posted a lot about going in a certain direction and then went silent on it, it can be a sign of a stealth project that could change the market. And founders should be asking clients about what’s expected in the marketplace.

“It’s about gaining insights into the customers,” said Calof. “If you know your customer well enough, you will be able to come up with products that are useful to them.”

Calof’s programs take one month, and he’s just wrapped up the first week of the program at the Venn Centre in Moncton. It comprises 12 companies – the largest ever in one of Calof’s workshops. They have had a few days of instruction, and over the next three weeks will work on assignments to bring to virtual sessions with Calof. Over the next two years, similar workshops will be rolled out across the region.

"Competitive intelligence is vitally important for startups and mature companies alike,” said Venn President and CEO Doug Robertson in a statement. “The techniques and skills to be learned and built upon throughout this two-year training pilot, supported by ACOA, are invaluable. The skills learned will help companies understand factors both inside and outside of their business that can influence their strategy.”


Disclosure: Venn Innovation is a client of Entrevestor.

Novacad’s 3D Printing Competition

The BigRep One

The BigRep One

Dartmouth-based 3D printing company Novacad Systems and a German partner have launched a contest for post-secondary students to reinvent the humble chair and create new designs with 3D printing.

The BigRep Innovation Award is the work of Novacad Systems, which provides 3D printing solutions for its clients, and BigRep bH of Germany, which manufactures what it describes as the world’s largest 3D printers.

In a press release, the organizers said the contest emerged from their shared passion for innovation using large-format FDM (fused deposition modelling). With a prize value of $3,000, the award is open to all students now enrolled in a Canadian program for design, engineering, architecture or a related field.

“We hope the Innovation Award inspires a new generation of designers through access to the latest large-format 3D printers.” said Gregor Ash, Vice-President of Development at Novacad Systems.

Students are invited to submit designs for original 3D printed chairs or stools that can only be made on the BigRep One 3D printer, which has a print volume of over one cubic meter. The organizers encourage experimentation with form, geometry, shape, materials and colour.

“Manufacturing is changing rapidly, and 3D printing is a driving force in that,” said Amir Fattal, Director of Creative and Marketing at BigRep, and a competition jury member. “We’re passionate about fostering talent among individuals and companies to 3D print these creative and industrial solutions.”

The Grand Prize includes production of the winning design by BigRep’s team in Berlin, a $3,000 cash prize and return airfares so the winning designer can receive their finished design and award. Following an open online vote, the winner will be decided by an expert four-person jury.

You can find details and an entry form here.

Dragon Vet Profitable in Year 2

Shawn Wilkie: 'We’ve got a really strong foundation for growth.'

Shawn Wilkie: 'We’ve got a really strong foundation for growth.'

Not many startups can describe themselves as “profitable” before their third anniversary, but Dragon Veterinary can.

Based in Antigonish, Dragon Veterinary provides voice recognition software for veterinarians. Two years ago, when it was just setting out, the company had no sales, but now the product is being used by about 500 vets around the world. The company has funded this growth with just $135,000 in equity financing and a $100,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and now it is scaling.

“The biggest news from my perspective is that we’ve got a really strong foundation for growth,” said president Shawn Wilkie in an interview Monday. “We’ve got a solid base of private investors. We’ve got some money and we are making money day by day. . . . We’re continuing to enhance our software and helping veterinarians around the world.”

Dragon Veterinary came to life when Wilkie, the founder of Antigonish-based Robotnik, which provides robotics networks, was introduced by Nuance Communications to Brian Poteet, a veterinary radiologist in Houston, Texas. Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance is the global leader in voice recognition software. The company had a voice-to-text product for doctors and wanted to work with Poteet and Robotnik on something similar for the veterinary industry.

Wilkie explained that the technical vocabulary used by veterinarians is so complex and so precise that it’s difficult to produce software that recognizes the words and places them in the proper context. Any vet using standard voice recognition software on their smartphone would have about a 30 per cent accuracy rate, he said. But by using Dragon, which is available for iOS or Android platforms, they can achieve an accuracy rate of more than 95 per cent.

Eyesover Accepted Into L-Sprack Accelerator in Ottawa

The company — which has offices in Antigonish and at Volta Labs in Halifax — is continually adding to the vocabulary recognized by the system, especially the names of new drugs. Wilkie said the complexity of this vocabulary provides a barrier to entry for any competitors into its business.

The thrust of its sales pitch is that vets save time by using voice recognition software, which means they can increase their billings. And the fact that it’s a mobile app means that animal doctors visiting farms or homes can make notes on site.

The sales strategy relies heavily on trade shows around the world. The company is attending 26 of them this year, and the total budget for them is almost $300,000. But Wilkie says it’s an effective sales strategy in this market.

“We’re going after doctors who are busy and don’t like people showing up at their office trying to sell them something,” said Wilkie. “And they’re required to attend continuing education every year. We thought this was the best chance we have to get in front of them because they all have to attend these conferences.”

Wilkie said the company’s 500 clients are spread across every continent, which provides strong validation for the product. And given that there are about 300,000 veterinarians in the English-speaking world, he believes the company has only scratched the surface of its market.

“We’re kind of just ready to grow,” he said. “I liken it to a race horse that’s been in training for the past couple of years and is now ready to get on the track.”

Open Data Competition Launched

Two New Brunswick organizations have launched the second Open Data Visualization Challenge to demonstrate the power of open data and an engaged citizenry.

The New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network and the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Business Administration are inviting participants from across the country to enter. Applicants should use their creativity and imagination to build both a visual presentation and an infographic poster featuring data from municipal and provincial governments and other organizations. The infographic posters – which will display a visual summary of the competitors’ findings – can be used to communicate a story, recommendation, or new idea.

“Having data ranging from population data, qualitative data and even road data presented on a national scale is an amazing opportunity to showcase the open data portals of our province,” said Karina LeBlanc, interim executive director at the Social Policy Research Network.

Last year, the winner of the contest demonstrated that a moose fence had caused a dramatic drop in the number of vehicle collisions on New Brunswick’s Highway 7, the organizers said in a press release.  The infographic was used to convince industry and government officials of the effectiveness of the fence, and others like it were installed.

Those interested in forming a team to participate in this year’s challenge can register by contacting Andrew Lockhart at UNB’s Faculty of Business Administration at You can also find information here.

The deadline for submissions is Nov. 13, and finalists will be announced Nov. 16. The infographic posters will be presented at the 2017 GovMaker Conference in Fredericton on Nov. 20 and 21, where the finalists will pitch.

Come Learn of #Startupeast Metrics

The startup community loves to dive into its own metrics. And you have an opportunity to learn more about the Atlantic Canadian startup grouping at our luncheon next Wednesday.

Entrevestor has partnered with the Big Data Congress and Charcoal Marketing to host Atlantic Canada’s Startup Industry - By The Numbers. This luncheon event in Halifax on Nov. 8 will unveil our latest data on the community.

Each year, Entrevestor gathers data on startups in the four Atlantic Provinces, and we will showcase the highlights of our latest data at the luncheon. This will be a chance to learn about the dynamic growth of your industry and join the discussion about what it means.

The presentation will focus on three areas – company formation, funding and exits – but will also break down such metrics as revenue, sectors and where startups are based.

After a presentation of the data, we’ll hold a panel discussion on the startup community that will include leaders in the field: Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta Labs; Malcolm Fraser, President and CEO of Innovacorp; and Shaun MacDonald, Managing Partner of Toronto-based Extreme Venture Partners.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the community and link up with other members. We’re really delighted with the response so far – especially from people in New Brunswick and P.E.I. who plan to attend.

You can buy your ticket for the luncheon here. It will be held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax starting at noon on Nov. 8.

Appili To Begin Clinical Drug Trials

Kevin Sullivan: Appili is hoping to have a product on the market next year.

Kevin Sullivan: Appili is hoping to have a product on the market next year.

The first drug candidate of Appili Therapeutics, an anti-infective drug development company, has been cleared to begin clinical trials in both Canada and the U.S.

The Halifax company said in a press release today that the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. has cleared the company’s IND application to conduct a clinical trial of its compound ATI-1501. Similarly, Health Canada has given the drug CTA clearance, and the company hopes to have the drug on the market next year.

Appili, which announced a $3.1 million funding round last week, plans to conduct the ATI-1501 clinical study in Toronto and will begin recruiting subjects in November. The company expects to enroll about 40 healthy volunteers in this bioavailability study.

“Having both Health Canada and FDA authorization affirms our confidence in our regulatory and development strategy,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in the statement. “We’re excited to take ATI-1501 into clinical trials because it brings us a step closer to offering physicians a new weapon to fight serious infections and improve patient compliance.”

Zecken Eyes Better Diagnostics for Lyme Disease

Appili last year revealed a two-track strategy. In the next few years it is working to bring to market ATI-1501, which 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.

CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually. The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to the drug, reducing the regulatory burden in launching the drug.

Meanwhile, Appili is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. CEO Kevin Sullivan has said the drug could combat viruses that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s a longer-term, riskier project than the first drug.

“We expect the completion of this clinical trial will set us up to file our new drug application in 2018 and advance our commercialization activities,” said Jamie Doran, Vice President of Drug Development. 

PEI Unveils New BioTech Facilities

Rory Francis

Rory Francis

The Prince Edward Island bioscience cluster unveiled a new fermentation and downstream processing equipment suite at the BioFoodTech facilities in Charlottetown on Friday, which should help smaller companies to scale.

The new facilities are part of an effort on the Island to improve the facilities available to young, small life sciences companies and help them to grow. Biotech companies – including young startups – need access to facilities like wet labs and specialist equipment. Large companies can build their own but young companies need communal facilities.

The new manufacturing equipment, which includes fermenters, centrifuge, a filtration unit and spray dryer, is much needed as PEI and Atlantic Canadian companies continue to expand operations, said Rory Francis, Executive Director of the PEI BioAlliance.

“We’re at the stage now where we are moving beyond R&D and have more manufacturing requirements within our region’s bioscience companies,” said Francis. Now, he added, the cluster can “provide access to the technology needed to scale-up manufacturing and help commercialize their products.”

These investments will allow regional and international companies in the intermediate phase of scaling up their production to engage the resources needed to optimize their manufacturing processes and prepare for commercial scale manufacturing, said the statement.

Last month, the governments of Canada and P.E.I. announced nearly $1 million in funding for the new equipment to address a gap in the manufacturing infrastructure in the region. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency provided a grant of $500,000 for the facilities, while the PEI government provided a $100,000 grant through Innovation PEI and a loan of $337,822.

“This type of infrastructure investment further cements our province’s growing reputation as a leader in biotechnology,” Economic Development and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald said. “By helping to grow the bioscience cluster on Prince Edward Island we are spurring innovation and creating jobs and prosperity for Islanders.”

The bio-cluster in P.E.I. now comprises 53 companies, up from 46 a year ago. The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.

Jobs: SkySquirrel Seeks VP Sales

SkySquirrel Technologies’ opening for a Vice-President of Sales is the headline posting in our Job of the Week column today.

SkySquirrel uses drones to gather data from agricultural fields, focusing on the highest-margin segment of agriculture, the wine industry. Though SkySquirrel is working with clients around the world, its emphasis in the near term will be working on its technology to combat Flavescence Dorée, a disease plaguing southern European vineyards. There is no cure for the disease, which prevents plants from producing grapes; once it occurs, the farmer has no choice but to destroy the vine before it spreads.

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

Here is an excerpt from the job posting:


SkySquirrel Technologies

Vice President, Sales

Our client, SkySquirrel Technologies is seeking a talented Vice President, Sales to join their growing team.

Reporting to the President & CEO, the Vice President, Sales will develop and implement sales strategy that ensure the prominence of the company’s global position in the vineyard data analytics field. The Vice President of Sales will be a strong leader in the organization, mentoring staff, identifying opportunities and building key partnerships. A results-driven professional, the Vice President, Sales will drive strategy, sales process and business growth. A skilled communicator, the successful candidate will establish and maintain relationships with industry influencers and key strategic partners, while interacting with existing and potential clients in the global market. A process-oriented sales leader, you will direct sales forecasting activities and set performance goals while inspiring a team to deliver results.

As the ideal candidate, you have a Bachelor’s degree coupled with strong experience providing sales strategy and execution at a senior level. A skilled relationship builder, you have a proven track record in consultative sales. A dynamic and diverse individual, you have previous success leading people while fostering an environment of integrity and trust. A goal-oriented achiever, you are motivated by team success and thrive in collaborative environments. The successful candidate will have significant sales process leadership experience and a solid understanding of ‘what good looks like.’ Clients and team members would describe you as innovative and trustworthy with a strong commitment to excellence. International travel is required, approximately 20-30 percent. . . .

Read the full job description here. 

Burke Aids Coffee Machine Deliveries

Andrew Burke describes Bean Counter Technology as a side hustle, but it’s a side hustle that has already grabbed clients across the country and was showcased at a recent national trade show.

Halifax-based Bean Counter has developed a mobile app that helps the owners of coffee and vending machines manage the way these machines are stocked. It helps monitor the replenishing of the machines, control inventory and administer accounts.

Burke and his partner Doug Leblanc are working on it part-time (or as a side hustle, to use the modern parlance) but they’ve been gaining clients at an impressive clip. Already, the app is used to monitor 700 machines and has helped with more than 50,000 visits to them.

“Yes, it’s been a side hustle but we decided to really go for it,” said Burke in an interview this week. “The people who like it really like it, and we’ve shown there is a need for it.”

The story of Bean Counter began when Burke, a hired-gun developer, was doing some work with the Halifax-based mobile development company MindSea in the old Roy Building. The company had a really great coffee machine, and Burke got to know Leblanc, owner of Social Bean Gourmet Coffee Co., when he’d come to fill the machine.

Ocean Executive Preps for Launch

Leblanc explained the problems he had overseeing all his machines — keeping track of their locations, when each was filled, removing and replenishing the change. He asked Burke if he could come up with a digital tool to help with the problem. And thus Bean Counter was born.

Large companies that own hundreds of machines have the resources to produce their own automated system, said Burke, but he and Leblanc learned that small and mid-sized companies suffer the same problems as Social Bean. In a recent presentation at Democamp Halifax, Burke said that you can often see a notebook and pencil in the bottom tray of a vending machine, and that’s how these companies still keep their records.

“You’ve got dozens and dozens of machines all over the place and most of this stuff is done on paper,” he said. “So Doug knew some people in the industry and brought them in. (Bean Counter) proved useful and it was the validation we needed.”

Bean Counter modernizes the process. Anyone tending to the machine uses the app first to locate each machine on a digital map. Once they’re on location, they can track inventory in the machine, what they’ve added, and the money added to or taken from each machine. Back at head office, they have a real-time record of each person’s visits and up-to-date accounts for the entire company.

Earlier this month, Burke and Leblanc took the product to the Canadian Vendor Trade Show in Quebec City, where it had its own booth. Burke said this week it was too soon to determine the results because he still had to follow up on the leads he’d generated at the event.

Overall, he said, people like the product and he can foresee a day when it is used by a broad swath of the industry and has a staff to oversee the company.

ICode+ To Help More Black Youths

Business is Jammin’, which aims to empower Black youth through entrepreneurship, is expanding its iCode+ program across Nova Scotia to expose more young African Nova Scotians to digital technologies.

The not-for-profit organization has teamed up with the Saint Mary’s University Enactus team and the RBC Foundation’s new Future Launch program to extend the program beyond its pilot in the Upper Hammonds Plains community. The program makes digital facilities accessible to black and minority youth aged 16 to 29 and encourages digital education.

“We live in a society that grows more dependent on science and technology every day,” said Rustum Southwell, CEO of the Black Business Initiative, which oversees Business Is Jammin’. “The goal of the iCode+ pilot program was to expose black youth in the Upper Hammonds Plains Community to technology through coding, with the purpose of building their minds, knowledge and skills.”

He added the program aims to encourage young people’s “participation in higher education in order to advance their own lives but as a community as a whole.”

So far, Business Is Jammin’, or BIJ, has helped more than 8,000 young people to build the confidence and capacity required to take control of their economic future through a range of educational, social, mentorship. The program provides financial support programs while building business acumen and leadership skills.

As a result of this success, BIJ is announcing the expansion of iCode+ facilities so they will be accessible to other Black youth and minority communities across Metro Halifax. The aim is to close the gap between Black youth and their peers in the mainstream community, and to connect Black youth with jobs and careers in the information and communication technology sector.

The RBC Foundation is working with BIJ to open the new facilities in the Halifax area to help youth build the confidence and capacity required to take control of their economic futures. This will be one of several locations to open in Nova Scotia in the upcoming years.

ICode+ aligns well with the new RBC Future Launch program, a 10-year, $500 million commitment by the bank to unlock the potential of young people in Canada by addressing three critical gaps:  experience, skills and networking.

“RBC is excited to support the Business is Jamin iCode+ program helping young black youth learn digital literacy and proficiency,” said Alisa Alyward, RBC Regional Vice-President. “Our aim through the RBC Future Launch program is to help ensure young Canadians have the skills, capabilities and connections to make the 21st century and their place in it, all it should be.”

Zecken Targets Lyme Disease

For the past few years, Kami Harris has studied about 1,000 ticks annually that are sent to the biology department at Mount Allison University. She hopes it continues. Her business model depends on it.

Some come from scientists, some from New Brunswick’s Natural Resources Department, others from members of the public who have heard about her work in ticks and Lyme disease.

Harris is the founder and CEO of Sackville, N.B.-based Zecken Laboratories, which is dedicated to enhancing the diagnosis of Lyme disease. She has been studying ticks and Lyme disease for her PhD at University of Prince Edward Island, and now she is transforming her research into a company. Her faith in the endeavour is based in part on the growing public awareness and fear of Lyme disease.

“We’ve gone in five years from people thinking, ‘This could happen in the Maritimes’ to ‘This is a big problem,’” Harris told the BioPort Atlantic conference in Halifax last week. “Half my day already goes to answering emails from people who know I’m the ‘tick girl.’”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by blood-feeding insects, particularly deer ticks. And as the climate warms, ticks are spreading north and their bites are becoming more common in the Maritimes. Concern about Lyme disease is growing.

Eyesover Enters L-Spark Accelerator in Ottawa

Harris, who did graduate and undergraduate studies at Mount A, said there are actually 21 types of Lyme disease but current diagnostic tests only identify one type. That means about 90 per cent of the instances of Lyme disease go undetected, which can lead to long-term health problems. What Zecken is doing is devising products that can identify markers in the other types of Lyme disease to improve diagnosis and therefore generate more treatment.

The company has already identified peptides that show the presence of the affliction, and continues to research the disease to identify new strains as they come along.

“We’re not only going to give you the right information; we’ll give you more information,” Harris said. “We’ll be able to tell you the type of Lyme disease you have.”

At BioPort, Zecken was a finalist in the BioInnovation Challenge, the region’s main pitching competition for life sciences competitions. Earlier this year, it was a semifinalist in Breakthru, the main startup competition in New Brunswick. Soon it will be ready to start bringing in revenue.

The company is planning a basic swab test for consumers in 2018. For $50, consumers find out if a tick in infected with Lyme disease. 

The basic tick test will bring in revenues as the company seeks regulatory clearance for more sophisticated products. They will range from oral swabs to blood tests to detect Lyme disease. Zecken also wants a business-to-business product to offer to such industries as forestry, where tick bites are a growing concern.

So far, the company’s research has been financed through Harris’ research funding, but she and her three teammates know they will need a more structured financing model.

They will probably aim for a $250,000 funding round in their first year.

MacDonald Adds Global View to Panel

One reason to attend our luncheon in Halifax on Nov. 8 is to get a chance to listen to Shaun MacDonald, one of the most experienced tech players in Atlantic Canada.

Though he makes his home in Halifax, MacDonald is a Managing Partner of Toronto-based Extreme Venture Partners, one of Canada’s leading VC funds. He’s so interesting to chat with because of the global perspective he brings to discussions about the Atlantic Canadian tech community.

He will join Innovacorp President and CEO Malcolm Fraser and Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers on a panel at our event Atlantic Canada’s Startup Industry by the Number. The luncheon will be hosted by Entrevestor and Charcoal Marketing and will feature the release of our data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community. You can buy tickets for the event here.

MacDonald recently joined Extreme Ventures after a stint heading global sales and business development for Saint John-based Mariner’s largest division, xVu. Previously, he worked in Silicon Valley heading an M&A and investment team for Cisco, during which time he was involved in more than $1 billion of transactions.

MacDonald understands the flows of capital in the tech industry and wants Atlantic Canada to participate in them more fully.

“How do we attract global companies to Atlantic Canada for investment and M&A, and to connect with our entrepreneurs and business leaders to drive innovation? That’s the big thing that comes to mind with me these days,” he said during a phone conversation this week.

“The whole technology industry is in acquisition mode. Years ago, the primary exit strategy was to go public. Now that’s still a good result, but in over 90 percent of the success stories, the result is achieved via the sale to a public company.”

He noted that the world’s largest tech companies have vast pools of capital sitting on the sidelines and they’re search for the best places to invest it. Meanwhile, ICT companies everywhere are developing technology that is redefining the way we live – in areas like mobile technologies, the Internet of things, virtual reality, and digital health solutions. These companies need capital, and sales to corporations have replaced IPOs as the main source of exits.

The goal, he said, is to position more Atlantic Canadian companies to take advantage of the corporate appetite for investment in the short term, and acquisition in the medium to long term.

“This is not unique to Nova Scotia,” said MacDonald. “There’s been a long-term trend of companies waiting longer to go public, and taking advantage of more private equity and corporate capital.”

MacDonald, Fraser and Rodgers will form a panel at our luncheon to discuss the outlook and ecosystem of the Atlantic Canadian community. The agenda will include a presentation of Entrevestor’s most recent data on the community to be followed by the panel discussion.

We hope you’ll be able to join us. 

HBI Inks Deal with GE Healthcare

Chad Munro: looking forward to leveraging the results of the collaboration.

Chad Munro: looking forward to leveraging the results of the collaboration.

Halifax Biomedical Inc. has struck a partnership with GE Healthcare under which HBI can market its sophisticated imaging products to GE customers.

HBI, which is based in Mabou, Cape Breton, issued a statement this week saying that it had agreed to collaborate with the medical equipment unit of General Electric. GE Healthcare is one of the world’s biggest medical equipment companies, reporting revenues last year of US$18.3 billion, and one of its main businesses is medical imaging equipment.

HBI produces X-ray equipment that can produce images from two different angles simultaneously. They give a surgeon or other medical practitioner a three-dimensional view of a joint or spinal column. HBI focuses on two clinical problems: early detection of implant loosening for hip and knee joint replacements; and assessing the spinal column in patients with chronic low back pain.

“GE Healthcare is committed to innovation in medical imaging,” said Michelle Edler, President & CEO of Global X-ray at GE Healthcare. “We are pleased our collaboration with Halifax Biomedical will make this advanced imaging technology available to our orthopedic imaging customers.”

Appili Raises $3.1M Funding Round

Under their joint development agreement, HBI and GE have created an upgrade for HBI equipment used by existing GE customers. This upgrade integrates seamlessly into GE x-ray imaging rooms by leveraging Halifax Biomedical’s L-arm imaging stand equipped with GE flashpad imaging detector technology.

The combined technology is expected to provide 3D Stereo Orthopedic Radiography measurements while the patient is either standing or lying down with a precision approximately 20 times better than conventional CT scanners. The combined solution is intended to enable such applications as early detection of loose or unstable total joint replacement implants.

“GE Healthcare is a global leader in medical imaging and we look forward to leveraging the results of our collaboration to assist orthopedic surgeons and their patients,” said HBI Chief Executive Chad Munro in the statement. “The upgrade approach we have developed provides an easy way for GE Healthcare customers to obtain advanced Halifax stereo x-ray imaging capability without major changes to their imaging rooms or workflow.”

The development of the Halifax upgrade solution for GE imaging systems is complete. Regulatory approvals are now under way with initial product launches in North America, Europe and Australia expected in early 2018.

Eyesover Enters L-Spark Accelerator

Eyesover Technologies, a provider of opinion tracking and targeting software, has been selected for L-Spark, a Canadian accelerator that nurtures Software as a Service companies.

The Fredericton startup issued a press release on Tuesday saying it would be joining the accelerator to receive help in scaling into a globally competitive company.

“By working with the L-Spark mentors and business development team, our participation will allow us to take advantage of their experience and help us grow our business rapidly.” said CEO Craig Leonard in the statement.

Based in Ottawa, the L-Spark accelerator is on a mission to help market-ready SaaS and cloud startups to connect with Canada’s SaaS experts, said the statement. The accelerator offers one-on-one mentorship with software veterans, intensive SaaS workshops and interaction with successful SaaS entrepreneurs to give Canadian SaaS businesses what they need to succeed.

Gemba Software Solutions, a Saint John company whose ProcedureFlow product helps big business employees navigate their company’s operations, is listed among the accelerator’s graduates.

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Following a three-week boot camp, 12 companies were selected to pitch in Ottawa to compete for a place in the accelerator. The selection committee consisted of 24 leading corporate and venture capital firms, including Lucas Matheson of Shopify, Narbe Alexandrian of OMERS Ventures and Alex Katz of ff Venture Capital.

 “We’re pleased to announce the next cohort of the L-Spark SaaS accelerator,” said L-Spark Executive Managing Director Leo Lax in the statement. “With the support of our mentors and business development team, these seven companies will be on their way to increasing revenues 10x and becoming global leaders in today’s SaaS industry.”

Eyesover’s opinion-tracking software uses artificial intelligence to analyze media and uncover new issues or discussions of importance to the user, said the statement. The technology was devised by Ali Ghorbani, the director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick.

The founders believe there are a lot of social media-monitoring systems that can highlight public sentiments about a project or policy, but only if the user identifies a specific issue to monitor. Eyesover can alert users to aspects of public opinion that they might not have been aware of.

Eyesover analyzes the data on social media to detect how the public is interpreting an issue regardless of what the user is looking for.

In an email, Leonard said sales of the product are going well. He noted that a company needs at least $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue to get into L-Spark and have sales in the U.S. The company has begun to work on its first fund-raising.

“We've been able to get to this stage with funding from the co-founders, friends and family, and government sources,” said Leonard. “We started meeting with potential investors at home and in Ottawa [and] Toronto over the past few months and I would say we are optimistic on that front.”

NS Funds Nine Oceans Projects

The Nova Scotia government has provided more than $6.5 million for nine oceans research projects from its $25 million Research Nova Scotia Trust.

Premier Stephen McNeil said that the nine projects are expected to support more than 170 jobs in the province, and training for more than 200 research graduates, interns, lab technicians, project managers and faculty.

The fund’s first tranche of funding is being directed to oceans research as part of the effort to make Atlantic Canada a global hub for marine research and enterprise. The region’s oceans sector is one of the finalists for funding under the government’s $950 million supercluster program. The government said there would be more funding in other sectors in the coming months.

“Nova Scotia has a competitive advantage in the oceans sector and we are supporting research that will have the greatest impact on the province’s economy,” said McNeil in a statement. “The Research Nova Scotia Trust will help us create jobs for Nova Scotians, particularly young Nova Scotians. A growing oceans sector will make our province stronger.”

According to the CBC, more than four-fifths of the funding announced Tuesday will go to two projects.

Sara Iverson of the Ocean Tracking Network received $2.9 million to increase the number of autonomous gliders centred in Halifax to monitor ocean conditions.

Ocean Executive Prepares for Launch

Mladen Nedimovic got $2.7 million to establish a seismic-monitoring network in Canada's three oceans.

Nedimovic and researchers from nine other universities in five provinces plan to deploy the system comprising 130 ocean-bottom broadband seismometers within two years.

 “Funding from the Research Nova Scotia Trust will support the deployment of gliders and moored systems in remote parts of the North Atlantic,” said Iverson, a professor of marine biology at Dalhousie University. “Among many other activities supported, this will allow us to listen for endangered right whales and relay, in near real time, the animals' location to both researchers and vessels in the area.”

The government said the funding helped attract an additional $9.9 million from the federal government, and $9.7 million from other Nova Scotia partners and in-kind contributions.

Established in March 2017, the Research Nova Scotia Trust will support research projects put forward by the province’s universities and the Nova Scotia Community College in the areas of ocean and science technology, aerospace and defence, clean technology, health and wellness, resource sectors and social innovation.

“Investments from the trust better position the province to compete for leading research projects and allow us to attract and retain the very best research talent out there,” said Colin Dodds, trustee of Research Nova Scotia Trust. “This funding is critical to supporting the ground-breaking work done by some of the province’s leading researchers.” 

Disclosure: the Nova Scotia government is a client of Entrevestor. 

UNB To Host Creative Connections

This year’s Creative Connections Conference will be hosted by the University of New Brunswick and the Atlantic Centre for Creativity in Fredericton Nov. 16 to 18.

The goal of the conference is to increase awareness and enhance creative practices across varied disciplines, including the scientific, artistic and innovation communities. The conference will encourage participants to ‘think outside the box’, take risks, share new ideas and enhance teaching practices.

The event will feature three keynotes:   Susan Chichton, the Director of the Centre for Innovation and Learning at the University of British Columbia;  Marjan Eggermont, a design engineer and visual artist from the University of Calgary, and  Nora Young, the CBC Radio Host of Spark, a program about the Impact of new technology.

There will be more than 50 presentations and workshops. Topics will include new media, composition, design thinking, social innovation, entrepreneurship, and creative capacity building.

The Pond Deshpande Centre will be among those offering problem-solving workshops for entrepreneurs. Other centres of innovation will present on the latest research on creativity and its relevance to today’s economy.

The conference will begin with a welcome reception and music event on Thursday evening in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s new Pavilion. The two full days of activities will include a creative showcase on the Friday evening featuring performances by local artists.

Registration is open and closes Nov. 12.

Appili Raises $3.1M Funding Round

Kevin Sullivan, whose company is prepping for clinical trials.

Kevin Sullivan, whose company is prepping for clinical trials.

Appili Therapeutics Inc., an anti-infective drug development company, has raised a $3.1 million round of equity financing, which will help pay for clinical trials due to start within 10 weeks.

The Halifax-based company said the money was raised through a private placement with new and current investors. There was only one investor that chose to be named – Innovacorp, which contributed to previous rounds. In the past, the company has received help in raising funds from the Toronto investment boutique Bloom Burton & Co.

Appili has now raised a total of $7.5 million since its seed round in March 2016. Appili, which is only two years old, was one of the leading Atlantic Canadian companies in terms of fund-raising last year, and is on track to be one of the biggest again this year.

“There is a robust market opportunity for antibiotics that really brings value and the successful closing of this financing round reflects that,” said Appili CFO Kimberly Stephens in the statement.

The company said it would use the money to fund operations, advance its pipeline of anti-infectives and move its lead antibiotic into clinical trials. The company said in the statement it plans to take its first drug candidate into clinical trials this year.

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Appili last year revealed a two-track strategy. In the next few years it is working to bring to market a drug known as ATI-1501, which treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.

ATI-1501, which will soon begin clinical trials, 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.

CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually. The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to the drug, reducing the regulatory burden in launching the drug.

Meanwhile, Appili is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. CEO Kevin Sullivan has said the drug could combat viruses that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s a longer-term, riskier project than the first drug.

“Appili has assembled a team with the proven ability to bring new antibiotics to market, and has made remarkable progress in building a pipeline that addresses major unmet needs in bacterial infections,” said Lidija Marušić, life sciences investment manager at Innovacorp and member of Appili’s Board of Directors.

Added Sullivan: “We appreciate the confidence investors have in our strategy to build a balanced-risk pipeline of products designed to treat the most serious and drug-resistant infections affecting patients today.”


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Ocean Executive Preps for Launch

Having already signed up 400 users from around the world, Halifax-based Ocean Executive is planning for the full launch of its online wholesale seafood marketplace in December.

Chief executive Mike Budreski, whose family is steeped in the East Coast fishery, has been developing the product for several years and has been signing up users through an open beta-test. The company in June increased its visibility in the seafood industry by forming an exclusive marketing relationship with Undercurrent News, the seafood industry’s top online publication, which draws upward of 100,000 readers each month. Now Ocean Executive is planning a soft launch in November and a full launch in December, which Budreski has labelled “CyberSeafood Month.”

When it’s launched, the Ocean Executive platform will essentially be a marketplace for people buying and selling bulk orders of seafood. But Budreski wants it to be a foundation for a benchmark index for seafood products and use the index to encourage a more sustainable fishery.

“We essentially match these buyers and sellers,” said Budreski when presenting the company at DemoCamp in Halifax earlier this month. “When you’re trying to wrap your head around what Ocean Executive does, think of us as the eHarmony of the seafood industry.”

Budreski came up with the idea for Ocean Executive when he was working in New York trading commodities like oil and gas, and saw the sophistication of the trading platform. He dreamed of creating something similar for the business he knew best, his family’s business, the seafood industry.

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Seafood is a huge global business, but the supply-chain is fragmented and inefficient. What Ocean Executive does is allow sellers to post the inventory they want to sell, with a full description of the stock so the market can assess the quality of the shipment. Buyers can then bid for the produce, and once they agree on a price the deal closes and Ocean Executive gets a cut.

The platform is open to market players around the world, who pay a monthly subscription fee, said Budreski. So, for example, a company in Bangladesh that wants new sales channels could use the platform to expand into the U.S. or Europe, he said.

The open beta-test has been a way to show the proof of concept. “It’s a way to see if there is a need for this in the market,” he said. “And obviously, from the fact that 400 seafood companies from around the world are using it, there is a need for this.”

The company has raised a total of $380,000 in equity financing, including $250,000 from Innovacorp. The company is now raising more money and Budreski is interested in meeting more investors. 

Once the marketplace is fully established, Budreski hopes to use the data from the sales to establish indices of seafood prices — something the industry has never had. Seafood buyers now assess the market by phoning around and asking for prices. Budreski intends for each Ocean Executive index to be timely and based on actual prices paid.

One component of the index plan will be to have an index of prices for fish caught through sustainable practises so the market has concrete proof of the premiums paid in the sustainable fishery.

“Eventually, what we also want to do is we want to correlate sustainability with price,” he said. He wants the fishing industry to see concrete evidence of the higher returns they will get if they make the investment to convert to sustainable practises. “Then we want to show people why it’s important to have a sustainable rating.”

Blue Spurs Hosts IoT Hackathon

Fredericton-based Blue Spurs is hosting a full-day Internet of Things hackathon today, which has drawn the participation of the biggest organizations in the province.

Blue Spurs, which has received international recognition for its Blue Kit “Internet of Things starter kit”, said in an email that a diversified group from across the province is coming together to work on IoT solutions for the entire day.

The cloud computing consultancy’s first annual IoT hackathon is focused on building IoT solutions to make offices more efficient. The groups that will participate in the event include McCain Foods, Irving Oil, the Government of New Brunswick, Siemens, as well as a range of others.

IoT solutions allow machines to communicate with each other, assess a situation in real time and respond with greater speed and precision than humans could.

“The Internet of Things is one of the hottest topics in technology today,” said Senior Marketing Communications Specialist Mostafa Shaker in the email. “It is changing every industry as we know it.”

He added that there will be 30 billion connected devices in the world by 2020. Blue Spur said its hackathon should help participants to understand what IoT is and how it is changing their industries. It also aims to help them learn how the technology can help to solve some of their most pressing business problems.

In a hackathon, participants are divided into teams and challenged to come up with working IoT solutions by the end of the day.

Earlier this year, Blue Spurs was awarded a 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge by Amazon Web Services at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Blue Spurs, which employs almost 100 people, entered Blue Kit in the competition, which it developed in collaboration with CyberNB and the New Brunswick government. Blue Kit is a low-code IoT educational starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand the fundamentals of IoT.

Using technology that complex IoT systems are built on today, including arduino boards, sensors, AWS IoT and Noodl, students build IoT projects to learn the fundamentals in an interactive, fun environment. Each project builds on the previous one, providing increasing challenges that are aligned with school curriculum objectives.

Attend the Release of our Startup Data

Entrevestor, in partnership with Charcoal Marketing, would like to invite the startup community to a luncheon on Nov. 8 to release and discuss our latest data on startups in Atlantic Canada.

The luncheon will be held at noon at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre in downtown Halifax. We’ve received tremendous support from the Big Data Congress 2017 for this event, and will hold the buffet-style lunch following the Congress’ last event at the convention centre.

Each year, Entrevestor publishes data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community, providing benchmarks for size and performance of the innovation segment in the region. This year, we also conducted a study unique in Canada on the impact of exits on the region.

We are teaming up with our friends at Charcoal Marketing to host a luncheon at which we’ll present our most recent findings. After the presentation, we’ll discuss the data with a panel of experts in innovation ecosystems in Atlantic Canada and across North America. The panelists will be:

  • Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta Labs. Not only has Rodgers gone from idea to exit as an entrepreneur, but he was instrumental in developing two of Canada’s great support organizations – Velocity at University of Waterloo and the Creative Destruction Lab.
  • Shaun MacDonald, Managing Partner of Extreme Venture Partners, one of Canada’s leading VC funds. MacDonald’s career includes posts as an Senior Vice-President at Mariner Partners and leading over $ 1 billion in global M&A and investment deals for Cisco during its growth years.
  • Malcolm Fraser, President and CEO of Innovacorp. Before taking the helm at Nova Scotia’s venture capital agency this month, Fraser launched, developed and sold MODE (formerly ISL Internet Solutions), a company that guided businesses through their digital transformation. In 2016, MODE was acquired by Vancouver-based digital marketing agency FCV Interactive.

We are looking forward to a lively and insightful discussion with the full participation of the audience. Tickets for the luncheon are $25 and are available here.

We’re hoping for a really great turnout for this event, and would like to thank the panelists, Big Data Congress and the Big Data Alliance of Nova Scotia for making this event possible. 

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