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SimpTek Progresses After Pivot


After three weeks in the Propel accelerator in Fredericton, SimpTek has quickly changed its business model and already drawn the interest of at least one potential corporate customer.

The young company – comprising tech entrepreneurs Asif Hasan, Lionel Fernandes and Keelen Gagnon – is now dedicated to developing an automated system that helps people control the use of their household appliances with the goal of saving them money.

“We are a home automation solution and we help you control every appliance in your home,” said Hasan in an interview in Fredericton last week.

Sitting in a meeting room in Planet Hatch with his colleagues, Hasan said that the team is working on a software platform that overlays on top of a home automation system to improve energy efficiency. The system will analyze data from “smart plugs” (wall sockets that measure the energy consumption of individual appliances) to determine where the homeowner could save on electricity costs.

The team hopes to design a system that understands the residents’ habits and then be able to predict their behavior, helping to realize more savings. The goal is to develop a platform that can be used with any home automation system.

They have already begun to market the product, and received some interest from New Brunswick Power, which is working on the province’s smart grid. Not only could the company eventually become a customer, but it could also provide a controlled environment to help test the product.

The three entrepreneurs have created what they call “a crude prototype” of the system, which allowed them to demo the product.

The business plan calls for the homeowner to pay SimpTek a subscription fee for the service. As the company builds up data on consumer behavior, it could sell the data to utilities. With smart grids, utilities will get a deeper understanding of all the energy demands from the generating station to the end-user. The SimpTek platform will deepen this understanding by telling the utilities what is happening inside the end-users’ homes, said Hasan.

Though all three members of the team pitch in with all the tasks, they are developing roles within the company with Hasan becoming CEO, Gagnon dealing with communications and investor relations and Fernandes specializing in the technical side.

SimpTek began in the engineering faculty of the University of New Brunswick, and had been working on a wearable technology. They took the project into the Propel accelerator and within three weeks pivoted into the home automation project.

“The wearable technology is relatively new at this point, so rather than push a new tech into society we want to make something more user friendly,” said Hasan.

As it goes forward, SimpTek will have to raise funding from various sources. They plan to enter Breakthru, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup competition, and the will look for funding from other private and public sources.

“We expect the whole project will be done and we’ll be on the market within two years,” said Gagnon.

 

Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

 

Dunbar Calls for Disruptive Healthcare


Michael Dunbar, the leading orthopaedic surgeon in Nova Scotia, sounded a call on Tuesday for the province to adopt new flexible methods of delivering healthcare to its citizens because the current system is not sustainable.

Speaking at the BioPort Atlantic conference, he cited the simple and effective gait monitoring technology he and his team at Capital Health in Halifax have helped to devise. The project, involving three startups, is known as Mobility at Capital Health, abbreviated as “M@ch”.

Dunbar noted that that the M@ch project lets patients waiting for hip or knee replacements use their cell phones to see if they need surgery without visiting a surgeon’s office. It saves money, cuts wait times and produces a range of data that can help in the treatment of the hip and knee disorders.

Dunbar, the professor of orthopaedic surgery at Dalhousie University, said this sort of disruptive technology is needed because Nova Scotia faces an aging population, shrinking pool of productive young people and reductions in healthcare transfers from the federal government.

“The time is now,” said Dunbar. “I’m in the trenches and I see it. The current model is unsustainable. If you think it’s bad now, wait till you see what is going to happen.”

Nova Scotia recently received an F from the Wait Time Alliance how long patients have to wait for hip replacements. Dunbar said there is a process of referrals from family doctors through to surgeons to determine whether someone needs a replacement. It takes years, and only about one-third of the patients end up being selected for immediate surgery.

The way surgeons determine whether surgery is required is having people undergo gait analysis using a treadmill and a lot of equipment, all in a centralized hospital.  But M@CH – in cooperation with Halifax startups Kinduct Technologies and OrthoMX Inc. and Laval, Que.-based Emovi – is commercializing a system that gets the same result, only with a common smartphone. Such phones have built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers, and a simple app can measure gait just as efficiently as the expensive machinery.

Dunbar said a doctor, after the first referral, could have a patient take a smartphone home and do the gait analysis on their own time. The results can be sent to an orthopaedic surgeon, who could quickly determine whether the patient needs a consultation. About two-third wouldn’t, so wait times would fall and the health system would save money.

The system could also be used for post-operation monitoring. Patients could do their exercises at home and the results could be monitored remotely by a doctor, who could then issue instructions on the next set of exercises. All the data would be collected, and the analysis would help to improve recovery programs.

Dunbar said Nova Scotia is the perfect place to initiate such programs because of its fiscal situation and the age and heft of its population.

“We have a living health lab here in Nova Scotia,” he said.  “We have the oldest, heaviest population in Canada and we should be taking advantage of it.”

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

NB-Biomatrix wins BioPort’s BIC


NB-Biomatrix, a Saint John startup that uses nano-technology to fight water pollution, has won the fourth annual BioInnovation Challenge at the BioPort Atlantic, walking away with $45,000 in cash and in-kind services.

The company headed by Jeff Jennings and Keith Brunt beat out fellow finalists Athletigen Technologies Inc. of Halifax and Fenol Farms Inc. of Mount Uniacke, N.S., to capture the first prize. It will receive $15,000 in cash and $30,000 in in-kind services.  

“As a finalist the pitch training alone was worth participating in the BioInnovation Challenge but actually winning means I can leverage the prize package to hire co-op students and advance our business,” said Brunt, the Chief Scientific Officer, in a statement.

Still in its early stages, NB-Biomatrix has developed a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt said the product, called Naqua-Pure, binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals like copper cadmium and lead and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water. Brunt said the result is a cost-effective product that can remove 95 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes. It’s a huge improvement over existing methods which tend to be slow and expensive, said Brunt.

The company intends to develop an initial product for the commercial development of chitosan from lobster shells.

Chitosan is a compound that has a range of industrial uses, including pharmaceutical ingredients, water treatment, fertilizer and cosmetics. The demand for the compound is growing strongly, but there are usually massive pollution problems caused by its production.

Eventually, the company hopes to move on to other markets, such as helping to clean up oil spills and tailing ponds.

NB-Matrix is looking for $225,000 in funding by June 2015.

The three finalists and the winner were chosen by a panel of judges comprising: Jeff Dawson, Corporate Finance Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Ross Finlay, Co-Founder of the First Angel Network; and

Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures.

“We had a great cohort this year, an excellent judging panel, and the three finalists presented extremely well today,” said Brian Lowe, chair of BioNova, which organized BioPort. “All three companies deserve the win, but there can only be one and NB-Biomatrix came out on top and I wish them every success moving forward.”

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Press Release HotSpot and MADD


HotSpot Parking, a Fredericton startup that helps downtown shoppers feed the parking meters and merchants communicate with customers, has issued the following press release:

HOTSPOT PARKING ANNOUNCES THE LAUNCH OF THE NEW “DESIGNATED DRIVER” FEATURE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MADD GREATER FREDERICTON, NB LIQUOR AND DOWNTOWN FREDERICTON INC.

Fredericton, NB -- In partnership with MADD Greater Fredericton, NB Liquor and Downtown Fredericton Inc., HotSpot Parking is excited to announce our new “Designated Driver” feature to help fight in the prevention against impaired driving.

Through research and observation, HotSpot found that people often contemplated the right choice due simply to the fact that they did not want to deal with expensive parking tickets left on their car the morning after.  Here at HotSpot we believe this is a serious issue that must be prevented immediately. The new “designated driver” feature will ensure that a HotSpot Customer’s parking is covered for 2 hours the morning after a night out resulting in safer choices made the night before.

“The MADD Greater Fredericton Area Chapter is honored to partner with HotSpot Parking to implement their new designated driver feature,” said Scott Kennie, Chapter President. “This new feature makes it that much easier for Fredericton drivers to make the right choice to not drive when under the influence, which means lives saved and injuries prevented. Working together with a socially responsible business like HotSpot Parking enables us to play an active role in making our community and roads safer. This brings us one step closer to achieving our mission to stop impaired driving.”

NB Liquor’s President & CEO, Brian Harriman, also endorsed this feature, saying it aligns with their social responsibility mandate.

“We are pleased to see a local, innovative idea that offers New Brunswickers another simple, responsible alternative to driving impaired,” said Harriman. “I look forward to strengthening our partnership with HotSpot on this initiative, while at the same time, upholding our commitment to the Province of New Brunswick to be a socially responsible retailer.”

Bars and restaurants downtown have embraced this initiative as an additional measure to ensure their valued customers make safe choices after leaving their place of business.

“The Hot Spot initiative to start the designated driver platform for downtown parking is great step in assuring we do everything possible to give people the safe choice of leaving their car downtown with out the worry of getting a ticket first thing in the morning. We at The Capital Complex would like to thank Hot Spot Parking for including us in the project.”-Wes Ward

HotSpot Parking believes in revitalizing city cores and enhancing the network and interactions that happen within. Parking plays a vital role in supporting local economy and HotSpot believes that by focusing on this concept we can revolutionize the way people experience our cities today.

 

BIC Finals: Athletigen, Fenol, Biomatrix


The finalists of the BioInnovation Challenge today are: Athletigen Technologies Inc., NB-Biomatrix Inc., and Fenol Farms Inc., which were selected by a panel of judges at the semi-finals Monday afternoon.

The BioInnovation Challenge, now in its fourth year, is a pitching competition that tries to find leading new life sciences and biotech companies in the Maritimes. It is organized by BioNova, the life sciences association in Nova Scotia, with the support of its sister organizations in the neighbouring provinces, BioNB and the P.E.I. BioAlliance. The winners will receive $15,000 in seed funding and $30,000 in in-kind services.

The pitching competition will be one of the highlights of BioPort Atlantic, which BioNova is hosting at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax today.

The finalists are:

Athletigen Technologies -- The Halifax startup launched a software-as-a-service product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genomic analysis. The company owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, and has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe. CEO Jeremy Koenig said the company can analyze a sample of someone’s DNA and construct charts showing their strengths and weaknesses as athletes. This helps them to select the right sport and develop optimal training regimes.

NB-Biomatrix – The Saint John startup is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt said the product, called Naqua-Pure binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water. Brunt said the result is a cost-effective product that can remove 98 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes. The company, which is looking for $225,000 in funding by June 2015, intends to develop an initial product for the commercial development of chitosan from lobster shells. It’s a potentially profitable undertaking usually marred by the resulting pollutants.

Fenol Farms – The Mount Uniacke-based company is now working on raising $1.2 million to commercialize its product that kills the damaging bacteria that accumulates under dental braces. The company uses a combination of LED lighting and natural compounds extracted from plants to cure oral health problems in certain patients. It is developing both a medical device and a natural health product that work together to control plaque buildup on teeth. COO Martin Greenwood said the company plans to finish development of the product, gain regulatory approval and begin initial production, all in 2015. Fenol Farm recently won the $100,000 first prize for the Annapolis Valley area in Innovacorp’s I-3 Competition.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

 

Health QR Eyes Key Healthcare Link


More than in other countries, Canadians view universal health care as a fundamental aspect of citizenship, and Patricia Ryan believes such a national mindset will benefit her startup, Health QR.

Ryan has worked in various segments of the health-care industry, from private charities to community health groups to the provincial bureaucracy. And two years ago she co-founded her own startup to help individuals participate more broadly in their health care and assist pharmacies in communicating with their customers.

 “Starting a business like this in Canada is a huge benefit,” said Ryan, sitting in the boardroom at Halifax’s Volta Labs, where Health QR is now a tenant. “If we can create a solution in this type of environment, it could have traction around the world because of the way Canadian health care is held around the world.”

Having started two years ago, Health QR is now close to beta testing its main product, a software-as-a-service product that links pharmacies and their customers. The first version will allow them to do four things: view the customer’s prescription history; order prescription refills; find out when prescriptions expire; and let the customer receive information from the pharmacy.

Health QR has been designed to enter the health-care market at a point that offers the least resistance. By targeting pharmacists rather than physicians or hospitals, Ryan and co-founder Michael Fanning are selling to entrepreneurs — people who act when presented with opportunities to improve their bottom line. And with such a strategy, the company will not have to handle GP files, which often amount to weighty tomes. (The long-term ambition is to help patients gain access to their own health-care records.)

 “From the pharmacists’ point of view, they’re looking for something like this,” said Ryan, who is the company’s CEO. “They’re being squeezed by rising costs and competing with the big-box stores.”

The company should benefit from the changing role of pharmacies in health care. For example, pharmacies in some provinces are approved to administer flu shots. Pharmacists are also allowed to refill prescriptions.

Health QR aims to reduce the pharmacist’s administrative costs in these new areas, and allow the pharmacy to inform their customers of services and discounts.

The system, which was built under contract by Blue Spurs of Fredericton, operates off of the application program interface operated by Toronto-based Kroll Software, whose system is used by 4,000 Canadian pharmacies. The Health QR team has recently brought on Steve MacDonald, a co-founder of Halifax-based Novawise, who will likely become the CTO.

Health QR has been working with one six-outlet pharmacy chain for about a year and a half as it developed the product, and is now in a beta test that will last until late November. It hopes to have a licensed product on the market by January.

The company is hoping to raise about $750,000, divided evenly between angels, Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s Business Development Program.

Eventually the team hopes to build on the product and enter other segments of the health-care market.

 “We think this is just a starting point,” said Ryan. “We have every intention of reaching out to other types of health-care providers.”

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

 

Press Release: EnginuityMED and ACOA


Halifax IV Innovator Poised for Growth

New Support for EnginuityMED assists with Market Launch and Second Generation Product Development

October 20, 2014 – Halifax, NS –A new injection of support will assist Halifax’s EnginuityMED with the market launch of its Fluid IV Alert (FIVA) technology and the development of a second generation product.

FIVA is a battery-powered device that clips onto IV bags, monitors fluid levels and alerts medical professionals when the bag is empty. The product addresses a common problem in operating rooms, emergency rooms and ambulances. Approximately 30% of IV bags run out of fluid without clinicians noticing, posing risks to patients.

The idea was originally conceived by Dr. Orlando Hung, an active Anesthesiologist at Capital District Health Authority. Dr. Hung joined forces locally with two engineering and two business development experts to form EnginuityMED. Within just nine months, the team advanced FIVA from concept to first sale.

To maintain EnginuityMED’s momentum, the Government of Canada is providing a $150,000 repayable contribution to the company, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Business Development Program (BDP).

EnginuityMED has used the support to develop product moulds and demo units which it will showcase at conferences and tradeshows. They are hiring a marketing manager to develop the brand and are now able to promote and sell FIVA online through an e-commerce enabled website (http://www.enginuitymed.com). The BDP project also enables the company to engage in trademarking and regulatory activities for FIVA to be marketed outside of Canada.

Additionally, ACOA’s support is assisting with the development of a second generation product. Urology professionals have approached EnginuityMED to develop a device with a larger capacity to monitor fluid provided to patients on urology wards. The company will hire two new research and development staff to design and develop the product.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: NBIF’s Breakthru Pot


The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has issued the following press release:

BREAKTHRU LAUNCHES WITH HIGHEST PRIZE POT TO DATE

New Brunswick's Startup Competition exceeds $500,000 to startup three new companies

FREDERICTON, NB—The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), law firm Cox & Palmer and Deloitte launched the fifth edition of Breakthru, New Brunswick’s biennial startup competition, with its highest prize pot ever. Seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs alike will compete for over $500,000 in cash and professional services.

The prizes will help to launch three innovative businesses, with the grand prizewinner receiving up to $200,000 in cash investments from NBIF, along with professional services from the competition’s corporate partners. The other two winners will each receive up to $150,000 plus services including legal, marketing, and accounting. Breakthru is the largest competition of its kind in Canada.

“Imagine, one day you’re dreaming about being an entrepreneur and owning your own company, and the next day it’s a reality—this is what’s going to happen for three hard working Breakthru participants,” says NBIF Chair Robert Hatheway, “Starting up a new company is a risky adventure, and to take the leap into entrepreneurship, people need to know that turning their ideas into a business is a real possibility—Breakthru does exactly that.”

The purpose of Breakthru is to bring people, ideas and money together in a way that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick. The professional services, support and mentoring they receive from NBIF and its prize partners will make a tremendous impact when entrepreneurs need it most – during their start-up phase. Many past Breakthru winners have gone on to raise millions of dollars for their companies.

To enter, applications must be received by NBIF on or before December 9th, 2014.

The full prize pot will be announced in November and is expected to reach beyond $600,000.

Winners will be announced at Breakthru Live 2015 at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 19, 2015.

About NBIF:

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that invests in new growth-oriented companies and applied research activities. With over $50 million invested, plus $275 million leveraged from other sources, NBIF has helped to create over 50 companies and fund 350 applied research projects since its inception in 2003. All of NBIF’s investment returns go back into the Foundation to be re-invested in other new companies and research initiatives.

 

BioPort, Collide Take Place This Week


Two of the major events on the Halifax startup calendar -- BioPort Atlantic and Collide – are getting under way today and tomorrow.

BioPort Atlantic is the region’s main life sciences conference, and its full conference agenda unfolds tomorrow at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.  Hosted by BioNova, the annual conference connects people to companies in all stages of development.

The keynote luncheon speaker will be Michael Dunbar, an orthopedic surgeon, professor, researcher and scientific co-founder of Halifax Biomedical.  With $2.6 million in funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, Dr. Dunbar and his Movement at Capital Health (M@CH) team are developing a smart phone app and other technologies to reduce wait times affecting patients.

The highlight of the conference will undoubtedly be the third annual BioInnovation Challenge, in which life sciences companies vie for a $30,000 first prize.  The semifinals will be held today, and three companies will pitch tomorrow in the finals.

BioNova said BioPort Atlantic will attract over 200 attendees representing some 20 companies, a roster of investors, universities, government, and industry supporters.  

Collide was formerly known as the HPX Digital. Its aim is to let students and aspiring professionals collide with established creative minds to see and shape the future. Up-and-comers can uncover new role models and explore the world’s best ideas from the leading edge.

Collide is an interactive event for digital creators in Halifax and features three dedicated tracks – design, development, and marketing.

The full agenda is available here

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Press Release: Eastlink, CEED


Eastlink and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development have issued the following press release:

Eastlink, Ceed Form Partnership to Support Entrepreneurs

Halifax, NS – Home-grown entrepreneurial success story, Eastlink, and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) announced a special partnership today that will provide additional support to Nova Scotia entrepreneurs and small businesses.

With a strong sense of shared values, CEED and Eastlink aim to further arm entrepreneurs and small businesses with the tools they need for success in an ever changing and evolving economy.

In 1971, John Bragg’s entrepreneurial spirit opened the doors to a new telecommunications business in Nova Scotia and Eastlink was born. Since then, Eastlink has become one of Nova Scotia’s largest employers with almost 1000 employees headquartered in Nova Scotia and over 1,600 Canadians nationwide.

“We are very proud to partner with Eastlink, their entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm brings energy and encouragement to our clients. Together, we will continue to provide resources and opportunities for Nova Scotia small businesses and CEED clients, to help grow our economy.”  John Beaton, Senior Manager, Entrepreneurship Development.

Eastlink’s journey is an inspiration for many local entrepreneurs and through this partnership CEED hopes to open more doors and provide more support for emerging small businesses.  Together, the two organizations will create specialized workshops, among other initiatives.

“This partnership is a natural fit for us,” said Lee Bragg, CEO for Eastlink. “In order for our province to continue to be relevant in an emerging global economy, we must build and grow companies that answer the call of the new world we live in. That’s why giving back and sharing our entrepreneurial journey with new and aspiring entrepreneurs is so important to us.”

In celebration of this synergetic partnership, CEED will be hosting a social media scavenger hunt on October 25th, 2014, encouraging  Haligonians to embrace small business week,  explore their city and meet their local entrepreneurs.

 

To join the scavenger hunt, visit participating CEED businesses, snap a selfie and tweet with the hashtag #CEEDlink. All tweets using the hashtag will be entered into a draw to win a Samsung Galaxy 5 and accessories! To register for the event, see participating businesses and to find out more, visit ceed.ca.  

 

 

Acadia’s Aida Eyes Agriculture


Melons are big, heavy fruits. They are also fragile. Their growth is influenced by variable, hard-to-predict weather factors and farmers depend on retailers selling their product before it goes bad.

That’s why one Nova Scotia melon grower has turned to the Acadia Institute for Data Analytics (AIDA) at Wolfville’s Acadia University to help him optimize his yield of cantaloupes.

AIDA got started in January under Director Danny Silver, as part of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre’s Incubation and Innovation Services unit -- a group that works hard to promote entrepreneurship in rural communities.

The melon farmer approached Silver after attending AIDA’s inaugural event in March.

Speakers at the event, titled Data Analytics for the Wine and Fruit Growing Industries, discussed how to use data to combat issues such as climate change’s impact on Ontario’s wine industry and plant cancer on Nova Scotia grapes.

“Data analytics is good business,” explained Silver as he sat in the airy, newly renovated attic of Acadia’s Patterson Hall. “It allows you to put up your periscope and look ahead.”

The fledgling institute will work with many academic and industry partners and is already partnering with Scotia Weather Services; a private meteorological company that provides micro forecasting down to 15 minute intervals and four square kilometres.

Such detailed forecasting is very valuable to the melon grower, who last year missed the market after changing weather meant he only harvested 50 per cent of his crop.

“We have to be specific to create prediction models for precision agriculture, which is the combination of data analytics with agriculture,” said Silver, who grew up in the Annapolis Valley, working in the fields as a youngster.

Other techniques that can improve crop analysis include placing cameras in fields to record activities such as spraying, and using drones to reveal where in a field a crop might be failing.

Silver said he is pleased that after less than a year of operation, AIDA already has five active projects and seven potential.

AIDA’s objectives include stimulating technology transfer, commercialization and the development of new startups, and Silver said, “It would be great” to see analytic companies working in this space.

Silver is also a professor at Acadia’s Jodrey School of Computer Science and he is working with the computer science and math departments on establishing a certificate in data analytics.

In the fall, several big events will be held to make sure the academic and agricultural communities understand AIDA and the business potential of data analytics.

“We’ll be offering a data analysis 101 primer for people on campus and then we’ll take it to the public, to those in industry who want to learn about it, such as agriculturalists, environmentalists and conservationists,” said Silver.

“The population is growing, we have less land available and we need to grow more on smaller parcels of land,” he added. “We need to do this kind of data analytics across the planet or we’re not going to feed us all.”

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Nicolle Brings Lessons from Boston


History has given Halifax profound ties to Boston. But Boston has a lot to teach Halifax about entrepreneurship, believes Steve Nicolle, CEO of Halifax health-care IT company STI Technologies.

Nicolle, a P.E.I. native, worked in the startup sector in Boston for 10 years before becoming STI CEO in January 2010.

 “I learned Americans don’t fear failure at all; it’s a big difference,” he said.

 “I met people who started three companies and they all failed, but they persevered and the fourth was a major success.

 “In Halifax, if a young entrepreneur wants to raise $1 million to $5 million, it’s daunting. In Boston, they think nothing of it. They want to raise $25 million. It’s the ‘go big or go home’ theory.”

Nicolle said far more of Boston’s business students aim to own their own startup or business than in Halifax. And Boston universities are also more connected with industry.

He said that in the past, he and his father typified the caution of this region.

 “In 1985, I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in computer science. I had 25 job offers, mostly from insurance companies. But I had one from a Seattle startup called Microsoft.

 “My dad was a civil engineer and the son of a P.E.I. farmer — the first in the family to go to university. I talked to him about Microsoft and he said, ‘Why go to the U.S.?’ So I didn’t even consider it. In hindsight, it would have been an interesting thing to do.”

Instead, Nicolle went on to work in Ottawa, London, England, Toronto and Boston in roles that included CEO of Tatara Systems and Sigma Systems, chief operating officer of March Networks and chairman of Searidge Technologies.

Today, he’s overseeing the expansion of STI, which began in 2002 and now has over 60 employees. The company implements programs to give Canadian patients access to supplementary drug benefit cards that help with the out-of-pocket cost of prescribed drugs.

STI’s cards are used more than 10,000 times a day by Canadians in pharmacies across the country.

The company’s competitors are based in larger places. Nicolle said STI has considered moving but decided to make a virtue of being from Nova Scotia.

 “Our clients are big pharma companies based in the big centres. So a lot of us are often on airplanes. We have to ensure we’re seen a lot more than our competitors.

 “But we started life here, and Toronto people think we’re clever in an East Coast sort of way. When we sponsor a golf tournament, we do a lobster toss and we fly the Nova Scotia flag on our hockey sweaters.”

Nicolle said he’s proud of the company’s history of employing new grads and attracting experienced people back to Nova Scotia.

Last year, Toronto private equity firm Imperial Capital agreed to invest $17 million in the company. The investment was notable both for its size and the fact the investor was from outside the region.

Nicolle said STI is doubling its revenue every year and would like to grow by acquisition. The company may need to raise more money if it goes international.

Recently, STI launched an initiative called innoviCares, which allows patients to stay with a brand-name drug at the lowest price when the drug’s patent expires.

 “I believe the success of this region will be on the back of 100 companies like STI that are 100 per cent privately funded — 100 companies of 60 employees that will create wealth in the province,” he said.

 “Those successes will be more notable than capturing another (Research in Motion) and convincing them to move here. We have the people to achieve that. When I attend entrepreneurial events here, I’m always impressed by the quality of the entrepreneurs and by their ideas.”

Press Release: Engage Conference


Engage, a new conference on innovation and collaboration, has issued the following press release:

Engage Conference To Be Held Nov. 17-18 in Halifax

New conference to demonstrate how research and development partnerships between universities and entrepreneurs will result in economic growth and improved university education

Halifax, Nova Scotia - A new Halifax event will show how partnerships between Atlantic Canadian universities and entrepreneurs can drive economic growth in the region and improve the learning experience for university students who study here.

The Engage 2014 Innovation and Commercialization Conference will take place on November 17th and 18th, 2014 In Halifax. This event will provide hands-on workshops and interactive presentations to help business students and entrepreneurs understand how the world-class research and development resources at Atlantic Canadian universities can help them create successful companies.

“Atlantic Canada has an abundance of world-class research and talented entrepreneurs,” said Mark Taylor, Founder of Engage. “We want to take the connection between our universities and entrepreneurs to the next level so that our economy will prosper for many years to come.”

Despite facing economic challenges, Atlantic Canada has experienced significant growth in business startups. The region saw 67 new businesses created in 2013 alone, according to a report done by Entrevestor.com

The growth in startups is creating jobs in the region and attracting much needed capital. For example, the same report indicated that venture capital investment in the region rose to $30.8 million in 2013 from $23 million in 2012 while payroll rose by 44% to $75.8 million. However, a C.D. Howe Institute reports that much of the $11 billion a year post-secondary institutions in Canada spend on research does not result in a product or service that comes to market. To that end, Atlantic Canada has a lot research that could result in new businesses, empowered local enterprises and improved education experiences.

Engage 2014 will help by offering an ambitious agenda and trade show. Speakers include successful businesspeople such as Clearwater Fine Foods President John Risley, academic leaders, global thinkers and investors. These individuals will take part in interactive discussions with the audience about variety of topics ranging from research and development to successful global marketing and sales. Discussions will also include information on organizations available to assist entrepreneurs and researchers looking to commercialize research.

“Entrepreneurs and researchers are looking for the best information and contacts to help them pursue their passion,” said Taylor. “Engage will show them how to bring an idea from concept to a globally success story using the wonderful research and development resources we have in our own backyard.”

More information about Engage 2014 can be found at http://www.engagehalifax.com

Engage is supported by Springboard Atlantic, the National Research Council, St. Mary’s University, Innovacorp, Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island, Acadia University and the University of New Brunswick.

Tickets for the event are available here

Endurance Buys Seaforth Assets


Endurance Wind Power of Surrey, B.C., has bought some of the assets of wind turbine maker Seaforth Energy and opened a regional office and service centre in the Nova Scotian startup’s former base of Dartmouth.

The buyer, one of the world's leading manufacturers of wind turbines for local power generation, issued a statement late Thursday announcing the opening of the office. Former Seaforth CEO Mike Morris, who joined the company in late 2012, has become Endurance's General Manager for Eastern North America.

The company is now growing its local staff and is installing products in Nova Scotia. The release said Endurance expects to complete the installation of the first three Endurance E3120 wind turbines in Pictou County under the Nova Scotia ComFiT program. ComFIT helps community groups erect wind turbines for local power generation.

"As a Canadian company building wind turbines in Canada, we are thrilled to be selling them in Canada, too,” said Endurance Wind Power CEO Glenn Johnson in the statement. “Nova Scotia is an important growth market for us. Having proven our design and commercial success internationally, opening a new office in the Maritimes feels a bit like a home-coming."

The company now has five employees in Dartmouth and expects to expand to seven by the end of the year.

It’s an improvement from the previous 12 months.

Seaforth laid almost all its staff off in the past year as it negotiated the sale and came to terms with creditors owed more than $4 million dollars. The debt includes $2 million owed to the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department and $954,000 to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The company also had received $2 million in equity investment from Innovacorp.

The Chronicle-Herald reported in August that court papers showed Seaforth had contacted more than 15 potential investors or buyers and found that Endurance Wind Power was the only interested buyer.

Endurance said it provided financial backing to Seaforth during this period, helping the company complete outstanding obligations to several Nova Scotia community groups.

“While Endurance cannot provide warranty cover for AOC equipment, Endurance will make available Seaforth Energy’s stock of parts and is pleased to offer service and maintenance programs to Seaforth customers,” said the statement.

Endurance has sold over 750 wind turbines worldwide and estimates it has a 75 percent share of the U.K. small wind market for 50 to 100 kW machines. Endurance operates factories in Surrey and Worcestershire, U.K., and employs 150 people worldwide.

 

Dal, Next 36 Form Partnership


Dalhousie University and The Next 36 have struck a partnership that will help more Dal undergrads attend one of the most demanding startup programs in the country.

Dal President Richard Florizone and Jon French, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Next 36, announced the partnership at a reception at the president’s residence on Wednesday.  

Though Dal students have already gone through the program, the partnership means Dalhousie will now become one of a handful of educational institutions that have a formal relationship with The Next 36. The university will give financial assistance to students from the university accepted into the program.

Based in Toronto, The Next 36 takes in 36 undergraduate students each summer and puts them through a rigorous program of entrepreneurship and academics. It’s known to be tough, which is an attractive quality given that many accelerators are criticized for handling their charges with kid gloves.

“What we are is a people accelerator,” said French. “We’re a training ground for the top undergraduate students in the country.”

The curriculum includes classroom sessions with some of the leading academics in the world in startup education, and interaction with a network of about 300 leading Canadian corporations.

The students that have gone through The Next 36 include Stephen Lake, the co-founder of Waterloo-based Thalmic Labs, whose smart armband allows users to control devises through their gestures. It’s now one of the most talked-about startups in the country,  given that it recently raised $15 million in venture capital.

The Atlantic Canadian alumni include: Cam McDonald and Daniel Bartek, Co-Founders of Sage Mixology, whose dual-chamber bottle that stores alcohol and juice separately but pours as a mixed drink; Zack Levy, founder of First Exit Media, a web and app development startup in Toronto; and Mitchell Lesbriel, founder of home brewer businesses FastRack and FastFerment.

The other universities that have a relationship with The Next 36 are Queen’s, Simon Fraser, Waterloo, McGill, Ryerson, UBC, University of Toronto and University of Western Ontario.

Applications for next summer’s cohort of The Next 36 are now being taken and will be open until Oct. 27. They are open mainly to third and fourth year university students.

 

PEI BioAlliance Launches Emergence


The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance has unveiled the new “farms to pharma” incubator that it’s launching with funding from the National Research Council’s Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program.

Emergence is an incubator designed to help nurture the PEI cluster of biotech and food-tech companies, as well as others in the region. It will not feature intense cohorts like the modern tech accelerator but will offer long-term assistance to companies to help them develop over the long-haul.

“This is not a bootcamp model at all because it recognizes that company development t in this space is a multi-year process,” said BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis in an interview in his Charlottetown office.

The NRC earlier this year announced CAIP funding for incubators and accelerators across the country, and the winners included two Atlantic Canadian groups: The P.E.I. BioAlliance, which focuses on life sciences; and New Brunswick-based Propel, whose concentration is in IT. The New Brunswick organization has since launched Propel 2.0, expanding the intake of each cohort from between six and 10 companies to the current 24 companies.

On Wednesday, the BioAlliance outlined the structure and funding of Emergence, which will be a five-year project that could receive more than $7 million. The NRC will contribute up to $3.8 million, while Innovation P.E.I. will kick in $500,000. The companies participating in the program will put up a total of $1.3 million, and the remainder will come from the P.E.I.Agri-Alliance and farm community.

“This was a highly competitive process, and being named as one of the best incubator organizations in Canada is certainly rewarding,” Russ Kerr, CEO of Nautilus Biosciences and Chair of the BioAlliance Board, said in a statement. “But more importantly, this initiative will support local entrepreneurs and the growth of our early-stage companies while attracting businesses, technologies and talent from other parts of the world.”

Francis said the incubator will focus on growing the “P.E.I. cluster” of life sciences companies, which now stands at about 40 enterprises. Francis stressed that he hopes the cluster will include companies based in other parts of Atlantic Canada, and outside the region. He is looking for companies that fit into the prevalent markets and skills that constitute the island’s strengths.

The P.E.I. cluster has focused largely on animal health and over-the-counter products with aim of devising a healthy stable of life sciences companies that don’t have to spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars on regulatory approval.

The incubator will not have a physical headquarters but will be a program to help companies develop and sell their products. There will be a selection process, after which the organizers will identify and correct the “gaps” in each company’s business competency.   Once the Emergence organizers identify what skills and resources a company needs to succeed, they will work to make sure the enterprise gets them.

Francis said the BioAlliance will continue to gauge its success based on select metrics, such as number of companies, total employment and private sector revenue.  The goal is to double the number of companies in five years. Private sector revenue stood at $150 million in 2013 and Francis wants it to rise to $200 million or more by 2019.

The P.E.I. Biotech sector now employs more than 1,200 people in private and public sectors.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Genome Canada Funds 2 Programs


Genome Canada on Wednesday announced two research projects totalling $7.6 million that will undertake genomic research with the goal of improving East Coast aquaculture.

The not-for-profit organization that champions genetic research in the country announced two projects in the region that will each receive $3.8 million. They are: the Salmon and Chips Project, which is a collaboration of Cooke Aquaculture Inc. of Blacks Harbour, N.B., its Kelly Cove Salmon unit and the University of Guelph; and the Biomarker Platform for Commercial Aquaculture Feed Development project, conducted by the Norwegian fish feed company Ewos and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

 “This is great news for the region,” said Steve Armstrong, president and CEO of Genome Atlantic, the Halifax affiliate of Genome Canada. “It’s a clear example of how genomics — the powerful combination of biology, genetics and computer science — can provide innovative solutions to some of our most important industry challenges.”

The two Atlantic Canadian projects are among 12 projects announced Wednesday under the Genomic Applications Partnership Program. The program encourages research in genomics with the end goal of improving the performance of such industries as agriculture, aquaculture, life sciences and other sectors of the economy. Rather than conduct genetic modifications, the research tends to identify genes that produce the best commercial results and breed plants and animals bearing these genes.

Since 2000, Genome Atlantic has channelled $75 million into projects involving 70 organizations in the private and public sector.

The so-called Salmon and Chips Project will employ genomics tools known as SNP chips along with traditional breeding practices to identify and breed salmon that have optimal flesh quality and can resist parasites and diseases. Research scientist Keng Pee Ang of Cooke Aquaculture will team up with University of Guelph professor Elizabeth Boulding to conduct the research.

 “Our competitors around the world are employing these technologies,” Ang said in a statement. “It’s critical for our Canadian operations that we do this as well.”

The Biomarker Platform project will be co-led by Ewos research scientist Richard Taylor and Memorial University associate professor Matthew Rise. They will use genomics technology to assess the effects of various diets on fish health at the molecular level.

They will gather detailed information that will help the Ewos Innovation group fine-tune feed formulae to maximize the growth of fish and help fight disease.

 “This project will lead to better feeds that will help fish grow faster and with better health, which will improve the bottom line for producers immediately,” said Taylor.

Genome Canada supports genomic research projects so that it contributes one-third of the funding and two-thirds comes from corporations or other groups.

The Salmon and Chips project received $1.27 million in funding from Genome Canada and $2.26 million from Cooke and Kelly Cove Salmon. Kelly Cove is the North American production division of Cooke Aquaculture. The National Research Council’s industrial research assistance program kicked in $272,000. Genome Canada contributed $1.09 million to the Ewos Innovation project, while the company provided $2.71 million in funding.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Press Release: ABK Advisers


ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax based medical device company, has issued the following press release:

ABK Biomedical Attracts World Leaders to Clinical Advisory Board

HALIFAX, Canada; October 15, 2014 - ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax based medical device company, today announced the appointment of three leading experts in interventional radiology to its Clinical Advisory Board: Dr. Scott Goodwin, Dr. Jim Spies and Dr. Bob Lewandowski.

"We are thrilled to have these pioneers in uterine fibroid embolization and interventional oncology on our team of clinical advisors," said Dr. Bob Abraham, chief executive officer of ABK Biomedical. “The experience of these world leaders is going to be invaluable as we move OccluSystem into clinical trials and continue to expand our pipeline of novel radiopaque embolic therapies.”

Dr. Scott Goodwin, incoming Chair of ABK Biomedical’s clinical advisory board stated, “Minimally invasive, image-guided embolic therapies are becoming the patient's first choice for treatment of their uterine fibroids. ABK Biomedical’s innovations in this area make this a very exciting opportunity to guide their efforts, together with the expertise of Dr. Spies and Dr. Lewandowski.”

Dr. Goodwin is an interventional radiologist, best known for introducing uterine artery embolization for the treatment of uterine fibroids (UAE) in North America. He is Chief of Radiology at UC Irvine Medical Center and also performs chemoembolization for liver cancer.

Dr. Goodwin is the Hasso Brothers Chair of the Department of Radiological Sciences at University of California, Irvine Medical School. He has repeatedly been listed among the nation's Best Doctors in America® for Radiology, and is regarded as one of the top 10 researchers in uterine fibroids. Dr. Goodwin completed his M.D. at Harvard University, internship at Washington University, followed by his residency and fellowship at UCLA.

Dr. Jim Spies leads the Georgetown Uterine Fibroid Embolization Program, one of the largest and most experienced in the United States. Dr. Spies has been a principal investigator in five funded research trials, including the FIBROID Registry, a study of 3,000 women. He is Chair of the Radiology Department at MedStar Georgetown University hospital, Professor of Radiology at Georgetown University Medical Center and has published extensively on uterine artery embolization. He completed his M.D. at Georgetown University, residency at University of California, San Francisco, and fellowship in interventional radiology at New York University.

Dr. Bob Lewandowski is an Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of Interventional Oncology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He has published extensively on chemoembolization and radioembolization to treat liver cancer and is a world authority in interventional radio-oncology. A leading researcher, Dr. Lewandowski is involved with both pre-clinical and clinical studies in Interventional Oncology. Dr. Lewandowski received his M.D. from Michigan State University, completed residency at William Beaumont Hospital and his fellowship at Northwestern Hospital.

ABK Biomedical Inc. is pursuing validation, production and sale of OccluSystem, ABK's lead radiopaque embolic product, as it develops additional therapies for chemoembolization and radioembolization. While still investigational, ABK’s innovative radiopaque embolic therapies have the potential to provide simpler, safer and more cost effective solutions for treating hypervascular tumors and diseases.

 

 

The #startupeast Reality TV Show


The Atlantic Canadian startup community is about to get its own reality TV show.

Startup Kitchen, the Fredericton group that produces video content on startups in the community, is upping its game with more of a documentary format. The production will appear as before on Bell Community One and now be called #startupeast.

The first production of #startupeast is a three-part series on the latest cohort of the Propel 2.0 accelerator, in which one group of more experienced entrepreneurs is meeting in Moncton while groups of more novice enterprises are meeting in Halifax and Fredericton.  The series will cover the selection camp, and then follow a few of the more interesting entrepreneurs along their journey.

“This is something that we wanted to do for a while but we weren’t ready to do it,” said Startup Kitchen Co-Founder Robert Foley in an interview last week. “Now we’re ready, and we’re covering the Propel cohort this year and we could later do more ambitious things.”

Foley and partner Suhaim Abdussamad launched Startup Kitchen about three years ago to showcase Atlantic Canadian startups through online video. The programs, which were mainly in an interview format, were soon being broadcast by Bell Community One, the community broadcasting channel for Bell FibreOp customers. 

The production improved and the big turning point came when the pair linked up with Halifax-based videographer Devon Murrins, who added more polish to the product. He allowed them to move beyond interviews and develop a more narrative structure in the broadcasts.

One final problem needed to be addressed: When Abdussamad and Foley went in to renew their contract with Bell this summer, they were told viewers were confusing Startup Kitchen with the channel’s cooking show. They needed a new name.

They figured that the community had come to be known by its Twitter handle hashtag-startupeast. So while www.startupkitchen.ca remains the duo’s website, the show is now #startupeast.

The series, which begins on Oct. 20, will start by chronicling the Propel selection camp, which took place last month. In the second segment, to air Nov. 17, the documentary will examine the development of some of the companies in the accelerator, such as Bitness and Bungalo of Halifax and Simptek of Fredericton.

 Abdussamad said the viewer will get to know some of the entrepreneurs, and even their families, to understand the pressures and rewards on the founders and those around them.

The final episode will feature the Propel Demoday, which will take place in December.  The episode will be broadcast Jan. 5.

The other projects in the hopper include a documentary on iMagic, the publicly listed video streaming project that Marcel LeBrun – later the CEO of Radian6 – launched in the 1990s.

People can view #startupeast if they subscribe to Alliant FibreOp, or at the websites of Bell or Startup Kitchen. Startup Kitchen will present the first episode at an event at Planet Hatch on Oct. 23. 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

NB Gives $90K Grant to HotSpot


One week after taking office, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has announced a $90,000 funding for Fredericton-based HotSpot Parking Inc., a recent graduate of the Launch36 accelerator.

Beyond the facts of the funding and its benefit for an interesting company, Gallant has sent a few strong signals about startups.

When the new Liberal premier and his cabinet were sworn in on Oct. 7, Gallant took a few cabinet portfolios for himself, including innovation. It’s noteworthy that innovation – which usually isn’t mentioned in cabinet titles – is given enough importance that the premier wants to oversee it personally.

And his first job-creation announcement was a funding deal revealed Tuesday for a startup – a $90,000 contribution that will allow the company to hire six people.

“Our investment in this small business will help create new jobs and assist in stimulating other capital investment opportunities for HotSpot Parking Inc.,” said Gallant, who is obviously signaling that startups will play a key role in his government’s economic strategy.

The HotSpot technology 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.

But that’s only what the driver sees in the solution.

In the past year, CEO Phillip Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for downtown businesses. Hotspot Parking allows these businesses to advertise directly to customers through their cellphones. And because of the geolocation capabilities of cellphones, the company can track how many people respond to their ads, who returns and who spends money.

“With the investment from the provincial government, our company will be able to grow rapidly, expand to global markets and help boost our local economy,” said Curley in a statement. “HotSpot sees massive potential in small businesses and we will continue to work hard to increase downtown health and through the collaborative work with our local small business entrepreneurs."

The government is making the contribution through the NB Growth Program, which authorizes grants of up to $100,000 to new and growing businesses. The CBC said Tuesday that HotSpot is currently operating in Fredericton, Saint John and Charlottetown, and the company plans to expand to Moncton and Halifax.

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: Honibe Partnership


Island Abbey Foods Ltd. Announced Today A Partnership With Leading French  Pharmaceutical Company Gifrer

Honibe Co-Branding With Gifrer Alma miel Creating France’s First All Natural Honey Lozenges with Vitamin C, Menthol and Eucalyptus

Charlottetown, PE, Canada – October 14, 2014 – Island Abbey Foods, a PEI based natural health product producer, has announced today a new partnership between their flag ship brand Honibe and the French pharmaceutical company Gifrer. The partnership will utilize the Honibe Honey Lozenges™ in a co-branded effort with Gifrer’s Alma miel to meet the growing consumer demand for natural health alternatives in the French cough and cold market.

“We are thrilled to announce a partnership with Gifrer, an established and well respected brand that is able to boast over 100 years of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry in France,” shared John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods Ltd. “This successful partnership is another milestone for our company in international co-branding success. It will enable us to bring our Honibe Honey Lozenges platform to the sophisticated French consumer.”

“This collaboration alongside Island Abbey Foods will allow us to meet the growing needs of health products that help relieve cough and cold symptoms through a healthy and safe platform,” stated Paul Thiou, Director Business at Gifrer in France. “Gifrer’s Alma miel throat tablets produced in cooperation with Honibe are a perfect fit for what our consumers are demanding today.”

This new co-branded partnership will establish the world’s first lozenges made with 100% pure dried honey in the French market. Gifrer now has the ability to service the demand from its customers for an all natural and safe delivery method for current cough and cold remedies by way of the Honibe pure dried honey platform technology that Island Abbey Foods possesses.

Honibe Honey Lozenges contain 100% pure dried honey, with a small amount of naturally derived therapeutics and no artificial ingredients. Honibe will be marketing two products in the Gifrer co-branded partnership: Alma miel with Vitamin C and Alma miel with menthol and eucalyptus. Alma miel Honey Lozenges are for the maintenance of good health and the temporary relief of sore throat and nasal congestion. Alma miel Honey Lozenges are only 10 calories per piece (2.5 g) and are available in blister packages of 10 lozenges.

About Gifrer

Gifrer is a France based pharmaceutical company who specializes in the development, production and marketing of a wide range of over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, cosmetics and healthcare accessories. A team of highly educated and experienced researchers look and search for new products to launch in the Belgian and French market.

For more information please visit Gifrer on the web at http://www.gifrer.fr/EN/

.

About Island Abbey Foods

Island Abbey Foods is a Health Canada and FDA licensed specialty food, natural health product, and medicated health product producer based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. We are a 6th generation PEI agricultural family business with our feet firmly planted in our Island's bright red soil, ideal for farming with its high iron and nutrient content.  Honibe honey is sourced from 100% Canadian Grade A honey from Prince Edward Island and Canadian beekeepers. 

For more information please visit us on the web at http://www.IslandAbbeyFoods.com and to check out our newest video release on Why Honey Lozenges are the best choice for you, please visit http://www.Honibe.com. 

 

LiveLenz Lands Funding, New CEO


With a new management team, product and funding round, Livelenz Inc. of Bedford is looking to expand its sales and marketing efforts and extend its reach into the fast-food and casual restaurant markets.

Jon McGinley, a veteran of such startups as Bluedrop Performance Learning and Radian6, became CEO in July. McGinley succeeded co-founder Joel Doherty, who left to lead the Epson cloud initiative for Epson America, Inc., the world’s largest maker of receipt printers for the hospitality market. McGinley is aided by Greg Poirier, another Radian6 alumnus who is now the Livelenz chief operating officer.

Although the executive team has changed, the mission is still to deliver real-time analytics tools to quick-service restaurants and casual dining establishments across the continent. And McGinley said in a recent interview the company is succeeding in landing new customers.

 “We’re going to have a good fourth quarter. We have a strong sales pipeline and good traction with a lot of U.S.-based restaurants from our work this summer.”

Livelenz began four years ago with the goal of helping quick-service restaurant franchisees to analyze data on their sales, employees and productivity. The company uses its proprietary software in the Epson OmniLink printer to gather data regardless of what point-of-sale system is used.

Livelenz is focusing not on developing new products, but on increasing sales with its current offerings. McGinley highlighted two factors are helping the effort.

The company recently raised $1 million in funding, including $500,000 in equity financing. The equity investors were Innovacorp (which had previously invested $1 million in 2012) and a range of individuals.

Many of the individuals were Livelenz clients who were impressed with the product and wanted to back the company. “We thought that was a nice piece of reassurance that we’re doing something right,” said McGinley.

The other factor is the company’s latest product, LiveScore, which is helping to drive sales. LiveScore analyzes data from the restaurant and presents it to the employees. The fact the employees themselves can see details of the outlet’s performance is key, because it allows the organization to set targets and better communicate with staff affecting employee behaviour and thereby increasing sales.

For example, if management notices lattes sell well in one shift but not another, they can set targets so each shift tries to sell more of a popular product. The result, in some fast-food restaurants, has been a three to eight per cent increase in sales, said McGinley.

In casual restaurants, LiveScore works a little different. It allows operators to set targets for individual servers, or maybe create friendly competition between servers to encourage sales.

With a healthy sales pipeline, the company is planning for further growth. It now employs 16 people, up from 11 at the end of last year. One technical lead has moved to Nova Scotia from the United Kingdom. And the board of directors was recently bolstered by the addition of Wallace Doolin, former president of the National Restaurant Association of America.

 

Entrevestor receives financial support from various government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Holt: Linking Startups & Corporates


There are many theories about how best to encourage entrepreneurs. Susan Holt, president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, links entrepreneurs with seasoned business people and encourages the veterans to become early adopters of the startups’ new products and services.

Holt is a familiar face at startup events in New Brunswick. It might seem mere common sense to link business vets with newbies but her approach is actually unusual.

Created in 2005, the New Brunswick Business Council is a group of business leaders dedicated to building New Brunswick’s economy.

“When I started out with the business council, one of my first objectives was to link the experience and knowledge of our members with the needs of young entrepreneurs,” said Holt, who has been in her role for three years.

“I felt like our members were a locked treasure chest and I had to figure out how to unlock the chest and give others access. Members weren’t interacting with the entrepreneurial community. I saw an opportunity to link them.”

With that in mind, she created various programs, including Meals with Moguls and Passport Service, which bring entrepreneurs to business council meetings, where the youngsters’ challenges are discussed and connections and introductions made.

“Recently, one member introduced a young entrepreneur to a licensing lawyer in Australia. Members have diverse backgrounds so when there’s a consensus of advice, that’s helpful to the entrepreneur,” Holt said.

“Other times, entrepreneurs hear different views and make their own choice. We encourage them to ask specific questions. One entrepreneur wanted to know whether to expand to the U.S. or acquire a U.S. company. The recommendation was that he experiment with a pilot acquisition.”

Holt said the interaction works both ways.

“The members of the council get excited by their meetings with ambitious young entrepreneurs. They leave with increased optimism for their own business and province.

“And the entrepreneurs realize our members share their concerns. Members are also worried about payroll, bottom lines and clients. They are more established, that’s all.”

Encouraging established companies to be early adopters of entrepreneurs’ new services and products is also vital. So far, 15 out of 24 business council companies have been matched with entrepreneurs to allow early testing of a product or service.

“Getting early adopters is important,” Holt said. “We can all build something in our basement but, if you don’t get market feedback, you could be wasting money because your idea doesn’t fit a client’s needs.”

Like many influential people in this region’s business community, Holt feels a personal commitment to boosting entrepreneurship. Raised in Fredericton, she completed a bachelor of science in chemistry and a bachelor of arts in economics at Queen’s University in Ontario.

She went on to work in sales, human resources and management with high-profile firms like Xerox, Manpower, HP, Cognos (now IBM) and Research in Motion. She then spent nearly a decade working around the world, including stints in Australia and India, returning to New Brunswick in 2007.

Now, as mom to two daughters — five-month-old Paige, and Molly, aged 21/2 — Holt’s commitment to her home province is even more personal.

Her girls are cared for by her husband, Jon, who gives her “the freedom to develop my work without it feeling like complete insanity.”

She and her business council colleagues also focus on working with the provincial government on broader issues.

“Right now, our focus is immigration,” she said. “New Brunswick needs to grow its population. We want to increase the flow of immigrants to jobs that are not being filled by locals.

“I’m hopeful the province’s new Liberal government will work with us and the federal government to boost immigration. That will in turn boost the economy.”

Dodoname Aids Consumer Privacy


Michael J. Gaffney wants to protect the privacy of consumers around the world when they register on a website, and he wants to do it — at least in part — from Nova Scotia.

An Ottawa resident, Gaffney is a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in six startups, for which he’s raised about $15 million. His latest venture is Dodoname, a company that helps consumers preserve their privacy and helps e-retailers to target consumers who might be interested in their wares.

Dodoname is dual-headquartered in Ottawa and New Glasgow, the hometown of Gaffney’s wife. The couple has a house in Merigomish Harbour, and wanted to spend more time there. So when Gaffney began to develop his latest venture he decided to hire talent in northern Nova Scotia. What’s more, he found programmers to build the software in Lunenburg.

 “I scoured the world to try to find some people who would build this the way I wanted it done, and by luck I linked up with these guys in Lunenburg,” he said in a phone interview from the nation’s capital.

Dodoname is a software-as-a-service product that helps consumers by addressing one of their greatest worries about e-commerce — that by providing an email address and other details, someone will hack their account, access their bank account or sell their data to spammers.

On the other side of the e-commerce relationship, businesses don’t want customers’ names, email addresses or phone numbers because there is a cost to protecting it. But they do want to know their customers’ demographics (age, gender, city of residence, etc.) and their likes and dislikes. Such things, which Dodoname refers to as the customer’s persona, are essential in targeted marketing.

What Dodoname does is give the corporations the details they want about customers and allows them to target their marketing, but it does not surrender customers’ personal details.

When consumers sign up with Dodoname, they leave an assumed name and information on their persona. When they use Dodoname to sign up for other websites, such as e-commerce sites, the system assigns the consumer a random email address for each site they enlist on. The corporation that owns the site is the only one who can use that email address to contact the consumer, so the information cannot be sold to spammers.

 “What Dodoname does is give people an infinite number of email addresses and there is a matched pair so only that person can use that email address,” said Gaffney.

However, if a business wanted to market to all consumers that fit a certain profile (say, hockey fans, or wine enthusiasts, or people who clip coupons), the system helps them design campaigns that can reach such an audience. They can search the database for certain persona and reach out to them with discounts or coupons.

Gaffney calls it “p-commerce,” with the “p” standing for persona.

Dodoname will launch later this month, and Gaffney hopes to attract 25,000 consumers each quarter.

By the end of the year, Gaffney will have invested about $450,000 in the project. He’s hoping to raise venture capital by the end of the first quarter of 2015.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

Digital Bridge Scholarship Launched


Junior Achievement Nova Scotia and Torusoft have put out the following press release:

 HALIFAX, NS (Oct. 8, 2014) – A new educational initiative is launching across the province this month, as the result of a joint partnership between Junior Achievement Nova Scotia and Torusoft. The Nova Scotia Digital Bridge Scholarship will enable secondary school students to learn computer programming and related skills, through free access to online learning materials and dedicated mentorship.

The Digital Bridge Scholarship is based on the premise that learning should be free of charge, sustained and scalable. As such, it is funded entirely through donations from the private sector; seats are available for a six-month term, and require nomination by teachers or Junior Achievement; and finally, the scholarship is available to students across the province, limited only by funding.

The idea came from an open proposal penned by Torusoft in the spring, which quickly gained support among industry stakeholders, community partners and public officials. In August, the scholarship found a home with Junior Achievement Nova Scotia, where it is now offered alongside other core programming.

“The mentorship and learning tools available through the Digital Bridge Scholarship program will not only encourage our students to learn new things, but it will broaden their understanding of the digital world and the possibilities within it. We are particularly excited that students will be able to explore courses in ICT in conjunction with their experience in Company Program, along with the support and guidance of business and ICT mentors.” – Kristin Williams, President & CEO, Junior Achievement Nova Scotia

The Digital Bridge Scholarship addresses a number of issues facing our youth and our economy today. As students aren’t exposed to computer programming and related skills at a young age, few decide to pursue ICT as a potential career or area of post-secondary study upon graduating high school. The ICT sector, in turn, is crying out for new graduates as it struggles to sustain its growth. The Digital Bridge Scholarship helps “bridge” the skills gap while deeper structural changes to education are pending.

“Junior Achievement’s programming is based on financial literacy, workplace readiness and entrepreneurship. The Digital Bridge Scholarship combines these pillars with digital literacy, which is crucial in identifying, creating and capitalizing on opportunity, starting a business or joining the workforce. It’s exactly what this region needs, and will make J.A. even more relevant in Nova Scotia.” – Ari Najarian, President, Torusoft

The Nova Scotia Digital Bridge Scholarship is soliciting donations, and seeking nominations for its fall cohort online at https://bridgescholarship.ca A tax.-deductible donation of $150 will fund one student for a six month term.

Launch sponsors include Dynamic Hosting, Sheepdog, Equals6, CodeKids.ca, Kula Partners, Proposify and Interview Rocket. Community partners, who will assist with marketing and promotion, include Digital Nova Scotia, StudentsNS, and Collide Halifax. Discussions are also under way with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

Agile Sensor Targets Drone Upgrades


Having grown out of a research grant from a major defense contractor, Agile Sensor Technologies Inc. is now marketing products that improve the operation of unmanned vehicles that travel in the sky, the sea and on land.

Founded on intellectual property developed at Memorial University, the St. John’s company is now selling its own proprietary quadcopter  (a little unmanned helicopter with four rotors) that is stable even in high winds. It is also selling a novel mechanism that grants more movement to cameras mounted on drones and submersible vehicles.

Headed by President and CEO Brian Terry, Agile has found solutions to some of the major problems associated with the growing industry surrounding unmanned aircraft. Though they have thousands of industrial, safety and military applications, the use of drones is limited because they generally can only fly in good weather. And there are restrictions on where they can fly because of difficulties sensing and avoiding oncoming aircraft.

“Sense-and-avoid is difficult, so we’ve moved beyond that,” said Terry in an interview. He explained that Agile’s device – the Parallel Kinematic Mechanism -- allows a new way to move cameras on drones with greater freedom than now exists. 

The story of Agile Sensor Technologies began in 2007 when Memorial received a grant from a major defense contractor to study and find solutions to the sense-and-avoid problem. The funding increased to about $3.6 million when the university received Atlantic Innovation Fund money from of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and a grant from the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Researcher Nick Krouglicof, who is now Agile’s CTO and Vice-President of Research and Development, led the research. He began to focus on intelligent cameras, or those in which the image processing is done in the camera, not in base stations on the ground.

What they noticed was problems in the aiming system for these cameras, which relied on gimbal systems, or systems that relied on the camera pivoting on two axes.  Krouglicof realized that these systems weren’t fast or accurate enough and consumed too much power. He set out to cure these faults, and to minimize the weight and dimensions of the pointing device.

“So they invented a new type of pointing system to replace the gimbal – including a new type of ball joint and a new type of linear motor,” said Terry. The team is now in the process of patenting the new type of pointing device and the motor, which allows more speed, power and flexibility than the gimbal system. As well as being used in drones, it also has applications in unmanned underwater and surface craft.

The work with the new camera system led the team to experiment further in a novel quadcopter to test the intelligent camera. “It has taken on a life of its own,” said Terry. “It uses a technology that may not be used by any other quadcopter in the market, and there are a lot of them.”

This technology allows the unit to withstand wind gusts of as much as 50 kilometers an hour, said Terry.

In August, Terry, Krouglicof and sales and marketing specialist Michael Harvey teamed up to launch a company to sell these products. They are licensing the intellectual property from Memorial and are in contact with large multinationals that could prove to be customers.  It hopes to develop a manufacturing facility for the devices in St. John’s in the autumn of 2015.

Agile is now working on raising capital with a target of $1.5 million.

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Crosbie Wins EY Entrepreneur Award


EY, the global accountancy and business consultancy firm, issued the following press release, announcing the winners of the 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year award:

Robert Crosbie of Crosbie Group Limited named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic 2014

EY celebrates gravity-defying entrepreneurs at annual awards gala

HALIFAX, Oct. 4, 2014 - Robert Crosbie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Crosbie Group Limited — a privately held family business involved in the offshore oil and gas, onshore industrial, real estate and construction sectors — is this year's Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic winner.

Crosbie Group Limited is a fourth generation family business that dates back to the mid-1800s. Rob took on the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Crosbie Group Limited in 1991 — a strenuous time for the company amid a strained Newfoundland and Labrador economy. He acted quickly to stabilize the company and identify opportunities for growth in the emerging oil and gas industry.

"Gravity-defying entrepreneurs make the impossible, possible. That means fearlessly tackling challenges head-on," says Jim Lutes, Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic Program Director. "That's exactly what Rob did. And what's more, he saw opportunity in adversity. It's that kind of forward-thinking that paved the way for Crosbie Group Limited's success and made Rob a stand-out in our program." 

Rob continues to deepen the Crosbie family's legacy of entrepreneurial ambition, public service and philanthropy throughout the province.

"He's set a standard of excellence that's translated into a leading company culture focused on innovation," says Lutes.

Under Rob's leadership, the company has implemented a number of processes and metrics to encourage innovation. The results speak for themselves. New products and methodologies developed by Crosbie Group Limited are currently being used across industries.

EY partnered with the World Economic Forum on a recent report, The Bold Ones: high-impact entrepreneurs who transform industries, to uncover the qualities that define high-impact entrepreneurs. The report found that high-impact entrepreneurs not only disrupt industry through innovative products and services. They also make a measurable difference for society.  

"Crosbie Group Limited supports numerous charitable organizations and all employees are encouraged to give back to their communities," says Lutes. "We're proud to recognize Rob and Crosbie Group Limited for their contributions to building a better working world — and even prouder to celebrate them as our EY Entrepreneur of The Year Atlantic 2014 award winner."

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates the contribution and spirit of entrepreneurs around the world. The Canadian program is in its 21st year of honouring the country's most impressive entrepreneurs from all areas of business. Award finalists are chosen based on their vision, leadership, financial success and social responsibility.

This year's gala also honoured Atlantic Canada's Stanfield family with the EY Family Business Award of Excellence in celebration of generations of entrepreneurial achievement. 

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic 2014 category award recipients: 

Business-to-Business Products and Services

Paul Antle

Pluto Investments Inc. | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

The private holding company of Paul Antle, Pluto has grown from a small investment in an environmental company into a large diversified portfolio.

Business-to-Consumer Products and Services

Michael Whittaker

Trucorp Investments | Moncton, New Brunswick

trucorp.ca

Comprised of Bonte Foods, the region's largest processor of quality deli meats and Grinner's Food Systems, as well as the franchisor of three fast food brands: Greco Pizza, Capt Submarine and the newly launched Frozu frozen yogurt chain.

Emerging Entrepreneur

David Alston, Jody Glidden, Stewart Walchli

Introhive | Fredericton, New Brunswick

introhive.com

Solves the question of who knows who for businesses by using relationship analytics software to uncover the relationships a company has with customers and prospects.

Hospitality and Tourism

Ben Cowan-Dewar

Cabot Links Venture Inc. | Inverness, Nova Scotia

cabotlinks.com

Owns and operates Cabot Links, Canada's first and only true links golf course.

Information Technology 

Cindy Roma, Sydney Ryan

Telelink | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

telelinkcallcentre.com

A leading provider of multi-channel 24/7 live safety and inbound customer support solutions to North America's energy sector.

Manufacturing

Terry Malley

Malley Industries Inc. | Dieppe, New Brunswick

malleyindustries.com

Manufactures specialty vehicles, including advanced life support ambulances, police and security vehicles, vehicles for persons with disabilities, and produces thermo-formed plastic products for automotive, aerospace and food industry industries.

Media and Entertainment 

John Wesley Chisholm

Arcadia Entertainment Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia

arcadiatv.com

An independent TV content production company, operating with commissions for TV series and specials from National Geographic, Discovery Channels and other global broadcasters.

Real estate and Construction

Robert Crosbie

Crosbie Group Limited | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

crosbiegroup.com

Currently involved in offshore oil and gas services, onshore industrial services, real estate and construction.

What's next?

As the Atlantic region's EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014, Rob will compete with top entrepreneurs from the Pacific, Prairies, Ontario and Quebec for the national honour of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Canada 2014, to be presented at a gala celebration on 25 November 2014 in Toronto. In June 2015, Canada's Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 will move to the world stage to compete with more than 50 country recipients for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

The 2014 Atlantic judging panel consists of Philip Fraser, President and CEO, Killam Properties Inc.; Scott McCain, Chairman and CEO, Saint John Sea Dogs; Iris Petten, President, Petten Holdings Inc.; Robert Youden, Partner, Savarin Consulting Limited; and Jo Mark Zurel, President, Stonebridge Capital Inc.

200 Teachers To Use Agora’s Vizwik


Moncton-based startup Agora Mobile has launched a new method of teaching coding and has already signed up about 200 teachers to use the product.

Agora Mobile is an ambitious company founded by Dalhousie University computer science alum Simon Gauvin, who hopes to revolutionize the way people learn coding.

Agora’s main product, Vizwik, lets anyone create apps that work on all mobile devices and that never have to be downloaded or updated. The company lets users join a social network on which they can develop their own apps. They can share these apps with other people. Soon, the system will let them sell the apps as well.

 “Coding has become part of nearly every career path, but teachers just don’t have the time to learn the complex programming tools to teach coding,” said Gauvin. “We created Vizwik so teachers can fill this gap in both their own and their students’ learning, allowing both to dive into coding.”

The company has just launched Vizwik and its first sales campaign is an effort to get the product into the hands of high-school teachers who want to teach coding. It is working with Brilliant Labs, an initiative that aims to encourage teachers in the Maritimes to do more to teach coding to their students. Fewer than 10 per cent of North American high schools teach coding, even though more than one million positions are expected to be left unfilled over the next five years due the lack of qualified people, said Agora in a statement.

The Agora business model calls for the company to find adopters among teachers, preferring to make the sales in individual classrooms rather than to entire school boards. Agora charges $9 for a basic account and as much as $15 for an advanced package.

The company has so far found adopters in 22 high schools in the French-language segment of the New Brunswick school system, and it is making inroads in one of the four English segments.

Gauvin said teachers are generally not intimidated by the platform, and that it uses a more “visual” coding system than many others. Students can learn to code in a secure environment. They can develop their own apps. And using the Viswik social network they will soon be able to even sell their apps and learn about entrepreneurship. Agora also provides tutorials that help them learn to code.

So far, about 900 people have registered to use the system.

As well as its consumer product, Agora is working on a corporate product that will allow businesses to use the Vizwik platform to develop their own product, branded specifically for that corporation.

Agora Mobile, which now has six employees, raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors earlier this year. The foundation accounted for half the round.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published. 

How to Follow Passions—Profitably


Entering the austere halls of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology, Management & Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick, with its arched entrance and paneled halls, it’s easy to suppose the school’s summer institute will be a serious affair.

The Centre is the epicenter of entrepreneurship education at the University of New Brunswick, the institution that Startup Canada named the Most Entrepreneurial Post-Secondary Institution of the Year for 2014.

What’s special about UNB? Well, for one thing the Herbert Smith Centre, the entrepreneurship education facility, is embedded right in the heart of the Engineering faculty, which helps when the university spins off the technology it develops into startups.

So there was a bit of apprehension on entering the class where the Summer Institute, the university’s program for entrepreneurs, is running during the holiday. Walking into the sunlit classroom, I saw the five teams working away, with the encouragement of mentors Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jordan Smith and Philip LeBlanc, head of the Fredericton Makerspace.

The faces all shine with enthusiasm, but that’s not what you notice first.

The thing that catches your eye is the materials these entrepreneurs of tomorrow are using for their projects: Play-Doh; pipe-cleaners; scraps of old felt.

There are lean canvases and laptops in the room as well, as there are at all entrepreneurship methodology clinics. But in the Summer Institute for aspiring entrepreneurs at UNB, all the participants have to remove themselves from the fail-fast-fail-often seriousness of the startup world.

They have to embrace design, meaning and a liberal dose of fun. Above all, says the program leader, Dhirendra Shukla, the students participating in the program have to embrace their greatest passion.

“Young people are passionate about the world and we have to harness this passion,” Shukla, the Dr. J. Herbert Smith ACOA Chair of the centre, said in an interview. ”Our attitude is, ‘The most important thing about this is you and your passion,’ and now let’s turn this into a business.”

The organizers of the Summer Institute all stress that they didn’t want the program to replicate some of the great accelerators in the region, like Planet Hatch’s ACcelr8 or PropelICT’s Launch36. They wanted to incubate a class of entrepreneurs that might not be eligible for such innovation- or technology-based accelerators.

“We wanted to create a system of support for people who want to start businesses but need mentorship that has not been available before,” said Gracen Johnson, an administrator with the Summer Institute. They advertised for the program to run from May 5 to July 31for people who

want to turn their passion into a business. From the 40 applications they received, they chose five teams.

The winners were eclectic:

Wear Your Label, founded by Kayley Reed and Kyle MacNevin – the company is developing a line of “conscious clothing” aimed at 13 to 29 year olds. The clothing bears labels referencing mental health, and the wearer can choose how prominent the label is. The aim is subtlety, so people can ask the wearers what the label means and they can reveal as much as they like.

Ploome, founded by Anna Mathis – Mathis is a fibre artist whose company sells kits that teach people fibre art, ranging from spinning to weaving. She plans to study education at UNB this winter and develop a business around teaching her craft, holding workshops and selling the kits.

Waygood Mobile Therapy, founded by Kati Waygood (shown above) – this business provides a range of therapies, from massage therapy to exercise training to nutrition education, all in the client’s home. Waygood, a registered massage therapist with a BSc in kinesiology, has found the reason many people, such as new mothers and the elderly, skip their therapy sessions is they can’t get to the clinics. So she goes to them.

Oasis Farmery, founded by Andrew Mathis and Jake Wildman-Sisk – this is an aquaponics venture – that is, its system grows crops of herbs and vegetables, such as kale, cilantro, basil, tomatoes or pea shoots, out of a vessel of water containing fish. The fish and plants provide nutrients for each other. Oasis Farmery has set up its first system and is running tests on their model.

• Beyond Saigon, founded by Danny Nguyen – this company delivers Bánh mì (Vietnamese meat and spices in a baguette) to locations around Fredericton. The goal is to provide nutritious, tasty food to lunchtime crowds. Nguyen said he started the company to provide employment for his immigrant family.

Shukla said the organizers chose people who were passionate about their chosen fields with the goal of teaching them how to make money from their passions. They also wanted companies that were helping the community or environment in some way, such as drawing attention to mental health or improving the processes of growing food.

The Summer Institute does what other mentorship programs do by instructing the students to seek out market pain and apply lean methodology to assess the viability of a business. But Shukla’s teaching methods do more. Take the exercise with the Play-Doh and pipecleaners.

All the teams were given the description of a potential client (a twenty-something woman living in New York) and instructed to design and build a product for her. They could only use the craft materials available on a table in the centre of the room.

The exercise had three goals. First, it encouraged the participants to remember they are building products for people, real people with likes and dislikes and emotions and quirks. The entrepreneurs need to make products that speak to their clients’ human qualities.

The second goal is to make the entrepreneur focus on design – in all aspects of what they do. And finally, they have to consider their supply chain when building their product.

“What’s really impressive is people’s ability to be receptive to almost every type of learning process we throw at them,” said Philip LeBlanc of Fredericton Makerspace, one of the mentors at the institute. “They are actually taking advantage of the mentors that are available to them.”

The Summer Institute is a place where unconventional startups are subjected to an unconventional learning experience. And the result is that they worked hard, they collaborated and they began to act like business people.

“We pushed them to go make money, never really expecting it to happen,” said Shukla. “But now they are making money, and they’re doing it as a consequence of doing good.”

In fact, all five teams had booked revenue by early July, and were planning to carry on with their businesses after the course ended. When Beyond Saigon, for example, took its wares to North Market in Fredericton, it sold out of Bánh mì and had to turn some customers away.

The Summer Institute proved that students could develop a business by following their passion. “If we could only do all this times 150, this province would be a special place,” said Rivers Corbett, a UNB entrepreneur-in-residence. “This program allows people to build on their dreams. And yes, they do make money doing it.” 

 

 

This article first appeared in the latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, on educational institutions and startups. Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Drawing Women to the Gaming Sector


Although women are playing online games in ever greater numbers, female game developers and computer programmers remain rare. That’s something Kirsten Tomilson is working to change as she develops her own digital media company, Fourth Monkey Media.

“I don’t understand why there aren’t more women working in the gaming industry,” said Tomilson, CEO and president of the Bridgewater-based venture.

“I go to several conventions a year and they’re primarily peopled with men, so are the studios. I’m passionate about getting more women involved.”

To that end, Tomilson mentors young women through Techsploration, a Nova Scotia non-profit that helps girls explore careers in science, trades and technology.

Getting more women working in digital media would widen the choice of games available. As it is, Tomilson said games tend to be men-centric.

“I admire Silicon Sisters out of Vancouver. It’s the first female-owned and run video game studio in Canada. Their mandate is to make games for women,” she said.

“Women play a lot of hidden object, puzzle and word games. There are many applications that women may develop, such as apps to advance health and science.”

Tomilson, who was born in Calgary, said she dreamt of running her own company since she came to Nova Scotia as a child. The four years since Fourth Monkey Media began have been tough.

“We’re bootstrapping. We have no external investment. We’re just starting to operate in the black. If you can last in this space for two years I believe it shows an ability to sustain yourself. If we can survive for another three years it will show we’re going to make a positive contribution to this province.”

Helping Tomilson sustain Fourth Monkey is a lean team, including a network of freelance artists, programmers, managers and designers, most of them in Halifax.

Many in the network have worked on high-profile titles like The Simpsons. “There’s a theme park attraction at Disneyland called Goofy’s Paint n’ Playhouse that we provided the 3D assets for,” Tomilson said.

She started out as a producer in film and television and went on to become senior production manager for a large video game producer. Most recently, she has produced and managed a number of branded online educational games.

Hiring local people with the right skills is becoming easier, she said, thanks to the close relationship between the Nova Scotia Game Developers’ Association, of which she is president, and the local educational institutions that train the talent.

The association was formed in October 2013. On its website, it quotes the Entertainment Software Association of Canada that states that there are 18 video game development studios around Nova Scotia.

Tomilson believes the provincial digital media tax credit is imperative to the industry.

Introduced in 2007, the credit has been extended until the end of this year. It allows producers to claim the lesser of 50 per cent of qualifying expenditures or 25 per cent of total expenditures.

“Tax credits like these are vital,” Tomilson said.

Fourth Monkey develops games on various platforms, including HTML 5.

Staff are also working on projects for other companies and have just completed an app for networking equipment specialist Cisco Systems.

Ideally, Tomilson would like to spend more time on Fourth Monkey projects. But it costs a lot to make a game. The minimum cost is around $15,000 and it can go up to hundreds of thousands.

But the rewards can also be high. “In terms of profit margins, Canada is ranked third in the world. Other countries are vying for our position. We have to ensure we have good programs and incentives in place.”

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Spring Loaded Raises $270K in VC


Having secured a fresh tranche of venture capital financing, Spring Loaded Technology Inc. is looking for a few volunteers to beta-test its revolutionary “bionic” knee brace.

The company said it has just raised $270,000 in equity financing from Innovacorp and has now raised total financing – including equity, debt and grants – of $1.8 million.

Having started at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean class in September 2012, Spring Loaded is developing a knee brace that strengthens as well as stabilizes the joint. The product can increase the performance of athletes or grant greater mobility to people who have difficulty moving because of age, disability or obesity.

Spring Loaded is developing two separate product lines: A-Series knee braces to increase performance, reduce fatigue, and prevent injury; and M-Series knee braces for the enhanced rehabilitation and treatment of various mobility impairments. Spring Loaded plans to unveil its first market-ready product by the end of 2014.

 “When mobility becomes impaired, quality of life diminishes, said CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in a statement. “Spring Loaded is working to change that. We are now planning beta testing in a broad cross-section of individuals, including healthy athletes, manual laborers, military personnel, and individuals with a wide range of mobility impairments.”

He added the company is witnessing an accelerated demand for its products from a variety of customers around the world.

The prototypes used in beta-testing will be fitted to each participant, who will be asked to provide feedback on performance and fit throughout the trial. The test will involve a broad selection of customers and is planned to launch later in the year.

People who would like to be considered for beta testing can sign-up at http://www.springloadedtechnology.com. 

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

ABK Names Abraham CEO


ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax medical device startup, said Thursday it has appointed founder Bob Abraham as its new CEO, succeeding industry vet Pat O’Connor.

The company had had bases in both Halifax and Ireland, but under Abraham’s leadership it will consolidate its operations in Halifax.  

ABK is the developer of OccluRad — tiny bio-compatible glass beads used to treat uterine fibroids, or benign tumours, in a woman’s uterus. The product improves efficiency and safety when treating women for the affliction. The company hopes to have OccluRad on the market in Europe in the second quarter of 2015, and in the U.S. and Canada shortly after that.

The company recently made news because of two notable events involving financing.  First, ABK in the spring was awarded a $2.14 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. And second it raised about $1 million through the First Angel Network and a range of other angel networks from across North America.

A spokesperson for ABK said O’Connor, who had spent years working for some of the world’s largest medical device companies, took the company through its crucial product development phase during which his experience and management skills were invaluable.

“The consolidation required a CEO in Halifax and Pat was unable to make the move,” she said. “Given that ABK is entering the clinical validation phase of OccluSystem as well as launching a locally led AIF on pipeline development, the board chose Bob as the CEO to move ABK forward in this next stage of growth.”

The AIF award will enable ABK to simplify and enhance chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer patients with ABK’s novel radiopaque embolic beads.  The company is also proceeding with the lead product’s first-in-human trials and advancing other products, including one to help with the treatment of liver cancer.

“As a nationally recognized embolization expert, we are delighted to have Dr. Abraham as our new, full-time CEO,” said Aaron Berez, chairman of the board of ABK Biomedical. “His experience as a clinician, entrepreneur and med tech investor as well as his dedication to patients and passion for innovation make him the ideal candidate to lead ABK Biomedical.”

Abraham has spent more than 20 years as a practicing clinician and interventionalradiologist at Capital Health in Halifax. He has successfully licensed catheter innovations and established the Uterine Fibroid Embolization program at QEII Health Sciences Centre and IWK in 2001. He was a founder of ABK along with Dalhousie University researcher Daniel Boyd.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Athlegen’s Gene Analysis for Athletes


Athletigen Technologies Inc., the Halifax startup that owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, has launched a product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genetic analysis.

CEO Jeremy Koenig has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe. Hoping to engage 10,000 users before the end of the year, Athletigen aims to help people understand their athletic genetic strengths and weaknesses, so that they can improve their training regime.

 “Our first version will allow anyone to compare their genetic traits with others and see where they fit relative to the world’s genetic landscape in terms of athletics,” said Koenig in an interview in Volta Labs in Halifax, where the company has an office. “If you have performance goals, we can let you know what to focus on. Or if you’re new to fitness, we can help guide your choices.”

Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe takes genetic samples from people and tells them their genetic ancestry. It now has about one million users. Athletigen launched its first version Wednesday and now allows these one million people to use their 23andMe data to generate an Athletigen profile.

The user data will be analyzed with Athletigen’s proprietary bioinformatic algorithm, which assesses many sports-related genetic markers. These new users will gain instant access to a genetic profile, which they can share with coaches or other people. They can use the information to enhance their training and fitness goals.

Though it is still beta testing the product, Athletigen gives users an online profile that compares their genetically encoded athleticism to other people from around the world. The service now provides such genetic information as willingness to exercise, power, anaerobic capacity, endurance, recovery, metabolism and injury protection.

 “We want this to be simple to use, but it also has to have academic rigour so it will satisfy the demands of a PhD,” said Koenig, who received a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Dalhousie and did post-doctoral research at Cornell University.

The service will be free for the first 23andMe users and to anyone that wants to make a sample profile. Athletigen will make its money by providing administrative support and other services for coaches and sports doctors. “We’re meeting with the best coaches and health professionals in the world and helping them to understand their athletes,” said Koenig, adding that the company can build personalized administrative platforms for each coach.

In addition, Athletigen is planning to launch an intensive training course for coaches, so they can receive accredited certification in genetics-based training for athletes. There would be several levels of certification, including instructor. The instructors could offer these courses to other coaches, which would allow Athletigen to scale its business as more and more coaches are certified.

The company, which incorporated earlier this year, now has five members of its executive team. So far, it’s received some funding from various government bodies, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In addition, Athletigen is one of the semifinalists in the BioInnovation Challenge, the pitching competition this month for Atlantic Canadian biotech companies.

The company aims to raise its first equity investment in the next year with a target of about $3 million.

  

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

NBIF Launches Breakthru Competition


The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation yesterday launched its Breakthru startup competition, which will offer the largest prize ever for the biennial contest.

The Fredericton-based innovation agency sent out a press release calling for pre-revenue startups to apply for the contest before Dec. 9.  The contestants will be competing for a total pool of prizes worth more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. It’s a significant increase over the total prizes of $406,000 in the 2013 event.

“By getting a bigger prize pool, it gives us the ability to be of more help to the winners,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury.  The larger amount of prizes will allow the winners greater “runway,” meaning they will have more money and services to spend longer developing their product.

NBIF has already secured two primary sponsors for the event, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, and is hoping to bring in more sponsors to contribute in-kind services for the prizes.  The foundation hopes to bring in more organizations as sponsors partly because it wants more groups participating in the ecosystem for startups.

Milbury said the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

In the previous competition, the first price was worth $192,000 (consisting of $160,000 in cash investment and $32,000 in professional services), second prize $137,000 and third prize $77,000.

NBIF hopes to announce the details of the prize pot for the current competition in November.

Who should enter? According to Milbury, the perfect candidate is a team with a good idea who have done some work on their project but have yet to incorporate. But the competition is open to all pre-revenue New Brunswick entrepreneurs, from those with an idea to those with an organized business.

People can enter by completing the application, paying an $85 entry fee, submitting a two-page executive summary and providing a one-minute video pitch. (Here’s an example of a pitch that impressed the organizers in the last competition.)

Once the deadline for applications passes on Dec. 9, NBIF will comb through the submissions, determine those who are eligible and invite them to the introductory bootcamp on Jan. 17. The entrants then submit their final pitches, after which five finalists are chosen.

CBC will present features on the five finalists on its TV newscast and on its website, and people are invited to vote for their favourites. As in previous years, Breakthru will present a Viewers’ Choice award as well as the prizes chosen by the judges.

The winner will be announced at a dinner, typically attended by more than 400 people, at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 19.

Breakthru began as a student competition in 2004 and previous participants have included such high-profile startups as Smart Skin Technologies, Inversa Systems and Scene Sharp.

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies – including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation -- that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Pluses & Minuses of Strategic Deals


The plain facts about strategic investments bubbled to the surface at Invest Atlantic on Tuesday during a no-sugar-coating discussion on whether strategic or venture capital investments are better.

It’s difficult to write a conclusion on the panel discussion titled Corporate vs. Venture Capital Investment. Its strength was that there were so many views, often opposing views, presented clearly by people with tremendous experience in the field.

The speakers revealed that a good corporate partner/strategic investor can bring a huge wealth of experience and contacts to a startup, not to mention badly needed capital. But they also revealed that large corporations have their own agendas when they invest in small companies, and startup founders have ensure that they know what that agenda is. They also should know that corporates hope one day to make a return on their money.

“The main reason we do strategic investments is we want to get a strategic benefit,” said Kevin Woods, Senior Manager of Corporate Investments at Lockheed Martin. “But I am not a loss-leader … I have to have a return on the investment.”

Saying he sometimes wears a white hat and other time a black hat, Woods was frank in admitting that he often looks for beneficial licensing agreements when he negotiates a strategic investment. But he also said that working with the world’s largest defence contractor has huge benefits for the target company.

One panel member who agreed that there are huge benefits was George Palikaras, Founder and CEO at Metamaterial Technologies. The Halifax startup struck a partnership this year with Airbus, the world’s largest airplane manufacturer.

He said a strategic deal like that means “your team just expanded by how many thousands of employees.” He added a properly structured deal that gives the startup founder access to key decision makers at the large company and should allow the small company to steer its way through the corporate bureaucracy.

Yet startup veteran Steve Nicolle, the CEO of Halifax-based STI Technologies, highlighted the dangers of strategic deals. Working for startups in the U.S., he had done deals with networking giant Cisco and top-flight venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“As an entrepreneur, my worry is you’re trying to buy my company without buying my company,” he told Woods. “I’m going into it [a negotiation] with my radar on.”

Nicolle added two problems that can occur when a startup has a strategic investor. First, having one multinational as an investor could scare off other multinationals as potential acquirers. And second, just because a large company’s corporate team makes an investment, it doesn’t guarantee that the product team is going to pay attention to the startup.

Woods jumped into the conversation again to say that what a lot of startups don’t realize is that venture capital firms don’t always bring the expertise and connections that they promise.

“Strategic guidance? They think about it but that’s about it,” said Woods. “I think a guy who’s sitting on 15 boards is going to give you about three hours a week. It’s impossible to give more.”

Once again, Nicolle responded that his former company got “astounding” value from Kleiner Perkins, which made great introductions. 

Nicole LeBlanc Joins BDC in Toronto


Nicole LeBlanc, until recently the CFO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, is moving to a new role in Toronto.

Speaking from Montreal, where she is training ahead of beginning her new job with the Strategic Investments & Partnership Group at the Business Development Bank of Canada, LeBlanc said she is excited by the move but will continue to support Atlantic Canadian companies.

“My husband (Philip LeBlanc of Fredericton’s Makerspace) and I have always wanted to see the country and the best way to do that is to live in different places,” she said.

“I’ve always been a Blue Jays fan and it’s a dream of mine to go to Opening Day. But there is never a good time to leave. There is a lot going on in New Brunswick. It’s important to me to stay involved with companies on the East Coast. In my new role I will continue to work with startups across the country, including ones in Atlantic Canada.”

LeBlanc will be much missed as she has been a respected and committed mentor to this region’s entrepreneurs. Her contribution to the community was noted in May when she received the Special Recognition award at New Brunswick’s Knowledge Industry Recognition and Achievement Awards,

LeBlanc said she has spent 50 per cent of her career or a total of six years at NBIF. She is excited by the new challenge, and would also like to live abroad at some point. “I don’t know how we’re going to manage that yet,” she added with a chuckle.

The native of St. George, N.B., was known for both doing the finances of NBIF, and for using her knowledge of accounting and technology to nurture a range of companies around the region. She played a similar role for Halifax’s First Angel Network, where she worked part time for 18 months while Philip LeBlanc studied at NSCAD University.

While working for the Angel Network, she also worked independently with fledgling companies as a consultant. It was the first time she’d helped entrepreneurs with their management issues and she enjoyed the entrepreneurs’ vision and optimism.

 

Using IT to Revolutionize Cleaning


In February, Michael Brown and Matt Cooper tried an experiment that would indicate whether their idea for an online cleaning service would work.

They wanted to know whether complete strangers would go online to book cleaners, leave their credit card details and allow cleaners into their house. The key was the customer had to be a stranger, because that would tell them whether their business would work beyond a circle of friends. Within six days, they had their first customer and Clean Simple was born.

The Halifax company is an online booking service for residential and commercial cleaners, allowing people to book over the internet. It is now up and running with about 80 clients in the Halifax area. It has six cleaners on staff and is looking to hire more. The team is preparing to move into another mid-sized city in three or four months.

“We use technology to allow us to avoid a lot of the overhead that other companies have,” said CEO Brown in an interview. “We can provide as good or better services as others, but at a lower price point.”

Brown and Cooper launched the service in May, with a small investment from an individual investor, which has gone mainly toward marketing.

What Brown and Cooper are doing strikes to the heart of the startup movement, which is now aiding economic growth in Atlantic Canada and around the world. They’ve examined a trade that’s as old as time itself – cleaning services – and used simple technology to improve efficiency and grab market share. The process is known as disruption. They’ve built in the local market and now they’re planning to roll it out to other markets, bringing revenues home to Nova Scotia.  

Brown said the aim of the company is ease of use for the client. He envisages a service in which an apartment dweller, for example, can contact Clean Simple by smart phone from the airport on their way out of town. If the keys are left with the superintendent, the cleaners can go into the flat and the customer comes home to a clean apartment.

By advertising on such sites a Kijiji, Brown has grown a solid client base and he said many customers returning to the service.

And by holding down overhead, he said the company has been able to hire and retain experienced cleaners by offering flexible hours and paying above the going wage in the industry. The cleaners must have their own cars and cell phone so the head office can check in with them when they’re on a job.

The Halifax area has proven a good city to develop the business and work out the kinks, and now Clean Simple is looking to enter another mid-sized city, this time in Ontario. The candidates are Ottawa, London and Waterloo.

Clean Simple for now plans to avoid the large cities like Toronto as there is already a competing service targeting the world major metropolises. Brown believes the cities with 200,000 to 500,000 citizens present an attractive market that is allowing the company to grow.

And growing it is.

“Last week, we had more booking in one day than we had in an entire week a month ago,” he said.  

Vish Solutions Wins PitchCamp


Vish Solutions, a St. John`s startup that helps to improve the efficiency of hair salons, captured first place at the PitchCamp competition that kicked off Invest Atlantic last night.

Vish addresses an unlikely but potentially lucrative pain point. One of the most expensive costs  of running a hair salon is hair dye, but they waste about one-third of  their pigments by not having the right colour in stock, or by mixing it improperly, or other reasons.

Vish Solutions is a cloud-based software-as-a-service product that helps salons to make sure they have the right pigmentation and can use it in the most efficient way. It also helps the salons to make sure they always mix the same color over time for each customer, so patrons’ hair colour doesn’t end up changing with each visit to the salon.

CEO Andrew Murphy was praised by the panel of judges for clearly identifying pain in a big market and devising a scalable product to help cure it.

The 14 participants at PitchCamp each had 60 seconds to deliver a pitch, focusing on the pain they are solving, how they will make money from the scheme and what they are looking for from investors or others.

Second place was captured by Halifax-based FundMetric, whose SaaS product helps charities to raise money. SkySquirrell of Halifax, which uses drones to gather data that improves output at vineyards, captured third place.

The main Invest Atlantic conference will be held today at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.  

Are Startups Still Launching Weekly?


We’re starting to see tweets about the coming Breakthru competition in New Brunswick. Dalhousie University just hosted a Startup Weekend. And PtichCamp, the pitching competition affiliated with Invest Atlantic will take place this afternoon.

What all these things have in common is they’re encouraging and highlighting company formation in the region, and more new companies lately have been showing their faces for the first time. It’s looking as if the breakneck pace of new company formation will continue this year.

A bit of background: when we compiled our data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community earlier this year, one factor that jumped out at us was simply how young this community it.

As of the end of last year, about 67 of the 290 startups in the region were less than one year old. So we were launching more than a startup a week. That’s almost one-quarter of the total community. More than half the community at that time had yet to celebrate their fourth anniversary.

One thing that I wondered is whether company formation would continue at a pace of about 60-odd companies a year. I have yet to collect or crunch any numbers, but I think it could.

Consider a few indicators:

--  Almost all of the Propel “Start Phase” – a total of 15 companies – are startups that have launched this year. What’s more, a couple of companies in the previous cohort were new companies. So at least one-quarter of the 60 companies we’re looking for have shown up in Propel.

--  The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will soon launch Breakthru, its biennial competition for young startups from New Brunswick. The NBIF encourages all new companies to enter regardless of how far along they are, because of the mentorship involved in the competition itself. Two years ago, there were 47 entrants and I’m certain NBIF is hoping for a higher number this year.

--  About half the companies pitching at Pitchcamp this afternoon are new companies. That’s probably another eight companies.

--  A company called UNIfy Alum – which links a university’s alumni with projects at the university – won the Startup Weekend event at Dalhousie this weekend. It’s difficult to tell whether any of the teams competing at these events will become bona fide startups, but Startup Weekends encourage company formation. Other startup weekends are planned this year in St. John’s and Truro, N.S.

So I think that we’re on track to record another 60 or so new startups in the region this year. But there are a few things to note about company formation.

First, this doesn’t mean that the size of the community will jump from 290 to 350 companies. There are companies that have fallen by the wayside, others that have become zombie companies (neither dead nor alive). Some have moved away. Some have morphed into service companies and can’t really be considered startups. It will be interesting to see how the additions and subtractions balance out.

Second, the continual company formation is a double-edges sword in terms of human resources. It means more companies fighting for limited talent. If three or four people form a company, it means they’re not available to help an established company grow. But the growth of new companies also brings more people into the startup world, expanding the total pool of talent.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Bonfire’s Minimum Viable Marketing


Atlantic Canada may seem an unlikely place to establish a marketing and PR agency with a focus on startups, but entrepreneurship is growing fast in this region and Allan Gates, partner at Bonfire Communications, sees an opportunity.

Saint John-based Gates said many entrepreneurs fail to grasp the importance of early-stage marketing.

 “Startups are usually launched by people with a technology background and their focus is on building their product and finding funding,” he said.

 “Marketing is generally an afterthought. That creates a branding gap that can have serious consequences for East Coast startups.”

Gates quotes Israeli venture capitalist Michael Eisenberg, who said that many Israeli technology companies fail to reach their potential because they overlook the importance of initial messaging, branding and positioning.

 “We have a similar problem here on the East Coast,” Gates said. “Too often we Maritimers settle for bland, but bland is forgettable, and forgettable is a bad thing for a startup.”

Gates said that branding for startups doesn’t require elaborate and costly marketing programs.

 “But every startup does need to be crystal clear about who they are and the problem they solve. They need a story. And they need to focus on delivering that story at every opportunity across every platform.”

 “Every platform” naturally includes social media, which offers East Coast entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete with companies in Silicon Valley, Gates said.

Bonfire’s ideas on startup marketing are available free of charge in their e-book, Minimum Viable Marketing: A Playbook for Startups.

 “Minimum Viable Marketing is a pragmatic approach to startup marketing and recognizes the limits of entrepreneurs’ time and funding,” Gates said.

 “Every startup is different, but for most there are five essential components to Minimum Viable Marketing, some strategic and some tactical. These include: positioning and messaging; branding; pitching; social media and the company website.”

Gates said he and his partner, creative director Lise Hansen, run Bonfire as a lean startup. They work with a network of regional creative partners who provide services such as market research, video production and web and app development.

Gates and Hansen themselves met in the startup world, as both worked with New Brunswick social media monitoring company Radian6, before it was bought by Salesforce of San Francisco in 2011.

The partners established Bonfire in January 2013. Growth has allowed them to hire two new staff. They have also been nominated for an emerging business award by the Saint John Chamber of Commerce.

 “Startups are already a decent chunk of our business,” Gates said. “We’d love it if the community grows robust enough to allow us to focus solely on startups.”

Gates decided to focus on marketing for startups after working with tech PR firm, Shift Communications, in Boston in the early 2000s.

Before starting Bonfire, which is named for the notion that the best stories emerge when the sun goes down and the fire is lit, he ran REDGATE Communications in Saint John. He has also worked for the Halifax agencies Colour and Extreme Group.

Originally from northern New Brunswick, Gates said he enjoys the enthusiasm of startups and their ability to get things done.

 “Startups are decisive and nimble. If we present a brand concept to a startup the decision makers are usually in the room. There are not a lot of committees involved,” he added, with a chuckle.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Contestants at PitchCamp Named


Bob Williamson, the organizer of Invest Atlantic, has almost finalized the list of 16 contestants to compete in PitchCamp next week.

Invest Atlantic will host PitchCamp the night before the main conference as a showcase for young companies in the area, and a chance for them to get feedback on their business models and pitches. It takes place 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Monday at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.

Williamson has named 12 contestants to the event, which allows each participant 60 seconds to deliver a pitch, after which they are critiqued by a panel of judges.

The rest of the contestants will be the winners from each Atlantic Province for the Spring4ward event, which will be held earlier on Monday.

The contestants named so far are:

Leslie Gallagher, WorkLocal        

Matt Lee, Incubated Consulting Group

Mark Hobbs, Fundmetrics

Matt Stewart, PizzaGo!

Andrew Murphy, Vish Solutions

Ryan DesRoches, Bandha Nutrition Products

Tim Stekkinger, SkySquirrel Technologies

Tyler Zemlak, Harmonized Healthcare

Katelyn Bourgoin, Swapskies

Hazel Harrison, SNM Global Technologies

Paul Farmer, Vidsnippets

Jeremy Miller, ARTDST 9

Jeremy Koenig, Athletigen Technologies

The judges at the event will be: Brian Lowe, Co-founder and Director, First Angel Network; Gerard Buckley, Chair, Maple Leaf Angels; and Jason Janes, Co-founder, Startup Newfoundland and Labrador.

The main Invest Atlantic conference, which will focus this year on angel investing, will take place the next day, Tuesday, also at the World Trade and Convention Centre. 

Local Startups Shine at Startup Empire


Highlighting the progress being made by local startups, Halifax e-commerce company Dash Hudson used the Startup Empire conference Tuesday to unveil a new feature that will make it easier for people to buy appealing clothes online.

Founder and CEO Thomas Rankin told the conference that Dash Hudson now allows subscribers to click on an Instagram photo of a model wearing clothes. The subscriber is instantly taken to an online store, where he or she can order the clothes on display.

 “It’s a simple experience that takes you from seeing a product you like to buying it and having it soon,” said Rankin, who emphasized that his company is focusing on e-commerce for mobile devices.

Dash Hudson was one of five Atlantic Canadian companies that delivered presentations on their companies to the conference, whose agenda mainly featured successful entrepreneurs from other parts of North America. The Startup Empire conference was organized by Volta Labs, the Halifax organization that nurtures startups.

The five local companies briefly showcased the strides they’re making in key markets. Rankin, for example, highlighted that Dash Hudson is working to overcome the problems associated with e-commerce. It is now too difficult for shoppers to find merchandise online on various sites, try to find sizes and colours and then order the product. Dash Hudson has simplified the ordering process and has technology that finds the best price for the customer.

Having raised $400,000 from angels this summer, Dash Hudson has been further developing its product and increasing sales. Rankin said sales increased 400 per cent in August from the previous month, and the company has been increasing its number of users five per cent per week.

Another company making strong headway is GetGifted, which began in Charlottetown two years ago and has helped merchants across the Maritimes attract new clients by giving them gifts. The company has awarded $3 million in gifts online, all of which had to be claimed at the merchant’s outlet. Merchants report that these customers spend several times the amount of the gift. In Halifax, it is now used by about 60 merchants and its number of consumers is rising weekly.

In January, GetGifted will make its biggest move and launch in Toronto, said CEO Jillian McCrae. It is targeting a base market in Canada’s largest city of 300 merchants and about 25,000 consumers.

Halifax-based Swapkis is developing the first skill-swapping site for women, and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin said she is preparing to launch the company’s platform next month.

Swapskis aims to cure the problem of unemployed or under-employed women who lack the experience, portfolios and networks needed to get ahead. By joining Swapskis — and about 620 women have done so already — job hunters can barter their skills with others, getting feedback, ratings and experience. The site even lets people advertise their services for cash payments.

Bourgoin said the company is now in the process of raising capital with a target of $250,000 in equity.

The other two presenters at Startup Empire were Emily Smits, the chief operating officer of Modest Tree Media, whose Modest 3D product aids in producing online, 3D instructional programs; and Ozge Yeloglu, CEO of topLog, which helps computer network managers avoid costly downtime in their networks.

 

Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Peter Hickey: Let’s Reform Tax Credits


Ever since Radian6 and GoInstant were sold to salesforce.com, there has been a lot of talk about the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Atlantic Canada. How can we keep churning out great, innovative companies that attract world class companies to invest in or buy our companies, creating both wealth for the founders, their employees and investors and adding high paying jobs to our region? Cloning Marcel LeBrun or Jevon MacDonald is likely not an option so we need to figure out how to support our young companies from inception through their growth stages.

There are different types of support required but in this post I am focusing on money. Companies need money and it will be a key ingredient to consistently repeat the success stories we’ve seen in the past three years. With the province getting out of the investment business, a lot of people are now asking, how do we get more local, private investment?

First we should try to understand whether or not there is enough local money to invest. There is. Research shows there is more than $600billion in RRSPs held by Canadians (Stats Can). CBC stated that as of 2012, $73.9billion had had been deposited in Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). As Nova Scotia often cites itself as representing 3 percent of the nation, one can assume our province has roughly $18 billion in RRSPs and $2.2 billion in TFSAs.

So how do we get a small portion of this invested in local firms that will help drive our local economy? Who are the private individual investors we can tap to invest in the firms here? Of course, I am talking about angel investors. Angels typically invest early, taking on a lot of risk in the process. This presents a challenge as we Atlantic Canadians tend to be a conservative lot and the idea of investing in early stage companies seems highly risky. It is.

So how can at least some of the risk be reduced or managed in order to attract more local angel investors? A couple of changes at the provincial and federal levels could go a long way to benefit our region and likely the entire country. At the provincial level, one of the answers is the Equity Tax Credits, or ETCs. An ETC is a provincial tax credit given to investors who invest in companies within that province. In NS the process to qualify as a company that can offer its investors an ETC is fairly straight forward.

Investors receive 35 percent of their investment back in the form of a provincial tax credit. It’s a great incentive because the investor gets to manage some of their risk by getting some money back at tax time. That said, there is a catch, two actually. 1. In NS the investor must reside in NS to qualify for the ETC; and 2. The maximum investment that qualifies is $50,000 annually. Compared to NB and PEI, which allows for tax credits on investments up to $250,000 and $100,000 respectively, we are considerably behind the pack in encouraging our investors to fund local companies.

For those who feel that the government shouldn’t reduce the risk of investments in companies via provincial tax credits I give you this. ETCs have been proven to result in more tax revenue at both a provincial and federal level. A 2010 study, commissioned by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development evaluated the economic impact of the venture capital program (VCP) in BC. BC’s VCP offered a 30 percent tax credit to investors making eligible investments. Over the period of 2001--‐2008, investments made in 517 companies received a total of $191million provincial and $65 million federal tax credits. These companies generated an estimated $379 million in provincial and $368 million in federal taxes. The estimates suggest that for every $1 of provincial tax credits issued, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes; and for every $1 of Canadian (i.e., combined provincial and federal) tax credits issued, they generated $2.92 in Canadian taxes. In short, the BC multiplier was 1.98 and the Canadian tax multiplier was 2.92.

So the ETC appears to be a win for everyone. The company gets an investment, the angel gets a tax break to go with their investment and the government gets more tax dollars. So how do we increase its use?

Here are my recommendations (and neither of them are news, unless common sense is making news these days):

1. Increase the maximum qualifying amount of investment to $250,000. It’s a safe number and already being used by New Brunswick.

2. Allow people living outside the province to receive credit for the investment.

If a $100,000 investment for a local investor gets a $35,000 tax credit which then increases the province’s tax revenue to $70,000 (rounding up) it only makes sense that we replicate that math more often by casting a wider net. Does this mean an outsider gets a cheque from our government? Yes. The government should get two times their money back in the form of sales and income tax. Plenty of people are calling for regionalization but why restrict ourselves to one small region? Invite investors throughout the world to invest in our companies.

One other idea the province may want to consider is increasing the tax credit to 40 percent putting it on par with the tax credit most people receive from their RRSP investments. RRSP’s are safe investments but the return isn’t particularly high so perhaps we’d see more investments made locally with the extra incentive. The success of this type of offering can be easily tracked with a simple requirement that the companies that leverage it submit reporting on a quarterly basis with summary details of what they have paid in salaries (thus what has been paid in federal and provincial tax) and received in sales tax.

Speaking of RRSPs, remember that $18 billion in RRSPs and $2.2 billion in TFSA discussed earlier? That falls under federal jurisdiction. What if the federal government allowed investors to put even 5 percent of our portfolio towards higher risk, early stage local investments? We’d be able to funnel as much as $900 million and $110million respectively, into local firms. That’s more than $1 billion dollars based on current numbers. Again, too risky? The roughly 40 percent credit an investor receives for an RRSP contribution and the additional 35 percent ETC recoups approximately 75 percent of their investment immediately. Name one other investment that does that?

The good news is that there are companies already doing this and proving it to be effective. B4Checkin, a Nova Scotia-based company that developed an online hotel reservation system used it to raise their funding. I am an investor in this company. It wasn’t the tax credits that made my decision to invest but I invested a larger amount as a result of them. Martin MacKinnon, co‐founder and CFO of B4Checkin, credits the late Purdy Crawford with helping the company get this set up but it’s been hugely beneficial to the company’s investors with many of us participating in more than one round of investment.

If RRSPs are supposed to be self-directed, why can’t we invest them in the companies we want to? Is there a concern that people will begin taking advantage of less sophisticated investors, promising them Radian6 success as they pour their retirement money into the latest tech company? Probably and that’s why it’s important to restrict the amount of qualifying investment to a small percentage of their total portfolio. Restrict it further to friends and family of the company directors or accredited investors.

These rules are already in place but the relaxing of what qualifies as RRSP worthy could further spur investment in our local firms. At the end of the day the recipe for a successful ecosystem has a lot of ingredients. We need to be bold and do better to build a successful economy.

The items I discussed are but a few of the things needed albeit important ones. The key takeaways from this post are:

1. Tax credits are a no brainer: For every $1 of provincial tax credits issued, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes. For every $1 of Canadian (i.e., combined provincial and federal) tax credits issued, they generated $2.92 in Canadian taxes.

2. Compared to NB and PEI, which allows for tax credits on investments up to $250,000 and $100,000 respectively, we are considerably behind the pack in encouraging our investors to fund local companies.

3. There are examples of early stage companies successfully using RRSP and ETC incentives to find investment.

 

Peter Hickey, @PeterGHickey, is a Cofounder of Oris4. He would like to thank Martin MacKinnon, Co‐founder and CFO of B4Checkin, Halifax, and Emily Richardson, Co-Founder of  GoFullSteam, Halifax

Press Release: SimplyCast’s Fund


SimplyCast, the Dartmouth multi-channel martking company, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Announces $2.3 Million Marketing Automation Integration Fund

The fund enables organizations to integrate and automate their internal processes with the SimplyCast platform, while greatly reducing the cost of development.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 23, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to announce the creation of the $2.3 million Marketing Automation Integration Fund which will give organizations the opportunity to integrate with SimplyCast's platform at a significantly reduced cost.

SimplyCast created the fund to make integration accessible to all organizations. Integration is the process of connecting two software systems in order to pass data between the two. Integrating with marketing automation software helps organizations to communicate and market their products more effectively. When customers seek integration capabilities, however, it is often costly and time-consuming to get set up with specialized requirements.

SimplyCast will invest to reduce client cost and will assist the integration development process. There is no limit to the integration cost. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations are welcome to apply for integration. The fund reduces integration cost and removes the usual time constraints that organizations face by speeding up the entire process.

 “The Marketing Automation Integration Fund in a huge opportunity for any organization looking to integrate and gain increased capabilities,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “This fund makes integration possible for any organization. Our team wanted to give back to the community and enable organizations to take advantage of the efficiencies of marketing automation.”

An example of how integration works is if an organization has a home-built CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and they want to integrate marketing automation services in addition. The company would integrate with SimplyCast in order to take advantage of this functionality. The total cost of software ownership is greatly reduced for the organization.

SimplyCast has developed several flagship products over the past few years to assist with strong, efficient integration. An API refers to an application programming interface, which allows a third party company to connect their system to another company's system in order to synchronize and transfer data. The SimplyCast API allows developers to connect their internal API directly with the SimplyCast API for this purpose. SimplyCast 360 draws relevant data from the API to create highly personalized automated messages and campaigns for each customer based on their unique needs, interests, history, dates and activities.

If you would like to take advantage of the integration fund, you can apply by contacting your Account Manager or Isiah Wint-Rose at 1.866.323.6572, ext. 1203 or isiah.wint-rose@simplycast.com. To learn more, please visit http://www.simplycast.com/about-us/automation-integration-fund/

.

SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a feature-rich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication. With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.

Detailing the Harsh Realities of Exits


After a day of impressive presentations, the second-last session of the Startup Empire conference in Halifax on Tuesday made people sit up because it detailed the harsh realities of the holy grail of the startup world – the exit.

Jeff Thompson, founder of Fredericton-based UserEvents, and Daniel Debow, Senior VP at Salesforce and founder of several startups, captivated the audience with a frank discussion of what it’s really like to be taken over.  They’ve each exited a couple of companies. And their dialogue – moderated by Patrick Keefe of Build Ventures -- was rich with practical advice and anecdote of the tortures, joys, frustrations, pitfalls and finally the rewards of being taken over.

Even in a conference replete with excellent speakers, their session stood out because startup founders are so often fixated on the celebratory side of an exit without realizing what hard work it is. It was the sort of stuff that people know only if they have gone through it themselves.

Their gems of wisdom included:

-- As a CEO, you have to work at continuing to build you company while you go through the rigors of the due diligence process. The reason is either the deal will close and the acquirer will want a good business, or the deal will collapse and you’ll need the business to be performing well to attract your next potential buyer.--  Until the deal is announced, reveal the negotiations only to a handful of closest executives.

-- Don’t think you’re smarter or tougher than the people acquiring you. They do it for a living and they’ve done it before.

--  Don’t skimp on advisers. Make sure you’ve got top-flight lawyers and accountants who have done it before. If you’re being bought by a serial acquirer, try finding lawyers who have advised other companies it has taken over.

--  Beware of “takeover fatigue”, in which all the parties are so exhausted by the negotiations that nothing gets done.

--  As a CEO you may want to step back from the detailed negotiations. That way if the lawyers get bogged down in quibbling over details, you can step in as a fresh voice and push the talks through the barriers.

--  Understand that there will likely be a lock-in period, and you will be joining the new company as an employee.

--  Also understand that once you agree to a term-sheet, the buyer’s negotiator has to get it approved by higher authorities in his or her company. That means they’re not going to want to go back and make changes.

--  Also as a CEO, you have power until the day you are taken over, then you’re just another worker. So if there are demands you need to make, make them during the negotiations.

--  Try to make sure all your team benefits from the takeover. But also understand you can’t make everyone happy.

The panel with Thompson and Debow was just one of the superb presentations at Startup Empire, which was organized by Volta Labs, the Halifax startup house. Debow appeared earlier in the day to tell startups how to sell their product by telling their story.

Michael Litt, CEO of Kitchener-based VidYard, implored founders to get on the phone and call customers. “If you’re trying to build a product that will scale without interacting with your customers, you’re an idiot,” he said.

The conference also featured talks by other founders and execs from successful startups, like John Baker, CEO of Waterloo-based Desire2Learn, and Harvey Finkelstein, the chief platform officer of Shopify of Ottawa.

 

PropelICT Unveils 20-team Cohort


Doubling its previous capacity, PropelICT has named 20 companies from around the region to its next cohort, which will take place in Moncton, Fredericton and Halifax over the next three month.

The regional accelerator program refers its new system of mentoring young startups as Propel 2.0, signaling how it is increasing its ambitions and its ability to mentor young companies. Since it began its Launch36 accelerator three years ago, it has never had more than 10 companies in a cohort, and the classroom sessions have usually been held in Moncton.  Most of the Launch36 cohorts were capped at six teams.

In Propel 2.0, there are six companies in the “Build Phase”, which is designed for growing companies with some clients: Salubrian Health, Swapskis, Bungalo, and Fundmetric , all of Halifax, and Smartpods, of Moncton. Most of their meetings will be in Moncton.

There are 14 companies in the “Start Phase”, which is designed to help seed-stage companies. About half will be taught at Planet Hatch in Fredericton and the other half at Volta Labs in Halifax. The companies are: Maradev,  LearnTracker, Simptek, MindFarm , Findatradesperson , Nihi Notions, all of New Brunswick; Androit Vista, Vantij Software, PACTA, PlayPeanut, Bitness , Mambo, Yomes , all of Nova Scotia; Sentinel Alert, of Newfoundland and Labrador; and SkiptheWaitingRoom, of P.E.I.

Organizers say they were impressed not just with the number but also the quality of the applications, and that they believe some of the teams that weren’t accepted this time will be eligible for the winter cohort.

The inclusion of Sentinel Alert, which will take the course in Fredericton, marks the first time the accelerator has had a team from Newfoundland.

There are a few interesting notes about this cohort:

It will be the most international representation of any Propel initiative with entrepreneurs from Iceland and Israel participating.

Three teams from the Summ’r Up program at Dalhousie University – Salubrian Health, PlayPeanut and Vantij Software -- applied and all three were accepted.

And Propel has accepted its youngest participant so far. Alex Gillis of Bitness is 15, younger than the previous record-holder, Raphael Paulin-Daigle, who went through the program at 16.

Sentinel: 1st NL Startup in Launch36


Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s start-up that is developing a wearable technology devoted to worker safety, has become the first company from Newfoundland and Labrador accepted into the prestigious Launch36 technology accelerator.

The company has spent about a year prototyping and validating technology that can tell large companies and/or governments when a lone worker — such as a lineman for an electricity company — has had an accident or is in jeopardy.

Co-founders Sarah Murphy and Jason Janes attended the Launch36 selection camp in Moncton earlier this month and were accepted into the Launch36 Start program in Fredericton. Murphy will relocate to Fredericton for the next three months, commuting regularly back to St. John’s, where she is conducting graduate studies at Memorial University. Janes expects to spend quite a bit of time in Fredericton as well.

The complete roster of companies in the most recent Launch36 cohort will be announced at the Startup Empire conference today. When the accelerator began three years ago, the organizers aimed for a truly regional program. And now the latest cohort has representation from all four Atlantic Provinces. 

By working with the Launch36 mentors, they hope to devise a path to market for a product that requires industrial partners.

 “Our business is targeting a hot topic in that Newfoundland is in a huge industrial boom and worker safety is a big issue,” said CEO Murphy in a recent interview in St. John’s. “But what we’re finding is that there is a tricky sales cycle in this business.”

Sentinel Alert grew out of an idea that germinated at St. John’s’ first Startup Weekend last November. During the 54-hour entrepreneurship competition, Murphy and her team developed a basic prototype for a smartphone app that would detect a sudden jolt — the likely result of a worker, say, falling of a ladder or collapsing after a heart attack. The cellphone would then automatically contact a central monitoring station, which could call the worker to see if he or she were all right.

The company has since develope dsoftware that leverages existing wearable technologies, such as smart wristwatches. Murphy eventually hopes the technology could be built into safety vests or hard hats.

For the past several months, Sentinel Alert has been building relationships with oil and gas companies and construction companies that could be potential customers. The feedback has been positive, though it has yet to sign its first customer.

The company says there are 27 million lone workers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The cost of monitoring these workers is now estimated to be $3.3 billion annually, even though companies fall incredibly short of the regulations overseeing such monitoring procedures.

Despite the size of the market, securing the first customer has proven complicated because the client and startup would have to work out the bugs and processes to maximize the product’s efficiency. One avenue may be to tap into the pool of money that oil and gas companies have to spend in research and development as part of their contracts to work on the province’s offshore industry.

Once the product is on the market, Sentinel Alert plans wants to examine the data for telltale signs that an accident could happen. For example, the devise can measure elevation, and might be able to determine when workers are putting themselves in danger.

 

Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

ProductCamp Atlantic Set for October


 “Product manager” is a difficult position to define let alone master. And to help people do both, ProductCamp is coming to Halifax next month.

ProductCamp is a loosely organized get-together in which product managers, marketing professionals and people interested in product management can meet up, find areas of common interest and mentor on another on best practices. ProductCamp Atlantic will be held Saturday Oct. 25 at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre, 1344 Summer Street, Halifax. Admission is free and registration is available here.

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

“In the pharma sector, it’s mainly about brand management,” said Megann Willson, one of the organizers of the event. “In IT, it can mean something completely different.”

ProductCamp is a movement that has grown out of the U.S. to draw product managers together to discuss the challenges they face and improve the performance of their companies. In the past few years, ProductCamps have been held in several cities around the world, and in such Canadian cities as Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. The event on Oct. 25 will be the first held in Atlantic Canada.

For the record, Wikipedia defines “product manager” as the person who “investigates, selects, and drives the development of products for an organization.” They are the ones who sit between the engineers and the marketing execs. They make sure a company is producing something the market wants and ensure that product gets to the market.

Megann Willson and her husband Steve Willson, who together operate the Panoptika business consultancy, have teamed up with John Whyte, the head of marketing at Nautel, to organize the event. Whyte has taken notice of the ProductCamp movement in the U.S. and believed that Atlantic Canada could use such an event. All three are organizing the event on a volunteer basis.

Steve Johnson, a noted product management process coach from the Washington, D.C., area, will attend and participate in the event. But the goal is to get people working together to educate one another. As an unconference, the participants come together and decide among themselves what issues they’d like to discuss. They can break into groups or remain as one big session. People with experience in a given field tend to take the lead and others come forward with questions and advice as they see fit.

“We’re hoping for a range of backgrounds, from very experienced to completely new at it,” said Whyte.

The organizers added that they chose the name ProductCamp Atlantic because they’re hoping for participation from throughout the region. They also hope it will be an annual event and can be held in other cities in coming years. 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Press Release: Neurodyn’s Phase 1A


Neurodyn, the Charlottetown startup working on treatments for neurological diseases,  has issued the following press release:

Positive Phase 1a outcome for Memogain

Neurodyn Life Sciences Inc. announced completion of its first-in-human clinical study, demonstrating Memogain’s potential benefits over existing Alzheimer’s drugs;

•             increased safety in the absence of significant side effects,

•             more potent cognitive enhancement.

The Phase IA clinical trial addressed safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of intranasally delivered Memogain in healthy young and elderly subjects, compared to the daily recommended doses of the current Alzheimer’s drugs: galantamine (16 mg) and donepezil (10 mg). Study participants were additionally tested for improved cognition.

The administration of Memogain was found to be safe and well tolerated at all dose levels. No clinical abnormalities were seen in hematology, blood chemistry, urine analysis, ECG or vital signs. Adverse events were either mild or moderate. The most prevalent being nausea, reported by a few subjects administered the standard galantamine dose of 16 mg, but only observed at the highest Memogain dose (44mg). The excellent safety and tolerability of Memogain, will dispense with the month-long gradual dosage increase that presently is common practice for other Alzheimer’s drugs, permitting the immediate administration of an efficacious dose.

“This outstanding safety and tolerability profile is achieved even though Memogain, a prodrug of galantamine, has a 10 times higher concentration in the brain, as compared to orally administered galantamine” says Dr. Maelicke, Memogain’s developer. “Additionally, Memogain has a delayed release profile which could facilitate single daily dosing.”

In cognitive testing, Memogain was able to improve vigilance and short-term memory capacity: eye-hand coordination and vigilance was measured in the adaptive tracking test, and word learning and recall in the visual verbal learning test (VVLT). Both young and elderly subjects performed better than untreated volunteers in these tests. Galantamine, failed to show improvement in either the adaptive tracking test, or the VVLT, where donepezil also failed to demonstrate improvement.

Earlier preclinical studies have demonstrated Memogain’s potential to provide neuroprotection and delay disease progression. Should future clinical studies also substantiate these findings, Memogain® may become the urgently needed turning point in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

 

Skerry Takes Charge on EyeRead


Leah Skerry was shocked to learn that one of her friends struggled through high school without being able to read.

Her friend’s experience helped motivate Skerry to develop EyeRead, an affordable eye-tracking software able to assess and aid children’s reading.

The device is still being developed, and Skerry, a partner at Halifax web development and invention firm Norex, and her co-workers are seeking investment in San Francisco for their idea.

Unlike other eye-tracking devices, EyeRead will not need to be fixed to the wearer’s head. Instead, it will use an infrared camera to track kids’ eyes as they read digital material. The technology will be applicable to languages other than English and able to be used on any type of device.

The development of the product is moving fast since work began in January.

“We’ve been invited to pitch for investment in San Francisco in October, and we’ve been asked to demo the prototype in Tokyo,” Skerry said.

“I’m feeling the kind of excitement you feel on a roller-coaster.”

Clinical trials on the device will start in November at the University of Moncton.

“The technology will allow a more comprehensive gathering of data into individual children’s reading differences than has been possible before,” Skerry said.

Testing is expected to take a year, and it’s possible the device will be in use in public schools shortly after that.

EyeRead is just the latest project for Skerry, her colleague Julia Rivard, who is Norex CEO and a former Olympian, and their team, which totals 15.

Formed in 2010, Norex’s initial focus was on web design, but Skerry said employees increasingly create their own products because the company prioritizes innovation.

“At Norex, all employees spend 20 per cent of their time on innovation, which means that one day a week everyone gets to work on new product ideas.

“Our goal is to have a product development side of the company. Our team get most excited about developing new ideas that allow them to push boundaries.”

Skerry, 28, graduated in business from Saint Mary’s University, with a minor in design from NSCAD University.

EyeRead is the kind of project she most enjoys as it allows her to merge her love of technology with her passion for social entrepreneurship.

Successful products she has already worked on include Pursu.it, a non-profit crowdfunding site for amateur athletes.

Pursu.it is now a separate organization, or “standing on its own legs,” as Skerry puts it, and is being run by volunteers in many countries around the world. Pursu.it has a new partnership with the Canadian Olympic Foundation and will launch in the United States in October and in Germany in 2015. The crowdfunding engine created for Pursu.it has been spun into a separate business called Swell.

EyeRead will also be its own entity and is being incorporated as a stand-alone startup, which Skerry will run as CEO.

The company has also incubated Hashpi.pe, which allows a unified display of hashtags across a range of social media channels.

“I enjoy the combination of working with international clients on boosting their web presence and developing new products,” said Skerry, who helps promote business by serving on the board of the North End Business Association.

She is also a 21Inc Emerging Leaders of N.S. alumna and a member of the Global Shapers Community run by the World Economic Forum.

Skerry stressed that Norex’s success is partly due to the support the company has received along the way.

“Our partnership with Dalhousie has been great for us,” she said. Dalhousie students helped with the initial development of EyeRead.

She also praised Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“Their investment has allowed us to develop our ideas.”

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Sally Ng: NB Needs Innovation


[Ahead of the New Brunswick election on Monday, Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng wrote the following column for the CBC. The piece was accompanied by this radio interview with Terry Seguin.]  

If you had asked me five years ago if I would still be in New Brunswick, I would have said, “Not a chance.”

Years after studying at Mount Allison University and the Moncton Flight College, here I am in the province back in my hometown of Fredericton, helping to develop the next generation of successful technology companies through my work at Planet Hatch.

Previously, I couldn’t quite see the potential.

After working with start-ups, such as Clarity, and having the opportunity to facilitate Start-up Weekend events with Up Global around the world I saw the potential of what we have in our backyard.

I can see the light at the end of tunnel to get us out of our massive piles of debt. Often times, especially in New Brunswick, we tend to see things as the glass half empty instead of half full.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us,” Helen Keller once said.

Over the past 10 years and over history, as a province we have had several incredible developments that have revolutionized industries around the world.

From the development of the Scuba tank in the 1800s, to creating a variable pitch propeller, and now creating world class technology companies.

In 2011, we had $1 billion worth of acquisitions through Radian6 (acquired by Saleforce for $360 million) and Q1Labs (acquired by IBM for $700-million plus). The two exits produced 50 new millionaires in the New Brunswick that year.

Moving forward how do we continue to develop these innovations that compete with the world, but yet help bridge our province together. Here are some key points that we need to consider.

Love it or not, we’re in the 21st century and digital age. This will create mountains of opportunities that can connect us to other markets faster than anything else.

Ng said the province's technology industry has many reasons to be proud. For instance, she said Salesforce bought Radian6 for $360 million in 2011. She said in 2011, the acquisitions of Q1Labs and Radian6 generated $1 billion.

Yes we can still ship products across the ocean, but what if the product you ship is virtual? What if it was software? In this example, we are no longer bound by geographic areas.

What if we could speed up the process for applications faster by simply providing the options for digital forms and submissions.

Efficiency would be increased and a more streamlined process of services could be developed.

What if every kid could code? We need to prepare our kids to be ready for the future.

Coding will be just as important as math in less than 10 years. Let’s start early and help kids learn now.

Let’s face it, our province is broke. Moving forward, instead of creating the same thing in every corner of the province, let’s build on what already exists and strive to improve it.

If we continue to have two to three people working for supporting organizations, we end up duplicating and also diluting the resources by not having a central hub.

For example with our three-month accelerator program at Planet Hatch, (now powered by Propel ICT) our province does not have enough critical mass yet to have the program running in every city. We need to build clusters and build the critical mass first.

We only have so many mentors, companies and resources to go around. Let’s not dilute the resources by trying to do everything for everyone right at the start —we can’t afford it.

We need to band together and raise the tide together.

We’re not competing with each other, we’re competing with the world. Coordination of all aspects relating to the economy, departments need to and continue to work closely together.

We have programs that are beginning to work, no they aren’t perfect, but we did see one of the highest drops in unemployment in Canada in August.

It takes time for innovation to happen, it’s not just overnight.

I continue to see our companies and partners rave about such programs such as the small business investor tax credit, (which rivals British Columbia) NB Growth Funding, Innov8 Funding and several others.

Planet Hatch is exactly one year old, within our first year with our 11 start-ups, they have raised more than $1.4 million in private sector funding.

Other organizations such as our partners at Propel ICT have also seen tremendous success in their alumni with having created more than 250 jobs from 2011-13 among 30-plus new companies.

Let’s talk about these success in order to help our province learn and get inspired by what is possible and learn from what other regions and countries are doing in order to help devise our own plans.

Innovation doesn’t happen because someone tells you to “innovate” it's nurtured and developed. Policy can definitely help leverage it, but people need to want it.

Create the opportunities to show us what’s possible.

Support initiatives for early-stage start-up development and support. Support initiatives that are helping create an entrepreneurial-minded community and province.

Help us develop the skills to compete in the 21st century.

When it comes to the state of innovation in New Brunswick, it’s not our ability that’s holding us back, it’s the mindset of being able to take the bull by the horns and jump both feet into the digital future.

 

Sally Ng is the executive director at Fredericton-based Planet Hatch, which just celebrated its first anniversary. She has also worked as a global facilitator for Startup Weekend.

 

ScreenScape Simplifies Digital Signage


If you’re a Maritime startup launching a new product, it doesn’t hurt to be partnering with one of the world’s largest makers of hardware.

That’s exactly what digital signage specialist ScreenScape Networks of Charlottetown has done as it unveiled ScreenScape Connect this week in partnership with Round Rock, Texas, computer maker Dell Inc.

ScreenScape launched Tuesday the product to simplify the process and reduce costs for organizations that want to advertise on location-based TV monitors. The device looks like a standard flash drive and plugs into a high-definition TV, allowing operators to control their advertising and other content from just about anywhere.

“This is game-changing for this industry,” Mark Hemphill, ScreenScape founder and CEO, said during an online news conference Tuesday.

“Until now, most digital signage cost the retail outlet or maybe the sponsor several thousand (dollars) to get started. Effective immediately, we can offer the customer a plan with no capital costs, assuming you’re using existing TVs.”

After being in this business for about five years, Hemphill knows there are a lot of screens around in public locations, from hotel lobbies to sports bars to car dealerships and other retail outlets. ScreenScape provides the software that oversees lots of these locations — he wouldn’t say how many — across the continent. But the problem has always been the time and expense needed to install and manage the content.

Customers not only had to buy and install the TVs, they also had to have a computer nearby and spend the time to manage the content. ScreenScape Connect only requires that there is a Wi-Fi network near the television. The retailer or property manager has to plug it in and register on ScreenScape’s website, which has all the tools to create dynamic visual content for a TV screen.

The accounts overseeing each monitor can be held by the local location, as well as the head office of the chain to which they belong. ScreenScape, which employs 22 people, also helps clients create content for their displays and links them so they can share content on monitors.

ScreenScape Connect costs $40 a month per television for all the hardware, software and services. Clients can either pay $200 up front and then $40 a month for as long or short a period as they want, or pay nothing up front and sign a three-year contract.

The Charlottetown company provides the software for the product while Dell provides the hardware.

Hemphill said the partnership came together in 2013 when another ScreenScape partner, AT&T, learned Dell was looking for a leading software developer in the digital signage business. AT&T told Dell about ScreenScape and introduced the two companies.

Since then, ScreenScape has been working closely with the new Dell Wyse group out of Santa Clara, Calif., basically developing the cloud-based software from the ground up.

Hemphill said his company has not raised any new capital to finance the project, and that he has no plans to raise money in the near future.

In 2012, ScreenScape secured a $6-million investment from Hartco of Montreal and gave the publicly traded information technology company two seats on its board. A few months later, it received angel financing from Saint John’s East Valley Ventures chairman Gerry Pond.

Busiest Week on the Startup Calendar


Ready for the busiest eight days on the Halifax startup calendar?

You better be because five events that speak to the entire community will take place in the Nova Scotia capital between Sept. 22 and 30. It begins with MentorCamp on Monday, followed by the new Startup Empire conference, the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner, Startup Weekend and Invest Atlantic. DemoCamp had been scheduled for Sept. 24, but a notice on the Volta website says it has been delayed until November.

MentorCamp is a session that exposes a handful of promising startups to mentors from around the region and around the globe for an intense one-day instructional session. In its fourth year, the companies invited to the event include Vidsnippets and Athletigen, both of Halifax, Qimple of Moncton and Sky Squirrel of Inverness.

Startup Empire will be held for the first time at the Cineplex in Park Lane, and is an opportunity for startup founders to rub elbows with entrepreneurs from around the world. The speakers include: Don Harrison, Head of M&A, Google Inc.; Daniel Debow; Senior VP, Salesforce; April Dunford, COO, Tulip Retail; John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2Learn; and Michael Litt, Founder and CEO, Vidyard.

Dan Martell, the CEO of Moncton-based Clarity, will host a fireside chat and oversee a “Clarity Zone”, in which entrepreneurs will receive advice.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner – at the Niche Lounge starting at 4 pm on Thursday, Sept. 25 – will feature two discussions led notable leaders in the community. Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on regional equity tax credits, and Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship. The goal is for all attendees to join in the discussion. Tickets are still available here.

Startup Weekend is an international movement that gathers people together, forms them into teams and sees which can come up with the best company in a single weekend. The next Startup Weekend Halifax will begin Friday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 pm at Room 2600 of the Killam Library at Dalhousie University.

The fifth annual Invest Atlantic conference, to take place Sept. 29 and 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre, will shine a spotlight on a problem that hounds every startup community — how to encourage more wealthy individuals to invest in local young companies?

The main Invest Atlantic conference takes place on Sept. 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. It is preceded on Sept. 29 by a PitchCamp, in which a select group of new companies compete to see who can deliver the best 60-second pitch.

The keynote speakers at the main conference are coming from North Carolina: Michael Cain Sr. is the member manager at Wilmington Investor Network and chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, and Brett Martin is the founder and CEO of Castle Branch Inc.

 

Can We Reform Equity Tax Credits?


Next Thursday, members of the startup community will have an opportunity to discuss a matter that has been on their minds for years – how to liberalize the patchwork of angel tax credits in the region.

Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on this subject at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner in Halifax. The goal is to come up with new ideas, maybe even a consensus, on how to improve the system for incentivizing angels to invest in startups.

(After this discussion, Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship, which is a follow-on discussion to our dinner in Fredericton in May.)

Entrevestor-EF dinners are opportunities for members of the community – founders, funders and support organizations – to come together and discuss ways to improve the local ecosystem. There are still some tickets left for the Halifax dinner on Sept. 25, which you can order here.

In discussing the challenges of angel tax credits, we will be shining a spotlight on programs that are definitely helping startups but could be doing more.

Each province in the region has its own incentive, all with different names. For the record, the incentives officially are called Small Business Investor Tax Credit in New Brunswick, Direct Equity Tax Credit in Newfoundland and Labrador, Equity Tax Credit in Nova Scotia and Share Purchase Tax Credit in P.E.I.

They have one thing in common – they can be claimed only by residents of a province investing in companies based in that province. For years, people within the community have been arguing that startups – and the economy overall – would benefit if the programs were harmonized and improved. Above all, people crying for reform want the tax credit to be granted to people living outside the borders of each particular province.

Why would the economy overall benefit? Because these incentives help dynamic companies, and even lead to higher tax revenue. A 2010 study for the Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development in B.C. found that for every dollar granted to startups in provincial tax credits, the province receives $1.98 in taxes. By attracting more money into startups, the economy would grow and provincial revenues rise.

Our discussion wants to look at whether it would be practical to develop a regional tax credit so all the angels in the region could be incentivized to invest in companies from around Atlantic Canada. It would mean harmonizing the programs, as there are now some big differences. The maximum eligible investment is $250,000 in New Brunswick and $50,000 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The biggest question – meaning it’s the hardest to achieve but could have the biggest benefit – is whether these incentives could be granted to people outside the region. States such as Arkansas and Minnesota have ways for people outside their borders to claim tax credits for investments. It means capital flows into growing businesses.

We want hear your views on this important subject. Please come to the dinner next Thursday at the Niche Lounge in Halifax and join the conversation.  

Press Release: New Honibe Lozenges


Island Abbey Foods Launches Two New Honibe – Honey Lozenges Across Canada

Honey Lozenges with Cherry and Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost Now Available at Select Pharmacies and Online at http://www.Honibe.com

Charlottetown, PE, Canada – September 17th, 2014 – Island Abbey Foods, a PEI, Canada based natural health product producer, has announced today the launch of their newest innovations: Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Cherry and Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Immune Boost with Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and a hint of Citrus.

“We are very excited to announce, based on the feedback from our loyal consumers, two new products to our Honibe family”, shared John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods. “Cherry is one of the top selling flavors for throat lozenges. Now, consumers can enjoy their favorite flavor in our natural honey lozenge with Menthol and Eucalyptus.  Honey Lozenges with Cherry are for the temporary relief of sore throat and nasal congestion.”

“We also heard loud and clear that consumers want a natural and effective product they can take at the first sign of a cold to help relieve symptoms before they worsen. Honibe Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost include Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and Citrus, and is the perfect natural product for this. Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost helps to maintain immune function, is used in herbal medicine to help relieve cold symptoms and is an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health.”

Honibe Honey Lozenges contain 100% pure dried honey, with a small amount of naturally derived therapeutics and no artificial ingredients. Honibe Honey Lozenges are only 10 calories per piece (2.5 g) and are available in blister packages of 10 lozenges. Honey Lozenges are conveniently sized for easy transport in pockets, cars, briefcases or purses for increased consumer enjoyment and are available in drug stores and natural health food isles across Canada.

About Island Abbey Foods™

Island Abbey Foods is a Health Canada and FDA licensed specialty food, natural health product, and medicated health product producer based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. We are a 6th generation PEI agricultural family business with our feet firmly planted in our Island's bright red soil, ideal for farming with its high iron and nutrient content.  Honibe honey is sourced from 100% Canadian Grade A honey from Prince Edward Island and Canadian beekeepers. 

For more information please visit us on the web at http://www.IslandAbbeyFoods.com and to check out our newest video release on Why Honey Lozenges are the best choice for you, please visit http://www.Honibe.com.  

Helping People Order Pizzas Online


Matt Stewart and Rob Myers should be poster boys for holding down business development costs.

Last year, the two residents of Sydney won $10,000 from the initial Spark Cape Breton competition, which Innovacorp held to encourage startups on the island. The pair won for a company called InstantDiner, which they hoped would become an online ordering and reservation system for independent restaurants.

After a pivot earlier this year, they are beta-testing a new business called PizzaGO, an online site that lets local pizzerias take orders quickly and easily. They have one paying client in the Sydney area, have a verbal commitment from another and are hoping to line up their first multi-location customer soon.

“Traction is obviously something we are trying to build,” Stewart said in an interview.

“We are currently still in beta mode, so we have not actively marketed our product, aside from going to specific pizzerias. The full launch of PizzaGO is set for early- to mid-October.”

Since receiving funding as one of the runners-up in the Spark competition, Stewart (who concentrates on business development) and Myers (the programmer) have been meeting with restaurant and pizzeria owners to find a market gap they could exploit.

What they found is that there are already restaurant-ordering sites like Just-Eat and GrubHub, but they don’t have the customization that pizzerias demand.

Everyone is particular about their pizza, and often pizzas ordered by a group need to be divided into sections with different toppings. Both the pizzeria operators and their customers demand simplicity in an online ordering system, and it is important that it can be used easily from mobile devices.

“Our target market for pizza is millennials, and the consumers we spoke to love the idea of just making an order, paying for it and receiving a message when it’s done,” said Stewart.

So they developed PizzaGO to meet this demand. Proprietors can set up their own site free in about an hour, which in itself is a bonus as 95 per cent of independent restaurants have no mobile online presence.

PizzaGo offers a selection of 40 to 50 toppings that pizzeria operators can easily click to produce an online menu. There are quick features that let people repeat their last order, or choose from their five most popular orders. There is a payment system, which is convenient for the customer, and helps the operator avoid prank orders that are never claimed and paid for.

A site for pizzerias may seem like a niche, but the total market is huge. People in the United States alone spend $32 billion a year on pizzas, and there are 45,000 pizzerias in that country.

PizzaGO’s research shows that a lot of customers prefer a local establishment to large pizza chains.

Stewart said he and Myers plan to court pizza peddlers in Cape Breton and the rest of the Maritimes, then roll the product out across Canada and then the U.S. Working with mentors they met through the Spark competition, they are putting together six- and 18-month business plans and hope to raise money before too long.

In the meantime, they still haven’t burned their way through the $10,000 they got from Spark. They have been frugal in their expenditures — living on pizzas, so to speak.

Stewart jokes that they’ve been intensely researching the market.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

ROV3D Launched at Oceans ‘14


As the Oceans ’14 conference gets under way in St. John’s today, a local startup will debut the 3D underwater visualization system it has been working on for several years.

Whitecap Scientific has developed a product called ROV3D, which creates interactive three-dimensional diagrams of underwater structures and objects using information collected by cameras on un-manned rovers. The company has been working for three years at the Genesis Centre – the Memorial University commercialization centre – with the goal of improving companies’ ability to view underwater topography and structures with un-manned craft. Just in time for the annual conference for ocean industries, the team has concluded its working prototype and is engaging with several potential customers.

“We’re working closely with people who want it,” said CEO Sam Bromley in his office on Friday, as he and his staff scrambled to prepare for the Oceans conference. “We’re doing trials this month, and we’ll be ready to sell our first dozen products very soon.”

Whitecap has been a mainstay of the Genesis Centre group of companies for the past several years, and has been working to improve the way people use remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, to view undersea structures. The problem with current techniques is it is difficult to view the video footage that comes back from the ocean floor. There are problems with depth perception, and the viewers can become dizzy or nauseous after viewing for hours.

The Whitecap team originally set out to improve the quality of video collected by ROVs, using a stereo-camera system to collect 3D video and allow the viewer to watch it longer without adverse side effects.

However, it learned there were problems inherent with using video itself to conduct underwater inspections: it took hours to watch video; the viewer had to go back to locate the footage that showed a problem; it was difficult to compare one inspection with the last one, because there was no way the ROV would follow the exact same course as before.

So ROV3D does not require the viewer to sift through hours of video. It takes the video collected by an ROV and uses it to construct a 3D model instantly that can be viewed from any angle on a monitor. If the viewer is inspecting the model and notices something that needs attention, he or she can stick a virtual pin in the questionable location to easily find the trouble spots later. It’s a far more effective way to note problem spots than a written list of where to look on a stream of video.

One interesting feature of the technology is the viewer can keep a library of inspections and quickly compare one year’s model to previous versions, to look for corrosion or other problems.

Bromley said the range of applications for ROV3D is vast. It can be used for underwater field surveys in the oil and gas industry or pipeline surveys or annual inspections of subsea structures. ROV3D can even survey the biodiversity of a field before a drilling operation, then help to make sure the field returns to its original state after a field is decommissioned.   

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

 

Highlights of Entrevestor-EF Event


The problem of attracting early adopters once again showed itself at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum luncheon in St. John’s on Thursday, even though it hadn’t been invited.

We had a great turnout and a truly superb meal at the Junior Common Room at Gushue Hall, Memorial University of Newfoundland. About 45 people turned out to join in two discussions – one about the coming Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund, and another on encouraging corporations to invest in startups.

Rather than feature keynote speakers, the Entrevestor-EF events are an opportunity for the startup community members to get together and discuss ways to improve the local ecosystem. (In our next dinner, on Sept. 25 in Halifax, Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship while Build Ventures Partner Rob Barbara will lead a discussion on regional investor tax credits.)

In St. John’s, BlueDrop Performance Learning CEO Emad Rizkalla led a dialogue on the best ways to get corporations to invest in startups. But the conversation quickly moved to the related problem of how to attract early adopters.

What’s interesting is that Gerry Pond led a discussion on that very topic at our first Entrevestor-EF Dinner in Fredericton in May. The difficulties of securing early adopters -- and working with them to develop a product – are bedeviling startups across the region. We hope that by discussing the issue, startups and organizers will develop systems that can help overcome the problem.

The first session at the St. John’s event was a discussion on the coming VC fund, which will combine private and public money and be overseen by GrowthWorks Atlantic. It was led by Mark Kennedy, CEO of Celtx. There was a broad agreement the fund will help overcome the financing problem that many startups now experience.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinner in Halifax on Sept. 25 will be held at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting at 4 pm. The two topics up for discussion are:

--  Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. Various governments are discussing whether to offer investment tax credits to people who are not residents of their province to encourage investment in startups. We’ll look at whether such credits should be offered to non-residents, and whether the recipients could even live outside the region.

--  Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship. This is a continuation of a discussion that Calvin Milbury, CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, led in Fredericton. Since then, Launch36 has received federal funding and launched a new, more regional mandate. And the Mentra, a new mentoring group based in Moncton, has begun to organize a regional mentoring network.

Tickets for the dinner are $75 each and can be purchased here.

Press Release: Norex in Japan


Norex, the Halifax web development company, has issued the following press release:

Halifax based innovation and web firm Norex presenting at the world’s largest AdTech conference in Tokyo

Halifax, NS -- September 9, 2014 – It is not every day that one of our Halifax based technology companies is featured at the largest AdTech conference on the other side of the world but on September 18, Partner Leah Skerry of Norex.ca will be on stage presenting to a crowd of over 14,000 delegates about Norex’s products and innovation.

Hosting marketing and advertising delegates from over 40 countries, this spotlight will offer Norex the platform to further their global reach into markets which can benefit from their technologies. One of the technologies that Norex will be presenting is Hashpi.pe, a social tool that pulls all hashtagged content online into an elegant visual canvas.

Having launched in the fall of 2013, Haspi.pe has been used for such events as the Sochi Olympic Games, the 2014 World Cup, TEDx and the International Smashing conference. Norex sees great opportunity in continuing to expand their technology to any event with a desire to capture the online conversation.

“We think events are awesome. We also think the social web is awesome. Together, they can capture some beautiful, crazy, and entertaining things. But never yet have they lived together in harmony. That's why we created Hashpi.pe” says Skerry.

Hashpi.pe collects #hashtags connected to your brand from across the web and displays them in a single, clean, and manageable feed making your event a ‘real time’. It pulls from social networking websites like Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook so no matter what your fans are saying and where they are saying it, you can access it in one spot. You simply input your #hashtags and watch the magic happen. A live stream of comments, questions, pictures, videos appears instantly for you to share.

At events, Hashpi.pe is helping organizers provide partner recognition, access real time feedback from attendees, drive engagement all in one place that can be neatly packaged and archived as a dynamic record of the event from start to finish. And for those organizations wanting an ongoing stream of their hashtags, Hashpi.pe can live online as an embedded website feed.

Hashpi.pe is just one of a series of innovation products that have been incubated at Norex. While in Tokyo, Norex will have the opportunity to present one of their other main technologies called Eyeread, the only application of its kind using eye tracking to help children read in school or at home, independently, allowing educators to measure and track their progress through analytics.

About Norex

The trend of embracing innovation is one that Norex has taken seriously for several years. It is a part of the company culture that drives staff to keep pushing their limits which is essential for all organizations but especially those in technology. Co-led by partner Julia Rivard Dexter, Norex has grown to be recognized internationally for their work in web, creating award winning innovations and interfaces that are best of class for their clients. For more about Norex you can visit their website at SiteByNorex.com.

 

Profile: Rayworth’s Road Uphill


Failure isn’t something most of us celebrate, but Kathleen Rayworth said her failures help her to be an effective executive director of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a regional organization that links entrepreneurs with seasoned advisers from the business world.

Rayworth has been working at the forum since 2007, becoming executive director in 2010. Despite her characteristic modesty, she is respected around the region for her work in linking new entrepreneurs with experienced mentors.

Her path to success hasn’t been smooth, but that doesn’t bother Rayworth, who is known to quote a line from athlete Willie Davis, “The road to success runs uphill.”

As a youngster, Rayworth trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of Canada, and then later took a small business program at the Nova Scotia Community College. She ran a catering business in Vancouver for 10 years but had to sell her business when the work became too physically demanding due to the effects of injuries sustained in a car crash.

After returning to her native Nova Scotia, she set up a clothing distribution business that grew to become a clothing manufacturer specializing in golf apparel. That venture folded in 1998 after six years, a disappointment she ascribes to “poor partner choices and a lack of mentoring support.”

“The message I pass on to entrepreneurs is that it’s your failures you learn the most from,” she said. “It was hard to leave my first love, catering, but I still do some catering today. And my experiences taught me that I have a huge passion for business of all kinds.”

Rayworth said that the forum’s advisory services and investor readiness initiatives are structured to give entrepreneurs the kinds of support and access to expertise that they need to address the challenges they face at all levels of development, from pre-startups to ventures that are ready to exit (sell).

The forum’s success stories abound, thanks to the growing pool of dedicated forum mentors who hail from a wide range of backgrounds and professions.

“We now have 1,500 mentors across the region and the number is growing all the time,” Rayworth said. “Mentoring is increasingly popular, even something of a trend. These days, many organizations offer mentoring, but we’ve been mentoring for 22 years. We do it best and we support those other groups.”

Rayworth said it has been satisfying to see the forum grow from a small group offering just one service to a regional organization offering a variety of valuable projects.

Inspired by the enterprise forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Nova Scotia version began in 1992, reaching Prince Edward Island in 2003, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006, and New Brunswick in 2008.

A current forum success is the advisory program the group is running in Ontario. The organization subsidizes Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs who wish to visit Ontario to meet with potential partners and investors.

The year-long program began last November and has seen ventures such as educational company Ooka Island and Prism Trade Show Lighting, a designer and supplier of custom lighting products for the trade show industry, benefit from making the trip.

“The mission opens up doors to many new opportunities and potential partnerships,” Rayworth said.

Other new projects include a program for immigrants entering Canada through the Startup visa program, and workshops for entrepreneurs run in conjunction with Progress Media. Entrepreneurs’ Forum also collaborates with Entrevestor in organizing and hosting dinners around the region at which attendees discuss ways to improve the startup ecosystem.

The organization’s work is supported by federal and provincial government organizations, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council.

“I see Atlantic Canada becoming the startup capital for all Canada,” Rayworth said, sounding almost embarrassed to make such a confident prediction. “We’ve got the ecosystem growing so fast. We’ve scaled it as a region so quickly, it’s possible. At the very least, we should give it a go and Entrepreneurs’ Forum is here to help make this happen.”

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Invest Atlantic to Focus on Angels


The fifth annual Invest Atlantic conference will shine a spotlight on a problem that hounds every startup community — how to encourage more wealthy individuals to invest in local young companies?

Since it began in 2010, Invest Atlantic has chosen a theme each year, such as partnering with corporations or global investing, and in 2014 is focusing on angel investment. That’s investment in startups by individuals, either on their own or through organized networks.

The growth of angel investment makes sense because there are individuals in the region who have money to invest, and angel investing can serve to diversify their holdings. On the other side of these deals, there are exciting companies in the region that are hungry for capital.

“All the tidbits that I’m hearing say that over the next couple of years — and everyone is in agreement in this — there are going to be issues with our companies finding money,” said Bob Williamson, CEO of Jameson Consulting and the organizer of Invest Atlantic. “What happens if we approach more angel investors and say, ‘What about taking a small portion of your portfolio and investing it in your local community?’”

There are already active angels in the region. According to data compiled by Entrevestor, individuals (other than company founders) invested at least $13.2 million in Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013. However, more startups are forming and reaching growth stages when they need a lot of capital, so there will be more pressure to find new sources of investment.

Brian Lowe, co-founder of the First Angel Network, will chair the conference, and the speakers include Gerry Pond, chairman of the East Valley Ventures of Saint John, and Gerard Buckley, chairman of the Toronto-based Maple Leaf Angels.

The main Invest Atlantic conference takes place on Sept. 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. It is preceded on Sept. 29 by a PitchCamp, in which a select group of new companies compete to see who can deliver the best 60-second pitch.

The keynote speakers at the main conference are coming from North Carolina: Michael Cain Sr. is the member manager at Wilmington Investor Network and chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, and Brett Martin is the founder and CEO of Castle Branch Inc.

Williamson understands that one conference won’t spark a surge of angel investing, but he hopes it initiates the conversation and helps to educate new angel investors. The education is important because angel investors must be patient and knowledgeable. And they have to understand that each company they back could produce massive returns but could also go bust. He’s hoping some novice angels will attend and that the message gets out beyond the conference itself.

“We’re hoping to at least spread the word to those within the startup community that it’s cool to reach out to those outside the community and let them know about angel investing,” he said.

Assessing the Lean Canvas


When Claire Ciel Zimmerman entered the Summ’er Up entrepreneurship program at Dalhousie University this summer, she hadn’t even heard of a lean canvas.

The co-founder of the magazine publishing startup Bootstrap had to learn how to use the nine panels of the canvas to test theories on developing a business.

“As my colleagues and I moved through the program we began to see the value of the lean canvas as a set of guiding principles, which became very useful in considering how to establish a viable business with a sustainable revenue model,” said Zimmerman.

She has now joined the growing list of entrepreneurs who have come to understand the value of the canvas in plotting out what works – and more importantly, what doesn’t work – in a new business.

The canvas is a single sheet with nine panels where entrepreneurs write in their theories about how their business will work. They then go out and interview potential clients and/or partners about those theories, and adjust the business plan as needed. The idea is to make all your mistakes before you’ve built your product, saving time and money and getting customers more quickly.

“For students, it’s really a starting place,” said Mary Kilfoil, the professor who oversees the Starting Lean and Summ’er Up programs at Dalhousie. “It provides an immersive experience. It meshes the theory with practical, hands-on experience when students are really at the idea stage and they’re bumping up against whether an idea has any traction at all.”

The lean canvas is now a standard tool at entrepreneurship programs, and its acceptance has come about remarkably fast given that it dates back only to the writings of Alexander Osterwalder in 2008. It has two huge strengths: first, it presents all the main components of a business on a single sheet, so a team can view it instantly; and second, it forces a team to make mistakes early, so they save time and money.

“It helps the entrepreneurs to really understand the market in which they operate and understand their competitors,” said Kilfoil. “They’re finding out what’s out there in the market. And that gets them thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of their own business model.”

She added that the practitioners of the canvas also must be adept at tailoring their questions for each group they meet, so they discover the most pertinent information possible. The idea is not to get a set of unified data (as you would with a survey) but to return with information that will help you develop a product the market wants.

But educators and mentors also warn that the lean canvas is not the silver bullet for every startup, and company founders have to be careful to look beyond the canvas for other components of their business.

“The big shortfall is people are integrating their business with the lean canvas … [and] are expecting miracles within a six-week to eight-week program,” said Dhirendra Shukla, who teaches the Management & Entrepreneurship program at the University of New Brunswick. “It’s how it’s used that creates the problems.”

Kilfoil, Shukla and others say the big problem with using a lean canvas is that entrepreneurs – especially those with little experience – often fall in love with their proposal and don’t listen closely enough to what people tell them.

That means they’re reluctant to pivot or adjust their business as needed.

“We tend to fall in love with our solutions rather than acknowledge that we are beginning with a series of guesses,” said Alastair Jarvis, an entrepreneur and game producer from Lunenburg, N.S. “Testing these things and willing to be wrong demands some courage. That’s a big piece for me. It’s something we struggle with as humans.”

Different experts find various shortfalls in a lean canvas. For example, some believe it doesn’t deal enough with the financial aspects of starting a company. Others believe potential clients might not understand a truly revolutionary product, so customer feedback would be muted until people can see, test and understand a product.

“One of the good elements of Lean Methodology is the inclusion of early customer validation,” said Toon Nagtegaal, the founder of THENEXTPHASE mentoring program. “But the customer validation is not necessarily true validation because you only know if a customer will buy your product if you say, ‘Here’s the product, give me your money.’”

 

This article first appeared in the September 2014 edition of Entrevestor Intelligence, which is available here.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Press Release: BioNova Semi-Finalists


BioNova, the life sciences association in Nova Scotia, has issued the following press release:  

BioInnovation Challenge Semi-Finalists Announced

Halifax, NS -- September 9, 2014 -- The semi-finalists have been chosen for the 2014 edition of The BioInnovation Challenge (BIC).

Scott Moffitt, Managing Director of BioNova, the host of BIC, announced today that a selection committee has chosen the semi-finalists who will take part in the program. The semi-finalists will receive professional pitch training between now and the semi-final run off, which will be held in Halifax on October 20.

This year will mark the second time New Brunswick companies will be taking part in the competition and the first year for companies from Prince Edward Island. BioNova has partnered with BioNB and PEI BioAlliance, its sister organizations in NB and PEI, to allow up and coming life sciences companies from all three Maritime Provinces to compete in the challenge. 

“We’re very excited about this year’s BioInnovation Challenge,” said Moffitt. “We have semi-finalists from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island which shows just how much life sciences innovation is happening around the Maritime Provinces.”

The semi-finalists are:

·        Athletigen Technologies Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Biopolynet Inc., New Brunswick

·        Doctor’s Orders, New Brunswick

·        Fenol Farm Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Help Method Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Island Water Technologies, Prince Edward Island

·        NB-Biomatrix Inc., New Brunswick

·        Precise.ai Inc., Prince Edward Island

The winner of the BioInnovation Challenge will receive a $15,000 seed investment and a package of support services and mentoring valued at more than $30,000. The 2014 BIC is presented by BioNova in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BioNB, Cox & Palmer, Dalhousie Office of Industry Liaison and Innovation, Jennifer Cameron PR, Marsh Canada Limited, PEI BioAlliance, PwC and Sandler Training. 

BIC will take place over two days in October. The 8 semi-finalists will present to a panel of judges on October 20 at the Life Sciences Research Institute. The top three presenters will then pitch to the judges and the conference audience at BioPort Atlantic, BioNova’s annual conference, the following morning.  The winner will be announced at the close of BioPort Atlantic on the afternoon of October 21.

BioPort Atlantic will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre on October 20 and 21. Built around the theme “BOLD IDEAS for BIG OPPORTUNITIES”, BioPort  provides a forum to educate, inform and inspire the life sciences community to develop their ideas, commercialize their technologies and build links within the region and with guests brought in from the US and from around the world.

About BioNova:

BioNova is Nova Scotia’s life sciences organization, representing companies working in drug & vaccine development, medical technologies, natural health products & nutraceuticals, digital health and bioproducts, as well as research organizations, service providers and other supporters.

HWKI’s Wearable Hockey Camera


When Shea Kewin and Tim Priamo were playing hockey together as children in Guelph, Ont., they couldn’t have known they’d one day form a company to help players improve their game.

The two former teammates are the co-founders of HWKI, which has developed a camera that fits on a hockey helmet. The device lets players record what they see as they play a game or practise, and then review it later on a mobile or computer device, and share it with coaches or other players.

 “We’re producing a wearable video camera for hockey players,” said Kewin in a phone interview last week. “It lets them rethink the decisions they made in the game and allows them to share and save their highlights quite easily online.”

Kewin and Priamo recently took HWKI through ACcelR8, a tech accelerator at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. They have now moved the business to Waterloo, Ont., where they were accepted into the Velocity Foundry, the University of Waterloo’s accelerator for startups producing hardware. HWKI is the first non-University of Waterloo company accepted into the program, and the story of how Kewin got there is an interesting one.

Kewin had been attending Dalhousie University, playing varsity hockey and studying entrepreneurship and innovation. As an athlete who’d injured a knee, he had an idea for a leg brace that would strengthen (not just stabilize) the knee joint. He took the idea to the starting lean course at the university in the autumn of 2012, and helped found Spring Loaded Technology, a Halifax company that is producing such a brace. (Kewin said he is now in discussions with the other Spring Loaded co-founders to “amicably” resign from the company.)

Continuing his education, Kewin attended University of New Brunswick last year to take an MBA, and he teamed up with Priamo to launch a startup targeting hockey players. They began by focusing on a product that would help prevent concussions, but soon realized that area really involved helmet design, which others were already working on.

So they looked into something that could improve a player’s “hockey IQ,” which in turn could help players avoid situations that cause head injuries. The purpose of HWKI is to let players study after the game what they did on the ice. For example, it shows players whether they kept their head up and scanned the whole rink at key points of the game. It also can help players understand whether they exposed their head to injury, and whether they need to make corrections to avoid such mishaps.

HWKI already has orders on the books. Working with hockey programs in New Brunswick, it let players test the prototype and 50 of them (or about 15 per cent of those who tried it) ordered the product.

In October, Kewin and Priamo are planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign to let people pre-order the product at about $165 and up per unit, a discount to the expected retail price of $300 or higher. They’re planning a general launch in January, and have their sights set on a founding round worth about $250,000.

Kewin said that for the foreseeable future HWKI will be based in Ontario, because of the access to resources for hardware startups and the large hockey market. He said 40 per cent of the registrants in Hockey Canada are in Ontario.

 “The Ontario Minor Hockey Association and Greater Toronto Hockey League form a great nucleus and will be validating for the rest of the market,” he said.

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: CelluFuel Funding


Cellufuel, a Halifax renewable energy company, and PwC Corporate Finance have released the following statement:

CelluFuel raises $5 million in capital, launches demonstration scale project

PwC Corporate Finance Inc. acted as lead advisor on the transaction and secured private equity investors

HALIFAX, Sept. 3, 2014  - Today, Halifax, NS-based CelluFuel Inc. announced that it has completed a $5 million capital raise to begin construction of its demonstration scale plant for the production of synthetic, renewable diesel fuel from woody biomass. CelluFuel will construct its demonstration plant at the ReNova Scotia Bioenergy site in Brooklyn, NS, which serves as a provincial incubator for companies focused on bioenergy innovation.

"We are extremely pleased with the successful completion of our demonstration project funding effort and excited about the value our new investors bring to our business," says Chris Hooper, President and CEO of CelluFuel.

The announcement comes just 18 months after Hooper and his three founding partners launched the company, which strives to establish an innovative pathway to help the Canadian forestry sector create value—particularly important in the wake of diminished output resulting from challenges in the pulp and paper and building materials sectors. The demonstration project in Brooklyn will procure wood residuals from the local region, create new employment opportunities in Queens County, NS and serve as a platform for the expansion into commercial scale projects throughout Canada.

PwC Corporate Finance Inc. was the lead advisor for the private equity raise and assisted CelluFuel with securing the necessary capital. This effort included bringing leading strategic investors into the company, positioning it for long-term success.

"We saw tremendous potential with both the business model and the team that CelluFuel had assembled and we are grateful to have played a role in helping the company achieve this important milestone," says Jeff Dawson, PwC Atlantic Corporate Finance Leader.

One of the principal investors in the transaction is Kingsey Falls, QC-based Boralex (TSE:BLX), one of Canada's leading renewable energy producers. Their expertise and knowledge of the renewable energy industry will be complimentary to that of the core CelluFuel team.

"With our investment in CelluFuel, Boralex is strengthening its dedication to the development of renewable energy from sustainable resources and confirms its faith that various sources of wood-residues are to be a part of meeting our energy needs" says Patrick Lemaire, President and CEO of Boralex. "We are enthusiastic about the potential of the collective team that has been assembled".

Another principal investor in the transaction is Chatham, ON-based Tatro Group, which has over 30 years of experience in the commercial trucking industry. This experience will be a tremendous asset to CelluFuel as the majority of diesel fuel in Canada is consumed by the commercial trucking sector.

CelluFuel expects to begin the construction its first commercial scale project within 12 months of commissioning of its demonstration project, and has plans to expand across Canada.

Follow PwC on Twitter at @PwC_Canada_LLP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pwccanada.

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Education Institution Report is Here


We’re pleased today to release our third Entrevestor Intelligence report of 2014, which focuses on the contribution of educational institutions to the startup community.

Titled “Our Back-to-School Issue”, the report highlights several programs and facets involving universities and colleges that are helping to generate growth in the startup segment. A PDF version of the report is available permanently under the “Entrevestor Intelligence” tab at the right of our home page. You can read it here.

Our aim with the report is to highlight how post-secondary institutions support the startup community – from conducting and commercializing research, to teaching entrepreneurship, to attracting people to the region.

As we point out in the main story, these schools account for roughly 60 percent of the research and development in the region. Some of it has been spun off into successful startups, like Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton, Verafin of St. John’s, and BlueLight Analytics of Halifax.  In total, the institutions have spent more than $1 billion on R&D in the past three years, half of which has been spent on Atlantic Canadian salaries and a further quarter of which was spent in the regional economy.

“Research faculty are in fact among the greatest risk takers we have in the region,” said Chris Mathis, President and CEO of Springboard Atlantic, an organization dedicated to commercializing research at these institutions. “They see big problems like health, the environment, energy waste, social problems – and they actually try to engage in finding new ways to address these problems. This requires study, observation and experimentation – all of which few if any companies would ever consider tackling.”

In addition to supplying technology as the foundation of new startups, colleges and universities often act as the maternity ward for startups in the region.  Of the 290 Atlantic Canadian startups Entrevestor identified at the end of 2013, at least 48 (or 17 percent) were founded by students or faculty at these institutions, often incubating over several years. The same number of startups were developed from intellectual property developed at the universities.  And at least 72 startups have used the resources, such as laboratory space, supplied by colleges and universities as they grew.

There is some overlap in these groups, and in total some 109 startups in Atlantic Canada – 38 percent of the total – have benefited directly from the presence of Atlantic Canadian universities throughout their development.  These companies employed more than 900 people at the end of 2013 -- almost one-third of the direct employment in the startup industry.

These affiliations could take the form of being spun out of university research, being founded by faculty or students, being incubated in an entrepreneurship program, or lending the company lab space or other resources. Whatever they do, the universities back some great companies.

Last year, these companies attracted at least $22.8 million of equity funding – 44 percent of the total for Atlantic Canadian startups. In the previous two years, startups affiliated with these universities raised $17.7 million and $21.6 million.

The educational institutions report has been printed and will soon be available at startup houses around the region. We’ll have copies at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum lunch in St. John’s on Thursday and the dinner in Halifax on Sept. 25. Copies will also be available at the Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and at Invest Atlantic on Sept. 29-30.

The fourth Entrevestor Intelligence supplement, which will focus on the global marketplace, will be out in November.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

Profile: ‘Notably Candid’ Nagtegaal


Toon Nagtegaal is ready to take TheNextPhase to the next phase.

The notably candid Dutchman behind the three-day workshop that makes entrepreneurs sweat, and occasionally cry, is developing a new program that would engage startups over a longer period. The idea is to help them transition off the starting blocks and into growth.

In the four years since TheNextPhase started, Nagtegaal and his partners have put about 100 companies through their intensive three-day workshop.

Participants meet in Halifax to look at every aspect of their business, with a particular focus on identifying the pain (problem) of potential clients because, as Nagtegaal stresses, if the entrepreneur is not solving a client’s pain, he doesn’t have a business.

 “On average, one company in every workshop realizes they don’t have a business case. The pain is not clear or their business model makes no sense in relation to the pain.”

Nagtegaal, a former venture capitalist, is known for his bluntness, and his current partner, David Crow of Toronto, is even franker. Not everyone appreciates their approach.

 “It’s not Canadian at all,” Nagtegaal said with a grin. “Maybe three or four participants have not been appreciative. But it’s the ugly baby syndrome; some people can’t deal with having an ugly baby.”

Most people leave the workshop fired up and enthusiastic, “but I can’t keep their fire going,” he said.

 “What they need to do next is execute. So I’m trying to add a new option that would run for six to 12 months where I’ll serve some companies in the execution phase as well.”

Execution is difficult because business plans are about testing assumptions, Nagtegaal said.

 “The plan is a set of assumptions, such as how many clients you’ll need to hit a sales target. You may hit that target because you have a great client, but you may not hit targets for client growth or employee productivity.”

Nagtegaal immigrated to Canada in 2003 and developed TheNextPhase a few years later along with entrepreneur Shawn Carver of Moncton. At the time, Nagtegaal was helping some Atlantic Canadian companies become investment-ready. He said that many companies don’t understand why they fail to find finance.

 “If you’re not prepared for growth, if you haven’t asked yourself all the nasty and difficult questions and assimilated your business into your mind as well as on paper, then you’re not well prepared.”

Before that, Nagtegaal worked with GrowthWorks Atlantic and then tried to set up a regional venture capital fund, but outside investors said they had not seen enough good companies come out of Atlantic Canada to justify a fund.

 “In the middle of the last decade, there was no arguing with that. But now we have a startup ecosystem, thanks to the work spearheaded by New Brunswick-based Gerry Pond and J. Curry of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and we have some great companies.”

Nagtegaal is committed to helping expand entrepreneurship in the region, although he thinks entrepreneurs are mostly born, not made.

 “Entrepreneurs must be extremely resilient and, this is a strange combination, self-confident and self-critical.

 “I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. My dad inherited a company, but he wasn’t an entrepreneur. He suffered from it, and if the dad suffers, the family suffers. I know what it takes and how tough it is if you fail.”

Nagtegaal and his Dutch-born wife, Mariette Roodenburg, owner of Anderson Fine Art Photography Gallery in Lunenburg, have just relinquished their Dutch citizenship to become Canadian.

 “When people ask why I gave up my Dutch citizenship, I have a few explanations with which I tease Canadians,” he said. “These include finally being able to vote for Stephen Harper and being able to travel more easily to the U.S.

 “In reality, it is about practicality and the fact that this place has become home; I belong here now and want to be part of it.”

 

 Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: Modest3D Launch


Modest Tree, a Halifax startup whose SaaS product reduces the cost and time involved in making three-dimensional training programs by as much as 85 percent

Simplifying the Creation of 3D Interactive training: Modest Tree unveils Modest3D™

Halifax, Nova Scotia (September 4, 2014) - Modest Tree, a Halifax-based 3D interactive software and training solutions company, announced today the launch of its 3D authoring software, Modest3D at the DEFSEC tradeshow in Halifax.  Modest3D enables the rapid creation of 3D interactive scenarios without requiring animation or programming expertise.

During Modest3D’s development valuable industry input was gathered from over 70 beta users, including original equipment manufacturers, training companies and military groups. Beta users reported up to 85% reduction in development times through utilizing Modest3D. Charles J. Richer, Area Manager of Valcom Consulting Group said, “In addition to building outstanding 3D educational/training assets the ROI in terms of time and money savings is exponential”.

With Modest3D, users of all experience levels can quickly and easily build complex, high-quality 3D interactive scenarios. Through the drag-and-drop development framework users apply behaviours, interactions and animation to 3D models.  Modest3D is highly flexible, enabling user to build immersive 3D scenarios, desktop procedural trainers, and 3D performance support tools. 

“Modest3D streamlines the development of interactive media for e-learning applications. Its visual storyboarding panel utilizes an intuitive process-flow format to organize the interactivity of the 3D objects in the scene. It is simple enough to allow subject matter experts to create the interactions as opposed to having to instruct the 3D developers on how to make them” said John Worth, L-3 D.P. Associates.

Modest Tree’s CEO, Sam Sannandeji said “Our vision for Modest3D was to streamline the process for creating 3D interactive content.  We are pleased that the innovative processes in Modest3D have been recognized and our launch is the next step to changing the landscape of 3D interactive content development.”

About Modest Tree

Modest Tree is a Halifax-based 3D interactive software and training solutions company. Modest Tree’s flagship product, Modest3D, brings the power of 3D visualizations to all by simplifying the development process of creating 3D interactive scenarios. Modest3D empowers users to bring their 3D scenes to life by applying animations, behaviours and interactions to 3D models to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios. Through Modest3D’s drag-and-drop interface users create complex scenarios without requiring programming or animation expertise.

What To Do About Startups Leaving


It’s beginning to appear that Atlantic Canadians are going down the road for more than just jobs in Fort McMurray. The region’s startups are also feeling the lure of larger markets.

More frequently, when I contact an Atlantic Canadian startup I learn that the founders — the key decision-makers — have moved to Waterloo, Toronto or other larger centres. I don’t have data on the numbers, though it’s something I hope to produce. But the anecdotal evidence suggests it’s becoming something that’s noticeable when you scan the landscape.

When asked why they have moved to Ontario or another market, these entrepreneurs usually give one of two answers. First, they’ve been accepted into accelerator programs in Kitchener-Waterloo or Toronto. Second, and more frequently, they’ve got to be close to their market and the big market is in Ontario.

So here are five thoughts on our meandering entrepreneurs.

1.       This was bound to happen if Atlantic Canada produced great companies. Within a few years, the region has developed the quality of company that is getting accepted into renowned accelerators. It’s no longer a detriment to tell these tech accelerators that you’re from the East Coast. And for every company that moves to Ontario, there’s another that enters programs in Ontario to receive training, but returns to Atlantic Canada once the course is complete. There are plenty of companies that remain here, even though they’re mentored in Central Canada.

2.       Founders have to do what’s best for themselves and their companies. If the companies — especially those with a business-to-consumer model — need to be close to large population bases, then they should move. If they have received funding, they have a duty to do whatever it takes to make money and reward their shareholders. It’s worth noting that a Halifax company called e-Academy (now Kivuto Solutions) moved to Ottawa several years ago, and has done so well that it has paid dividends to Innovacorp that have exceeded the original investment.

What’s more, young people should travel because it enriches their lives immeasurably. One proviso on this matter: if entrepreneurs are considering leaving their home province, they should reveal their plans before they take money from government-backed institutions.

3.       We have to understand the challenges of locating businesses in Atlantic Canada. The region has a small population base. There are very few large companies (which could be potential customers) headquartered here. Air travel is expensive, and often time-consuming. The people developing the ecosystem must devise and promote advantages to locating here that override these detriments.

4.       Atlantic Canada should use this diaspora to its advantage. The people moving to larger markets still hold a deep affection for Atlantic Canada. The East Coast startup community should capitalize on the networks they are building and use it to link with investors, customers and mentors. There should be more structure in the efforts to build a network of expat entrepreneurs.

5.       We should fight back. There are real reasons for locating companies in Atlantic Canada. Launch36 is one of the leading tech accelerators in the country. There’s a wealth of talent. Coding talent generally costs less than elsewhere. There are tremendous mentorship networks. An effort to attract startups to establish in the region would have better economic results than offering a Fortune 500 company incentives to set up a branch plant here.

There’s no reason to panic. This is part of the growth of the innovation sector. The best response is to keep improving the ecosystem here and use this trend (if it continues) to our best advantage.

Press Release: Venture for Canada


Venture for Canada, which helps grads find work in Canadian startups, has issued the following press release:

Venture for Canada Launches its Graduate Placement Product

TORONTO, Aug. 25, 2014 -- Venture for Canada has launched its search for the next generation of top Canadian business leaders.  Recent grads and soon to be grads have until September 30th, 2014 to apply for the first application round of Venture for Canada’s Fellowship program.

Venture for Canada connects top recent graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions to work at top Canadian startups and growth companies that are in need of talent, with the goal that these young Canadians become mobilized to launch businesses moving forward.

Fellows commit to working at partner startups, such as Bionym, InteraXon, and Wattpad, for a minimum of two years.  During that time, fellows are given training, as well as access to mentors.  The program is the Canadian counterpart of Venture for America, which has produced several hundred fellows from universities such as Harvard, Princeton and MIT, and been backed by prominent figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman. 

The program has the support of some of Canada’s leading business leaders.  Venture for Canada’s Honorary Chairs include SVP of Salesforce and Co-founder of Rypple.com Dan Debow, Chairman of Drake International Bill Pollock, Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. CEO John Risley, EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith, NexJ Systems CEO Bill Tatham, CSI Group CEO Ajit Someshwar, and former Home Depot Canada President and NRStor CEO Annette Verschuren. 

Moreover, representatives from a wide range of different organizations support the program, with the advisory board including representatives from Build Ventures, Communitech, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario, Enactus Canada, Futurpreneur Canada, iNovia Capital, Launch Academy, MaRS, Mitacs, OMERS Ventures, Osler, Real Ventures, The Next 36, and Queen’s University. 

Young entrepreneurial Canadians have until September 30th, 2014 to apply in Venture for Canada’s first application round.

 end

Press Release: CarbonCure & Snyder


CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax-based maker of green building materials, has issued the following press release:

Snyder and CarbonCure connect on sustainability

Snyder to offer green concrete products to the Ohio region

August 28, 2014 - Canadian clean-tech company CarbonCure Technologies Inc. has signed a deal with Ohio-based Snyder Brick & Block to begin producing low carbon concrete products for the Ohio building market. Snyder has been providing concrete and masonry products to customers in southern Ohio since 1949, and the company has since grown to include four manufacturing facilities and eight showrooms.

CarbonCure will install its retrofit CO2 sequestration technology at Snyder’s Columbus and Monroe concrete plants, allowing Snyder to produce concrete products that make use of post-industrial carbon dioxide gas (CO2). When added during the concrete-making process, the waste CO2 is converted back into a mineral—making a stronger, more environmentally friendly product.

According to Clean Edge Inc.’s 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index, Cincinnati ranked 14th out of 50 US cities for green building development. The index tracks LEED design projects, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s registry of energy efficient buildings. With Columbus ranked 25th, the report positions southern Ohio as a burgeoning green building market.

“We’re excited to start using this innovative technology,” said Mark Snyder, Vice President of Snyder Concrete. “We’ve made the decision to promote and manufacture low-carbon products so that we can appeal to sustainable construction projects such as LEED, while contributing to a positive long term impact on future generations.” Snyder’s newest manufacturing facility also features a rainwater collection system, which allows them to reintroduce rainwater into their concrete mix design.

CarbonCure masonry products will soon be seen at any of Snyder’s eight showrooms across southern Ohio, giving architects and builders a chance to learn more about the technology. CarbonCure will also be presenting with Snyder at the upcoming 5th Annual Division 8 Update for the Architectural Industry, being held on September 17th at the Four Seasons Marina in Cincinnati.

About CarbonCure Technologies Inc.

CarbonCure is concrete’s gateway to the green building community. Its technology beneficially reuses waste carbon dioxide during the concrete manufacturing process. The company also provides transparency tools such as Environmental and Health Product Declarations for all products made with CarbonCure. Through collaborations with leading designers, the company and its partners are supplying a scalable solution to address the growing demand for green building materials. CarbonCure concrete is available from a growing number of North America’s leading concrete manufacturers--Anchor, Basalite Concrete Products, Brampton Brick, Ernest Maier, Northfield Block, Permacon, Shaw Brick, and Snyder Brick & Block.

Press Release: SimplyCast Q2 Growth


SimplyCast, the Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing startup, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Continues to Achieve Triple Digit Growth in Q2

SimplyCast has experienced triple digit customer growth in Q1 and Q2 for customers using SimplyCast 360.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 3, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to announce that the company has achieved triple-digit growth in both Q1 and Q2.

In Q1, customer growth increased by 266% for customers using SimplyCast 360. In Q2, growth was up by 216%. Customers from many industries are signing up to use the all-in-one automated solution.

“Our team is very excited that we are achieving such high growth rates,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “We are focused on providing our customers with the most comprehensive set of communication tools and the best customer experience.”

SimplyCast's recent achievements include gaining a top quadrant position on the Raab Associates Inc. VEST report, which ranks marketing technology companies based on vendor and product fit. Also, SimplyCast was rated as having the fifth most customers and is in the top ten for most popular marketing automation software by Capterra, an online directory of business software.

The SimplyCast team continues to provide the most complete solution marketing automation solution available. New products include SimplyCast Sonar, a powerful lead tracking tool that enables businesses to gain detailed data for highly targeted campaigns and a shorter sales cycle. The SimplyCast Contact Manager builds personal profiles for lead nurturing, and EngagerLive is a live chat tool which empowers businesses to provide immediate online support to customers.

SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a featurerich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication. With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.

 

SkySquirrel to Launch Farm Product


A year after it pivoted away from a search and rescue product, SkySquirrel Technologies is launching a drone-based product that can help farmers improve growing conditions.

Based in Inverness on Cape Breton Island, the company has always been dedicated to using drones to help customers do things that would be more difficult to do on the ground. The original team of Tim Stekkinger, Richard Van der Put, and Stephane Sogne had planned to use the drones to help search and rescue teams look for lost people. But the market proved difficult to commercialize — too small, too hard to develop revenue channels.

So they have been developing an agricultural product that can help farmers improve their yields by efficiently collecting data on what’s going on in their fields and responding before problems can occur. The company is now developing two commercial drones, and the first product, called Aweo, will be available next month.

 “When you have a flying platform equipped with multi-spectral cameras,” Stekkinger said in an interview at the company’s headquarters, “you can get a lot of data on the crops. It can help a farmer to optimize yield.”

SkySquirrel uses drones to hover over fields of crops using cameras to collect data on four areas: yield estimation, nitrogen stress, water stress and disease detection.

This information can help farmers in several ways. For example, if farmers know early whether their crop will be big or small, and when it may ripen, they can line up the appropriate number of workers to pick it at the right time. By learning early whether there is too little or too much water or nitrogen in certain patches of a field, the farmer can make adjustments before it becomes a major problem.

 “What many farmers are very excited about is early disease detection because a disease can destroy a significant part of your crop,” said Stekkinger.

Drones are becoming more common in agriculture because of their efficiency in gathering data. Stekkinger said it could take six hours for a farmer to scout a 40-hectare field, but a SkySquirrel drone can do it in half an hour. The SkySquirrel team and another Atlantic Canadian startup working in the same field, Resson Aerospace of Fredericton, have been in contact to compare notes, said Stekkinger.

Agriculture is such a massive industry that the market could likely support a lot of these companies. Already, SkySquirrel has fielded inquiries from 20 countries from around the world and is working on a pilot program with academics in Greece. The company has eight full-time employees and one part-time worker and has raised two rounds of finance from angel investors.

The Inverness company is offering services outside of agriculture. Its web page highlights that it can mount cameras on drones and inspect structures such as transmission towers or wind turbines — hard-to-reach assemblies that require regular inspection and maintenance. But the focus, for now, is on agriculture.

 “It can save so much time for a farmer,” said Stekkinger, “and reduce farm inputs (such as fertilizer) by about 20 per cent, depending on the crop.”

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     

 

New Time for St. John’s Event


The time of the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum event to be held in St. John’s on Sept. 11 has been changed to mid-day due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict.

The Entrevestor-EF Luncheon will now begin at 11 am at the Common Room at Gushue Hall at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Like the Entrevestor-EF Dinners, the purpose of the luncheon is to let members of the community come together to discuss ways to improve the ecosystem.

The Sept. 11 event will feature two one-hour discussions before adjourning for dinner:

--  Mark Kennedy, the Founder and CEO of Celtx, the St. John’s-based maker of pre-production software for the film industry, will moderate a discussion on the new venture-angel fund that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is working on. The government has outlined a model that would combine investments from both wealthy individuals and government to fund startups. This discussion will provide an opportunity for members of the community to say how they’d like the fund to be structured.

--  Emad Rizkalla, CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, the St. John’s-based training software company, will lead a talk on how to encourage corporations to invest in and support startups. Atlantic Canadian startups get more funding from strategic partners than many of us would expect, but we’ll look into how to increase the number. The discussion will also look at other ways that corporations can help young companies.

The first Entrevestor Dinner was held in Fredericton in May, and we received glowing feedback on the format that features discussions on improving the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups. Now we’ve partnered with Entrepreneurs’ Forum to jointly host the final dinners of the year. The dinners are being supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinner scheduled for Halifax on Sept. 25 will proceed as planned. The dinner will be held at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting at 4 pm. Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. And Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship.

If anyone has purchased a ticket for the St. John’s event and can’t make it because of the new time, your money will be refunded in full. Tickets for the luncheon and dinner are $75 each. Tickets for the St. John's luncheon are available here, while those for the Halifax event can be purchased here.

Four Launch36 Grads Get BDC Notes


As it announced ambitious organizational changes, PropelICT revealed Thursday that four startups that went through Cohort 4 of its Launch36 accelerator have received $150,000 convertible notes from BDC Venture Capital.

Propel held its annual general meeting Thursday night, formalizing its plan to hold three simultaneous cohorts this autumn and announcing a new board of directors and new role for executive director Trevor MacAusland.

The organization said the following companies have received a $150,000 convertible note from the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada:

Adeptio, Charlottetown, which offers software and programs for personal coaches;

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, which allows for remote payment of parking meters and helps small businesses manage customer relationships;

Qimple, Moncton, which helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

• And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, whose aerial surveillance system helps farmers detect crop diseases.

BDC Venture said last summer it would extend convertible notes of $150,000 each to recent graduates of Canadian accelerators that it deems to be investment ready. As well as Launch36, it makes this offer to such accelerators as GrowLab in Vancouver and FounderFuel in Montreal.

With the inclusion of the four most recent companies, seven Launch36 graduates will have now secured BDC funding through the program.

In other news, Jeff Thompson (profiled today on Entrevestor) became chair of the organization, replacing Scott MacIntosh. He welcomed new directors to the board that reflect the organization’s regional nature. The new directors are Rob Cowan (Halifax), Steven Burns (Fredericton), Jeff Grammer (Boston), Gerry Lawless (Charlottetown) and Jo Mark Zurel (St. John’s).

MacAusland, who has overseen the Launch36 program since its inception and made it a regional initiative, will now become the Vice-President of Business Development.

“It will enable me to focus on what I love doing the most -- helping to curate the entrepreneurial community, build a more diverse and international mentor network and work with our community partners,” said MacAusland in a statement. He said the goal is “to make sure we continue to deliver the quality accelerator services that the community has become accustomed to in recent years.”

Earlier this month, Propel announced that it would collaborate with Volta Labs in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton to deliver its next cohort.  Both of the startup spaces will host a new initiation program called Launch36 “Start”, which will provide mentorship and physical space over 12 weeks for seed-stage startups. 

Meanwhile, growth stage companies will be able to enter the Launch36 “Build” accelerator, which will meet over 12 weeks in Moncton.

Propel aims to have nine companies in each of the “Start” programs, and six in the “Build” program. That means 24 companies will be mentored by PropelICT this autumn. It also means that if every team completes the course, the total number of Launch36 graduates in three years will be 56. 

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

 

After 2 Exits, Thompson Heads Propel


Having founded and successfully exited two tech startups by the time he was 43, Fredericton native Jeff Thompson brings a lot of street cred and star quality to his new role as chairman and president of regional startup support group, Propel ICT.

Thompson took up his role on Thursday, although he has been involved with Propel ICT, most recently as vice-president, since 2011 when he helped thrash out the vision for what has become the group’s successful regional accelerator, Launch36.

His new role will see him focusing on Propel 2.0, a vision of what should come next for Propel and the Atlantic Canadian region.

“The focus will be on achieving growth through working with regional partners and differentiating between the opportunities we offer early- and late-stage companies,” Thompson explained from his Fredericton home, having just returned from an early morning run.

Never one to do things by halves, Thompson is training for Fredericton’s Fall Classic half marathon.

He regularly runs half marathons (21 kilometres) and credits the exercise with helping him stay mentally and physically healthy during the stressful years spent building companies.

The early riser is often out running the trails around Fredericton’s St.John River as early as 4 a.m.

“I run solo so it is an opportunity to get away from everything,” he said.

“Sometimes I reflect on business. Other times I don’t think at all, just notice the birdsong.”

Thompson began running in 2006 when he was the founder and CEO of his first startup, Conseros Software, which prioritizes and distributes work to a company’s best-skilled and available employees.

“All startups are stressful,” he said. “We bootstrapped Conseros. We had no outside investment. There were months when we had no money for payroll and you don’t miss payroll, ever.

“The company had a line of credit and I was the guarantor. It gets really personal. I got hyper-focused when clients owed us money.

“But, of course, having no outside investors is good when you sell, and 100 per cent of the company remains in the hands of you and your team.”

Thompson hit payday with Conseros when he sold it to Genesys Telecommunications in 2009. He continued to work with Genesys for the next three years, taking the product into the Asia Pacific region, and garnering big clients like Telstra and PayPal. But the role meant he often spent 10 months a year abroad, usually living in hotels.

“Running became very important then,” he said. “I had to start my day with a run. If I didn’t, something would get under my skin and it would be a horrible day. The body gets into a routine.”

Eight months ago, he sold his second company, UserEvents, to California-based LiveOps for an undisclosed sum. The UserEvents product analyzes a corporation’s data to detect when a customer is having problems with a website or other communications channel. It then notifies the company’s call centre so the problem can be sorted out.

Since the sale, Thompson has continued to work with LiveOps on product strategy and business development.

All startups might be stressful, but Thompson said that experience helped when it came to working on his second venture.

“You are more realistic the second time,” he said. “The first time, if a sales meeting went well, I would expect them to buy and that doesn’t always happen. The second time, I wore less rosy glasses and I knew how to close the sale, and I think I was better at managing staff.”

Having spent so much time selling his products around the world, these days Thompson is happy to stay close to home.

“I haven’t found a better place than Fredericton to live,” he said. “It’s a good place to start a company. I’ve twice found good people to hire here.”

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Entrevestor on Holiday Next Week


Entrevestor will take its annual summer holiday next week and will not be covering news until after Labour Day. 

We will return as usual on Sept. 2. 

We hope all our readers have a happy and safe long weekend. 

Peter and Carol Moreira. 

 

GetGoing Gets Going at Bootcamp


Starting this week, a new Halifax startup is taking part in a boot camp for women in technology at Waterloo, Ont.-based Communitech, the country’s premiere startup lab.

GetGoing hopes to use its time in the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp to get feedback on its product for entrepreneurs. It has created a simple app that helps small businesses — traditional businesses as well as innovation-based startups — come up with a simple, effective business plan very quickly.

“What we’re trying to do is bring an added sense of confidence to small-business planning, especially people starting businesses for the first time,” said founder Emily Richardson in an interview before leaving for the boot camp.

The team is one of 25 startups accepted into the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, which started in Waterloo this week. Richardson, a Halifax entrepreneur who previously worked for such startups as Truleaf Smart Plant Systems and Carboncure Technologies, applied for the boot camp, competing against 70 other teams.

The other team members of GetGoing are Moontasir Abeer (who previously worked on the software for Halifax startup Presenters Podium), Matthew Carleton and Ben Boudreau.

The idea behind GetGoing is to create a simple online tool for anyone starting a business — especially those averse to using products that use Excel spreadsheets. Once the entrepreneur fills out the forms in the program, he or she will be in a position to talk to a banker about the prospects of the business.

The product comprises three components:

•The value proposition: GetGoing helps the entrepreneur craft a single paragraph describing the business and explaining why it has a good chance of succeeding.

•A modified business canvas: This is a basic template outlining the business model, bearing in mind such factors as customer demand, location, competition, etc.

•A financial planner: In about 15 minutes, the entrepreneur can produce realistic financial projections for a new business. A really cool feature of this tool is it includes Industry Canada statistics that show what revenues a certain type of business can expect in a specific province in Canada. So if you’re planning a restaurant in Saskatchewan, you can see the average revenues for a restaurant in that province in its first year. That is important because business people rarely know what revenues to realistically predict in their first few years.

 “If you can get through these three programs, you are in pretty good shape with your business, but if you get stuck on any one part, you should probably re-evaluate,” said Carleton.

Richardson said the market is huge given that there are six million new businesses launched in Canada and the U.S. each year. GetGoing will initially target three markets: people under 30, baby boomers, and recent immigrants.

GetGoing spent three days this week at the boot camp, where the mentors included Sally Ng, executive director of Fredericton’s Planet Hatch. The GetGoing team will now return to Halifax to execute on what it learned at the camp. It will return to Waterloo for a wrap-up session in September. It is planning a full launch of the product in late October.

The team has so far not sought any equity funding for the project. Richardson said she and her teammates are hoping to get to launch without taking any investment.

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

 

BioPort Now a More Regional Event


BioPort Atlantic, the annual conference for the East Coast life sciences industry, is moving closer to being a truly regional event as it is now being promoted by organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has announced that companies from the three provinces will be able to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, the $15,000 pitching contest at BioPort. And BioNB and the PEI BioAlliance will promote BioPort on a more regional basis. The parties also hope to secure the participation of Newfoundland and Labrador at some point.

“This represents a positive step forward for regional collaboration as we need to be taking advantage of each other’s strengths to assist companies in developing faster,” said Scott Moffit, Managing Director of BioNova.  “We need to get to market sooner and compete harder. After all, our competitors are global not local so collaboration just makes good sense.” 

BioPort will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax on Oct. 20 and 21.

The organizers are now calling for new biotech and medical device companies to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, saying it is an “opportunity to capitalize on valuable coaching and exposure.”

The first prize for the competition is worth $15,000 in cash and in-kind services. Applications, which are available here, close Sept. 3. 

The semi-finals will be held on October 20 in Halifax. The top three qualifiers will present the following day at the BioPort conference.

The winner last year -- when the competition was open to just Nova Scotia and New Brunswick companies -- was Spring Loaded Technology of Halifax, which is developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but brings power to the legs. 

Moffit said the organizers are still putting together the agenda for the BioPort conference and will have more announcements in the next two months. 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Gillis, 15, Brings Bitness to Market


While most of the teens at the Shad Valley tech and entrepreneurship camp in July focused on their science projects, Alex Gillis might have been a bit distracted by the business he’d started two months before.

He is now launching the business, which places a small electronic monitor in retail locations like coffee shops to track the customer traffic and spending, and provide data on customer behaviour. Gillis and his partners call their service Bitness and the little device the Bitness Beacon. And he hopes to have them in scores of locations by the time he’s midway through Grade 12.

“I definitely have the goal of getting 100 customers by the end of next year,” the 15-year-old Haligonian said in an interview shortly after his first sales call at a metro Halifax coffee house. “I really want to get a few chains on board.”

Gillis is now entering Grade 11 at Sacred Heart School, and he already strikes you as an entrepreneur worth listening to. On a humid August afternoon, he’s clad in creased trousers and a dress shirt. He has already pitched his business model at Volta Labs, the Halifax startup hub. And the fact that he attended Shad Valley — a competitive national program that selects only accomplished high-school students — shows that he’s one to watch.

He began to toy around with a serious business in the past year, when he set up a company called MicroCent Technology, which is now the corporate umbrella for Bitness. (Because he’s too young to be a director of a company, his mother owns the stock and has a board seat.)

He brought in a classmate, Aristides Milios, who is helping develop the company in return for equity. And they signed up Troy Nelson, a hardware specialist who divides his time between San Francisco and Moncton, to make the Bitness Beacons. Nelson will receive a cut from the licensing of the beacons.

“Having a three-person team work on this with no money has been crazy,” said Gillis. “We’ve put a total of 200 bucks into this. Now that’s bootstrapping.”

The way the product works is to place a Bitness Beacon in a store or coffee shop — one is all you need for a regular-sized coffee shop. The customer pays $99 to license a beacon, and then pays $45 per month per store (for a regular-sized location) for the service.

The beacon tracks anyone who enters the establishment with their cellphone set to receive Wi-Fi signals (which is most people with smartphones). It can track who lingers at the cash register (signalling a sale), who stays in and who leaves. It can track the number of returning customers. The system assigns numbers to customers and does not identify them by name, thereby preserving their privacy.

The service includes an easy-to-use dashboard that can tell the business owner what are the peak times in the establishment, which helps with staffing and in arranging promotions.

Gillis said the first sales call went well and he hopes to sign up the customer soon. He is especially keen to sign up a few retail or restaurant chains, because that will help to impress investors.

The company is now hoping to raise $50,000 in investment to buy more beacons and hire a salesperson.

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: FoodTender Launch


FoodTender, the Shediac, N.B.-based online ordering system for restaurants, issued the following press release today:

FoodTender Launches Free Online Ordering Service In Major Technology Advance for Restaurants and Foodservice Suppliers

Web-based Platform Allows Restaurants to Easily Order from Multiple Suppliers

For Immediate Release - August 19, 2014

SHEDIAC, CANADA—FoodTender, the first comprehensive web-based ordering system for restaurants, is now available as a free service to restaurants in the United States and Canada. FoodTender’s founders are a restaurant owner and a chef who understand why this new service is badly needed by restaurant managers and chefs.

While technology has been quick to change the “front of the house” in the restaurant industry, the “back of the house” has lagged behind. Today most restaurants juggle orders from a dozen or more suppliers through faxes, phone calls or texts. It’s a time consuming and complicated process.

FoodTender solves that problem with its user-friendly service, saving the average restaurant up to six hours each week. FoodTender lets restaurants easily manage orders from multiple suppliers through a simple web-based platform. The FoodTender service is free for restaurants. Foodservice suppliers, from local farmers to international operators, can sign up to deliver special promotions to a growing number of restaurants that are part of the FoodTender community.

“As a restaurant owner and someone who worked in the foodservice supply business for many years, I know firsthand the struggles that restaurants face in managing their suppliers. We used our experience to create FoodTender and make life easier for chefs and restaurant managers, saving them time and money,” said Andre Pellerin, co-founder of FoodTender.

FoodTender lets restaurants:

•Centralize orders for all suppliers

•Create customized supplier lists

•Manage costs

•Avoid time-wasting calls, faxes and texts

•Make it easy for receivers to reconcile deliveries and prices

•Keep a running history of all orders

“As a chef, I spent many hours each week trying to manage all my suppliers and making sure I received what I ordered at the right prices. It’s a problem that chefs and restaurant managers face every single day. We’ve built FoodTender to streamline and simplify ordering so chefs can focus on their true passion; creating great menus and running outstanding restaurants,” said Andre Leblanc, co-founder of FoodTender.

Restaurants can sign up to FoodTender for free at http://www.foodtender.com

.

About FoodTender.com 

FoodTender offers the first and only comprehensive online foodservice ordering platform for restaurants. This free service saves chefs and restaurant managers up to six hours per week. Find out more at http://www.foodtender.com @Food,Tender_FT or Facebook.com/FoodTendercom.

Pitch 101 To Be Held Tuesday


Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a Pitch 101 competition Tuesday, August 19, at 12:30 pm at the Innovacorp offices at 1344 Summer St., Halifax.

Pitch 101 is an initiative launched by Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic to encourage students and rookie entrepreneurs to hone and deliver concise pitches.

“The pitches are designed to be the first step in helping prepare these entrepreneurs and perhaps those in the audience to develop longer pitches for when they meet real-time investors and potential partners,” said a statement from Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Each participant is given 60 seconds to describe a business proposition, after which judges will provide them with feedback. The judges will be: Ross Finlay, Co-founder & Director, First Angel Network: Gregg Phipps, Managing Director, Innovacorp; and Sean Williams, President & Founder, Williams Marketing.

The audience will select the top three pitches. The winner will receive $500, second place $300 and third place will be handed $200.

The online registration is free. 

Profile: Robert Niven’s Next Product


Eight years after he attended a climate change conference as a student and realized that his carbon capture theory could help lessen climate change, Robert Niven is launching a ready-mix concrete product he expects to grow his company and cut pollution.

Niven is CEO and founder of Halifax’s CarbonCure Technologies, a clean-tech company that adds waste carbon dioxide to concrete production, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

Concrete is the world’s most-used construction material, and it emits five per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.

CarbonCure’s concrete looks and performs like regular concrete, is priced the same and is increasingly sought after, Niven said.

“Since January, CarbonCure has licensed its technology to 12 concrete factories in Canada and the U.S., with an additional 18 by the end of the year,” said Niven, who last year oversaw a Series B financing round of $3.5 million for the company’s expansion.

Back in 2006, Niven was an outdoors enthusiast and an environmental engineering student at McGill University when he attended a United Nations climate change conference in Montreal and realized the potential of his technology.

“Attending the conference put the significance and human side of the idea in context. I thought, I need to get this into the real world.”

The company raised its first round of funding in 2012. Since then, it has focused on injecting carbon into concrete blocks and other concrete masonry products. Niven said Atlantic Canada’s Shaw Group was the first industrial partner, and it sells CarbonCure to the local construction market. But the ready-mix concrete industry is about four times larger than the block market.

“Ready-mix has a larger potential to allow us to expand rapidly, and it is an important bridge to international markets,” said Niven, adding that no direct competitors use similar technology.

The company’s first ready-mix client is a well-known but as yet unnamed Halifax company. Other markets are much further away, including the Middle East and China, where Niven spends a lot of time.

“Bill Gates recently said that in the last three years, China has used as much concrete as the U.S. used in the last 100,” he said.

“We’re a wonderful fit for those countries that need to develop economically and can’t afford environmental degradation.”

The company’s growth in the ready-mix industry is assisted by the increasing global demand for green building materials that is being led by consumers, government regulators and forward-thinking investors.

Navigant Research predicts that the worldwide market for green construction materials will grow from $116 billion in 2013 to more than $254 billion in 2020.

“New rules introduced in November by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program mean that building material manufacturers must report their environmental and health implications, including CO2 emissions,” Niven said.

“Despite concrete’s many sustainability attributes, concrete makers have lost market share to producers of perceived greener materials, like wood and steel that have done a better job of telling their green story.”

It has been a hectic ride bringing the venture to this point. Niven has been working on his company since 2007, when he used his environmental consulting business to support the development of the technology under the name Carbon Sense Solutions.

CarbonCure now has a Halifax team of 17. Niven has worked all along with Sean Monkman, a McGill classmate and the company’s vice-president of Technology Development.

Niven said the company benefited from the worldwide recession that hit while the technology was being developed and is set to profit from the economic upswing.

“When we were developing the technology, the industry was in the gutter so concrete plants were able to give us production time,” he said.

“And now the technology is ready to go, the economy is picking up. CarbonCure’s timing has been excellent.”

 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Engage Conference Set for Sept. 25


The Engage 2014 Conference, which will encourage innovation and commercialization at post-secondary institutions, will be held in Halifax on Sept. 25 and may lead to other similarly themed events throughout the region.

Although the number of events in the startup space has risen dramatically in recent years, organizer Mark Taylor said there is a need for an event examining how universities and colleges spawn innovation and then turn it into young businesses.

 “Atlantic Canada has a lot of world-class research and a lot of talented entrepreneurs, and the goal of Engage is to bring them together and to help them reach the next level,” Taylor said in an interview from Fredericton.

He held his first Engage event in Saint John last October, focusing on export development as the theme. But he believes there is a bigger issue to be tackled in the region in bridging the gap between researchers and profitable businesses.

It is a problem that is often discussed in Atlantic Canada. The region’s universities employ researchers who are recognized in their fields around the world. But too often, there are problems either spinning this research into new businesses, or in linking these researchers with corporations that would benefit from research.

 “This event will break down the barriers to innovation in the region and help entrepreneurs discover what it takes to bring their ideas to life and who can help,” Taylor said.

One of the speakers at the conference will be Chuck Cartmill, CEO of LED Roadway Lighting of Halifax. Taylor said LED Roadway is a sterling example of a company that has tapped the research capacity of universities in the region and used it to produce products for the global marketplace.

The other speakers and panelists include: Dawn Jutla, founder of the master of technology entrepreneurship and innovation program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax; Milan Vrekic, executive director at Volta; Patrick Keefe, partner at Build Ventures; Jeff Grammer, partner at Rho Canada Ventures; Permjot Valia, founder of MentorCamp; and Rob Cowan, partner at McInnes Cooper.

Taylor hopes that his Engage conference can bring people together to encourage more commercialization. He also is planning to host a series of seminars around the region under the Engage brand that will also address the potential of innovation and commercialization.

The Engage 2014 Conference will take place in an already busy week in Halifax for startup enthusiasts.

MentorCamp, a one-day, intensive mentoring session for invited startups, will take place Sept. 22, followed the next day by Startup Empire, a new event organized by Vrekic. Entrevestor and Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a dinner Sept. 25 focusing on developing the startup ecosystem in Halifax. The following week, on Sept. 29 and 30, Invest Atlantic will take place.

Press Releases: Planet Hatch


Planet Hatch, the Fredericton startup centre, has released the following press releases:

 Launch36 Information Session

As you may know, applications for the Fall 2014 Cohort are now OPEN!

In collaboration with Volta Labs, we will be adopting both the Start and Build accelerator programs, products of Launch36, for our next batch of startups!

This evening (Thursday) we will be hosting an information session from 5pm-6pm at Planet Hatch on our partnership and programs..Did we mention there'll be PIZZA?

If you have a colleague or friend that is interested, feel free to pass the message along! To register  https://phprograminfo1.eventbrite.ca/

Startup Weekend New Brunswick Updates

It’s been a busy couple of months but we are sad to announce Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Youth Edition) won’t be happening this summer.

However, the next Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) is just around the corner! Startup Weekend New Brunswick is organizing their fourth event to be held on November 21-23 for ages 16+ in Fredericton, New Brunswick as part of GLOBAL STARTUP BATTLE!

Global Startup Battle is the only event of its kind, with over 40 cities and 15 000 participants around the world. This incredible initiative is driven by Up Global as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

For more information about the previous Global Startup Battle 2013, check out the blog!

Stay up to date by checking out our new community site nb.up.co. It will be updated soon with the new Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) information and registration. 

Entrevestor-EF Dinners Set for NL, NS


Entrevestor and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are delighted to announce we will host the next in our series of dinners in St. John’s on Sept. 11 and in Halifax on Sept. 25.

The first Entrevestor Dinner was held in Fredericton in May, and we received glowing feedback on the format that features discussions on improving the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups. Now we’ve partnered with Entrepreneurs’ Forum to jointly host the final dinners of the year.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinners convene in the late afternoon for two discussions on how we can improve the ecosystem for startups in the region. Each discussion is led by a leader in the startup community, who invites entrepreneurs, funders and support personnel to join in with their opinions on how to improve the environment for startups.

“We believe the entire community benefits when its members get together to discuss common problems and initiatives,” said Kathleen Rayworth, Executive Director of Entrepreneur’s Forum. “We hope that entrepreneurs and others in the startup community will join us to try to plot a course to a stronger ecosystem.”

The Sept. 11 dinner will take place at the Common Room at Gushue Hall at Memorial University of Newfoundland, starting at 4 pm. We will hold two one-hour discussions before adjourning for dinner:

--  Mark Kennedy, the Founder and CEO of Celtx, the St. John’s-based maker of pre-production software for the film industry, will moderate a discussion on the new venture-angel fund that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is working on. The government has outlined a model that would combine investments from both wealthy individuals and government to fund startups. This discussion will provide an opportunity for members of the community to say how they’d like the fund to be structured.

--  Emad Rizkalla, CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, the St. John’s-based training software company, will lead a talk on how to encourage corporations to invest in and support startups. Atlantic Canadian startups get more funding from strategic partners than many of us would expect, but we’ll look into how to increase the number. The discussion will also look at other ways that corporations can help young companies.

The dinner in Halifax will be held Sept. 25 at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting also at 4 pm. The two discussions will be:

--  Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. Various governments are discussing whether to offer investment tax credits to people who are not residents of their province to encourage investment in startups. We’ll look at whether such credits should be offered to non-residents, and whether the recipients could even live outside the region.

--  Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship. This a continuation of a discussion that Calvin Milbury, CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, led in Fredericton. Since then, Launch36 has received federal funding and launched a new, more regional mandate. And the Mentra, a new mentoring group based in Moncton, has begun to organize a regional mentoring network.

Tickets for the dinners are $75 each. Tickets for the St. John's Dinner  are available here, while those for the Halifax event can be purchased here.

 

 

Oasis Farmery: Aquaponics Pioneers


Imagine, if you will, a goldfish tank sitting in your kitchen, with a vegetable and herb garden sitting on top of it. The waste from the goldfish fertilizes the plants, a process that in turn cleans the water for the fish. Now imagine your family sitting beside it, eating the produce from this system.

This simple system — known as aquaponics — is the premise behind Oasis Farmery, a Fredericton startup now trying to raise $10,000 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Oasis is dedicated to using aquaponics to increase the production of local food in an environmentally sustainable manner. It has just graduated from the Summer Institute, an entrepreneurial program at the University of New Brunswick, and has a prototype facility that will show it can produce vegetables for the local market in Fredericton. And it is developing a residential product.

Now it is looking for $10,000 to fund a larger, energy-efficient facility to allow full production of food for restaurants.

 “We’re helping to reduce global food waste by focusing on local food development,” said Jake Wildman-Sisk, one of the project founders.

 “We need to look at the way we’re growing food and constantly improve on it. There are ways to improve it, and I think aquaponics is a step in that direction.”

Wildman-Sisk and co-founder Andrew Mathis -- shown above with mentor Philip LeBlanc -- have travelled to Nevada, California, Milwaukee and Chicago talking to experts in food production and discussing their aquaponic ambitions.

Throughout the summer at the institute, they have developed a 1,000-litre prototype in which they are growing basil, tomatoes, sunflowers and herbs. They have expressions of interest from restaurants that may take their produce. So far, they are using goldfish to provide nutrients for the plants, but eventually they want to introduce food fish.

 “Our aim is to be able to produce fish that you can eat like trout or arctic char, as well as cilantro, basil, a whole bunch of herbs and vegetables that you can use every day,” said Mathis.

They have learned that the system can grow vegetables faster than traditional farming and uses 90 per cent less land and water.

The two entrepreneurs are developing small systems that people can set up in their homes, and a pledge of $250 to the Kickstarter campaign will get you one when they are released in November. But their main focus is on their new facility. It will be a greenhouse powered by renewable energy, with two rows of vegetable gardens over fish tanks. There’s an observation area through the middle of it. That’s important because Mathis and Wildman-Sisk believe part of their mission is to educate school children and the public at large about the importance of innovative food production.

 “I really have a lot of faith in the Oasis Farmery … to really make a huge difference because they’re combining technical rigour with a real care for social causes and food and things that really matter to people,” Fredericton author and architect Johnny Leroux said in the video on the company’s Kickstarter web page.

As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign has raised $2,644. In order to claim any money, they must receive commitments of $10,000 by Aug. 29. People contributing to the campaign will receive gifts made by local businesses in Fredericton.

Summ’er Up! to Expand Next Year


As they wrapped up their first Summ’er Up! Accelerator on Monday, Mary Killfoil and Ed Leach announced the program will expand next year, thanks to a $100,000 donation from the John Dobson foundation.

Kilfoil and Leach, who teach business, innovation and entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University, are best known for their Starting Lean Initiative, which entails several courses and programs teaching lean methodology to startups. They organized the eight-week Summ’er Up! program to give several teams of entrepreneurs the guidance needed to launch their companies.

On Monday, four teams presented their businesses to a packed house at Dal, displaying how they are now positioned to take their products into beta tests and (hopefully) the broader market.

“Every single one of them plan to do these things,” said a proud Kilfoil after the pitches. “They need more work. They need some help. But they’re all planning to proceed with it.”

She also outlined plans for next summer when the Starting Lean Initiative will be able to fund more teams because the Dobson Foundation, which supports entrepreneurial training at 16 Canadian universities, has offered $100,000 in support. It will likely mean 10 teams can take the program next year, and each would receive $10,000 to fund the development of tits product.  

This year’s accelerator provided student entrepreneurs with working space, some funding, programming and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and business people.

The four teams that presented on Monday are:

Bootstrap, a community-based magazine. Claire Zimmerman and Stephanie Taylor are King’s College journalism grads who wanted to produce their own magazine to celebrate the lifestyle and opportunities in Nova Scotia. It will be part of a movement to tell stories from across the province. They are experimenting with a community-based business model in which the magazine reports on small businesses and organizations that have become members of the Bootstrap community.

Peanut, a social gaming app for sports fans. Founded by Callum Mayer and Costa Zafiris, Peanut lets sports fans bet against one another during a sporting event for “peanuts”, a sort of virtual poker chip.  Friends bet against one another for bragging rights, and players can buy additional peanuts for real money if they run out. Venues like sports bars can use the app for in-house promotions.  

Salubrian, an e-booking system for medical clinics. Cameron Seiffert and Justin Javorek, pictured above, have devised a system that lets patients book online for doctors’ appointments. The doctors pay a monthly subscription fee, and the patient can pay $2 to get alerts if the doctor is running late. The pair will beta-test the product this autumn with a Halifax clinic.

Vantij Software Inc., a communication system for hospitals. Tyler Zemlak, a PhD who works as a porter at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, teamed up with Ashraf Abusharekh to produce Harmonized Healthcare, a software product that  allows staff in emergency wards to communicate better. It will also provide valuable data to hospitals to help improve operations. The QEII is working with the team in developing the product.

“We are very pleased to see the success of this program,” said Leach in a statement. “Young people have the ideas and the enthusiasm to be great entrepreneurs. We can provide the learning tools to help them achieve their goals. We have the very good fortune to be working with the willing.”

Irap Funding on the Rise


Irap funding has returned almost to Economic Action Plan levels – and the rise has been especially strong in New Brunswick.

The National Research Council’s Industrial Assistant Program, known as Irap, is a cornerstone program of startup communities across the country, and certainly in Atlantic Canada. Data from the NRC show that Irap funding in Atlantic Canada rose 49 percent to $20.6 million in the year ended March 31, 2013 (The most recent data available). The growth was strongest in New Brunswick, where Irap funding rose 80 percent to $8.3 million. New Brunswick accounted for 40 percent of the total Irap funding in Atlantic Canada.

As part of its Keynesian response to the recession of 2008, the government greatly increased Irap funding for startups. That additional funding ran out two years ago. Then the government decided to ramp up funding again, this time as part of a sustained effort to increase innovative industries across Canada.

When Entrevestor asked Atlantic Canadian startups in its survey what government programs they had tapped in the past two years, 66 said they had tapped Irap, more than any other program. The second most frequently mentioned was the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, cited by 49 companies.

One facet of Irap that is under-appreciated is its advisory service, which actually helps more entrepreneurs than its financing and which is growing strongly. The number of advisory clients in Atlantic Canada has more than doubled in the past two years to a record 606 companies.  Though the number of clients receiving financial aid rose 70 percent in 2013, it was only reaching the numbers seen two years earlier.

The place where Irap funding really took off in 2012-13 is New Brunswick, though not in the way you’d expect. The New Brunswick startup community is more concentrated in IT than any other Atlantic province, and indeed its Irap contributions in ICT increased by one-third to $2.0 million. But that was dwarfed by growth in other segments – food and agriculture up 160 percent to $1.1 million; construction and related products up 497 percent to $1.1 million; and the “Other” category doubled to $1.1 million.

Irap funding for ICT is most pronounced in the region in Newfoundland and Labrabor, where the $2.2 million accounted for half the provincial total.

As might be expected, Nova Scotia was the largest recipient of Irap funding for health and life sciences – its $1.4 million accounts for 54 percent of the funding in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences segment. And P.E.I. punches above its weight in this category – with $391,000 of funding or 16 percent.

 

Irap Funded and Advisory Clients in Atlantic Canada                                                       

                                                               

                                Funded                  Advisory                             

2008-9                   206                         558                        

2009-10                377                         581                        

2010-11                344                         283                        

2011-12                201                         559                        

2012-13                340                         606                        

 

This article first appeared in our June 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which you can find here

Profile: MacAusland Extends Reach


With this week’s announcement of new collaborations with regional partners Planet Hatch and Volta Labs, East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 is moving one step closer to its goal of being a truly regional organization.

On Wednesday, the group’s friendly-and-frank leader Trevor MacAusland announced the group will hold its Launch36 Start program for new companies at Volta in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton. Launch36 Build, for growth-stage companies, will continue to be held in Moncton.

“The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said MacAusland, executive director of Propel ICT, the group that runs the accelerator.

“We’re aiming to be geographically agnostic and to become the world’s first federated accelerator model.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John 10 years ago, but MacAusland lives in Moncton and travels to boost regional links.

The group’s virtual programming will be improved with funds it has been awarded by the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (amount yet to be announced).

Virtual programming will allow Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to participate in accelerator programs, events and workshops.

There is a lot of untapped entrepreneurial potential in rural communities, MacAusland said.

“In the digital world, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, only where you’re going. We want to overcome the challenges entrepreneurs face in accessing the right people at the right time.”

The NRC funds will also allow the group to diversify away from pure tech to serve companies in other segments, and it will help with building better bridges to startup hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Europe.

Propel ICT began Launch36 early in 2012, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years.

Launch36 has now graduated 32 startups from across the Maritime provinces and is known for the quality of the support it offers graduating companies. These include well-known names such as Eigen Innovations, which is developing an Internet of Things application for the food industry, and topLog, which helps to prevent network failures.

In May, the accelerator won Incubator/Accelerator of the Year in the Startup Canada Atlantic Awards.

When he became executive director in February 2011, MacAusland vowed to boost mentorship, believing it essential to entrepreneurial success.

Now, he gives credit to the couple of dozen regular volunteers on whom the non-profit relies.

“Our mentors strive to get entrepreneurs the answers they need,” he said. “They work tirelessly and open up their networks. If not for them, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have.”

MacAusland said the group will “never have real estate” but will continue to keep costs down by working with community partners and relying on the generosity of sponsors, who provide free office space when required.

He describes himself as, “not the smartest or most talented person, but I am the hardest working.”

“I believe it’s my responsibility to future generations to foster entrepreneurship as much as I can.”

MacAusland is a francophone and fully bilingual. He grew up just outside Moncton, where his dad, Gerald, was an entrepreneur, owning a successful fire protection company.

The junior MacAusland worked for two decades in sales and marketing in the ICT sector, for T4G Limited and Whitehill Technologies.

MacAusland is the father of six-year-old Emma, and he says parenthood increases his commitment to local entrepreneurship.

“I want Emma to be able to stay in this region, if she chooses,” he said. “I feel a cultural shift is needed if Atlantic Canadian youngsters are to have that choice.

“If you see a problem, don’t say ‘Someone should fix that.’ Say ‘I can fix that, or if not, how do I find someone who can fix that?’”

David King Leaves Genesis for Qatar


The Genesis Group of St. John’s, which operates one of the most successful business incubators in the country, will soon enter a new phase of its development — but without the man who has steered the firm for the past two decades.

David King, who joined an earlier incarnation of the group in 1993, has announced that he will leave his post as chief executive officer to move to Qatar in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of retiring, King will become the dean of business at the College of the North Atlantic’s campus in the Middle Eastern country.

Genesis Group, the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s technology commercialization arm, will soon begin its search for King’s replacement. The next chief executive officer will lead the organization through a new phase, as it considers shifting focus from incubation — mentoring fledgling startups — to developing an accelerator, which would help young firms make plans for growth as they become established.

 “There’s been a whole kind of entrepreneurial revolution in the past few years,” King said, pointing to groups like Startup St. John’s, Build Ventures and the province’s coming venture capital fund, which are changing the landscape. “This whole spectrum is there in pieces, and what we’d like to do is to bring it all together.”

A bit of background: In the 1990s, Memorial University set up a technology transfer group — a common feature in academic institutions that helps them commercialize their research, either through startups or in partnership with corporations. That unit evolved into the Genesis Group, which took over commercializing university research and became the Genesis Centre in 1996.

That centre nurtures between 10 and 12 startups at a time. It has graduated many of the leading startups in the region, including fraud-detection company Verafin, risk-analysis provider ClearRisk and a marine training company, Virtual Marine Technology.

This summer most of the technology transfer responsibilities went back to Memorial University, leaving the Genesis Group mainly focusing on mentoring startups.

It’s also preparing to move from the university campus to The Battery, a former hotel complex on the slopes of Signal Hill. Memorial University bought the old complex last year and plans to turn it into housing for graduate students and the Genesis Group’s new home.

The incubator is now plotting out how it will grow and adapt to its changing environment. King said it may develop an accelerator that would mentor companies that receive venture capital funding.

King has taught business at Memorial University (he describes himself as an “MBA/CA type”) and, of course, has immense experience in mentoring entrepreneurs.

He had been planning to help oversee the changes at Genesis Group, and retire in the middle of next year, but then he caught wind of the opportunity in Qatar.

When he leaves the Genesis Centre on Aug. 21, he will head straight to the airport to travel to the campus that Newfoundland and Labrador’s technical college established in Qatar.

 “I would have liked to have had a little more time to prepare for it,” he said. “But it’s like everything entrepreneurial — you have to seize the opportunity when it’s there.”

Wagepoint Launches in the U.S.


Having attracted its 500th client by focusing on Canada, Wagepoint last month launched in the U.S. and is now offering its online payroll service in all 50 states.

Wagepoint offers an affordable solution to help businesses perform all the tasks associated with payroll through a single solution. That means that small and medium-sized businesses can use Wagepoint to pay employees, deduct taxes, keep records of their payments and similar functions.

The company has assembled an impressive client list since launching in June 2013, handling more than $120 million in paycheques, and its business has doubled in the past six months. CEO Shrad Rao has known that it had to move into international markets, but that’s hard because of so many tax codes from many levels of government.

“We’re now in all 50 states in the U.S., which is an accomplishment because it means we deal with 13,000 tax codes,” said Rao in an interview from Toronto late last month.  “We have a very good team, and we’ve been able to find people who understand all these tax codes.” He said one of the company’s keys to success has been finding people will experience in human resources and payrolls and who understand the technology used in the fields.

Wagepoint was formed in Halifax two years ago. Though it is now headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., it has retained a presence in Nova Scotia, employing four people in Halifax and Amherst to handle customer service and operations. It also has a few Nova Scotian investors, advisers and customers.

It also has customers in the region, including Halifax-based Analyze Re, which provides risk management services to the reinsurance industry.

"We have been using Wagepoint since June 2013 and are very happy with it," said Co-Founder Shivram Rajdev in a statement provided by Wagepoint. "Wagepoint's on boarding process was quick, the customer service is excellent and the costs are reasonable for a start-up such as ours. It takes me literally 30 seconds to do my payroll and this is very important to me given the time constraints for other critical tasks."

Wagepoint recently graduated from Hyperdrive, the accelerator program at Communitech, the startup hub in Kitchener-Waterloo. It has also been accepted into the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, one of the federal government’s three accelerator programs in the U.S.

The advantage of entering the New York program – the other two are in Boston and San Francisco – is that New York is of course the financial capital of the U.S. so it is an excellent place for developing business networks and finding mentors.

“We want to grow into a very large company,” said Rao. “We know the U.S. is a very large market so we have to learn how to grow there. We’re now trying to march toward the 1,000 customer mark and we will keep investing in Canada.”

 

Press Release: Propel, Volta & Hatch


PropelICT, the regional accelerator program, released the following press release yesterday, announcing its partnership with Planet Hatch and Volta Labs:

Launch36 Announces Launch of "Start", "Build" Tracks

For immediate release

Moncton, NB – August 5, 2014 – East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 has opened applications for its fifth cohort of companies. So far, 32 companies have completed the 12-week program and it is expected that the next cohort will help Propel ICT exceed its goal of launching 36 companies in less than three years. The deadline for application is September 8, 2014.

There are some big changes ahead for the Launch36 format with news that Propel ICT will be collaborating with community partners to deliver programming at Volta and Planet Hatch.  Each location will host a program track called Launch36 “Start” which will be 12-weeks in duration, provide mentorship and physical space.  Workshop sessions will be in the evenings twice a week and will focus on helping founders pick the right co-founder and team; how to perform customer validation using lean startup methodologies and securing early-adopter customers.

 “Volta will assist this program by providing meaningful mentorship and a physical space with a strong internal community,” states Milan Vrekic, Executive Director at Volta Labs.

 “We are excited to take our programming to the next level by collaborating with Volta and Propel ICT to better serve and align resources for entrepreneurs and startups across Atlantic Canada,” said Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng.

The Launch36 “Build” track format will be a bi-weekly cohort session held in Moncton, NB for later stage startups who are looking to shape a repeatable model for customer acquisition (sales), strengthening their startup team, and putting in place a framework for scale across people, process and systems.  Only startups that are accepted into the Build track will be eligible for BDC’s $150,000 Convertible Note program.

 “The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said Propel ICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland.

Propel ICT plans on adding more Launch36 community partners in the future as demand for the program grows.  Companies interested in applying for the Start or Build tracks should visit http://launch36.ca

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About / Stats:

Propel ICT

Website: Launch36.ca or propelict.com

Twitter: @PropelICT/@launch36

Volta Labs

Website:  voltaeffect.com

Planet Hatch

Website:  planethatch.com

Press Release: Startup Calendar


The Atlantic Media Group issued the following press release last week:

Atlantic Mentor Group Launches Startup Calendar in Halifax

July 31, 2014 – Halifax, NS

Today marks the official launch of Startup Calendar, an online tool to enable start-ups to share their events with other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The intent is to connect events with start-ups, sponsors, supporters, and attendees – all in one convenient, easy-to-use location. By visiting www.startupcalendar.ca, stakeholders can post and view events, or raise the profile of their event through the use of sponsored listings.

“We’re very excited to introduce Startup Calendar to the entrepreneurial community,” said Steve Willson, Partner, Atlantic Mentor Group. “Our contacts in Atlantic Canada tell us they’ve been looking for a solution to the challenge of searching multiple start-up sites to be sure they don’t miss out on important events.  By consolidating these events in a single place we hope to simplify their day, allowing them to get on with the important job of creating a successful business.”

In addition to a calendar and event listing, registrants can create a free directory listing, allowing others to find their business, start-up, or organization.  They can also get events sent right to their desktop or mobile devices though our media links.

The Atlantic Mentor Group consists of four partners: Bob Williamson, Judy Lugar, Megann Willson, and Steve Willson. The members are based in Atlantic Canada and work as advisors to organizations at home in North America, and abroad.

end

VidSnippets Eyes Autumn Launch


To enter the pitching competition at Invest Atlantic this year, entrepreneurs must submit a one-minute video introducing their business, and they can highlight the most enticing 10 seconds using an exciting piece of technology being developed in Halifax.

VidSnippets is preparing to launch its new product at a few events this September after incubating the product for almost a year in the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Saint Mary’s University.

The product is designed to solve a problem common to people who post or send digital video online — usually you have to wade through minutes of footage to see a really good part. Or just as often the viewer doesn’t bother watching an entire video because it takes too long to see the highlights.

VidSnippets’ technology allows users to create and share highlight clips of up to 10 seconds from their video. If viewers are impressed by the preview clip, they can go to the VidSnippets site to see the full video.

That means that you can post the 10 seconds from a youth soccer game when your child scored a goal, or the 10 seconds of a 15-minute corporate presentation that highlights your main point.

“Every person who sees this can find their own way to use it,” said Josh Galloway, the company’s head of technology. “There are almost too many applications. It’s a good problem to have.”

Co-founder Paul Farmer came up with the idea before joining the program last year, and fellow students Suman Pettem and Kevin Gallant soon joined him as co-founders and began working on the product. Galloway, a veteran of Dartmouth multi-channel marketing firm SimplyCast, joined earlier this year. Over the summer, the team has included two interns from Dalhousie University’s computer science faculty, Scott Theriault and Brian Yip.

The team members are now preparing for a launch of a prototype website and Android-based mobile application in September, and have a few projects under consideration.

VidSnippets is hoping to launch a product in time for university frosh weeks so students can post and send the highlights of the videos they take.

The group is looking at a LinkedIn product, so people can video a description of themselves and post the 10-second highlight of the talk on the social networking platform.

Organizers also plan a launch of the product for the startup pitching competition at Invest Atlantic, the regional startup conference taking place in Halifax from Sept. 29 to 30.

Delegates and the public will be able to view the pitches and vote for their favourites; they’ll have a chance to see a 10-second highlight and, if that intrigues, to see the full-length version.

They also hope to get involved with online video contests that allow registered members to submit and vote on videos. Whoever submits and votes for a video will receive SnipCoins (a form of loyalty points).

Right now, VidSnippets is working to get a product out as the universities welcome students back to their campuses.

“We thought it might work well to roll it out though the universities, maybe through frosh week or maybe some of the sports teams,” said Farmer. “It will give us a chance to see how it goes.”

Profile: Building a Metamaterials Hub


Now that Dartmouth-based Metamaterials Technology has signed a partnership agreement with Airbus, founder and CEO George Palikaras aims to turn Atlantic Canada into a centre for producing optical metamaterials.

Palikaras has developed metamaterials — synthetic substances with properties not found in nature — that use nanotechnology to filter, absorb or enhance light. Now he’s looking at partners to create a manufacturing facility in this region.

“We’re the first company in the world to commercialize optical metamaterial thin-film technology on a large scale and Atlantic Canada is the ideal location,” he said. “Atlantic Canada offers quick access to key markets, and the aerospace and defence ecosystem is strong. We are here because we believe this is the right location to grow our business.”

The first application Palikaras and his team have focused on is a transparent nano-composite thin-film that offers a solution to the problem of laser interference — there are now 4,000 laser attacks on airplanes annually in the U.S. alone.

The company’s Lamda Guard division recently partnered with Airbus, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, to develop the thin-film which can be applied to an aircraft’s cockpit windshields to block laser beams.

Since the Airbus announcement in June, Palikaras has begun to increase his Atlantic Canadian staff. Two new local jobs — a thin-film designer and a metamaterials scientist — have already been posted. Palikaras has received applications from around the world but says he is talking to regional universities about setting up training programs to educate workers.

“We want to attract new talent, especially local talent,” he said. “And we believe the Maritimes has a highly qualified workforce.”

Palikaras now has enough money to go forward with Lamda Guard and its sales growth will help finance the other two divisions: Lamda Solar, which focuses on increasing solar energy output by up to 100 per cent, and Lamda Lux, which can increase the efficiency of LED lighting by 10 times.

“We have four patent families, two of which are dedicated to solar technology that can improve solar panels enough to save costs, increase output, and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

It is 15 years since metamaterials first emerged as a scientific field with great promise, and Palikaras believes market analysts will soon see growth in the sector which will surpass their predications.

“Analysts predict that the market for metamaterials will be worth more than $800 million in less than 10 years,” he said. “But I’m on the inside and I say our industry will be a multibillion-dollar industry. Nanofabrication costs are coming down, so the technology can be applied to making consumer products less expensive in larger quantities and easily attainable.”

Palikaras’s interest in metamaterials was sparked by Alex Feresidis and Prof. Clive Parini, whom he studied under in England between 2002 and 2010.

A born problem solver, Palikaras was shocked to learn of the emerging problem of laser attacks during a visit to his native Greece at that time.

“Watching TV, I saw fans committing laser attacks on basketball and soccer players,” he said. “Research told me that laser attacks were also affecting pilots. In the U.K., I found that laser attacks on pilots there were more than doubling every year. I knew metamaterials could be a potential solution.”

He got to work, establishing his company in 2010 with co-founder Themos Kallos. His search for a manufacturing partner revealed that the University of New Brunswick and Universite de Moncton both had facilities that could help to produce his first prototypes. With the support of several groups, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, he contracted the New Brunswick universities and other Canadian researchers to start work on his designs in 2012.

He said he and his wife, life scientist Nadine Geddes, intend to stay here. “We’re passionate about using this new science to make the world a little better and to assist the economic development of this region,” he said.

Persistence Pays Off for eOLIO


Traci Johnstone’s story is a study of tenacity and style, and she has poured those two facets into the startup she’s launching this year, eOLIO.

The startup — the name is a shortening of e-portfolio — is an online tool that helps people present a portfolio of their work online, and helps companies view such portfolios when they are recruiting prospective employees. The Halifax company has been going through limited launches for its two products this summer, and is planning a full commercial launch in the autumn.

 “The beautiful thing about eOLIO is we’ve streamlined the process of presenting your brand,” said Johnstone, the CEO of the Halifax-based company. “LinkedIn is about what you’ve done and eOLIO is about who you are.”

Personal branding is important to Johnstone. In fact, the company’s promotional literature says that “without personal branding, your career is dead.” Her mission with eOLIO is to help people assemble their work and personal assets and present them in the best way possible to create, maintain and promote a personal brand.

Her emphasis on personal branding comes from her own experience. She was, to use her own words, a “big girl,” weighing, at one point, 268 pounds. But she lost her excess weight and has kept it off for more than a decade. After she posted some indiscreet beach photos online in 2009, she came to understand we all have personal brands and it’s important to create the best brand possible.

Excited by the startup world, she set out to launch a company that would help people establish a favourable brand for themselves. She founded eOLIO in early 2012 and worked to find the right niches to make money from her vision.

She has worked with 13 partners, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Department of Economic and Regional Development and Tourism and Dalhousie University. The result is a software-as-a-service product that is visually compelling, with a striking black, white and red motif.

After reworking the business model, Johnstone is targeting two markets: “creators,” or people who want to create an online portfolio of their work (photos, writings, videos), and “locators,” or business recruiting people who need to see people’s portfolios, and organize and score them.

The company held a private launch for creators in July by contacting 10,000 people and alerting them about the new product. “The response has been phenomenal,” said Johnstone. “It’s the summertime and still we’ve seen this incredible response coming in. … It’s all been positive. We haven’t really had any negative response at all.”

The soft launch for the locators product is coming in August, and then the company, which now has two full-time employees and one part-time employee, hopes for a full commercial launch in the autumn. The basic products are free, and eOLIO charges for premium products.

The company has received some investment, so it now has eight shareholders and it is now raising capital, with a target of $300,000.

FounderFuel Accepts Brownie Points


Brownie Points, the St. John’s startup that has developed a customer loyalty tool for small retailers, has been accepted into the Montreal accelerator FounderFuel, offering it a chance to grow in a major Canadian city.

The company now has its point of sale product in about 40 locations in St. John’s and Halifax and now has to figure out a way to increase sales dramatically, especially in larger markets. Founders Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe believe the 12-week course in a large city like Montreal will help their business immeasurably.

“I think it will be big for us,” said Puddicombe. “We’ve established some pretty good traction in St. John’s and Halifax that’s allowed us to validate the idea and the product. But we feel we’re ready to scale. I think the access to mentors FounderFuel offers will provide us with the direction and focus we need to reach our goals.”

The two former business students at Memorial University began Brownie Points as a tool for coffee shops (as the name suggests) but their product has applications for other retailers as well. The thinking is that larger companies can afford loyalty programs; but small retailers need the sophistication of a digital program that engages customers and generates data to help the shopkeepers track of and retain customers.

Stenback said they are pleased with 40 customers but know they have to do a lot more to get clients. They surveyed all their clients this month, and 80 percent responded on the first day with overwhelmingly positive feedback about the product.

The two founders had thought about just moving to a larger market. Then they realized that attending an accelerator like FounderFuel would place them in a city of 1.6 million people and give them an instant network and mentors within that city.

“We’re sort of poised now to scale and we’re looking for the strongest way to scale,” said Stenback. “So at FounderFuel, we’re going to be looking forward to working with mentors who understand growth.”

He added that the team believes the best route to growth may include partnering with other companies that target SMEs. For example, they recently spoke with Phillip Curley, the CEO of HotSpot Parking of Fredericton. The two sides agreed there may be opportunities to work together as they offer different but complementary services to SMEs.

The 10-team FounderFuel cohort begins on Sept. 1 and runs until the DemoDay on Dec. 2, and after that Stenback and Puddicombe expect to return to St. John’s. “We had discussed plans of moving to Montreal or Toronto but we need to sell remotely,” said Stenback. “We can field calls from everywhere, regardless of where we’re based.”

The company plans to raise funds, but is taking time to decide the best approach. It will receive a $50,000 investment on joining FounderFuel, and at the end will be eligible for the $150,000 convertible note that BDC Ventures offers some graduates of major Canadian accelerators (including PropelICT). The team also wants to consult with its new mentors on the best route to financing the company. 

EnginuityMED: Idea to Sales in 1 Year


Taking a new product from concept to customers in a year is difficult, and in medical devices, it’s unheard of.

But EnginuityMED of Halifax is now selling the FIVA product it dreamed up in June 2013.

FIVA is designed to solve a very simple — and sort of obvious — problem for hospitals, especially for anesthesiologists and nurses in operating and emergency rooms. There has never been a device to tell them when a gravity-fed IV bag is empty and needs to be filled — until EnginuityMED invented one.

FIVA, which stands for Fluid Intravenous Alert, clips onto the tube at the bottom of a gravity-fed IV bag and beeps when the bag is empty. It requires no altering of the system of bags and tubes, and runs on a long-term battery. It’s now being tested at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax and at other hospitals across Canada.

“The device itself is fascinating, but what is really, really exciting about this is that we went from concept to market in eight or nine months,” said Ben Garvey, a principal of the company.

The story began last summer when Orlando Hung, professor of anesthesia at Dalhousie University, pointed out the need for such a device to Barbara Campbell, the head of Hammock Facilitation, a consulting firm that advises companies on the development of medical devices.

Together, they took the project to Garvey and his colleagues at Enginuity, an engineering firm in Halifax. It had experience in design and manufacturing, but had never built its own medical device.

They ended up forming a five-member team, comprising Hung, Campbell, Garvey and two Enginuity execs, business development expert Alastair Trower and engineer Lee Babin. Thus EnginuityMED was born.

What followed was a fascinating story of resourcefulness, strategy, discipline and teamwork. It’s a textbook case of conceiving a minimum viable product, and rigorously developing it to bring in early revenue before proceeding to more sophisticated products.

With little more than a concept, Hung received $50,000 from Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund, which allowed early prototyping and meetings with focus groups. With their business model honed a bit, they entered I-3, Innovacorp’s competition for Nova Scotia startups. They finished in the top five for the Halifax region, and set a goal for themselves.

In preparing their January 2014 pitch for the I-3 competition, EngiunityMED decided to focus on a single, simple product that it could produce by the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society’s annual conference in St. John’s, N.L., in June. If they didn’t have the product ready for that conference, they’d have to wait a year to go to the next national conference.

All five members had other full-time jobs, but they managed to develop the product over the winter. That meant Babin and Enginuity engineer Gleb Sekretta produced six different prototypes. They were even able to obtain the necessary medical device establishment licensing for EnginuityMED and put the FIVA product through the regulatory approval process for a Class 1 (i.e., simplest) product with Health Canada.

The founders financed it themselves. They were working on it up till the night before Babin and Trower boarded the plane for St. John’s.

But they made the deadline and landed sales.

Now, with experience in producing and getting approval for a medical device, EnginuityMed is planning its next products. It is securing a round of financing, and is hoping to hear from other clinicians with ideas for products.

Said Campbell, “We want to see people’s concepts, vet them and see if they fit our stream of clinician-driven innovation.”

Press Release: LED Promotes Lavoie


LED Roadway Lighting, the Halifax-based manufacturer of LED-based street lighting and wireless controls, released the following press release Monday:

Denis Lavoie Appointed President of LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (July 28, 2014) -- LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) CEO Charles Cartmill is pleased to announce the appointment of Denis Lavoie as company President.  The appointment was announced today in Halifax and received unanimous approval by the company’s board of directors.

Mr. Lavoie is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in international sales and marketing and senior management.  Denis joined LRL in January of 2013 and was most recently Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing.  He graduated from l’École Polytechnique de Montréal as an Industrial Engineer in 1990.  He has been an active member of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) since 1991, and has chaired numerous committees at the local, regional and national levels.  He also received two Presidential Awards for his work on the TM-15 (Luminaire Classification System for Outdoor Luminaires) and the MLO (Model Lighting Ordinance).  After eight years on the Board, he also served as President of IESNA for the 2011–2012 term.

Charles Cartmill will continue in his role as company CEO and focus on strategic initiatives.  Mr. Lavoie will oversee all day-to-day operations and will report to Mr. Cartmill.

LRL has experienced tremendous growth over the last 3 years, and the company expects this level of growth  to continue.   Mr. Lavoie’s appointment will allow Mr. Cartmill to focus on company vision and strategy and ensure that the company meets its aggressive sales and operational goals

In 2013, LRL launched its award-winning NXT series luminaires, and expanded its reach into lighting controls and smart street lighting with technology partnerships and new products.  Today’s announcement is a positive development that will ensure that LRL continues to be a leader in LED based street lighting and controls.

About LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) is a leading designer and manufacturer of LED (light-emitting diode) based street and area lighting fixtures and control systems. LRL is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with primary manufacturing located in Amherst, Nova Scotia. LRL also has manufacturing capabilities in the US, UK, and Australia.   In addition to research and design facilities in Halifax, our Victoria, British Columbia operation is engaged in the design and manufacturing of our Lumen IQTM wireless control system.  Our NXT TM series luminaire was awarded Best in Class – Local Residential Roadway in the 2013 Next Generation LuminairesTM Competition, and was also selected for inclusion in the 2013 Illuminating Engineering Society Progress Report.  LRL’s products are RoHS compliant (free of lead and mercury), provide average energy savings of 60% and substantially reduced maintenance costs. LRL has municipal, utility, and commercial installations in more than 40 countries. For further information please visit our website http://www.ledroadwaylighting.com.