Digital NS Offers New Sales Program

Emily Boucher: 'Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector.'

Emily Boucher: 'Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector.'

The need for Atlantic Canadian businesses to increase sales, particularly global sales, is a hot subject. With that in mind, technical industry association Digital Nova Scotia is piloting a sales development program in Halifax for small to medium-sized businesses.

The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.

“Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector,” said Emily Boucher, Director of Marketing and Research at Digital Nova Scotia. 

“We’re trying to help fill the gaps we can for the startups and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) among our members.” 

Boucher said the new pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development.

UNBSJ Offers Sales Course for MBA Students

These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?

“Our program is about executing,” Boucher said. “The focus is on the participants themselves using their own companies as case studies.”

The program is led by John Robertson, of business development company inspiredEggs Ventures. Participation is capped at five people, to enable frank discussions and peer-to-peer learning.

The participants in the pilot are varied in age, expertise and experience. Companies include: Bitness, a location analytics platform for retail outlets; PowerWHYS, which helps renovators eliminate energy waste through predictive analytics; Dadavan Systems, an established software company with a new product; VidSnippets, a company that allows clients to share videos, and a law firm that’s developing a digital platform. 

Boucher said the diversity of businesses is useful as it offers different perspectives. 

The 25-week program began in mid-July, and requires a commitment of two-four hours a week. Learning is not classroom-based, location and times vary to suit participants. Occasionally, some participate remotely.

To be eligible, participants must understand how their product or service could disrupt the market. They must be able to pitch their company, and, where relevant, they must have an minimum viable product with prototype or modeling, and have a budget for business development.

Teaching the Rewards of a Sales Career

Program funding is currently provided through the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive, or WIPSI, program.

 “The main thing is, as a community we need to identify how to better support companies in sales,” Boucher said. 

If the pilot goes well, the program will be continued.

“We are building a waiting list of companies,” Boucher added. “We’d eventually like to see the program with John expand outside Halifax with support from our partners. This model may also help us develop other programs that offer more flexibility for participants.” 

Briefs: Sequence, Sentinel, Curbza

EyeRead Changes Name to Squiggle Park

EyeRead, the Halifax startup dedicated to helping children learn to read, has changed its name to Squiggle Park.

A spinout from the Halifax web development company Norex, Squiggle Park uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child.

Co-Founder and CMO Julia Rivard Dexter said in an email that the company has changed the name for two reasons: first, Eyeread was causing search issues and typos for its users, and the company was able to acquire the URL SquigglePark.com.

Second, the founders wanted to highlight that their product is a game, so they chose a name connoting the joy and fun that children can find with their game. Squiggle Park is also the name of an actual park not far from the company’s offices.

“This is a timely change with the launch of our free fall pilot for teachers in Pre K-1 classrooms,” said Rivard Dexter.

Sentinel Alert Partners with NLC

Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s startup developing worker safety software, has signed a pilot agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, focusing on the hazards created by lifting and moving heavy products.

Sentinel Alert has created safety software that uses data analytics to detect and predict worker accidents. It said in a press release today the pilot is designed to help NLC proactively identify hazards linked to overexertion in an effort to design the safest processes and environment for its workforce.

According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute, overexertion and lifting are the leading cause of workplace injury in North America.

“Maintaining a high standard of safety for our team is core to NLC’s mission,” said Kevin Kelly, Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Administration with NLC. “Continually improving safety processes is key, but it’s difficult to manage what we can’t measure. Sentinel Alert provides this insight and helps us uncover hidden safety risks to design safer work environments for our team.”

Sentinel Alert recently raised $525,000 in financing through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital. It is using the funding to grow its team and open-up its private beta to interested customers, in addition to early partners like Pennecon, Crosbie Group, and NLC.

Brightspark, OurCrowd To Host Seminar

Brightspark and OurCrowd are hosting a seminar in Halifax on their investment models, which have broken away from traditional venture capital to create new investment opportunities for individual investors.

The event will take place Sept. 8 from 11:45 am to 1:20 pm at Volta Labs in the Maritime Centre. You can register here.

Brightspark is a Toronto-based VC firms that allows accredited investors to invest in the companies in its portfolio. OurCrowd is a world-leading equity-based crowdfunding platform, built for accredited investors to provide VC funding for startups. The fund started in Israel and is now making investments around the world.

The session will be led by Sally Ng, the East Coast Community Lead at Brightspark, and David Shore, the Director of Investor Relations at OurCrowd Canada.

Ashley Joins Sequence Bio Advisory Board

Sequence Bio has named Euan A. Ashley to its Scientific Advisory Board.

The St. John’s startup said in a press release that Ashley is Associate Professor of Medicine and Genetics at Stanford University and Co-Founder of Personalis Inc, a genome scale genetic diagnostics company.

Ashley will offer his expertise in human genomics towards advancing innovative therapeutic discovery and more personalized clinical care through Sequence Bio’s 100,000-person genome project in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I am very excited to welcome Dr. Ashley to Sequence Bio’s Scientific Advisory Board,” said Sequence CEO Tyler Wish in a statement. “As one of the pioneers and leaders in this field, his experience will accelerate our vision to advance both drug discovery and precision healthcare. The entire Sequence team is honoured to work with Dr. Ashley and are excited about the impact he will make.”

Sequence, which recently announced US$3 million in venture capital funding, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.

“By leveraging the proven power of population genomics and its potential for drug discovery, Sequence Bio has unlocked a one-of-a-kind opportunity in Newfoundland and Labrador that will generate new insights into human biology, therapeutic discovery, and healthcare,” said Ashley in the statement. “I look forward to working with them on this ambitious and project with global reach.”

Curbza Launches University Marketplaces

Curbza, a Dartmouth startup making a peer-to-peer commerce mobile app, has announced the launch of its university marketplaces. Each university in Nova Scotia now has a network on Curbza, offering students a marketplace to buy, sell and trade items to other students at their school as well as vendors within the area.

The latest version of the app provides users with the ability to create and manage customizable networks. The customizable networks feature allows users to create networks based on location, types of items or social groups. Users have the ability to make networks public or private to control who can view items. A network for each university and college in Nova Scotia has been created by Curbza.

“We created networks to give users the ability to make decisions when buying and selling online,” said CEO Scott Theriault in a statement. “Now users can choose if they sell to everyone, or a small group of friends. It's a great safety feature too.”

Students can easily join their school's network by opening their store and viewing all networks. When a student is on campus and the phone's location services are activated, the school's network will be the first to appear under the networks feature.

Gone Fishin’

Well, we're not really fishing, but there was a time when that sign used to hang in office windows if people were away. We will be taking our annual summer break next week. We're having a bit of down time and recharging our batteries before a busy autumn. 

We'll be back on Tuesday, Sept. 6, wihch coincidentally will be the fifth anniversary of our launch in 2011. 

Stay well, everyone, and have a great Labour Day. 

Accelerator Centre Launches Phase One

Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre, or AC, is accepting applications for the first cohort of its newly developed Phase One program launching in September.

Phase One is an intensive four-month program focusing on market validation and investment readiness.

Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre, said the program offers expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with world-class mentorship.

“The select 10 companies we accept into Phase One will also have access to our newly developed Advisory Network, a group of incredibly talented advisors from industry,” Salvini said.

The Accelerator Centre focuses on building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms. It also works to commercialize advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions.

The new program is the first of four phases within the AC’s recently restructured two-year incubation platform, which is tailored to meet the needs of each company as they scale.

The first phase culminates with Presentation Day, an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine who is ready to enter the second phase.

Companies successfully entering Phase Two are automatically considered for up to $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program, which provides eligible companies with $30,000 in seed capital (to be matched by recipient firms), $10,000 in mentorship, and access to market research and connections to investors.

The deadline to apply to the Accelerator Centre is Sept. 9. Applications can be submitted online at acceleratorcentre.com/programs.

Trevor MacAusland Rejoins Propel ICT

Trevor MacAusland

Trevor MacAusland

Trevor MacAusland is returning to Propel ICT.

The regional accelerator said Wednesday that MacAusland, who had overseen the organization’s first program, Launch36, has accepted a position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence in Moncton.

“Propel ICT continues to evolve and we identified certain opportunities to enhance our services to our program participants, to our alumni and other stakeholders,” said CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Trevor brings valuable experience from Propel's Launch36 program and we are excited to have him on the team.”

Five years ago, MacAusland was the executive director and lone employee of Propel, and he launched a new East Coast accelerator with the goal of launching 36 companies in 36 months. Hence the name, Launch36. He handily exceeded the target as more than 50 companies went through his program in Moncton in three years.

In June 2015, he left Propel to join the 3+ Corporation, the economic development agency for the Moncton area. But he missed the startup world and he has decided to return to Propel to help with the growth of the organization.

MacAusland will be based in Moncton and will help fellow Entrepreneur in Residence Al Sturgeon deliver the Build program, the accelerator for companies that are beginning to scale. He will also lead the development of a new program for Propel alumni.

The organization has developed the means to help companies reach the point at which they are scaling their businesses, but now it wants to help them grow into global corporations. Propel announced earlier this year that it would begin this program by the end of the year.

The new hire means Propel now has four entrepreneurs in residence – MacAusland in Moncton, Sturgeon in Fredericton, Gillian McCrae in Halifax and Peter Gifford in St. John’s. 

Brownie Points Targets Small Cities

Newfoundland and Labrador may get a chance Thursday to defend its title at the Fierce Founders bootcamp at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener, Ont.

Niki Pryor, the CEO of St. John’s startup Brownie Points, will find out in the afternoon whether she is one of eight entrepreneurs to compete for a total of $100,000 in development money at Fierce Founders, a mentoring program for startups with female CEOs. The company offers an online loyalty program for locally-owned coffee shops and boutiques. This year, it was the only Atlantic Canadian participant in the program, which comprises two week-long sessions.

Last year, when the program was known as the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp, the winner was Sarah Murphy of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert. She took home the $35,000 first prize and has tapped the expertise at Communitech to aid with the growth of her company.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of learning out of it,” said Pryor, when asked her impression of Fierce Founders. “We’ve got a great startup community in Newfoundland but we do live on an island. It’s really great sometimes to get off that island.”

Pryor recently joined the three-year-old company as CEO and has been focusing the company in terms of both the product and its market.

The Mune Launches on Kickstarter

The product previously featured a tablet near a boutique’s cash register that allowed the customer to swipe a loyalty card. But that is now being replaced with a mobile app that keeps all the details of the customer’s account. Beacons positioned in the establishment can detect when customers with the app enter and how long they stay. That means it can award points not only for purchases but for how long the customer stays. It also provides the business owner with data on the customers’ purchases and frequency and length of visits.

“Brownie Points is more than just a loyalty program — it allows businesses to have better control over the customer relationship,” Pryor said. She added that the shops that use it “want big data without the cost of big data.”

Meanwhile, Brownie Points is also refining its market by targeting not just small business but those that could be described as “boutiques” — those whose clients cherish a local business with a unique ambiance.

Brownie Points is now used by 26 outlets in Halifax and St. John’s, and 24,000 people have downloaded the app. In the coming months, Pryor hopes to deepen the penetration in Atlantic Canada and then move into other markets. The target is boutiques in cities of fewer than 1.2 million people, such as Ottawa or Guelph, Ont.

She’s also hoping to raise capital, though the team is still working out a target for the amount to be raised.

The participation in Fierce Founders is the last chapter in the company’s storied history. Over the past three years, Brownie Points has been led by four people and participated in two programs outside the region.

Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe started the company in 2013. They took the company through the FounderFuel accelerator in Montreal in 2014, but eventually moved on to other ventures. They were succeeded by Dana Parsons, who is still involved as Brownie Points’ chief operating officer while working full time at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University.

The Mune Launches on Kickstarter

A musician performs with The Mune.

A musician performs with The Mune.

With one month to go, Scott Stevenson has already received commitments of $24,568 – almost one-quarter of his $100,000 target – in the Kickstarter campaign for his new musical instrument, the Mune.

The Mune is a hand-held instrument that allows electronic musicians to hold something the audience can actually see, thereby enhancing the performance. Electronic musicians now play a platform that sits flat on a table, which is a bit of a drag for performers working to connect with an audience.

Though the launch of the crowdfunding campaign is the first major announcement by St. John’s-based Mune, the company has been working away for years perfecting the instrument and developing a product that can be made in commercial quantities.  

Stevenson, an electronic musician who studied computer engineering at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has been perfecting the Mune for four years. He presented a prototype of the instrument at a demo day I attended in May 2014 in St. John’s. At the time, he said he hoped to launch the product in a Kickstarter campaign once he had a more “manufacturable” product.

He now is in a position to seek buyers for the product and launched the Kickstarter campaign last week.

“The Mune is a brand new device that combines the power of digital music gear with the simplicity, soul and expressiveness of an acoustic instrument,” said the company on the Kickstarter campaign page. “It's expressive, simple to pick up and play, and allows your audience to easily see the interactions you have with sound.”

Simms Returns to Genesis as CEO

The instrument features 24 sensors placed on a panel, so the musician has a vast variety of synthesized sounds based on the combination of sensors touched. What’s more, the system operates off its own software called Symphony, which is open-source. That means that as more and more people use the Mune and dabble in the software, they can share the new sounds that they have discovered.

“My immediate plans for the instrument will be to work with the Mune open-source software once it's released to develop hardware that can bridge the gap between the digital possibilities of the instrument and the analog space,” Patrick McMaster, a Montreal synthesizer musician, posted on the Kickstarter page.

The Mune project began at Memorial in 2012 when electroacoustic composer Andrew Staniland wanted to improve on digital interfaces, which he found unsatisfying. He began a research project, bringing in Stevenson to help re-imagine electronic instruments.

They went through dozens of designs and created a few prototypes. The team grew to more than 10 people.

Stevenson and his team have been able to attract 72 backers in a range of price brackets in the Kickstarter campaign. The lowest price that lets the buyer receive the Mune is $776, which the company describes as the “early-bird special”. Only 20 purchasers could take advantage of this deal and it has already sold out.

The Mune has attracted four backers at $899 and one at the deluxe $2,499. The campaign also lets people support the project a lower price brackets ranging from $5 to $199.

The Kickstarter campaign lasts until Sept. 24, and the company expects to be able to ship the Mune in September, 2017. 

ReadyPass Eyes 250 Mid-sized Cities

A Fredericton startup company is looking at about 250 cities in the U.S. and Canada with populations of less than 150,000 as the target market for its product to improve transit systems.

Alex Kall, CEO of ReadyPass, admits there are other firms creating technology to improve transit systems. But he said most target large cities with large budgets.

What ReadyPass is planning to do is to target smaller cities, which he said have different needs and spending capacity.

 “Once you get out of the large metropolises, a lot of the smaller cities don’t have the same access to these resources,” Kall said in a recent interview.

“Our technology could handle the needs of big cities, but we’re developing hardware that smaller cities could adapt.”

ReadyPass got its start about a year ago when developers Amy Colford and Taeler Dixon realized the difficulty they were having in Fredericton knowing when a bus was coming. They contacted the local transit department and proposed a digital toolkit to address the problem. The transit agency loved the idea and they began to work on it.

Kall, who had just taken a startup called Pilotalk through the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute, soon joined the company as CEO.

Over the past year, the team has developed a system of hardware and software that helps transit passengers and the agency itself in three ways.

First, there’s an app for Android and iOS that shows bus routes and can tell passengers where the next bus is and how long it will be until it arrives. Eventually, Kall said, this feature will include an electronic bus pass so the passenger doesn’t have to go to a physical location to buy a pass.

Second, ReadyPass installs a suite of sensors on each bus allowing the transit department to monitor such data as the location and speed of the buses, and the number of passengers getting on and off at each stop.

Finally, it offers the transit department a dashboard to monitor and chart all the data that’s been collected. That helps to design routes and schedules that meet optimum demand.

Kall said the data can also be used by other municipal departments. For example, the on-bus sensors can measure road conditions, which can be of use to the works departments.

WellTrack Near Closing $1M Round

Kall and the team is now working with Fredericton to further develop the product, and expects to continue this work for several months.

It’s also working or having discussions with other municipalities in the region, including Cape Breton and Saint John. And it’s in talks with a Fredericton bus company.

Of course, ReadyPass hopes to break out of the Maritimes though this will be a slow process.

Having gone through Propel ICT’s Launch program this spring, the company is now trying to raise $100,000 to finance its growth.

“The sales cycle is fairly long when you’re talking about selling to cities,” Kall said. “But there’s a lot of buzz about transit adding technology to it’s a good time to be talking to small communities.”

Job of the Week: Springboard Atlantic

Our Job of the Week column today highlights a position at Springboard Atlantic, the organization that coordinates and promotes commercialization at 19 academic institutions across Atlantic Canada.

Springboard is looking for a Program and Communications Administrator to join its central office team. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation owned by 14 universities and five community colleges. Its mission is to help to commercialize research at these institutions. It does this by linking them with corporations that need help with R&D, and by encouraging new companies based on intellectual property developed at these institutions.

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

Halifax

Springboard Atlantic

Program and Communications Administrator

The Program and Communications Administrator is responsible for the efficient administration of Springboard's internal funding programs. The Innovation Mobilization program and the Industry Engagement program provide funding to support industry engagement and pre-commercialization activities for the network.

Applications to these programs are received and evaluated monthly. In addition to this primary role, the administrator will be tasked with significant data entry and data management roles that support the network and Springboard central office staff generally, and the manager of events and communications specifically.

The successful applicant must communicate clearly and have strong computer skills, especially with Excel. He or she should be obsessively data-driven and love getting into details and figuring out what they all mean.

The job involves helping members with their applications to the Innovation Mobilization program, and coordinating IM committee meetings to review and approve applications. It also calls for putting together monthly, quarterly, and annual reports on the outcomes and impacts of the Springboard network.

The program administrator must also assist with social media administration including scheduling social media posts, administering Mailchimp lists, and media monitoring.

Springboard is looking for someone with a college or bachelor degree in business administration or science, and three to five years of experience in a similar role. An ability to work in French will be considered an asset.

Act of Radical Generosity, Season Two

Judith Richardson: 'The founders are feeling more confident in their skills.'

Judith Richardson: 'The founders are feeling more confident in their skills.'

Female entrepreneurs and mentors are invited to prepare for the second year of SheEO’s An Act of Radical Generosity, an initiative that last year raised half a million dollars to fund five female-led Canadian enterprises.

The brainchild of serial entrepreneur and SheEO founder Vicki Saunders, the initiative invites women to contribute $1,000 (plus a $100 program fee) to support female entrepreneurs.

The donors, or activators, can also act as mentors to the fledgling entrepreneurs.

Women supporting women is necessary, according to Saunders, because although Canadian women begin two-thirds of small businesses, they receive less than seven per cent of venture capital funding.

“The five companies that were funded last year have seen an average of 30 per cent revenue growth,” said Atlantic Canada SheEO lead Judith Richardson, the Halifax-based founder of PONO Consultants International.

“The founders are feeling more confident in their skills; they have hired, made introductions. Many of us activators became clients of these companies.”

When activators contribute, they choose the companies from across Canada that receive the money.

A possibly surprising detail — the founders themselves decide how to divide the funds.

“They each have to make the case for their business,” Richardson said. “They are not allowed to divide the money equally.”

Richardson, who has 20 years’ experience in organizational development, said the chosen entrepreneurs are given coaching that allows them to understand their own and other’s business styles.

“Women have to understand their behaviour and decisions so they can ask for what they need. Often, entrepreneurs are so busy they don’t know what they need.”

Erin Flood Grows in COO Role

Richardson always stresses the importance of sales.

“The first thing I ask any young woman looking for funding is, what about sales? You have to know, and believe in, and get your product out there . . . Develop that mindset. I can’t stress sales enough.”

None of the five companies that received investment last year are based in Atlantic Canada, although several made it to the final 25 and 22 local women contributed funds.

The recipients pay back the loans over five years at zero-per-cent interest. The returned money goes into a pool to help other entrepreneurs.

The call for new applicants and activators will go out Sept. 1.

“I’m hoping some of the local companies will re-apply,” Richardson said. “They might be ready now, although some of last year’s applicants have grown past this point.”

Now in its second year, the model is being refined. Richardson said organizers are asking themselves how to engage with women who have mentoring skills but who don’t have $1,000 to spare.

“I’d like to see as many activators as possible re-activating and giving another $1,000 as well as new activators engaging. I’d love to see more mentoring,” she said. “We have to ask — how can this generation of women support the next generation?”

Read our Report from Last Year's Fundraising Event

The initiative is also expanding outside Canada and is about to start in Colorado, San Francisco, Los Angeles and India.

Richardson said entrepreneurship is about creating new models and disrupting systems that need to be disrupted.

“It’s all-encompassing; it uses every facet of your being,” she said.

“Even companies that fail produce better leaders . . . The entrepreneurs know more about themselves . . . They think about how to minimize risk to avoid failure.”

Richardson said all ages of women are attracted to the idea of women helping women.

“Seniors like my mom, Dorothy, get behind it. My mom was successful in real estate in Kentville. She and my dad, Jack, a tech-minded veterinarian, inspired me.”

Richardson believes Atlantic Canada is full of entrepreneurial talent, and that a great deal of innovation is already happening.

“I get bored with hearing about the potential of Atlantic Canada,” she said.

“I think we’re potentializing all over the place. There’s more going on here than people realize. Halifax is booming. We’re here, doing it. An Act of Radical Generosity aims to accelerate that process for women.”

Innovacorp Looks to Exits for Capital

Innocacorp Invested $1.5 million last year in George Palikaras' Metamaterial Technologies

Innocacorp Invested $1.5 million last year in George Palikaras' Metamaterial Technologies

Nova Scotia venture capital agency Innovacorp has less money left in its main fund than it usually invests in a typical year, and hopes to replenish the fund through exits by existing portfolio companies.

The agency, which is owned by the Nova Scotia government, posted its annual accountability report for the year ended March 31 on its website this month. The report shows that, as of March 31, Innovacorp’s main fund, the Nova Scotia First Fund, had $5.5 million left to invest in Nova Scotian companies.

Over the years, provincial governments have placed $49.6 million in the fund, and Innovacorp has invested an average of $5.6 million in startups in the last four years. Now, the agency hopes to earn back money as the startups it has invested in are sold to larger companies or listed on stock exchanges.

“As our portfolio matures, we expect to see a return on invested capital through exits (and/or) acquisitions of portfolio companies — capital that can then be redeployed in new Nova Scotia startups,” said CEO Stephen Duff in an email. “Innovacorp management regularly reports to its board of directors on the NSFF’s capital status and works to ensure the fund’s sustainability through a blend of investment returns and new statutory capital.”

The investment focus moving forward will be on rewarding the more successful companies with follow-on funding, he added.

Sustane Deal Paves Way for Funding

The 2016 report was released as the Nova Scotia venture capital scene is undergoing some transition. The provincial government has allotted $25 million for a private-public fund that will be managed by a private fund manager. The goal is to find someone who can bring in private money, so a Halifax-based fund with scores of millions of dollars will invest in Nova Scotian and other startups.

Meanwhile, Innovacorp has been active, investing $6.3 million in 2015-16, more than 20 per cent more than the previous year. Seventeen companies received the investment last year, bringing the total number of companies in which Innovacorp has invested to 44.

The notion that Innovacorp could restock its larder through exits demonstrates that the agency’s management believes its portfolio of investments has matured greatly. So far, Innovacorp has reported only one real exit — the 2012 sale of Halifax-based GoInstant to Salesforce. It invested $100,000 in the company and is believed to have earned back about $1 million.

So far this year, two companies in the Innovacorp fold have been purchased for stock — transactions that don’t qualify as exits because they were small deals that did not return cash to investors. Livelenz in January was bought by Arizona-based Mobivity Holdings Corp., and in March InNetwork was taken over by gShift Labs of Barrie, ON.

[Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.]

The companies Innovacorp invested in in 2015-2016 are:

Information Technology  
Ubique Networks  $500,000
Vendeve $105,000
PACTA $100,000
Clean Simple (now called Swept $100,000
Shout $50,000
AioTV $680,000
Marcato Digital Solutions $500,000
Life Sciences  
Appili Therapeutics  $500,000
Densitas $250,000
Health QR $250,000
ABK Biomedical $753,000
DeCell Technologies $250,000

CleanTech and Ocean Technology

 
Metamaterial Technologies  $1.5 million
SkySquirrel Technologies  $500,000
Ocean Executive $150,000
Island Water Tenologies $100,000
Total $6.3 million

Propel ICT Names Autumn 2016 Cohort

Propel ICT, the East Coast regional accelerator, has announced 38 companies from all four Atlantic Provinces that will go through the Fall 2016 Cohort.

The group has accepted five companies into its Moncton-based Build program, which is designed for more advanced companies. These companies will be eligible at the end of the program to receive funding from BDC Capital and the region’s provincial venture capital agencies.

Propel in the autumn will also offer its Launch program for newer companies in the four provincial capitals.

The companies accepted into the cohort are:

Build

Vintelligence, Moncton -- Billing itself as a "digital sommelier", Vintelligence simplifies wine buying through a recommendation-based kiosk for retailers, events and restaurants.

GoBumpFree, Halifax -- GoBumpFree allows airline employees and their traveling companions to book last-minute hotel rooms without the risk of cancellation fees.

Ironflow Technologies Inc., Dieppe, N.B. -- Having offered web-based HR software since 2009, IronFlow this year launched a new online HR suite called PurelyHR to provide companies with a solution to all their human resources needs.

MasterControl, Fredericton -- MasterControl is developing automation and control devices for film studios with the goal of reducing mistakes and production costs. 

Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown -- Stay Golden is a custom clothing producer that works with teams, schools and other organizations to produce great custom apparel.

Launch

Charlottetown

Ad Blocking Aware

Remote Vision

Rabbit Hole Studios

AlphaTech Business and Technology Inc.

The TnT Food Experience

TopFeed

Contacts-DB

Fredericton

Kin Kit

Flowat

Follow Me Care App (pending)

Jeff Alpaugh Custom

FMI Co.

MOWABE Inc.

rayZen Innovations Inc.

WEnTech Solutions Inc.

BlueSuit Inc.

Halifax

Move The Median Business Consulting

Uvisor Wealth

The Hive Market

Sandcastle Application Development Inc. (PartyUP)

Sufata Software Solutions, Inc.

Labfundr

NovaSpectrum Analytics

Orchard

swifty (formerly Pair N Park)

St. John’s

Fitfoods

SassyTuna Studio

Fridge Friend

Weaver

Vitalitics

Metrics Flow

HelpMeOrder

Creative Maple

Sustane’s Deal Paves Way for Funding

Peter Vinall: 'This has got to work and work really well.'

Peter Vinall: 'This has got to work and work really well.'

Peter Vinall emphasized that the announcement in Chester was a key step in a long and complicated process.

“It’s a big milestone for us,” said the CEO and Co-Founder of Sustane Technologies Inc. over his cell phone as he drove away from the event announcing his company’s partnership with the Municipality of Chester.

Chester on Friday said that it has formed a multi-year partnership with Sustane, which is dedicated to diverting garbage away from landfills and turning it into marketable products.

The company now has a lease for a site in Chester, on which it intends to build a $15 million facility to sort and transform the trash.

Sustane, which won $225,000 in Innovacorp’s I-3 Startup Competition earlier this year, grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. It has little bearing on standard recycling programs — homeowners still have to sort paper, bottles, organics and the like.

What Sustane does is to take 90 per cent of the stuff that goes into the landfill and cooks it with steam.

Through this process there are a few marketable byproducts produced, most notably a biomass that can be burned to produce energy.

Vinall said the landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths.

Shaw Brick Extends Use of CarbonCure Technology

Obviously, Friday’s announcement was important because Sustane now has a site for its plant and a timeline for development: Vinall hopes it will be out of the ground later this year and that the plant will be in operation in late 2017.

But the agreement is also fundamental to the financing of the product. Like other industrial companies, Sustane has to come up with a lot of capital — $15 million for the plant and about $1 million for what Vinall calls startup costs.

But the company is different from other industrial enterprises in that others have to pay for their feedstock (the raw material that the company manufactures). Through its agreement with Chester, Sustane will actually get paid to take the feedstock, then get paid again when it sells the recycled products.

“We get paid to take the feedstock,” said Vinall. “For investors and especially banks, that’s a really nice feature. Most of my costs are covered by the municipality.”

Now that Sustane has a long-term income stream in place, Vinall believes the pieces will fall into place for financing, and he expects to unveil a debt and equity funding package in about four to six weeks.

Though he is focusing on the task at hand in Chester, Vinall said the company is already considering other sites in Nova Scotia, such as Guysborough County and Halifax. And he has had discussions with municipalities in New Brunswick, that might be interested in a plant.

But first, it has to get the operations off the ground in Chester, where he expects to have 25 employees by late 2017.

“We’re putting all our attention in Chester and making sure this plant is our showcase,” he said. “This has got to work and work really well.”

Jobs of the Week: RevIQ’s 4 Openings

RevIQ, the Charlottetown company that helps game-makers boost revenues, is our featured company in Jobs of the Week today with a quartet of postings.

The one-year-old company has been rapidly increasing its workforce and has now posted openings on the Entrevestor Job Board for a Director of Product, Product Manager, Data Scientist and Data Analyst.

RevIQ began as part of Gogii Games, a Moncton-based producer of casual and free-to-play games, which often advised other gaming studios on how to increase their revenue. Last October, it spun off RevIQas a new company whose technology helped studios increase sales.

There was immediate demand for the service. And as its own revenues rose so did its staff, tripling to nine employees in about six months.

RevIQ says its team of multi-disciplinary professionals prides itself on continuous improvement and on-the-job training. “We support our employees’ professional development goals and career plans with ongoing coaching and company-sponsored training,” said the company. “Whether you're a seasoned veteran who wants to gain skills in a complementary field, or you're a little green but want to stretch your skills, RevIQ will support your ambitions to grow.”

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

All these postings refer to the gaming industry and the technical requirements for each of them are listed in the job posting:

Charlottetown

RevIQ

Director of Product

The Director of Product will manage the Product Team, which is responsible for the optimization and management of our free-to-play titles. The Director of Product connects the Business and Product teams with regular communication to support iterative product optimization. That ranges from working with product managers to ensure product launches and regular updates to identifying potential risks and correcting them before they lead to player disappointment. This position requires someone with demonstrated experience in managing complex projects in the games development, application development, or web development industries, with a focus on ongoing exploitation and live ops.The company would prefer applicants with a bachelor degree in business, economics or comparable discipline and three to five years of experience in a similar role.

Product Manager

The winning candidate will combine strategic and analytical skill sets to design, validate, develop, and manage new features and promotional campaigns within our managed products. This ranges from setting performance goals with the business team to establishing business strategies that reward clients and delight players. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.

Data Scientist

A Data Scientist will combine analytical, strategic, financial, and technical skills to build data-driven models and analytical approaches that improve our understanding of customer behavior and products, as well as predict outcomes. This person will develop data mining, machine learning, and statistical modeling solutions to better understand game performance and player engagement with guidance from senior product leads. RevIQ wants someone with exceptional, proven experience in business decision-making supported by strong analytical and creative capabilities. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.

Data Analyst

A Data Analyst at RevIQ must develop, test, and analyze hypotheses that will have a far-reaching impact on the success of the company and its free-to-play products. The analyst will communicate these insights to key executive stakeholders, game designers, and lead developers to play an influential part in establishing this core analytics competency. The successful candidate will also assist in development and implementation of analytics tools and systems to help build out the overall analytics knowledgebase of the company. The position ideally requires a bachelor degree and one to three years of experience.

Erin Flood Grows in COO Role

Erin Flood: 'In startup life, you wear lots of hats.'

Erin Flood: 'In startup life, you wear lots of hats.'

Three years ago, HotSpot Merchant Solutions was a small Fredericton startup. Today, it’s growing with a major U.S. partner. Erin Flood, the company’s chief operating officer, said growth is driven by prioritizing relationships and communication.

The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. The product produces data for downtown businesses, and allows the businesses to advertise to customers through their cellphones.

The company can also track customer response rates.

HotSpot operates in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Charlottetown, and has about a 30 per cent penetration rate in each. Last year, the company began a partnership with North Carolina-based mobile payments company Passport. It’s expected the move will increase HotSpot’s accessible market by 100 times.

Flood has been with HotSpot since the beginning and her role has changed with the growth of the company.

“I was brought on to manage marketing and social media and develop a brand presence. I’d been working for a non-profit on their social media,” said the young woman, who has also worked in the IT sector.

Her role rapidly expanded to include customer services and human resources. Now, she is also responsible for hirings and strategic partnerships.

“In startup life, you wear a lot of hats,” said Flood who graduated from Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University in 2011 with a focus in psychology and sociology. She has also completed Seth Godin’s AltMBA and is a C100 Top Tech Women in Canada.

“The hats allow you to gain more experience, although it did seem overwhelming at first. We lived and breathed the company. We still do…Building a company has been an unmatched education.”

HotSpot is currently hiring account managers and developers and could take on up to five new hires in the next few months. The number could grow to 15 by the fall.

Growth is rapid, but the team has learned to be cautious about hiring, after taking on a lot of people in 2013 and then having to downsize.

“We jumped the gun,” Flood said. “We went up to 15 staff. We weren’t focusing on developing our people, we were pushing the product. Now, we’re learning from our mistakes, and investing in great people.”

There are currently three on the executive team — Flood, CEO Phillip Curley and CTO James Lockhart.

They are assisted by veteran entrepreneur David Wagner. With part-time and contract staff, there are 10 people involved in HotSpot operations.

Flood said HotSpot is not about hierarchy.

“At the start of every week, we hold a big meeting. That communication is crucial,” she said.

“We aim to ensure hires fit with our culture. It’s not just qualifications. We see their strengths from conversation. We’re looking for passionate, humble, empathetic, positive and self-directed people.”

Investing in trusted staff allows the executive team to lower their stress levels.

“In a startup, you’re always stressed, but if you weren’t there’d be a bigger issue,” Flood said. “You need to be aware of your company’s position in the marketplace and what is going on elsewhere.

“When you’re not worried, I don’t think you’re learning. You might be missing something,” she added.

Stress may be largely inevitable, in Flood’s opinion, but she does keep it in check by ensuring she has an hour a day, tech-free, to exercise outside.

At the moment, the executive team members are all training to take part in the Duncan Hadley Triathlon.

The team is also busy learning the culture of Passport. The U.S. company has raised US$7.5 million in investment, has satellite offices in Barcelona and Bangalore, and operates in more than 1,000 locations, including Chicago, Toronto and Boston.

“We have to ensure communications with Passport are streamlined and consistent,” Flood said. “We travel quite a bit. When our technology is introduced to a new city we’re there. It’s exciting. We’re learning how things are done in the U.S.”

WellTrack Near Closing $1M Round

Natasha O'Brien: Close to doubling revenues again in the third quarter.

Natasha O'Brien: Close to doubling revenues again in the third quarter.

There’s part of the WellTrack story that overshadows its pending $1-million funding, or even its efforts to double revenue every quarter this year.

It’s the tale of how CEO Darren Piercey decided one day that his COO Natasha O’Brien deserved a significant stake in the company and handed over half his share.

Piercey, a University of New Brunswick psychology professor, started the company in 2010 to create an online tool to help treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression. After the company, whose official name is CyberPsyc Software Solutions, received funding in 2012, he hired O’Brien, now the company’s COO. Together, they altered the product and its target market so they are now making sales.

WellTrack is a product that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. The company has had some sales to corporations, but it found a more responsive clientele in universities.

The reason is that depression and anxiety afflict about 45 per cent of university students in North America — more than double the percentage of the general population.

“It’s like an epidemic,” Piercey said in an interview in Fredericton this week. “What’s more, the number of people seeking help is rising, and universities are really worried about the first-year dropout rate.”

Helping universities to help their students represented a huge business opportunity, and Piercey and O’Brien turned to the regional startup accelerator Propel ICT to help them capitalize on it. Though Piercey had gone through the program in 2012, they enrolled again. Propel helped them to adjust their business practices to bring in more money.

WellTrack Will Attend MentorCamp in Sydney

Focusing on the university market, they adjusted the price point so the product is now offered at six to eight times what early adopters paid. And they set ambitious sales targets. It’s now selling to about 30 universities and has 10 more poised to sign up.

The company posted $120,000 in recurring revenue in the second quarter, and is on track to increase it to $240,000 in the third quarter. The goal is to double it again in the fourth quarter, which would give the company a neat $1 million in annual recurring revenue.

“We’ve closed $100,000 to $150,000 in the next few weeks, which would put us close to doubling our revenues in this quarter, just as we did in the last one,” said O’Brien.

Because of that revenue growth, Piercey expects to close a $1-million funding round in the next four to six weeks. He wouldn’t say who the investors are, though they may include previous investors such as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and East Valley Ventures. That funding will allow the company to add four staff members, bringing the total to nine.

Throughout it all, Piercey understood O’Brien was key to the growth of the company and deserved a share of the company. So one day, out of the blue, he suggested she should get half his shares.

“I was thinking about it and it just seemed to make sense,” said Piercey, who is just starting a two-year leave of absence from the university to focus on the company. “We couldn’t do this without each other.”

Briefs: Sequence, CarbonCure, Venn

Incubators collaborate to deliver market intelligence

Moncton-based Venn Innovation said Wednesday that market intelligence services will be available to qualifying technology companies across Atlantic Canada through organizations that are part of the Canadian Digital Media Network, or CDMN.

Volta Labs and Innovacorp, based in Nova Scotia, Genesis Centre, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Venn Innovation are collaborating to deliver market intelligence to their clients. In addition, P.E.I. companies will be able to access the service through referral to Venn by Innovation PEI.

The service will be provided by sector-specific analysts based at MaRS in Toronto.

“For the past two years, Venn has been providing market intelligence to New Brunswick-based companies through a partnership with MaRS,” said Venn CEO Doug Robertson in a statement. “The opportunity to extend the access to market intelligence across Atlantic Canada was facilitated through our participation in the Canadian Digital Media Network and the relationships that we have forged with the other participating organizations in the network.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program contributed $170,000 to the project.

Sequence to work with Twillingate hospital

St. John’s genetic data analytics company Sequence Bio on Wednesday named the Notre Dame Memorial Health Centre in Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador, as the first investigator site for the pilot phase of the 100k Genome Research Project.

Sequence, which announced US$3 million in venture capital funding this month, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.

Dr. Mohamed Ravalia of the Notre Dame centre will head an investigative team that will invite patients to enroll in the pilot phase of the project. It will provide feedback on the study process, and aid in the development of a continuing education program to increase genomics literacy. 

“This community project will directly impact the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Ravalia in a statement. “By changing how we look at healthcare and engaging in this study, the people of this province will be on the forefront of cutting edge initiatives and technologies that have the potential to realize significant clinical benefits.”

Added Neala Quigley, Director of Community Engagement of Sequence Bio: ““We couldn’t be more proud to have Dr. Ravalia and his team on board. He has been recognized as one of the best physicians in the country and brings a forward-thinking and patient-first mindset to everything he does.”

CarbonCure competing in $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

Halifax-based green building materials company CarbonCure Technologies said Wednesday it is leading a team that has entered the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

Team CarbonCure, whose members represent the entire cement and concrete value chain, is among 47 teams from around the world vying for their share of the $20 million prize purse.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change.

“We believe that our technology will fundamentally change the way concrete is made globally,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in a statement. “Competing in the Carbon XPRIZE drives us to push the envelope on innovation, and establish partnerships with influential industry players, in order to demonstrate to the world that this technology will play a key role in driving down global CO2 emissions.”

CarbonCure’s technology injects carbon dioxide captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete during manufacturing. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the CO2 chemically converts into a solid mineral and never escapes.

Team CarbonCure was formed to develop new approaches to capture and convert CO2 from industrial sources and sequester it into concrete. CarbonCure’s technology is installed in 35 concrete plants, which have supplied material to more than a hundred construction projects across North America.

Broadening the team to include leaders from the entire value chain will enable the company to collaborate with suppliers and end users alike, in order to facilitate rapid deployment of the technology. CarbonCure said it is competing in the Carbon XPRIZE challenge to demonstrate that its technology is the most cost effective, highest impact, and most scalable solution available today to recycle CO2 to make better building materials.

Simms Returns to Genesis as CEO

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms has not only returned to the Genesis Centre. She is now running the St. John’s startup incubator.

Simms had worked at the Genesis Centre on the Memorial University campus for 14 years, most recently as Vice-President of Programs and Operations. In June, she left to take a position with the Business Development Bank of Canada.

But she soon learned that Genesis CEO Greg Hood had agreed to take a job back in his native Toronto. She was approached and accepted the position of President and CEO of the Genesis Centre. After seven weeks with BDC, she rejoined Genesis last week.

“Being able to come back to the Genesis Centre in this role was a really exciting opportunity to me and one that I couldn’t pass up,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “Being able to put my mark on the Centre would be great, and we have a really incredible team here.”

The appointment of the new CEO is the latest in a wave of changes at the Genesis Centre, which opened in 1993 as an agency to commercialize intellectual property at Memorial. It has evolved into an incubator that offers office space and programming to St. John’s startups. Of the 11 tenants in its offices now, none have grown out of IP developed at the university.

In 2014, David King, who had been with the Genesis organization since its opening, left to take up a teaching position in Qatar. He was replaced by Hood, who Simms said has now found a position in Toronto that allows him to be with his family.

Meanwhile, the Genesis Centre plans to leave its elegant offices in Memorial's Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation in 2017 for the university’s new development at the Battery, on the side of Signal Hill.

Sequence Announces US$3M in Funding

Simms is slotting back into a team that is gelling together at the Genesis Centre. Angelo Casanas, Manager of Startups and Partnerships, joined the organization from the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto last year.  And Dana Parsons, the CEO of St. John’s Brownie Points, came on board this year as the Centre’s Venture Lead.

Since rejoining, Simms has already made a few changes. She recently toured incubator spaces in Silicon Valley and realized they feature more open spaces than Genesis. So she has tried to create more collaborative spaces in the existing facility. This will be a major push in the Battery complex, which she hopes will house as many as 20 companies of different sizes.

In the long-term, Simms hopes to enhance the Genesis Centre’s partnerships. The Centre is one of several Atlantic Canadian organizations that recently partnered with the MaRS Market Intelligence Services. Simms wants to work with more organizations across Canada and the U.S. Similarly, Simms hopes to continue to work with groups in Newfoundland and Labrador that are dedicated to building the startup community.

“The Genesis Centre has in my opinion has always been a strong pillar of the technology sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have always worked closely with our partners,” she said. “I envision that continuing.”

NS Should Maintain VC Policy

The closing of Unique Solutions has ignited calls for the Nova Scotia government to get out of the venture capital business. After four companies in the Nova Scotia Business Inc. VC portfolio have failed in 18 months, people on social and traditional media are demanding the government exit VC investment.  Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie has said the government should instead lower the tax on small businesses.

Such a policy would be a mistake. Nova Scotia – in fact the whole Atlantic region – needs high-growth companies, and these enterprises need capital. And the makeup of our economy is such that government must play a role in providing that capital – hopefully in a way that the capital will be returned.

Until recently, two provincial agencies in Nova Scotia made VC investments – Innovacorp in the early stages, and NSBI in growth stage. In 2014, the government halted new investments by NSBI, leaving Innovacorp as the only active provincial-government-owned fund in Nova Scotia.

[Full disclosure: I once invested in Unique Solutions, and my past and present clients include Unique, Innovacorp and NSBI. But I also used to work for Jamie Baillie and don’t like to see my taxes wasted any more than you do.]

The recent ire has focused on NSBI because it invested almost $30 million in companies that failed since January 2015. We taxpayers will likely lose money on this portfolio. It made $5.4 million on its investment in DHX Media, and still includes some great companies like Halifax Biomedical and Health Outcomes Worldwide. They’d have to sell out at superb valuations to make up for other losses.

But the Innovacorp portfolio seems healthier and features smaller investments than that of NSBI. I say seems because the only way to assess the health of a VC portfolio is to look at its companies’ follow-on funding and the strength of the underlying businesses.

Several companies backed by Innovacorp – such as Spring Loaded Technologies, TruLeaf Smart Plant Systems and CarbonCure Technologies – have had follow-on funding from other investors, suggesting their businesses are improving. (Innovacorp has also backed privately managed Build Ventures, which has invested in three companies that have follow-on funding.)

As for the underlying business, Entrevestor surveys Atlantic Canadian startups, and here are the results for companies in the Innovacorp portfolio that responded to our surveys: 27 Innovacorp companies reported they had a total of 264.5 employees in Atlantic Canada at the end of 2015, up 38 percent from a year earlier. And 18 Innovacorp companies shared revenue data with us. Their 2015 revenues totaled $11 million, almost double the previous year. These are strong gains, and in keeping with what’s going on among Atlantic Canadian startups.

There’s reason to be optimistic about the Innovacorp portfolio. It may make money for taxpayers, and it is already showing strength as an economic development vehicle.

Nova Scotia’s GDP increased 0.8 percent in 2015 – its strongest rate in five years. That is a dreadful economic performance. We need high-growth companies, and they need investment capital. Lowering the small business tax rate won’t help these companies because most don’t pay income tax as they are years away from profitability.

The government has called for proposals for a privately managed fund to set up in Halifax, with the province contributing $25 million. This may be the next phase of VC in Nova Scotia – a public-private fund with a private fund manager choosing the investment targets.

There would still be some losses and the winners would take time to emerge. But the economy needs the provincial government to maintain a measured, disciplined venture capital policy. 

The Digital Side of Charlottetown

The first P.E.I. Propel cohort.

The first P.E.I. Propel cohort.

Gillian McCrae smiled as she looked back at the makeshift stage where six Prince Edward Island digital technology companies had just pitched.

McCrae, the Propel ICT Vice-President, had just overseen her organization’s first Local Demo Day in Charlottetown. It had taken place before a packed house at the Upstreet Craft Brewery, the crowd full of mentors, entrepreneurs and politicians. And, she had to agree things were different when she started her own IT company on the Island four years earlier.

When McCrae went through the Propel accelerator, then called Launch36, she had to drive to Moncton each week for instruction. Propel and the Charlottetown tech community were too young to have a cohort in P.E.I. Both have grown up, as was evident at the Local Demo Day.

“You can see how much support there is here to help companies succeed,” said McCrae. “There wasn’t anything like this when I was going through.”

With its rich tradition in agriculture and veterinary medicine, the Prince Edward Island innovation community until recently was skewed heavily toward life sciences. Yes, there were great IT success stories, like video display advertising company ScreenScape Networks and digital archive manager discoverygarden. But with institutions like the PEI BioAlliance and the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund, the support network for life sciences teams was far greater than for their brethren in IT.

But that is changing for a few reasons.

First, there are more IT companies springing up in P.E.I. Consider this: the latest Propel ICT cohort received a record 168 applications and P.E.I.  (which has about 6 percent of the region’s population) accounted for 18 percent of the entries. 

Second, there are more established places for them to meet and work. Some of the young startups have been working in the Launchpad PEI co-working space, which is where the Propel cohort met. Charlottetown’s Startup Zone opened this summer. This startup house was expecting to welcome 16 companies in IT and other segments, offering them office space, programming and peer-to-peer support.

And third, there is Propel itself. Island companies are still able to join the advanced Build accelerator and travel to Moncton once a week for mentoring. Onset Communications, a Charlottetown company that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly, did just that in the first cohort of 2016.

But there is also an option of joining the Launch program for entrepreneurial beginners, which for the first time this year met in Charlottetown. Five companies completed the Launch accelerator on the Island this spring and presented at the Local Demo Day. They included companies like Airbly, which has developed hardware and software that automates the process of keeping a flight log for small aircraft, and King Ding Productions Inc., which aims to improve food safety.

“IT is the fastest growing industry,” said J. Heath MacDonald, the minister of Economic Development and Tourism. “It just continues to expand. And what’s going on in P.E.I. is just phenomenal – especially the involvement of our youth as they are our future.”

McCrae knows the importance of building IT companies, and the challenges these companies face. Before joining the Propel staff in 2015, McCrae was the CEO of GetGifted, an Island phenomenon that let merchants give gifts to customers as long as they stopped by the shop or restaurant. The company went through Launch36 but shut down when the problems of expanding in a big city became obvious. Now, based in Halifax, McCrae works mentoring companies across the region and is looking forward to the next cohort – for which applications are now open.

She said the entrepreneurs and experts throughout Charlottetown have come out to help mentor the new tech entrepreneurs. “This has created an integrated program with support from the community and from the people within the program itself.”

Job of The Week: 4Deep Inwater

Halifax-based 4Deep Inwater Imaging, which makes cutting-edge microscopes that can operate in the water, is seeking a product verification/quality control lead.

The company makes advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms and other small material in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time taking samples out of the water and sending them to a laboratory.

Having received $500,000 in funding from its Chinese partner Guangzhou Bosma Corp., 4Deep Inwater is now ramping up its sales and working on new applications.

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

Halifax

4Deep Inwater Imaging

Product Verification/Quality Control Lead

Halifax-based 4Deep has an immediate opening for an organized, motivated, and self-reliant person who can be "task flexible" and readily accommodate customer and company needs.

This is a multifaceted position that emphasizes product verification but also requires work in quality control. The successful candidate must become an expert user of all company products and formulate and execute test plans for current and future hardware/software products. He or she must also ensure design specifications are met in prototype and software betas before the final product is released.

The company is looking for someone with the ability to establish and manage quality control tests.

The successful candidate should have: at least two years of university or college with a preference for a bachelor degree; and at least three years of experience in quality control and product verification for hardware and software. The ability to communicate in both English and Chinese would be an asset as the role will require some travel to Guangzhou Bosma’s offices in Guangzhou, China.

New Programming at Planet Hatch

Lisa Kinney

Lisa Kinney

A method for streamlining access to entrepreneurial services is being developed in New Brunswick. The idea is to prevent service duplication, said Lisa Kinney, Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Fredericton’s Planet Hatch.

Chicago-born Kinney, who has been in her post at the New Brunswick incubator and co-working space for the past six months, said she is impressed by the collaboration in the province’s startup community.

That collaboration is enabling the streamlining work, which is being undertaken by a task force of stakeholders, led by Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton.

“We are not a huge community so we can’t duplicate services,” said Kinney, who sits on Fredericton's Startup Taskforce.

“The taskforce, with the leadership of Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton, is working to create a subway model in which we lay out services available to entrepreneurs, so startups can be seamlessly directed to the correct provider…”

Planet Hatch is known for fostering startups in the IT sector. It has recently said it intends to provide more help to non-IT startups.  

“We’re expanding to programs that include the broader startup community,” said Kinney, who has lived on Canada’s east coast since 2009, when she arrived with her New Brunswick-raised engineer husband Jeremy Kinney.

“For example, we have recently taken on an artrepreneur-in-residence at Planet Hatch with the aim of building better connections to local artists.”

The first artrepreneur is Kate Roy, a film-maker and photographer. Artists in any discipline can apply for the one-month role. They receive a dedicated working space, display their work and are invited to networking events.

They also act as a mentor, and take part in the group’s monthly Office Hours, providing consultation to startups.

“The artrepreneur is also promoting the wider artistic community. We see them as entrepreneurs and want them to have the same resources as everyone else,” said Kinney, adding that Planet Hatch expects to house six artrepreneurs a year.

Event Season in 2016 Focuses on New Brunswick

Over the summer, the group ran a creativity workshop for entrepreneurs, led by painter Ingrid Mueller.

“It was to help entrepreneurs access their creative side,” Kinney said. “We weren’t allowed to use social media…We drew and painted. We listened and engaged.”

Also new—for two Wednesdays every month Planet Hatch offers ‘open working hours’.

“Half of our centre is a co-working space for our tenants. We also have community space, so that people who work from home or who are students, can work here and have networking opportunities twice a month.”

Kinney said there is a lot of cross-over between her new role and her previous post with the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she worked for nine years in executive education management.

“I planned and populated programs there too. What’s different now is that after a few years at home, caring for my children, I find social media has become very important.  

“We use social media to communicate everything we do. This summer, we have three university student interns who opened my eyes to platforms like Snapchat, Periscope and other ways to reach youth.”

It’s essential to use all avenues to educate the community about the resources and opportunities available for entrepreneurs, Kinney said.

“We do a lot of youth initiatives. Recently, we ran a kids learning code session for ages six to 12. We try to be present at child and youth events, such as a recent STEAM contest (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Kinney said the taskforce is also planning for the Startup Canada Regional Awards, which will be held for the first time in Fredericton. The September 13th event is timed to coincide with the city’s Harvest Jazz and Blues festival to attract a particularly celebratory crowd.

“Fredericton is a great place to start a business,” Kinney said. “We strive to encourage youth to take the opportunities and start what they’re interested in.”

Sequence Announces US$3M Funding

Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective is leading a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) seed round of funding in St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, calling the company’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”

The parties issued a press release Wednesday saying the other investors in the round were: Killick Capital, the St. John’s investment fund headed by Mark Dobbin; Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, the fund backed by the NL government, BDC Capital and private angels and managed by Pelorus Venture Capital; and Klister Credit Corp., an Ontario investment fund headed by John H. Phillips.

The funding is significant for Atlantic Canada because it’s the first time a Silicon Valley fund has led a seven-figure seed round for one of the region’s startups. VC investors tend to invest in companies close to their headquarters, so it’s noteworthy that a fund in the world’s biggest tech market has backed such a young company.

“Technology is disrupting the traditional drug-discovery paradigm, but these new technologies are starved for ground truth genomic and clinical data,” Zachary Bogue, Co-Managing Partner at DCVC, said in a statement. “We see Sequence Bio as a breakthrough source of both data and insight to improve global health by enabling faster, less-expensive delivery of more effective therapeutics. And while Newfoundland and Labrador is geographically far from Silicon Valley, this is for drug discovery that we’re excited to support.”

Resson's $14M Round Led by Monsanto

Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and the treatment of diseases. The company was founded by entrepreneurs Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner to capitalize on Newfoundland’s genetic data. The island has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank.

The company says it is building “the world’s most powerful big data resource for drug discovery” through a 100,000-person genome sequencing project. The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and increase our knowledge of human biology. That will, it hopes, lead to the development of better drugs.

“Building a company that can both impact drug discovery and patient care in a meaningful way is important to all of us at Sequence Bio,” said Wish in the statement. “This investment will accelerate our already rapid growth. With this unique network of talent, advisors and expertise in big data supporting us, we have never been better positioned for success in drug discovery and precision medicine.”

Gardner added that Data Collective is “one of the premier venture capital firms” investing in companies involved in Big Data. “Its principals have supported people seeking to disrupt industries for over 20 years, helping create tens of billions of dollars of wealth,” he said.

Last year, Sequence received $1 million in equity funding from Killick and Venture NL. Sequence also said Wednesday that James Hardiman, a partner at Data Collective, will join its board of directors.

Unique Solutions Closes its Doors

Dartmouth-based body scan company Unique Solutions has closed down after burning through tens of millions of dollars in capital, including $5.6 million it raised from the Nova Scotian government.

A spokesman on Wednesday said that the company had ceased operations and that the secured creditors would appoint a receiver or agent to auction off the company’s assets.

[Full disclosure:  Entrevestor founder Peter Moreira invested in Unique Solutions and did some freelance work for the company, all in 2010.]

The termination is the final chapter in a corporate story that began in 1997 when entrepreneur Tanya Shaw began an online clothing enterprise. Eventually, she secured the intellectual property for scanning equipment that could capture the human body while the subject was fully clothed.

That led to an ambitious plan to establish scanning booths in shopping malls throughout the U.S. The scans, which only took a minute, would tell shoppers where to find clothes that fit them precisely, and the retailers or brands would pay Unique Solutions for the referral.

The company began to install the booths in major malls, reaching about 40 by early 2012. But the strategy proved too expensive for the revenue it generated and the booths were all removed that year. Shaw tried again with a different strategy – using a handheld scanner and going after enterprise clients, especially those with uniforms. But that too fell short.

It’s difficult to say how much money Unique Solutions raised in its history. The company raised $30 million from Northwater Capital Management of Toronto in 2011. In 2015, it announced it had raised a further $15 million from Northwater and investor Skip Battle.

Before these investors came in, the company had raised money in Nova Scotia, including funding from Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has an exposure of $5.6 million. It also raised money from the First Angel Network, or FAN.

Unique is the latest in a wave of companies from the NSBI venture capital portfolio that have shut down in the past 18 months. The others include TechLink Entertainment (which NSBI had invested $13 million in), Origin Biomed ($7.9 million) and Intellivote ($2.8 million). Members of FAN had also backed Origin and Intellivote.

The Nova Scotia government in 2014 announced that NSBI would no longer make new investments. All VC investments by the government are now carried out by Innovacorp.

The Unique Solutions auction will be interesting because the company’s assets do have considerable value. As well as the IP for the scanning devices, the assets include the world’s largest databank of body scans. These scans each comprise 200,000 points of the human body and are a trove of information on the human body.

Event Season in 2016 Focuses on NB

We’re entering event season in the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and the focus this year will be on New Brunswick.

There are at least five big events planned for the region this autumn, and three that were held in Halifax last year will be in New Brunswick this year.

The regional finals for the Startup Canada Awards will be held Sept. 13 in Fredericton.  Invest Atlantic arrives in Moncton on Oct. 5 and 6, and the Big Data Congress returns home to Saint John on Oct. 17 and 19.

Two conferences that have been held in Halifax since their inception will take place in the Nova Scotian capital again this year – Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and BioPort Atlantic on Oct. 25 and 26.

The largest of these events is the Big Data Congress, which the tech services company T4G started in Saint John in January 2013. The goal of the conference has always been not just to discuss developments in data analytics with people who work in the field but also to educate the broader community on how data analytics can improve a range of industries.

After a year in Halifax, it will be held once again at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre this year with the theme of Big Data and the industrial Internet of things, or IIoT. The organizers are expecting about 800 attendees and more than 30 speakers. Tickets are available here.

The Big Data Congress tends to attract speakers who are household names in global tech circles. This year’s selection includes Alex ‘Sandy” Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program; Alec Ross, author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University; and Sandy Bird, Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Software Security Division. Two regional entrepreneurs who will speak at the event are:  Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Andrea Feunekes, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Remsoft of Fredericton.

Invest Atlantic started in 2010, and it’s always been held in Halifax. Last year’s Chair Nancy Mathis, the head of the Wallace McCain Institute at University of New Brunswick, suggested to organizer Bob Williamson that the next one be held in New Brunswick. So this year’s event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. Tickets are available here.

Along the same lines, the Startup Canada Awards last year had so many regional winners from New Brunswick that the awards presentation for the region this year will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre. You register for the event here. The regional winners will compete for the nation awards, which will be handed out in Toronto on Nov. 29.

Startup Empire is hosted by Volta Labs in Halifax and as such will be held in Halifax this year. Volta has announced the date but no other details.

Organized by the Nova Scotia life sciences association BioNova, BioPort is the oldest of these events, having first been held in 2002. The highlight of the life sciences conference is the BioInnovation Challenge, a pitching competition for biotech companies. This year the winner will take home $50,000 in cash and in-kind services.  

Government Must Adopt Innovation

There are a few things that investors don’t like to hear from entrepreneurs who are pitching them for money, and one is that the startup plans to sell mainly to government.

Selling to government is difficult. The sales cycle is long – so long the startup can run out of money waiting for an answer. Bureaucracies often resist change, which interferes with the adoption of new technology. If the technology saves money, unions worry about job losses. 

There’s no ideology or bias in these statements. It is simply the result of observation of several startups that have tried to sell to government, often with disastrous consequences. Yes, there are exceptions, but overall mentors and investors worry about startups targeting government.

So if there were a single thing that the Nova Scotia government – or other governments in the region -- could do to improve innovation in both the private and public sectors, it would be to improve its process of adopting new home-grown innovation. Such a policy would have two effects: it would create an early market for young companies and help them to refine their products; and second it would improve productivity within government.

High-growth companies (we call them startups but some are decades old) are the cornerstone of an innovative economy. Atlantic Canada has a lot of the components needed to develop these companies – abundant talent, access to capital, lots of universities, stable government. And the provincial and federal governments have some tremendous programs to fund and nurture startups.

What we don’t have is a lot of private industry. The best startup communities have big corporations that spin off startups, offer entrepreneurs experience in industry, and work with startups to develop their products. There are some of these in Atlantic Canada, but not enough.

One Example of NS Industry Adopting Local Innovation

Government in the Maritimes makes up a larger portion of the economy than other provinces or U.S. states. It would be a huge help to Nova Scotian startups – which are the vanguard of modernizing our economy – if government filled the void left by the lack of big business in the region.

Sadly, it hasn’t.

The rule of thumb is that if your business model depends on selling to government, change your model. Most biotech companies selling in Canada have to sell to the public sector because healthcare is largely provided by government, but many if not most have go-to-market strategies that target other jurisdictions.

What’s needed is an adopt-an-innovation program in specific departments, something akin to an adopt-a-highway program in some jurisdictions. The government should name a couple of departments that will initiate programs to buy technology from Atlantic Canadian startups. The Departments of Health and Education seem obvious candidates as they’re big and there is a lot of innovation that improves performance without threatening staff levels.

These departments should create panels to hear pitches, and the panels have to include both senior management (who can make fast decisions) and rank-and-file staff (who can address difficulties in implementing the technology).  The program should be open to young companies that have new products and also established companies that have sold their products outside the region. Once the panel selects a company, it remains in place to help with the implementation.

Obviously, the winners in this situation would be the startups themselves. But Nova Scotian citizens would also benefit from access to the improved performance of new technology.

Briefs: Curbza, V4C, BDC, Cheep

Peer-to-Peer Commerce Startup Curbza Raises $83,000

Curbza, a new Dartmouth company that is developing a peer-to-peer mobile commerce platform, has raised $83,000 in seed capital from angel investors.

Curbza has developed a mobile application that lets individuals buy, sell and barter their household goods. It can also act as a personal inventory for their possessions.

“Curbza has been in development mode over the past eight months and this funding will help us

accelerate our development cycles,” CEO Scott Theriault said in a statement. “The current version has the potential of changing the way the sharing economy works by offering users more choices and

opportunities to customize their online bartering experience.”

Curbza, whose chairman is SimplyCast CEO Saeed El-Darahali, will launch its first commercial version in the coming months, enabling users to start listing an inventory of items in an innovative and secure way.

Venture for Canada Announces Scale-Up Partnership with BDC Capital

Venture for Canada has struck a partnership with BDC Capital as its National Scale-Up Partner.

The not-for-profit organization that recruits recent graduates for leading Canadian startups said it will organize the “BDC Canadian Scale-Up Speaker Series” featuring high-profile Canadian entrepreneurs who have built and grown successful companies. Mark Organ, Founder and CEO of Influitive, will be the first presenter in the series, at an event on August 18. Influitive recently raised a nearly $40 million Series B investment round, and has close to 200 employees.

Later this year, Annette Verschuren, Chair and CEO of NRStor, will be speaking as part of the speaker series. Ms. Verschuren was formerly president of The Home Depot Canada and Asia.

 “We are proud to partner with BDC Capital to provide education to our fellows and partner startups on best practices for creating high growth companies,” said Scott Stirrett, Executive Director of Venture for Canada.

“BDC Capital helps build outstanding companies,” said Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President, BDC Capital. “We are excited to support the work of Venture for Canada in educating the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs on what it takes to scale startups and create high growth firms.”

Cheep Insurance Launches in Nova Scotia

Cheep Insurance, Nova Scotia’s first online insurance brokerage, has launched and is now accepting clients.

The Dartmouth-based company provides online quoting, eSignatures, and a mobile app with the aim of simplifying the insurance experience for today’s busy, modern consumer.

“For a lot of people, insurance can be a hassle,” said Jennifer Jackson, who headed the company’s launch. “So we created a business model that simplifies the entire process – from comparing quotes to binding coverage to accessing your policy and filing claims.”

Cheep Insurance has an online quoting system that allows Nova Scotians to instantly compare insurance prices from their smartphones or computers. Clients can receive coverage over the phone with one of the company’s licensed insurance brokers who will review the policy and answer any questions clients may have. Instead of driving all the way to a broker’s office to sign the paperwork, clients can simply use their fingers to sign on the touchscreen of their phone.

MentorCamp to Debut in Sydney

MentorCamp, the event that brings together entrepreneurs and mentors for intense training sessions, will take place in the Sydney area this month — the first time it’s been held in Cape Breton.

Founder Permjot Valia launched MentorCamp in Halifax in 2011 and has since held the event in such locations as Arkansas, South Africa, and Manitoba. He recently became the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Island Sandbox, an innovation program for post-secondary students in Cape Breton, and has therefore decided to hold the 2016 event on the island.

“I’m looking forward to bringing in the mentors and introducing them to Cape Breton — both for the mentors, to show then what Cape Breton has to offer, and for the local companies,” said MentorCamp Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Clegg in an interview last week.

MentorCamp was formerly an annual event in the region and is now held every second year. It has been held five times in the region, always in Halifax, and the big change this year is it is being held in Cape Breton for the first time. It’s the first time Sydney will host a startup event aimed at companies from beyond the local startup community.

Sydney boasts one of the fastest growing startup communities in the region. As of the end of 2015, there were 32 startups on Cape Breton and 21 were less than two years old. The local incubator, Navigate Startup House, has recently received federal and provincial funding and is working to stage more events for startups based in Cape Breton and elsewhere.

The MentorCamp event will bring together an array of mentors from Atlantic Canada and outside the region who are experts in a range of disciplines.

They include: Arkansas entrepreneur Carol Reeves, who has been profiled in such publications as Forbes; Michael Sikorsky, the CEO of Calgary startup Robots & Pencils; Mark MacLeod, the founder of SurePath Capital Partners of Toronto; and April Dunford, a Toronto-based specialist in startup sales, marketing and customer support.

As well as startups from all four Atlantic Provinces, the companies attending MentorCamp include promising startups from other areas so all participants — mentors and entrepreneurs — can compare the local companies with those from elsewhere.

The eight companies attending MentorCamp are: Airbly, Argyle Shore, PEI; Campfire Union, Winnipeg; Empowered Homes, St. John's, ReadyPass, Fredericton; Treatsie, Fayetteville; Ubique Networks, Sydney and Toronto; WellTrack, Fredericton; and WoodsCamp, Mahone Bay.

Read our Recent Coverage of MentorCamp Companies:

Airbly To Launch 100 Units This Summer

Ubique Lands $2M, Preps for Series A

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market

WellTrack Pitches at Propel ICT Demo Day

ReadyPass, Empowered Homes Graduate from Propel Launch

The event spans two days. On Monday, Aug. 15, the eight invited companies will spend the day with the mentors.

The next day, about 20 companies from Sydney’s burgeoning startup community will be invited to attend one-on-one sessions with the mentors attending the event.

Clegg said the MentorCamp organizers will decide after the event whether to hold it in Cape Breton again or to return to Halifax or try another part of Atlantic Canada. She added the team is impressed with the energy they’re finding in the Sydney area, and Valia hopes to be involved in many other events in the area.

“They’re eager, and there’s definitely skill there,” said Clegg. “And what’s happening now is they’re pulling it all together, and we’re really seeing the support happen.”

Jobs of the Week: Forestry.io

Forestry.io, a Charlottetown company developing a new content management system, or CMS, is looking for two programmers to help the young company grow.

Today’s Jobs of the Week column highlights the postings by this startup, whose recent beta test attracted 2,500 users around the world.

Founded by startup veterans Scott Gallant and Jordan Patterson, Forestry.io is developing a CMS for static site generators like Jekyll, Middleman, and Hugo, rather than the more conventional systems like WordPress and Drupal.

The company is looking for a Javascript/full-stack developer and a backend developer. Since Forestry.io has a small team, the responsibilities for both positions require some flexibility.

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

Charlottetown

Forestry.io

Javascript/Full-stack Developer

The responsibilities for this position include implementing a React.js-based single-page CMS, building front-end features based on user feedback, writing automated tests and communicating with customers. The position requires one to three years’ experience in a similar role and a knowledge of JavaScript

Backend Developer

The backend developer will build features with Ruby on Rails based on user feedback, write automated tests, communicate with customers and set up and manage infrastructure. Forestry.io is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role. The skills required for this position include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Docker and Ruby on Rails.

Miller Seeks Input for G20 Gathering

Emily Miller: 'I want to share the cool stuff that's happening in Atlantic Canada.'

Emily Miller: 'I want to share the cool stuff that's happening in Atlantic Canada.'

Entrepreneur-in-training Emily Miller wants to be briefed by young Atlantic Canadians like herself so she can better represent the region in in her role as a G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance delegate.  

Halifax-based Miller leaves for Beijing on Sept. 2, and would like to hear from members of her tribe before then.

“I look forward to strengthening relations with Chinese business people,” said Miller. “And I want to share the cool stuff that’s happening in Atlantic Canada. I’m looking for feedback from the entrepreneurial community here so I can represent everyone.”

Miller first visited China five years ago when she completed a political science exchange at Changzhou University. She is excited to return. She will fly first to Shanghai where she will meet with entrepreneurs and incubators, before traveling to Beijing for the G20 Summit’s Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance.

At the summit, she’ll attend sessions on subjects such as robotics and humanity, the future of food, travel to Mars and self-driving cars.

Miller is also one of the first cohort of the inaugural Venture for Canada Fellowship, which offers graduates the chance to work with startups for two years.

Having completed her first year of the program, Miller is currently working as the Customer Success Manager at Halifax-based social media analytics company LeadSift.

“Sales is new to me,” she said. “It’s fascinating, the persistence it takes. I’m learning the ability to get someone onside, although calling people up definitely takes getting used to.” 

The child of two lawyers, entrepreneurship has interested Miller since High School when she began her own photography business in order to take part in a school-building trip to India with Free the Children.

Sage Franch: Celebrating Tech and Femininity

After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University with a Double Major in Development Studies and Political Science, she worked in New Delhi, India, at startup NGO PORDAC, through the Canada World Youth program.  

“PORDAC was started by one woman, Manjir Gupta. She created her own school for kids with autism and other learning disabilities…It was fascinating to see such a power house of a woman,” Miller said.

“I realized the tenacity and fight you need as an entrepreneur to keep believing in your vision. There can be really low days and very high days. You need resilience and can’t give up.”

When Miller returned from India, she interned at the Clinton Foundation’s international office in New York City, which was already 10 years old with an established internship program.

“It was the opposite of PORDAC, that was a startup and this was a multi-national… My take away from the foundation was just how much can be achieved when business leaders, NGOs and governments all work together and make commitments to action.”

Miller said companies can have a big impact when they have a social conscience.

“I’m interested in social ventures,” she said. “I’d love to open my own social enterprise in Halifax. It would be good to open somewhere like the Bridge in the North End.

“The Bridge offers eight reduced cost office spots for groups like NGOs and non-profits. It’s a great space for community organizations.”

Miller, who is also a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Hub and a 21 Inc. alumni, likes the flexibility and variety of entrepreneurship. She figures she will cope well with the strains of starting her own venture.

“I like being busy and on my toes, and you can create jobs in the community if you’re successful,” she said. “I’m a bit of a risk-taker…I also do a lot of yoga to manage stress…”

Miller can be contacted on emilymiller386@gmail.com.

East Coast Cities Show Tech Density

A new study of Canada’s information technology sector shows the country’s tech segment is bigger — and slower growing — than you might have expected.

And the report offers glimpses of the tech scene in Atlantic Canada. It said tech employees make up a far lower percentage of the region’s workforce than the country overall, but also says Atlantic Canadian cities match or exceed the concentration of tech employees in the country.

The data is found in a new report titled The State of Canada’s Tech Sector, 2016 by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University in Toronto. The report — prepared in conjunction with partners across the country, including the Venn Centre in Moncton and Volta Labs in Halifax — focuses on the impact that technology and tech-related jobs have on the size of Canada’s economy and workforce.

“The key to future economic growth and stability is understanding where Canada’s strengths lie,” said Brookfield Executive Director Sean Mullin in a statement. “This benchmark study demonstrates a vibrant and diverse tech sector, and its potential as a driver of innovation and economic growth.”

But it also highlights just how slowly the sector is growing.

Between 2007 and 2015, the technology sector in Canada grew at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent, a slow steady progression that overall fell short of the growth in such sectors as finance and construction, said the report.

It adds that the tech growth was less volatile than those other two sectors.

Read Our Report on Scaling Companies in Atlantic Canada

The Brookfield researchers add, however, that 14.9 per cent of the companies in the tech sector can be classified as “high-growth companies,” which are those that grow 20 per cent or more three years in a row.

That’s a higher percentage than any other sector.

Overall, technology accounts for 7.1 per cent of the Canadian economy, making it a larger sector than finance, wholesale, retail, transportation or utilities.

The area in which tech really shines is Business Enterprise Research and Development — tech companies spent $9.1 billion on R&D in 2015, more than half of the Canadian total.

Tech wages average almost $67,000, or 40 per cent more than the average Canadian wage of $48,000.

About 864,000 Canadians are employed by the tech sector, or about 5.6 per cent of the Canadian work force.

Atlantic Canada has a lower concentration of information technology than the rest of the country, given that tech employees account for only two per cent of the region’s work force.Only Saskatchewan has a lower proportion among the provinces.

The report notes that tech concentrations are highest in major cities.Halifax has a concentration of tech professionals that is 20 per cent higher than the overall Canadian figure. Halifax is exceeded only by Montreal, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Even Saint John and St. John’s have a tech concentration that matches the Canadian figure and is higher than Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London and Hamilton.

The Brookfield report also noted that average annual wage for Halifax tech employees is $58,780 — 12 percent lower than the national average.

“Halifax has almost as high a concentration as the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area, and even Toronto,” Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodger said in an email. “The competition for talent is global, and Halifax is well positioned, as established in the Brookfield report.”

Applications Open for The Next 36

Applications are now open for the 2017 cohort of The Next 36, a mentorship program for the country’s leading undergraduates interested in entrepreneurship.

Based in Toronto, The Next 36 takes in about 36 undergraduate students each year and puts them through a rigorous program of entrepreneurship and academics. It’s known to be a blend of frank business assessment mixed with classroom sessions with leading business people and academics.

The program is open to undergraduates and recent grads from all academic backgrounds. Anyone interested has until Oct. 18 to apply. They can do so here using Kira Talent, a venture created during the 2012 cohort.

In less than five years, The Next 36 has won the backing of the presidents of nine Canadian universities across Canada and several prominent Canadian business leaders including Galen Weston, Paul Desmarais Sr., and Jimmy Pattison.

“The Next 36 identifies some of Canada’s most promising students and recent grads who are entrepreneurial and driven,” Janet Bannister, General Partner with Real Ventures, said in a statement. “It gives them an opportunity to start and grow their business with guidance from an amazing network of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. I am thrilled to be a mentor to this impressive group and am confident they will make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy in the years to come.”

The Next 36 welcomes applications from individual entrepreneurs with founding teams in place as well as those looking to meet like-minded peers and launch new businesses. Last year, almost half of the ventures participating started before entering The Next 36.

“Many of Canada’s most promising entrepreneurs start working on an idea while they are still at school.” said Peter Carrescia, Managing Director of The Next 36. “Others are looking to meet big thinkers from across the country to build something new, and our program provides all of them with the same world class founder development.”

The statement said 36 exceptional undergraduates from across Canada are chosen through a rigorous national selection process last year. During the seven-month program, the young entrepreneurs build a business, while receiving unparalleled support that includes mentorship from Canada’s top business leaders, up to $50,000 from top venture capitalists, and academic instruction from some of the world’s top faculty. The 2016 cohort will showcase their start-ups Aug. 16, at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

The Next 36 and related programs have contributed to the success of industry-changing startups including, Bridgit, Kira Talent, Nymi, Revlo and Thalmic Labs in its first five years, as well as the creation of over 820 new jobs and over $50 million in funding raised by alumni since inception.

QRA Lands $3M in ACOA Funding

Halifax-based QRA Corp. said Tuesday it has received $3 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and gave its first indications that its two main products are finding a home with customers.

In a ceremony in Halifax, Treasury Board President Scott Brison announced that the company will receive a $2.995 million conditionally repayable sum from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. QRA, which now employs 17 people, will use the money to develop a commercial, industry-ready software platform to assist engineers with the rigorous analysis of early-stage engineering designs. The Canadian Press reported the money will allow the company to hire 13 people for its research and development team.

Growing out of a research project at Dalhousie University, QRA has developed technology that helps large manufacturers identify flaws in complicated machinery early in the design stage. The idea is to work out the kinks before the manufacturer spends millions of dollars prototyping a machine that has ill-matched components.

“For new systems such as autonomous cars and commercial spacecraft to be deployed and accepted, we need to ensure that errors in the integrated design are caught during the earliest stages of development,” said Co-Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “These are early days, but that’s what we do. It’s why we exist - and this funding is allowing us to work even harder towards fully accomplishing our mission.”

QRA, which has a close relationship with the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, has two main products: QVTrace, an enterprise solution that helps large teams identify design flaws; and QVScribe, which helps engineers understand the requirements listed in the documents they write when they are first proposing a piece of machinery.

On Tuesday, four-year-old QRA said it has it has now conducted more than $6 million worth of projects for the aerospace and defense industry.

The company also said QVScribe, which launched its beta-test in May, is now in use in 25 countries. It will move out of its beta test soon, said the company.

The funding for QRA was part of a $7.1 million financing package that federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced earlier this month for four innovative projects under AIF. The funding meshes with the Atlantic Growth Strategy announced by the federal government and four Atlantic provinces to stimulate the region’s economy.

Briefs: Cloud-A, Ignition, Ag Award

Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund deadline on Friday

Applications for Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund – which offers $25,000 to launch or expand a business on P.E.I. – must be submitted by Friday.

“The fund is proving popular again this year as evidenced by the number of participants attending Ignition fund information sessions across the province this past spring,” said Economic Development and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald in a statement. “The Ignition Fund helps new and expanding companies when that help is needed most –  in the early stages of development.”

Qualifying applicants must be startup businesses or entrepreneurs who are committed to establishing and operating new businesses in Prince Edward Island. The products or services must have the potential to be sold outside of the province.

An application form is available here.

$30,000 innovation award for Annapolis Valley

The Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce is seeking applicants for its Agriculture Innovation Accelerator Award, the deadline for which is July 31.

The prize package is more than $30,000 in cash, in-kind services, counseling and other contributions from sponsors, said the chamber in a statement.

This annual award program recognizes outstanding agriculture and agri-food-related innovators including producers, processors, suppliers and organizations. The award is intended to help the successful applicant move a project forward to the next phase of development. Past applicants are welcome to apply again.

You can find application forms and information here.

Cloud-A Launches Node in B.C.

Cloud-A Computing Inc., a Canadian public cloud provider, last week launched its first Western Canadian cloud infrastructure node in Vancouver. The new node allows Cloud-A to better service the entire country while offering faster speeds to its western customers, as well as satisfying data residency requirements for companies in B.C.

The company said the new node features all key Infrastructure-as-a-Service components, including compute, network, and storage. Similar to its existing Halifax node, the B.C. node is built on Cloud-A's OpenStack-based cloud platform. This platform gives customers the ability to spin up cloud infrastructure in a matter of minutes from both an easy-to-use web-based GUI and a powerful set of APIs.

"From day one, our mission has been to be Canada's cloud IaaS provider,” said Cloud-A CEO Jacob Godin in a statement. “We are now the first provider to truly launch a full multi-node, OpenStack cloud in Canada. This opens new doors for Canadian businesses who are looking for geographically dispersed data without the headaches of using legacy IT infrastructure."

Cloud-A is the leading provider of public cloud infrastructure based in Canada. It was launched by Godin and CMO Brandon Kolybaba.

Channeling Funds Into Drug Discovery

MP Andy Fillmore, left, BioNova's Scott Moffitt and Kevin Sullivan at the Appili lab opening,.

MP Andy Fillmore, left, BioNova's Scott Moffitt and Kevin Sullivan at the Appili lab opening,.

Kevin Sullivan had the pride of a guy showing off his new Cadillac. But it wasn’t a car he was displaying, it was the new laboratory that his company had recently moved into.

The company is Halifax-based drug discovery outfit Appili Therapeutics Inc., which in May announced $3.3 million in funding, comprising equity, debt and grants. On the same day, Sullivan unveiled the company’s new lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax and introduced the team of PhDs working for the company. A month earlier, Appli had announced it received a special fast-track approval designation from the Food and Drug Administration.

Not bad for a company that began last year.

“Appili is a company that hasn’t been around long, and coming from where they started to where they are today is truly impressive,” said Scott Moffitt, the Managing Director of BioNova, the life sciences industry association in Nova Scotia.

Appili is a notable company because of its leadership, its strategy and the story of how the company came together. Sullivan is a businessman operating in a segment that is often known for the high concentration of academics. He’s raised more than $40 million for various companies, and he brings a deep expertise in developing new drugs.

DMF Medical Preps for 2017 Launch

Sullivan came to Nova Scotia in 2013 to take the helm at DeNovaMed, a Halifax company working on a cure for antibiotic-resistant viruses. He had previously spent 10 years (including four as COO) with London-based Viron Therapeutics Inc., which was developing a cardiovascular drug. Viron raised more than $35 million in equity and non-dilutive capital and took its lead product through Phase 2 trials.

During his work in the biotech field, Sullivan met up with Brian Bloom and Jolyon Burton, the principals of the Toronto-based healthcare-focused investment boutique Bloom Burton & Co. Together, they decided to form a company in Halifax headed by Sullivan that would develop drug candidates.

The first is ATI-1501, which aims to remove the nasty taste from an existing drug that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, an urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threat that causes 29,000 deaths annually. A drug called Metronidazole has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s, but kids with CDI don’t want to take it because of its dreadful taste. ATI-1501 removes the bitter taste.

The Food and Drug Administration recently granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, meaning Appili could have an accelerated regulatory path and protection against competition for seven years. The company expects to begin clinical trials next year and have a product on the market in three or four years.

The second drug candidate is ATI-1503, a drug that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumoniae. The media is full of warnings about viruses that are resistant to antibiotics and Sullivan said this drug could help combat them, but it’s a longer, riskier project than the first drug.

“We’re now entering a post antibiotic era, where a common cut could be deadly,” said Sullivan. “That’s what keeps us up at night.”

Sullivan described Appili’s strategy as one based on “hitting home runs and singles.” The idea is that the drug for CDI can get to market quickly, but address a limited market. By selling the product, it could produce a steady income stream. That would help to finance the drug for antibiotic-resistant viruses, which could become a blockbuster drug.

The strategy helped Sullivan attract $2.3 million in equity financing in the latest round  -- $1.8 million from individuals brought together by Bloom Burton, and $500,000 from Innovacorp. Appili supplemented the raise with funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and NRC Irap.

“This is a seed round,” said Sullivan. “We’ll be looking to go back to the capital markets in the summer and close another round of financing in the fall.” 

Lighthouse Labs’ New Halifax Program

Halifax native Rebecca Haliburton moved to Vancouver to work as the marketing manager for the tech education company, Lighthouse Labs. Six weeks later, the company told her that they would be expanding their software and app development bootcamps to her hometown.

“I’m really stoked to be able to bring back everything that I love about my job in Vancouver back to my hometown,” she said. “I know how much Halifax deserves it.”

Lighthouse Labs aims to train developers and deliver stellar tech education. A group of developers founded Lighthouse Labs in 2013 because they saw a lack of developers in the emerging Vancouver tech scene. 

Now Lighthouse Labs has two brick-and-mortar locations in Vancouver and Toronto and six satellite locations in places like Halifax, Kelowna and Montreal. Satellite locations include a daily two-hour lecture streamed in from Toronto or Vancouver, and then hands-on coding and development time for about 10 hours with local developers.

Lighthouse Labs expanded to Halifax for the same reason it was started in Vancouver: a lack of developers in a vibrant and emerging tech scene.

“With the addition of more developers and more tech events, I think Halifax could be one of the best hubs in all of Canada for technology,” Haliburton said.

In the past three years of its existence, Lighthouse Labs has already seen 95 per cent of its 450 graduates receive jobs as developers in several startup and tech hubs across Canada.

Teaching the Rewards of a Sales Career

Lighthouse Labs offers two eight-week bootcamps: web development, which focuses on developing software, and iOS development, which focuses on developing apps for iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. However, it only offers the iOS development bootcamps in its main campuses in Vancouver and Toronto.

Lighthouse Labs also offers six-week, part-time intro courses to both web development and iOS development. Those who complete the intro courses will receive $850 off the $8000 tuition for the bootcamps.

Five people have already signed up for the Halifax bootcamp, which is held out of Volta Labs. Lighthouse Labs only wants 10 people in its first bootcamp to ensure that it runs smoothly.

The admissions process is rigorous and includes an hour-long one-on-one interview with the Lighthouse Labs admission coordinator. Lighthouse Labs wants to ensure that people will both complete and succeed in the bootcamp so that they can get hired and contribute to their local tech community.

“Bootcamps are this really awesome way to get into an industry and make a change in their life,” Haliburton said. “They're an excellent complement or alternative to something like a computer science degree. You learn less theory and focus more on hard skills by building software and practicing industry-relevant technology.”

Lighthouse Labs partners with local community organizations in order to help a city grow its tech scene. In Halifax, Lighthouse Labs has partnered with Volta Labs, Fusion Halifax and the Halifax Central Library, among others.

Haliburton said that Halifax has a thriving tech scene, and hopes Lighthouse Labs can help contribute by supporting additional meetups, hackathons and coding events. Lighthouse Labs already has plans to hold frequent tech meet-ups out of Volta Labs.

“It’s kind of cool that tech is the place that really resonates with the Nova Scotian style: it’s approachable, it’s laidback, you can wear sweatpants to work – it’s not stuffy,” Haliburton said. “That’s why I feel like Halifax is the perfect place for a bootcamp to pop up because the tech community is so natural and vibrant because they work in that community-based way.”

Velocity Fund Chooses Seven Winners

The Velocity Fund on Thursday awarded $125,000 to seven startups based at the University of Waterloo to help them with their product development.

The Velocity Fund Finals are held three times a year to find and reward the best young companies coming out of the university. The Velocity Fund hands out about $400,000 a year to help develop startups affiliated with the university.

The 16th Velocity Fund Finals were held Thursday, allowing a range of startups three minutes each to pitch to a panel of judges. The winners in the more advanced division receive $25,000 in development funds and are welcomed into the Velocity Garage startup incubator.

The four winners were:

- CubeXLab Technologies, which provides automated vision inspection solutions that are highly affordable, flexible and easy-to-use for part and component manufacturers in automotive, fastener, plastic injection and pharmaceutical industries.
- Knote, which offers a natural language processing platform to help companies leverage the power of artificial intelligence in documents and big data processing. Its tools enable companies to support employees by automating routine, time consuming work, and by improving efficiency.
- Salient Energy, which is commercializing a revolutionary new battery based on research at the University of Waterloo. Its zinc-ion battery is perfectly suited, both technically and economically, for storing electricity in the grid.
- UpGrain, which uses low frequency electro-magnetic field stimulation of seeds to increase overall yield of various crops by 20 percent. The company uses advanced mathematical algorithms to calculate the most suitable time to maximize treatment effects on seeds.

Salient Energy was also the top hardware or science company, which means it took home an additional $10,000.

The early-stage companies that won $5,000 each were Gymnatik, The Playful Pixel, and MycoCup, which was voted in as the People’s Choice award winner.

Teaching the Rewards of a Sales Career

Chantal Brine, left, and Tracey Kieley

Chantal Brine, left, and Tracey Kieley

Young Atlantic Canadians, and the region’s economy, are missing out because young people don’t understand the rewards of a career in sales, according to professionals at executive search firm Venor.

“Many youth are unaware of sales, and some are intimidated by it. Negative stereotypes, such as the used car salesman, persist,” said Chantal Brine, Vice President, Youth Employment at the Halifax-based firm.

Many in Atlantic Canada have been calling for the community to pay more attention to sales, particularly global sales. Veteran entrepreneur Gerry Pond last year pledged to donate $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that initiates an international tech sales program.

Sales is a high rejection business admits Brine’s colleague, Tracey Kieley, Senior Consultant in Sales and Marketing at Venor.

“It’s a mental game, every day there’s head trash. The phone can feel like it weighs 20 pounds and you have to pick it up and make the call.

“To be a good sales person, you need drive, passion and understanding of what sales is.”

What sales is, is solving someone’s problem.

“When sales people find the right culture and product they flourish,” Kieley said. “Belief in oneself and the product or service you are selling is key.”

Brine said the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) can find sales particularly frustrating because they grew up with the instant access afforded by technology.

“Sales and business development can be hard,” said Brine, who is a millennial herself. “You’re going to get rejection…that and instant access and gratification don’t necessarily align.”

UNBSJ Offers Sales Course for MBAs

Brine and Kieley believe youth should be taught business literacy in schools.

Young people often don’t realize that careers in sales and business development offer things they value and prioritize, such as interaction with people, challenge, and problem solving.

Less than a quarter of 110 job applicants Brine surveyed said they were interested in sales, but Brine said sales pervades life.

“When they come out of university, graduates are selling themselves. Every business needs sales people…”

Kieley, who’s originally from Newfoundland, said fear about rejection can be lessened with the right mentorship.

“The youth I work with think mentorship is very important. They want to keep learning, to grow,” she said.

In Atlantic Canada, relationships are particularly important to success in sales.

“There has to be a likability factor and connection,” said Brine, who came to Saint Mary’s University from Bermuda to study Psychology and Human Resources.

Money is not the primary motivator for the youth Brine assists.

“Of the 110 folks I’ve chatted with lately, less than 10 per cent have brought up money early on, it’s not their driving factor,” she said.

“They say they want to learn, to receive mentorship. They ask whether the company cares about the community. The social factor is big. If young people believe in something they get on board, what they really enjoy is solving a problem.”

Venor acquired the assets of Equals6, a career-focused social network for students, for an undisclosed price in April this year. The acquisition helps Venor to work to keep youth in Atlantic Canada, Brine said.

Despite concerns about the state of sales locally, local companies are succeeding in diverse markets.

“Employers in the region have major clients in the U.S., said Brine. “Companies are having success in broader sales. Sometimes you need to hop on a plane. Relationships are also important internationally. Luckily, Atlantic Canadians are good at relationship building.”

UNB Summer Institute Presentations

A few of the Petite ForĂȘt puppets.

A few of the Petite ForĂȘt puppets.

The University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute will hold its graduation Friday night, with presentations by seven companies spanning the entrepreneurial spectrum.

Organized by the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship, the Summer Institute is a three-month program that teaches a range of businesses the human element of entrepreneurship. While other mentoring programs emphasize technology or lean methodology, the Summer Institute encourages participants to consider design and the wishes of the people who constitute their market.

“This has been one of the most diverse groups of entrepreneurs we have had to date,” said coordinator Melissa Erin O’Rourke. “Our ventures range from the highly technical to the highly creative. It’s made for an incredibly unique experience.”

The celebration of this cohort will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton. You can find tickets here.

UNBSJ Launches Sales Course for MBAs

The seven presenting entrepreneurs and their companies are:

- Sylvette Fortin | Petite Forêt: Toy and puppet maker.
- Alex Jamael | Fox and Foal: Horse jump builder and equestrian designer.
- Scott Allen, Joshua White, and Thomas Bird | CanCross:This group has designed a rapid-response bridge that solves multiple transportation issues across industries.
- Laura Cushnie | La Dulse Vie: A chef who has created a dulse chip/dulse snack food.
- Courtney Johnson | Ashes to Ashes: A potter who makes funerary urns that incorporate the ashes of loved ones in the design.
- Jordan Kennie, Daniel Larsen, Erik Hatfield | Stash Energy Storage: This group has built an energy storage system to help homeowners save money during peak energy periods.
- And, Amirmahdi Taheri, Sadigh Tabei, Pooya Naderi | BreezeBird: This group uses drone technology to aid in lifesaving efforts.

Started three years ago by TME head Dhirendra Shukla, the Summer Institute has gained popularity and recruited participants from across Canada and other countries.

“The program has grown a lot this year,” said O’Rourke. “In our recruiting processes, we had over 300-plus applicants from around the world. I really feel this highlights the quality of we’re offering entrepreneurs on a global scale. I expect next year to be even bigger.”

Remembering Neville Gilfoy

Neville Gilfoy

Neville Gilfoy

With the passing of Neville Gilfoy, Atlantic Canada has lost three types of people that are in short supply – journalists, salespeople and genuine wits.

Gilfoy was the founder and publisher of Progress Media, and I had the pleasure of writing for his publication for more than a decade. “Pleasure” is the operative word in that sentence, because it was fun to be in Gilfoy’s presence. He had a sense of joyful mischief that filled any room he was in.

Progress, the publication that he devoted himself to, published Wednesday that Gilfoy had passed away the night before. It was a blow to many of us who had worked with him and called him a friend.

His LinkedIn profile tells what was important to him in his professional life: it simply says “Owner, Progress Magazine, 1992-Present.”

Working with a core of seasoned journalists like David Holt and Pamela Scott Crace almost a quarter-century ago, Gilfoy founded Progress as a showcase for Atlantic Canadian businesses and the region’s economy. He believed passionately in the excellence of entrepreneurship in the region and the potential of oceans industries and the military-aerospace sectors. Ten times a year, he penned an introduction to the magazine that burst with his conviction that there was massive potential in these four provinces. He had an active hand in steering editorial policy and was always searching for the next big development in the region’s economy.

He pioneered the concept of Atlantica – the notion that the Atlantic Provinces formed an economic zone with the states northeast of Massachusetts. He campaigned tirelessly for closer economic ties between these jurisdictions.

Gilfoy, of course, was working in an industry going through perilous times. The past two decades have been brutal for the news business, and Gilfoy reacted to the downturn the only way he knew how: by selling and by innovating. Anyone who admires salespeople – and I’m one of them – could learn a lot from Gilfoy. He had a massive network and he tapped it effectively. He could work a room, work the phone, and he closed deals.

As ad revenues proved challenging, Gilfoy moved his product online and aimed to translate Progress’ reach into a personal experience. He created Face2Face, an event that was very much a manifestation of Gilfoy’s ebullient personality. Face2Face is a three-day gathering of business and government leaders at a resort with a program of business and personal development. It allows people to really get to know each other, rather than just offer a day of speakers and panels.

And at the centre of it all was Gilfoy himself, introducing speakers, telling salty jokes, swapping good-humoured barbs with old chums in the crowd. Gilfoy was a funny guy, always quick with a joke or anecdote that brought on his devilish laugh. You’d hear that laugh frequently on the cocktail circuit, as assuredly as you’d see Gilfoy’s silver mane across the stadium at a St. Mary’s University basketball game.

He was always present, always laughing, always analyzing, always selling. Neville Gilfoy’s unique brand of entrepreneurship will be missed.

Invest NS Backs Navigate, Propel ICT

Lindsay Uhma and Ardelle Reynolds

Lindsay Uhma and Ardelle Reynolds

The Invest Nova Scotia Fund on Tuesday announced a pair of grants totaling more than $1.5 million that will support the ecosystem for startups, especially in Cape Breton.

The fund — which aims to invest in the ecosystem rather than in individual companies — issued a statement saying it would provide $1.2 million in funding to Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator. It also said it would give $346,000 to the Navigate Startup House in Sydney.

Though the funding will be used to provide programming for entrepreneurs across the region, the impact will be felt most strongly in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The funding will help the nine-month-old Navigate Startup House expand both its physical space and programming. And it will also help Propel offer its first cohort in Cape Breton Island, which is planned for the fall of 2017.

“I’m proud of the way we started up as a community-driven project, with very much grass-roots support,” Navigate executive director Ardelle Reynolds said in an interview. “But the timing of this is perfect for us because it helps us to move into Phase II.”

Reynolds and co-founder Lindsay Uhma set up Navigate last year as a base for the growing tech community in the second-largest metro area in Nova Scotia. It offers co-working space, subsidized offices for as many as four startups and a range of mentoring sessions.

The outfit has now outgrown its space, said Reynolds, and it is in the process of raising $1.19 million to expand. As well as the Invest Nova Scotia grant, Navigate received $326,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and is progressing with the remainder. The expansion will allow the organization to offer office space to as many as seven companies, and the physical expansion will be accompanied by an enhancement of programming.

Startup Zone Opens its Doors in Charlottetown

Reynolds said Navigate has signed a one-year agreement with Jeff Amerine, the founder of Startup Junkies Consulting in Arkansas, to work on programming for Navigate. Amerine, a close collaborator with Cape Breton University Entrepreneur-in- Residence Permjot Valia, will provide one-on-one mentorship to the Navigate tenants and work with the organization itself to develop the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the Invest Nova Scotia grant to Propel represents the Nova Scotia’s government contribution to Propel's $2.56 million plan to enhance its programming.

“Propel exists for the purpose of accelerating entrepreneurial growth in Atlantic Canada, and we’re excited that support from Invest Nova Scotia will enable us to reach more entrepreneurs,” Propel ICT Chair Dave Grebenc said in the statement. “This aligns with Propel’s approach, and our mission of facilitating economic growth through entrepreneurship in the region.”

The grants announced Tuesday are the first offered by the Invest Nova Scotia fund, whose decisions are government by an independent board of directors.

“This is a different kind of fund that supports organizations with innovative ideas that demonstrate co-operation and long-term, broad-based benefits for Nova Scotians,” Invest Nova Scotia chair Kenneth Deveau said in the statement.

“These first two investments align with our principles and vision supporting job growth in Nova Scotia’s economy.”

DMF Medical Preps for 2017 Launch

A Halifax medical technology company has a basic aim: to make anesthesia safer.

DMF Medical plans to release its signature product, Memsorb, in the next year and hopes it will improve the process of removing carbon dioxide from the system that puts patients to sleep during operations. Memsorb is a membrane-based device that replaces the collection of chemicals that is now used to remove CO2 from the process. The new device, which will go through regulatory processes in Canada and/or the European Union this winter, is safer, better for the environment and can save hospitals money.

“Anesthesia is an old, traditional business and things can be improved by eliminating problems,” co-founder and director of R&D Florentin Wilfart said at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum.

In this traditional medical process, a patient inhales a vaporized anesthetic mixed with oxygen, and exhales a combination of oxygen, anesthetic, carbon dioxide and toxins. It passes through a chemical filter to strip out the toxins and CO2, and then feeds it back into the stream of gases being delivered to the patient. Because anesthetics are so expensive, the filtered exhalation is used again to get maxiumum use out of the anesthetic.

But there are problems with this “anesthetic loop” because of the chemical reaction used to remove CO2 — mainly, it produces compounds that can be harmful to the patient.

“People don’t like to admit this is a real problem even through it’s been published in several places,” said Wilfart.

What’s more, the process spews CO2 and chemicals into the air, so the impact worldwide on the atmosphere is equivalent to the production of 4.4 million tons of CO2 a year. And the residue chemicals produce 115,000 cubic metres of solid waste a year that is expensive to dispose of. In most operating rooms, the chemical canisters must be replaced daily.

PhotoDynamic Lands Funding from FAN

DMF Medical has devised Memsorb to solve these problems. The device uses a membrane to filter out the CO2 and toxins, creating no chemical reaction. The product, which fits seamlessly into existing anesthesia equipment, lasts for several months, and is recyclable. The only thing it needs to work is a stream of oxygen, which would be readily available in any operating room.

Wilfart and a team of medical and business professionals have been working on the project for more than five years. (In 2011, DMF actually competed in the first BioInnovation Challenge, the region’s main life sciences pitching competition.) The company has raised a total of $3.1 million in capital, including private investment and government loans and grants. This included a $1.25 million loan from the Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2012.

DMF Medical now has a working prototype of Memsorb and has done clinical trials on 20 patients. It will soon be in the midst of the regulatory process to have the product approved in Canada and the EU. The first jurisdiction to grant approval will be the first market it will enter.

Assuming the manufacturer can produce Memsorb in the quantities the market demands, the group hopes to have the product on the market in 2017.

Briefs: Flixel, Medved, Hive Market

Flixel wins StartupFest Pitching Competition

A company with New Brunswick roots walked away from StartupFest on Friday with the $160,000 first prize at the Montreal festival’s pitching competition.

Toronto-based Flixel, which began life in Moncton, captured first place on Friday for the competition of three-minute pitches.

Flixel’s app lets users construct cinemagraphs -- still photos that include a portion of the picture that moves so the viewer’s eye is drawn to the moving part of the photograph. Flixel’s apps include a feature that allows users to easily turn short videos into eye-catching photos for the web, social media ads, offline display and broadcast television.

The competition was billed as having $200,000 in prize money. But according to MontrealinTechnology.com, the 14 judges/investors chose two other winners:  HelloMD, a San Francisco startup that helps medical marijuana patients buy their cannabis online, won $50,000; and another Toronto company, YouCollab, was awarded an “honorary” $35,000 investment for its app that lets YouTube creators collaborate.

Of the seven other competitors in the pitching competition, three were from Atlantic Canada – WellTrack of Fredericton and Bitness and PACTA, both of Halifax.

Jonathan Medved to speak at Startup Grind Halifax

Jonathan Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, will be the next speaker at Startup Grind Halifax.

Medved has helped 12 companies exceed $100M dollar valuations. He was the co-founder and CEO of Vringo, which he took public on Nasdaq in 2010. Before Vringo, he was the founder and general partner of the $260 million venture capital fund, Israel Seed Partners.

The Washington Post called him ”one of Israel’s leading high tech venture capitalists”. In the 2008, the New York Times Supplement “Israel at 60” called Medved one of the 10 most influential Americans who have impacted Israel.

Oleg Yefymov, the director of Startup Grind Halifax said he will make sure Medved will meet with Nova Scotia’s government and industry leaders to ensure he has some impact on the local ecosystem.

“But I also really want him to get a good taste of our community here, so I encourage [all startup community members] to take an advantage of Jon's short visit and come to meet him in person at our September's event,” he said in an email.

The event will be held Sept. 7 at the McInnes Cooper office in Halifax. Tickets are available here.

The Hive Market launches in Halifax

The Hive Market, which brings fresh local products to neighbourhoods, has launched in Halifax.

The neighbourhood delivery truck will distribute farm fresh local products to select locations so residents can enjoy seasonal produce, fresh meats and cheeses, along with other local products.

“The Hive Market leverages the social experience behind good food that’s meant to be shared

and experienced together,” said found Giselle Bryan in a statement. “Now, farmers and delivery managers have a new forum to connect with markets and buyers, while communities can take advantage of their shared needs to reduce the cost of local goods and transportation.”

‘Buy Local’ is the foundation, she said, and the Hive Market is working with entrepreneurs all over Atlantic Canada to strengthen commerce, build sustainable markets, and bring neighbours together.

You can find more information here at the company’s website. 

Celebrating Tech and Femininity

Sage Franch with the Prime Minister.

Sage Franch with the Prime Minister.

There can’t be many technology blogs that also offer reviews of summer shoes and proclaim a girl’s right to feel sexy, but Sage Franch is known for celebrating her love of tech and her femininity.

Franch, a.k.a. the Trendy Techie, is a computer programmer at Microsoft who volunteers her time to encourage other youth. Despite having only just graduated with her degree in computer science from Dalhousie University, she was recently one of eight young Canadians invited to meet the Prime Minister.

The subjects under discussion were issues that affect Canadian youth.

“The PM really listened to our views,” she said. “I spoke to him about women in tech and the need for women to have male allies. I also spoke about closing the wage gap and computer science in schools.

“Computer science and creative technology are expensive. Only schools with lots of resources are teaching them, but everyone needs these skills nowadays. So we need to find ways to get resources to schools that are less fortunate.”

She wants youth to get involved in tech as early as possible. (Tech education currently varies enormously across the country.)

“Kids can be introduced to coding at three or four. I’ve seen toddlers coding... Kids have innately logical brains. They understand the difference between true and false, they can learn these skills.”

Despite being a new graduate, Franch has already spent a year working remotely for Microsoft. She is part of the company’s learning experiences team, which creates training content.

Her involvement with the tech giant began when she was nominated to attend a week-long recruitment event at the company’s Seattle offices.

Coding first excited her when she discovered it in Grade 10 while attending a computer graphics program at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The professor showed us a rendering of fire made from code,” she said. “The code looked almost like a novel, or a script, then the fire burst to life on the screen. That was my spark. I realized I wanted to create from the back end — that was more like creating real things.”

Alex Gillis and the Wisdom of Youth

She began her website, TrendyTechie.ca, three years ago after facing negative stereotypes about being a woman in tech.

“I was buying a laptop and the guy selling it said it was too powerful for my needs. I said I needed the laptop for augmented reality applications. He said, ‘You look too pretty to code.’

“When I got home, I went online to see if there were blogs for girls who are not afraid to be pretty and who are into technology, girls who wear lipstick and code. I didn’t find anything so decided to write such blogs myself.”

Franch now has around 8,000 followers across various platforms.

She believes that young boys are encouraged to do math, but girls are not given the same encouragement.

“My role is to be voice for young women, to show what can happen if you pursue this.”

Now, after five years in Halifax, she’s moving back to her home town of Toronto where she’ll continue to work remotely for Microsoft and support youth in tech.

She said that Dalhousie and Halifax have shaped her life.

“When I came here I’d never really done anything alone . . . Halifax felt like my training city . . . Halifax is a safe place for young people.

“Dal was intimate, I like that. The communication channels were open . . . .I knew my professors personally. They do a lot to foster a culture of respect and promote camaraderie.”

Working remotely gives her the freedom to work and speak around the world.

Franch has been a speaker at high-profile events such as the Perimeter Institute’s Inspiring Future Women in Science conference, the National Business in Technology Conference, ICTC’s Digital Youth Summit, and YouthSpark Live.

“I want to live in a world where there’s no stigmatization of women in tech,” she said. “My goal to be part of that in some way.”

UNBSJ Offers Sales Course for MBAs

On July 20, a pilot project will begin at the University of New Brunswick Saint John that will advance the cause of teaching sales at Atlantic Canadian universities.

The MBA program offered at the Saint John campus will begin a new special topic course called sales. If students rate it highly, it will probably be offered again. The nine-week course will draw heavily on mentorship from the private sector, inviting people with sales experience in to discuss the components of sales like negotiation, problem-solving, communications and emotional intelligence. It will also delve into sales ethics.

“The point is not to train people to become sales people,” said Chris Weir, the EY executive who will lead the course. “When people leave this course, they will be armed with knowledge and information, not sales skills. What I hope to do is give the students an appreciation for sales, the importance of it, the professional nature of it.”

The course is noteworthy because several business people are pushing strongly for an Atlantic Canadian business school to offer a full program in sales. Saint John investor Gerry Pond last year offered $500,000 to any institution that launches a full sales program, but there’s no sign of any program in the offing.

EY Nominates 26 in Atlantic Canada

The story of how the UNBSJ course came about dates back to 2013 when Weir was invited to address MBA students at the school. He was then working for the tech consultancy Ambir Solutions, which was acquired by the global accountancy firm EY in 2014.

In the course of his talk on communications, Weir said he was probably covering material the students had already learned in sales courses. One student raised his hand and said there was no sales course.

That was a spark for Weir that ignited his interest in launching such a course. Earlier in his career, he’d worked for Xerox, famed for its sales training, and he had completed the Sandler sales training courses.

He’d come to believe that sales training is essential in developing complete business people, and of the importance of the ethics of sales.

“I really want to leave them [the students] with the impression that in order to become an effective leader…they need to know that you cannot run away from selling,” said Weir. “Some people have a very jaded view of selling. It will never go away but the skills of selling are used every day.”

Weir worked with the business faculty, including MBA Director Shelley Rinehart, who persuaded him to lead the course himself.

“Gerry can be very persuasive but the evidence supports his position on the importance of exposing students to sales in business education,” said Rinehart.

“Each year we offer a special topics course for our students - this seemed like an excellent opportunity.”

The course includes reading material but the highlight will be the talks delivered by business leaders on sales methods. The first guest lecturer on Wednesday will be Pond, who is the former president of Aliant.

Weir admits a full sales program is still needed and hopes this course will help the cause.

“I believe it’s a baby step in the right direction,” he said. “Having said that, every journey begins with a single step. “

Briefs: STI-PopRx, Propel, Volta

STI Technologies partners with PopRX

PopRx, whose mobile pharmacy app helps people to manage their medication, has partnered with Halifax-based STI Technologies’ innoviCares program to offer Canadians a mobile solution to their healthcare needs.

The companies said in a statement Tuesday that Toronto-based PopRx has an app for iOS or Android systems that connects the user to a pharmacist to manage, order and deliver medication. It is partnering with innoviCares to ensure that patients across the country can save money on their prescriptions.

InnoviCares is a free prescription savings card that helps Canadian patients save money on select prescription medications.

Through the partnership, PopRx and innoviCares ensure Canadians are able to receive the medications prescribed by a physician with fewer barriers, including a reduction in cost and access to a pharmacy. “Partnering with PopRx was a natural fit for us,” STI Executive Vice-President Dave Morton said in the statement. “Integration with the PopRx mobile app is just another way we can help patients gain access to medications of their choosing, based on their physician’s advice.”

Deadline for Propel applications July 22

Time is running down to apply for the next cohort of the Propel ICT Launch and Build programs.

Applications are now open for the regional accelerator, but the deadline to apply is July 22.

The Propel Launch program is designed to help companies that are past the concept stage and in the early stages of growing a business. The course is being offered in Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax, and St. John's.

The Build program, which is delivered in Moncton, is for more advanced companies – those that have sales and need to ramp up revenues. Graduates of this program are eligible for (but do not automatically qualify for) funding from BDC Capital and some funding agencies in their home province.

You can find an application form here.

Volta to host Hackit Camp July 22-24

Volta, the Halifax-based startup house, will host the Hackit Camp Volta hackathon July 22-24, which will feature more than $2,000 in prize money.

The participants in the hackathon will be invited to make something innovative for one of three participating Volta companies -- The Rounds, PACTA or Zora. Each of these companies is awarding a prize of at least $750 for the best product.

The 48-hour event gives participants the option of staying at Volta overnight.  The entry fee is $5 a person and you can find an application form here.

Shaham Launches ‘EBay for Kids’

Guy Shaham

Guy Shaham

Halifax-based BuyMyLemonade.com, has unveiled a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of building sales for its product, which teaches young people entrepreneurship through online sales.

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

The company hopes to raise US$50,000 through its campaign on Indiegogo, which will run for the next two months. That would complement previous funding it raised from private angel investors like Saint John investor Gerry Pond and a development contribution it received from online payment company PayPal.

“In less than five years, everyone, including K-to-12 students, will buy many of their consumer products and services online,” said Shaham. “The question we need to ask ourselves as educators and parents is, will our children just buy online like everyone else or will they be members of the elite team that will sell online?”

Presenters Podium Aims To Boost Sales

Shaham and Moscovich started the company last year as a means to help youth-oriented charities and schools raise money and to teach children entrepreneurship. Shaham said in an interview over the weekend that the model has shifted slightly as BuyMyLemonade now has a model similar to eBay. It lets young people sell their “the stuff under their bed”, such as old toys and things they have outgrown, on the platform. “Call it eBay for kids,” he said.

EBay, the online auction site, prohibits children from using its site. BuyMyLemonade does allow people under the age of 18 to sell things, but the payments must go to a school or youth group. This means sports groups and other youth-oriented charities can raise money simply by teaching children online entrepreneurship. Shaham estimates this market would be worth about $50 billion in North America.

He has been promoting the site for more than a year, and frequently heard that groups liked the sound of it but wanted to see it. So now that it’s launched, he plans to re-connect with “dozens and dozens” of schools and youth groups across Canada and the U.S.

He added that he’s interested in drawing investment into the company, but investors in several countries have told him that the company has to gain sales before they invest in it. He’s hoping the crowdfunding campaign and sales push will help to persuade investors.

Shaham has been an entrepreneur for the past 23 years, and he specializes in sales, marketing and business development. In conversation, he speaks glowingly about the social benefits of entrepreneurship and believes his site can teach children entrepreneurship and improve their financial literacy.

“By allowing young kids to experience e-commerce and run their own online small stores we predict that when they finish their high school, self-employment, entrepreneurship and online sales won’t be strange activities for them,” said Shaham. “When push comes to shove, or as a choice, they will be able to generate themselves revenues and income and run a small successful businesses right from their laptops and mobile phones.”

Briefs: Navigate event, Startup Awards

Forum for business resources takes place next week

Aspiring and established business owners will converge on the Mount St. Vincent University campus next week to attend a reverse trade show focused on the business resources available in Nova Scotia. “Navigating Businesses Through the Sea of Resources” is a free, half-day event at MSVU's Rosaria Student Centre in Halifax on July 14 from 8:30am to 2pm.

The event is being presented by the Centre for Women in Business and several Halifax research institutions and will feature more than 30 exhibitors. These include government organizations that offer programs and funding opportunities that support the entrepreneurial journey. Representatives will be on-site to answer questions, and help connect entrepreneurs to specific business services.

Kevin Buchan, Director of the MSVU Office of Innovation and Community Engagement, said the event was borne from the number of meetings his office and others conduct with companies and aspiring entrepreneurs looking for help in navigating the array of government business services and programs.

“We decided to put together a ‘one-stop-shop’ where entrepreneurs can meet with several service providers at once to determine which programs are right for them,” said Buchan in a statement. “In addition, Springboard Atlantic, the network of university and college technology mobilization offices in Atlantic Canada, will have a strong representation at the trade show. A number of institutions will present on their research capabilities and how companies can access the incredible brainpower available.”

You can register for the event here.

Startup Canada Awards nominations now open

It’s time to get your nominations in for the Startup Canada Awards, the deadline for which is July 20.

The Startup Awards are a national competition that recognize achievements by various members of the startup community – both entrepreneurs and the ecosystem members who support them.

The awards process first includes a regional round, which showcases the achievements of the local community. This year, the awards ceremony will be held in Fredericton, at time and date yet to be announced.

And then later in the year the national awards will be announced. The process wraps up with a gala at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on Nov. 29.

Atlantic Canadians have done well over the past two years in the national awards. Last year, Alex Gillis of Halifax was the young entrepreneur of the year and RtTech Software of Moncton won top honours for innovation.

You can nominate yourself or someone else and find the nomination forms here.

Launchpad Dal to hold Demo Day

Launchpad Dal, the summer training program for several teams of entrepreneurs, will hold its Demo Day on July 18 at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on the Dalhousie University campus.

Overseen by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach of Launch Dal, LaunchPad accepts a range of teams that received $10,000 each in development costs to help get their businesses off the ground. The program received 20 applications this year. The organizers said the teams chosen have what it takes to participate in a fast-paced and forward-thinking environment.

The presentations by nine companies will begin at 7 pm and a reception will be held afterward.

You can register to attend Demo Day here

Jobs of the Week: MindSea, Kinduct

A couple of opportunities for specialized developers in Halifax are the focus of our Jobs of the Week column today.

MindSea Development, a Halifax company that develops apps for iOS and Android systems, is hiring an Android mobile software developer.  Since 2009, MindSea has developed a team of developers and specialists who focus exclusively on apps. The company says that focus means it can deliver a better product faster than its competitors.

Medical data provider Kinduct Technologies is hiring a database architect. The company says it has built “the world’s most advanced human performance software platform.” (CEO Travis McDonough describes the company really well in this video.) That means the company can pull together disparate data on athletics and health and present them on one platform. The company has the world’s largest library of medical animation, which is essential in telling athletes what problem they’re experiencing and how to cure it.

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

Halifax

MindSea  Development

Android Mobile Software Developer

MindSea is working on a diverse and exciting group of projects and needs an Android software developer to help out. The winning applicant will work with a team developing native client-side user interface and application components for the Android mobile platform.  The company is looking for someone who strives for innovative solutions when confronted with a challenge and likes a fast-paced environment. MindSea offers a creative open-concept work environment and a fun startup atmosphere. The company is looking for someone who wants to work in an agile environment with small self-managed teams to deliver high quality native apps. Applicants must have experience creating applications for Android using Java and a desire to build quality software. MindSea is looking for someone with a bachelor degree in computer science and three or more years of experience in a similar role.

Kinduct Technologies

Database Architect

Kinduct is looking for a Database Architect who will be responsible for managing all client and partner databases and determining solutions to technical problems. These solutions often include a software-systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, structural changes or architectural planning. The company’s ideal candidate would possess exceptional attention to detail and technical skills. He or she would work well in a team and as an individual, could multi-task and would be open to giving and receiving suggestions about new, better or different methods. The database architect must design scalable and reliable Big Data solutions leveraging Hadoop, RDBMS, BI tools, SaaS platforms and APIs, as well as design data warehousing strategies and architectures to efficiently analyze Big Data sets. The ideal candidate would have a bachelor degree in computer science and five to 10 years of experience in Big Data computing and analytics. 

PhotoDynamic Lands Funding from FAN

Halifax-based PhotoDynamic Inc. has raised funding from members of the First Angel Network, which will help bring its oral hygiene product to market.

Formerly called Fenol Farm, PhotoDynamic has developed a system that kills plaque buildup on teeth through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. The company plans to launch the product in the Canadian orthodontic market in early 2017.

First Angel co-founder Brian Lowe declined to say how much money members of the Halifax-based network invested in PhotoDynamic. “What I can tell you is that our level of funding met PDI’s expectations and their opportunity was well received by the FAN members,” he said in an email.

PhotoDynamic CEO Martin Greenwood recently told the Atlantic Venture Forum the company was looking for about $600,000 in funding.

“We’ve discovered a really exciting platform technology,” Greenwood said in a statement. “The money we’ve raised through FAN will fund the final pieces of our commercialization program and turn this technology into our first product.”

PhotoDynamic grew out of research led by Sherri McFarland, a professor at Acadia University. She and co-founder Colin Cameron discovered a group of compounds extracted from an invasive species of plants that can be activated by light to kill certain cells. In fact, they found the combination of compound and light kills plaque.

They devised an oral tray that looks like a sports mouth-guard, which contains tiny LED lights. The users place foam made from the plant extract in the tray, put it in their mouths and switch on the lights.

Within a minute or two, the plaque on their teeth is killed.

The product also has a digital component so it automatically tells orthodontists, dental professionals or parents how often it has been used.

Moncton's BFL Launches OceanSlim

McFarland led the company through its early stages and won $100,000 as a zonal winner in the 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition. Last year, Greenwood joined the company to bring the product to market.

PhotoDynamic has identified several markets for the product, but Greenwood said it plans to find its first clients by selling through orthodontists. Braces produce a plaque buildup where the metal meets the teeth. It can produce a side effect called white spot lesions in as many as 90 per cent of all brace patients. This permanently stains the teeth and can cause tooth sensitivity.

“So far we’ve surveyed five percent of all Canadian orthodontists, and adoption intent is far higher than our business model predictions,” Greenwood told the Venture Forum.

The company plans to eventually move into the consumer market, with a product that can be sold over-the-counter in drug stores. The product can also benefit those individuals known as rapid plaque formers, a group comprising one-fifth of the North American population who suffer from a high buildup of plaque.

PhotoDynamic said the funds raised from FAN members will be used mainly for user testing, consumer product development, and preparation for the product launch. PhotoDynamic is working with Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry and the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass. to conduct human clinical trials.

“In 2017, this product will create a brand new oral hygiene category for orthodontists and brace wearers, but that will be only the beginning,” said Greenwood. “This technology can revolutionize oral hygiene for everyone.”

Shaw Extends CarbonCure’s Tech

Shaw Brick, Atlantic Canada’s oldest concrete masonry producer, has implemented CarbonCure Technologies’ sustainable technology across its entire production line.

CarbonCure, a Halifax green building materials company, has been working with Shaw Brick for nine years as it was an early adopter of one of the startup’s early prototypes. This week, CarbonCure announced the brickmaker is extending the latest generation of its technology throughout its product line.

“Shaw Brick understands that its customers are demanding more sustainable products, and we are pleased to announce that as of July 15, 2016, all of our standard concrete masonry units and architectural blocks produced in Lantz will automatically capture recycled CO2," said Shaw Brick General Manager James Bond in the statement.

CarbonCure, which received $1.75 million investment from Vancouver-based Pangaea Ventures in May, has developed a process that injects waste carbon into the concrete mix to eliminate CO2 emissions created in the manufacture of concrete products. Concrete, the world’s most common construction material, is responsible for more than 5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.

NB Biomatrix Aims for 2017 Production

In addition to the deeper penetration at Shaw Brick, the company has been gaining clients across Canada and the U.S. lately.

Since 2007, Shaw has been manufacturing products with CarbonCure’s technology when specified by architects, engineers or builders. The products have been used in such buildings as Bedford High School, Dalhousie University’s Collaborative Health Education Building, and UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering.

In the state of Georgia, Thomas Concrete of Atlanta announced in February that it would use CarbonCure’s CO2-recycling technology in its Doraville, Georgia, plant. Then last month, Thomas announced the expansion of the CarbonCure technology across four additional concrete plants surrounding the Atlanta metropolitan region.

"The decision to expand the CarbonCure technology across further plants was a no-brainer,” said Technical Services Director John Cook in a statement. “We verified at our Doraville plant that the technology allows us to optimize our cement content, which significantly reduces our carbon footprint. Thomas Concrete is committed to doing what’s best for our employees, our customers, our community and our environment.”

In May, CarbonCure announced it had hired William Holden, who has more than 30 years of experience in the concrete and cement industry, as Vice President of Sales. Holden will lead CarbonCure’s sales activities across Canada and the US.

NB Biomatrix Aims for 2017 Production

Keith Brunt

Keith Brunt

In about a year, the co-founders of NB Biomatrix hope their company will have a plant in Saint John producing a solution that can help to clean heavy metals from the most contaminated water sites around the world.

CEO Jeff Jennings and chief science officer Keith Brunt are now planning to open a test facility in Fredericton early in 2017 to demonstrate the commercial production of Naqua-Pure, their main product.

If all goes according to plan, they will then open their commercial production plant in Saint John in the summer of 2017. And then they hope to help clean up environmental disasters around the world.

Naqua-Pure is a liquid that uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. The product 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.

“When you think about pollution, it’s pretty simple: it’s something you don’t want mixed in with something you want,” said Brunt during a presentation at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum. What NB Biomatrix aims to do, he said, is to remove heavy metals — the hardest contaminant to remove from water — more quickly and easily than other methods, and do so without harmful residues.

Obviously the pain NB Biomatrix is addressing is profound. Brunt said there are now 87 major water sites in the world that would take 35 years to clean up at a cost of $250 billion. What’s more, as the world’s population grows, so do the number of severely-contaminated sites.

And he added that even cleaning up the sites can produce residual problems as the waste removed from the water is usually a pollutant that has to be disposed of.

Itavio Enters Matter Accelerator in Silicon Valley

Industries now spend about $700 million a year trying to get rid of heavy metals. NB Biomatrix has a solution it says can clean contaminated sites better.

“We can actually decrease those heavy metals by 90 per cent within 10 minutes,” said Brunt, who works as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University’s medicine program in Saint John. “It’s safe, bio-degradable and easily deployed.”

Naqua-Pure increases the density and allows for the drying of post-treatment wastewater sludge — so much so that it can be used in bio- or plasma-based reactors for energy generation. The leftover heavy metals become what is known as “ultra dense”, which means they are removed from the environment forever.

The company is only two years old and has already done well in two different startup competitions.

In its first year, it won the BioInnovation Challenge, the $35,000 competition for life sciences companies in the Maritimes. Then last year it placed second in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, taking home $222,250 in cash and services.

Now NB BioMatrix, which has a staff of four and is growing, is raising money from private investors with a target of $425,000. It received a commitment of $150,000 in mid-June.

SimplyCast Had 37% Growth in 2015

Saeed El-Darahali

Saeed El-Darahali

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth company dedicated to marketing automation, said Wednesday its revenue increased 37 percent in 2015.

With clients in 175 countries, SimplyCast is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations around the world. The seven-year-old company said its sales are increasing each month, but it did not reveal any specific information about what its sales amount to.

“We are very pleased with our year-over-year results for 2015,” said President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali in a statement. “It’s very exciting to see how our sales strategies are paying off and users are realizing the importance of marketing automations and how our services can benefit their organization.”

SimplyCast’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform combines marketing automation, inbound marketing, and interactive communication.

In February 2015, the company launched its Agency365 product, which increased the functionality of its offerings. Agency365 allows several people to work on and approve each piece of communication issued by a company or organization.

The statement said another factor in its continued growth is its White Label Reseller program in which companies can take SimplyCast’s platform and rebrand it to offer to their clients. From 2014 to 2015, the White Label program saw a 61% increase in the number of current resellers.

SimplyCast said it anticipates that it will also report double-digit growth in 2016.

“We’re seeing great growth across a broad selection of industries,” said Ariel Hopper, Vice-President of Partnerships. “The White Label program has really taken off and we’re now seeing resellers in over 17 different countries.”

SimplyCast has continued to expand its head office in Dartmouth by hiring positions in marketing, sales, and development over the course of 2015. This trend has continued into 2016 with additional positions being added since the beginning of the year.

EY Nominates 26 in Atlantic Canada

Several members of the Atlantic Canadian startup community are featured among the 26 finalists named Wednesday for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic 2016 awards program.

The list of nominees includes entrepreneurs whose names appear regularly in Entrevestor, including Ed Clarke of Global Ad Source of St. John’s, Saar Fabrikant of Halifax’s B4Checkin and Travis McDonough of Kinduct Technologies of Halifax.

"Entrepreneurship is about finding new ways to approach challenging problems. It's about growing your community while growing your business, and building prosperity for yourself, as well as others," Gina Kinsman, Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic program director, said in a statement. "This year's finalists in our region are diverse and brimming with ideas to help build a better world for the next generation.

An independent panel of judges will name winners in a number of categories, and one of the category winners as the overall Atlantic winner. That winner will then compete with winners from Québec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific regions for the Canadian Entrepreneur Of The Year title. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with winners from more than 50 countries for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year, in June 2017.

One side note: The Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in Ontario also features one team that has links to Atlantic Canada. Daniel Bartek, Robert Besant, and Cam McDonald of the Iconic Brewing Company of Oakville were nominated in the Young and Emerging category. Formerly known as Sage Mixology, the team’s origins go back to the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University.  

The Atlantic Canadian nominees are:

The 2016 Atlantic EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists

Business Services

Don Mills

Corporate Research Associates Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia

Provides insight and strategic direction to clients using state-of-the-art research, as well as strategic consulting services in both official languages.

Keith Brideau

Historica | Saint John, New Brunswick

Known for their quality work and positive community impact, Historica designs, develops, builds, renovates, leases and manages real estate.

Judith Bobbitt

Oceans Limited | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

Offers services in physical oceanography, marine weather forecasting, iceberg profiling, bio-monitoring of fish health, plus climate & oceanography studies.

Paul Pynn

One Wind Services Inc. | Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

A professional service organization serving the North American wind energy market.

Business-to-Business Products and Services

Bob Kiely

Envirem Organics Inc. | Fredericton, New Brunswick

Provides innovative recycling solutions and manufactures a line of value-added bio-products from waste.

Ed Clarke

Global Ad Source | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

Provides capture and analysis of competitor advertising campaigns and brand strategies across 80 countries and seven media types.

Brad Langille

GoGold Resources Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia

A Canadian-based gold and silver producer with properties in Mexico.

Thomas Soucy

Groupe Westco Inc. | Saint-François-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick

One of Canada's largest integrated poultry farming organizations, with hatcheries, breeding farms and related shipping companies.

Business-to-Consumer Products and Services

Alex MacLean

East Coast Lifestyle | Halifax, Nova Scotia

Designs and produces unique, high-profile clothing that showcases Atlantic Canadian pride.

Bert and Jonathan Hickman

Hickman Automotive Group | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

A fourth-generation family automobile business, Hickman Automotive Group owns and operates 12 locations that offer multiple vehicle brands.

Dave Powell

Powell Group of Companies | Bay Roberts, Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland's largest wholesale distributor to independent grocers – a network encompassing supermarkets, rental units, a shopping plaza, and Atlantic Grocery Distributors.

Health Sciences

David Ford and Andrew Steeves

BioScript Pharmacy Ltd. | Moncton, New Brunswick

A specialty pharmacy supporting the unique biological and specialty pharmaceutical needs of patients managing complex illnesses and the physicians who treat them.

Charlene Brophy

FONEMED | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

A patient-centered platform incorporating technology and disease-specific protocols to provide 24/7 teletriage support, remote biometric monitoring, and behavioral health counseling to 10 million individuals globally.

Lesley Steele

Vet Alliance Inc. | Fredericton, New Brunswick

Canada's largest organized affiliate buyers group for veterinary hospitals, helping independent veterinary practices thrive.

Hospitality/Tourism

Hanspeter Stutz

Grand Pre Wines Ltd. | Grand Pre, Nova Scotia

Atlantic Canada's oldest farm winery, developing special wines true to Nova Scotia.

Tony Nahas

Mezza Lebanese Restaurant Group | Halifax, Nova Scotia

A fast-casual franchise chain specializing in Lebanese cuisine that uses locally sourced meats, poultry, produce, and bread.

Bill Mahoney

Regal Realty Limited | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

Owns, manages and develops commercial, hotel and residential real estate. Holdings include the Murray Premises Hotel and St. John's Executive Suites.

Information Technology

Saar Fabrikant

B4Checkin | Halifax, Nova Scotia

A developer and provider of cloud-based software solutions for the hospitality industry.

Travis McDonough

Kinduct Technologies Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia

Specializes in human performance software solutions for professional and amateur sports organizations as well as military, public safety, and health and wellness organizations. 

Todd Hiscock

Beaufort Solutions Inc. | St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

Provides easy-to-use software to customers around the world that enable them to deliver high-quality digital solutions.

Russell Pelley

GRi Simulation Inc | Mount Pearl, Newfoundland & Labrador

A software development company that focuses on real-time 3D simulation, visualization, and integrated engineering technologies for critical marine activities.

Media and Entertainment

Paul Rigg

Copernicus Studios Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia

Develops original entertainment media, supplies animated television content, and produces gaming and educational content for the evolving apps market.

Mike Johnston

REDspace Inc. | Bedford, Nova Scotia

A digital studio specializing in creating interactive experiences for large broadcasters and media brands all over the world. Services include website and application development, game production, design and animation, live event support and more.

Phil Otto

Revolve Branding Inc. | Bedford, Nova Scotia

A full-service branding and marketing firm serving clients across Canada and the US, with a knack for overcoming complex challenges with simple, strategic solutions.

EY Nominates Diva, Aeryon, Miovision

Three companies from Waterloo Region have been nominated for the 2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Ontario awards.

The global accountancy consultancy announced the nominees for the competitions across the country on Wednesday, including 50 nominees from Ontario.

"Entrepreneurs have big ideas and take risks as they innovate, create jobs, generate wealth and invest in communities across the country," says François Tellier, Entrepreneur Of The Year national program director. "Ontario has so many impressive and successful entrepreneurs, and I know it wasn't an easy task for the independent panel of judges to narrow down from 165 nominees to 50 finalists."

An independent panel of judges will name winners in a number of diverse categories, and one of the category winners as the overall Ontario winner. That winner will then compete with winners from Québec, Atlantic, Prairies and Pacific for the Canadian Entrepreneur Of The Year title. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with winners from more than 50 countries for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year, in June 2017.

The nominees from Kitchener-Waterloo are:

Sustainable Products & Services

Carinne Chambers

Diva International Inc. | Kitchener

Designs and manufactures The DivaCup, a renowned healthy, sustainable feminine hygiene product.

Technology

Dave Kroetsch

Aeryon Labs Inc. | Waterloo

A technology and industry leader in the design and production of small Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Kurtis McBride

Miovision Technologies Inc. | Kitchener

A technology company that empowers transportation professionals in 50 countries, through data and infrastructure, to improve the transportation experience for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Funding Ramps Up in Newfoundland

After the funding announcements emerged from St. John’s, the postings began to appear for job openings with the companies.

Clockwork Fox Studios, Sentinel Alert, HeyOrca!, and Sequence Bio had all just raised money from local institutions and were now hiring.

In the past year, St. John’s has witnessed an evolution that many in its startup community had been working on for a long time. It has had an active community, mentorship and work areas for a while, but now there are new funding streams in place that are generating growth.

“It’s incredible for the community,” said Peter Gifford, Propel ICT’s St. John’s-based ‎Entrepreneur in Residence. “At the moment, we’ve got very active seed-stage investors who are not only investing their capital in the companies but are also investing their expertise.”

Two factors led to the funding growth. The Newfoundland and Labrador government teamed up with several parties to form the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund, which is managed by Pelorus Venture Capital. Meanwhile, Killick Capital, the investment fund of the Dobbin family, realized gains from a few exits and was in a position to redeploy capital.  

“When we looked at the investment opportunities available in St. John's they were skewed to earlier stage companies,” said Mark Dobbin, who heads the fund. “We decided to respond to this market by investing in more companies at smaller amounts per company.”

Sentinel Spends a Week with d{}

Through last autumn and winter, Venture NL and Killick spearheaded a funding drive into four growth-stage companies in St. John’s:

- Sequence Bio, $1 million, co-founded by Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner. The St. John’s company that analyzes genetic data to improve medical outcomes received $500,000 in equity funding from both Killick and Venture NL. Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease.
- Clockwork Fox, $1 million, founded by Ed Martin. The educational game producer landed $750,000 in new investment from Killick and Venture NL. It also received funding from Pluto Investments, Petten Holdings, and Joe Antle. The company’s flagship product is Zorbit’s Math Adventure, a game-based learning system for early math that aims to improve K-3 learning outcomes.
- HeyOrca!, $625,000, co-founded by Teo and Sahand Seifi.  HeyOrca! is an online platform that helps marketers collaborate on social media content. The company, which operates out of the Genesis Centre, is a graduate of the PropelICT Build program, allowing it to tap into a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital.  The other investors in this round are Venture NL and Killick.
- Sentinel Alert, $525,000, co-founded by Sarah Murphy and Jason Janes. Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. The software is originally being used on devices like smartphones, but the company hopes to eventually partner with a hardware company to produce a wearable device. The company received investment from Killick, Venture NL and a private angel investor.

These deals amount to just over $3 million, which is significant but not earth-shattering. What’s interesting about the recent funding wave is the various sources. In addition to individual and family investments, several institutions have invested in Newfoundland lately. BDC Capital is a direct partner in Venture NL and made a direct investment in HeyOrca! In addition to these investments, Halifax-based Build Ventures in late 2014 invested $3 million in St. John’s-based Celtx, which makes software for the film industry.

The greater significance is what comes next. These companies are now in a position to raise more money, assuming they build their operations significantly. And as the St. John’s success story Verafin has demonstrated, the real economic benefit comes in the later stages.

“A percentage of our fund is dedicated to follow-on investment,” Pelorus investment manager Chris Moyer recently told Entrevestor. “Private funds allow everyone to work together to push the companies forward…. In all our investments, angels that invested in our fund invested their own money in the companies as well.”

MappedIn Extends Round to $3.5M

Kitchener-based Mappedin, whose software helps people find things in malls or stores, has raised an extension to its seed-stage financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.

Green Century Investments led the round, with participation by Amolino and several local angel investors.

The company, whose revenues rose 500 percent in 2015, also announced two significant hires in its sales and marketing teams: Greg Barber has joined as Vice President of Sales and Suzanne Farb has joined as interim Vice President of Marketing.

MappedIn provides customizable interactive maps for retailers that are seeking to make navigation easier for their shoppers. The company said in a statement that the new funding will help it to meet demand from retailers, REITs and mall owners.

“We’ve always believed in the value of search indoors and the underlying need for better data management tools to digitize dynamic spaces,” said CEO and Co-Founder Hongwei Liu in the statement. “Last year’s market demand was truly eye-opening for us. We learned that premium malls and retailers are actively seeking a solution that can help them bring the discoverability inherent online to the in-store experience, and that they recognize the only way to do that is through great digital infrastructure and wayfinding experiences.”

Founded in 2011, Mappedin is forecasting a tripling of revenue by the end of 2016.

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Barber joins Mappedin after a 23-year career at Microsoft, most recently serving as Vice President of the Consumer Channels Group at Microsoft Canada. A member of the executive team at Microsoft Canada for more than a decade, Barber was accountable for more than 30 percent of the region’s revenue.

Before joining Mappedin, Farb was the Head Merchant of Electronics and Entertainment for Target Canada. She launched Target’s entertainment and electronic departments in more than 133 stores nationwide. Before her tenure at Target, she worked at Microsoft Canada, where she helped re-establish the Windows consumer brand by developing integrated marketing strategies.

“With Greg and Suzanne on board, this funding allows us to accelerate our go-to-market strategy while continuing to invest in our product platform,” said Liu. “We set ambitious growth and product development goals each year and 2016 is no different.”

The company simultaneously was launched four-and-a-half years ago when Liu, Mitchell Butler and Leander Lee, all students at the University of Waterloo, showed their then side-project to the general manager of a local mall. She immediately put in an order to purchase a system for use during the Christmas rush, mere weeks away.

MappedIn was founded out of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity incubator, and has also been supported by various Communitech initiatives.

Presenters Podium Aims to Boost Sales

Harrison Fisher: 'You have to know it well enough to talk about it.'

Harrison Fisher: 'You have to know it well enough to talk about it.'

With a new CEO in place and a base of Canadian customers, Presenters Podium has set an aggressive expansion plan to get their oral presentation tool into a range of schools across Canada and the U.S.

Presenters Podium was launched about three years ago by Matt Fanning, a former medical device salesman and St. Mary’s University student. He perceived that professors with large classes can never have everyone make oral presentations because there is simply too little time. So he developed Presenters Podium, an online tool that lets students rehearse an oral presentation, then submit it once it is perfect. In the latest iterations, it includes a peer review function that allows classmates to review each student’s presentation.

Fanning recently has moved on to further his sales career elsewhere and handed the reigns for Presenters Podium to Harrison Fisher. He also has a background in medical sales and collaborated with Fanning on the development of the business over the past two-and-a-half years.

The Halifax company now has paying customers in 22 post-secondary institutions, including one in the U.S.

“For the next 12 months, we have a goal of having 280 new professors using the platform,” said Fisher. He added that a customer base of 280 profs “translates in to an estimated 13,000 users.”

He said the company is planning to reach these professors with a mix of social marketing by delivering content that can help university and college professors, educational conferences, and outbound calling campaigns. For example, he is attending the conferences of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and the Teaching Society for Management Educators.

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Though he was quite detailed in his description of the sales process, Fisher doesn’t refer to himself as a salesman.

“Our approach isn't to sell someone, but to inform professors and universities that there is a solution to a challenge that they may not know they even had,” he said.

The problem is that modern universities and colleges have large classes – so large that professors could never find the class time to have everyone do a presentation on a particular subject. Presenters Podium lets every student research the subject, and work toward a flawless presentation. Once its submitted, the students’ peers can review the presentations, meaning the professor doesn’t have to wade through hours of video.

Fisher added that the goal is to have the students understand that they are engaged in an exercise in professional speaking, that they have to speak to about five viewers and to speak persuasively to them.

Fisher -- who is working with two part-time staff and hopes to hire a developer and sales person – said the aim has always been to produce an online tool that ensures the student learns and maintains the course material.

“If you think about learning in the traditional model, it’s about memorizing a bunch of things and regurgitating them on a final exam,” he said. “But if you ask someone to explain something to you, it’s going to be apparent whether or not they know it. You have to know it well enough to talk about it.”

Briefs: Umlah, Sentinel, Howe

Dawn Umlah

Dawn Umlah

Umlah Joins Spring Loaded as COO

Spring Loaded Technology has hired Dawn Umlah, previously the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp, as its Chief Operating Officer.

Dartmouth-based Spring Loaded, which makes knee braces that add power to the knee, is growing its team to meet the demand for its Levitation Knee Brace, which will launch later this year. As Spring Loaded Technology’s COO, Umlah will use her more than 15 years of experience to help the company navigate its expansion and mature its manufacturing capabilities.

“We’re thrilled to bring Dawn on as Spring Loaded Technology’s COO,” said CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in a statement. “Her hands-on experience propelling companies through various growth transitions will be invaluable as we near the launch of our Levitation bionic knee brace in the consumer and medical markets this fall.”

Umlah has held senior roles in venture capital, finance, operations, strategic planning and corporate development, and has been involved in corporate development transactions and fundraising activities aggregating more than $365 million in value. She played an integral role in propelling DHX Media from formation to IPO in just two years, followed by four years of growth-by-acquisition strategy and application.

Spring Loaded recently received $1.9 million in investment from Build Ventures.

Sentinel Strikes Partnership with Crosbie

St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert has struck a partnership with the Crosbie Group of Companies, a fifth-generation family business involved in such Newfoundland and Labrador industries as offshore oil and gas services, onshore industrial services, real estate and construction.

Sentinel Alert, creator of safety software designed to detect and prevent worker accidents, said it has entered into a pilot agreement with the Crosbie group. The initial partnership will focus on exploring early indicators of worker risk around industry challenges like noise exposure and repetitive strain injuries. The pilot is designed to help Crosbie create the safest operating environment to support the health and wellbeing of its workforce.  Longer-term, the Sentinel Alert platform will add predictive safety benefits for workers and offer additional efficiency gains. 

“With the ever evolving workforce and workplace, it is important that we continue to strive for improvements in protecting our people and improving our safety performance,” said Crosbie VP of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality William Foote.  “This software is evolutionary for the safety industry and this partnership with Sentinel Alert will help us step further into new technological aids for a safer workforce and workplace.”

Sentinel Alert recently raised $525,000 in seed round financing through Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital. Sentinel Alert is using the funding to open up its software to larger industrial customers and continue to grow its team.

Howe Launches IgniteTheMaritimes.com

Dartmouth entrepreneur David Howe has launched a series of online videos on startups that are prospering in the Maritimes.

The project is called IgniteTheMaritimes.com, and Howe describes it as a mini-documentary series that tells the stories of top founders in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

The first three episodes cover Kyle Racki of Proposify, Darren Gallop of Marcato Digital Solutions, and Mark Hemphill of Screenscape.

Howe previously co-founded two startups, ToothbrushSubscriptions.com (now Boka.com) and Retailkit (now Tend.ag).

Israeli Lessons in Building Ecosystem

Oded Hermoni has lived, created and invested in business in the top two regions for startups: Israel and Silicon Valley. Hermoni discussed valuation, acquisition strategy and profit and loss at his Wednesday night fireside chat at Startup Grind. However, he said that this is the No. 1 thing to take away from his fireside chat:

“Tech and innovation is about people.”

The man has invested in companies sold to Facebook and Apple, has founded three startups in Israel (one of which was acquired by Yellow Pages), led the Israeli VC Industry Association and the Israeli High Tech Industry Association, and is now a partner at the early stage venture capital firm Rhodium Capital, where he is the liaison between Israeli and Silicon Valley.

Hermoni’s big takeaway may not seem new, but did you even read the highlight reel of his achievements in the previous paragraph? I’d listen closely.

Throughout his fireside chat at Startup Grind, Hermoni emphasized the importance of creating an ecosystem in the Maritimes, like the ones in Israel and Silicon Valley.

“You need to have a trigger to start it,” he said. “Ecosystem isn’t just the university: it’s funding, it’s talent—it’s everything.”

His No. 1 recommendation to create a solid ecosystem was to connect with the universities. Israel and Silicon Valley heavily depend on commercialization, talent and funding from universities like Stanford and Tel Aviv University.

Hermoni recommended that entrepreneurs provide incentives to the university and these offices to fuel more successful startups.

In Israel, academics who help companies with research and development are allowed to have one day a week to work with the company exclusively. Forty to 50 percent of investment into the company also goes back to that university faculty.

“The main job of the academic is to publish papers, not work on a multimillion dollar company,” Hermoni said. “So give them freedom.”

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Universities can also provide both funding and talent. Hermoni emphasized that using talent from the universities will allow young people and academics to stay in the region—something the Maritimes struggle to do as many youth go westward.  

Keeping immigrants in the region is also important for startups, Hermoni said. When immigrants first come to a new country, they usually aren’t able to teach because of language barriers, despite having high levels of education. Startups should use this to their advantage and hire these immigrants to help them with research and development.

This is exactly what Israel did: after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a wave of Russians came to Israel, many of whom were engineers, scientists and academics. Israel turned this potential problem into an asset: it allowed the Russians, many of whom didn’t speak Hebrew well, to continue their research and use their top-notch scientific and technical skills to help build what we now know as Startup Nation. 

“This is an opportunity to open the door to immigrants,” Hermoni said. “You may find something that can create growth in this area, if you find the right mechanism.”

Hermoni had also heard about the large amounts of government funding available to startups in the region—and was amazed by the support. However, he said that the government needs to understand that failure is a part of startup life.

“Failure is experience. It’s okay to fail,” Hermoni said. “If the [Israeli] government had only looked at profit and loss, if what they lost in three or four or five years, nothing would happen. But in 20 years, it was an amazing problem.”

CEED Wins Community Partner Award

Laurie Cameron:

Laurie Cameron: "We work with the entire ecosystem."

Boosting entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia means igniting the enthusiasm of the young. This is work that has recently won national recognition for Halifax-based CEED, the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development.

Founded by the provincial government more than 20 years ago, CEED won this year’s RBC Community Partner Award for its involvement with more than 2,000 youth each year.

“We work with the entire ecosystem,” said CEED’s President and CEO Laurie Cameron.

“We’re trying to get our reach as far as possible into the education system.”

The group recently piloted a workshop in Truro for children in Grades 4 to 6. At the end of the day, the students formed teams and started their own ‘businesses’. Local business people judged their ideas and presentations in a mini dragons’ den.

The program is now running at a Dartmouth school.

“The little ones don’t know the words ‘no’. or ‘I can’t’,” Cameron said. “They’re so incredibly creative. The energy is vibrant, the ideas dynamic, everyone’s jazzing together.

“As students move through the system, their thinking becomes channeled, they’re not as quick to embrace the art of the possible.”

With the aim of reaching young adults, CEED works with high schools, colleges and universities. The group collaborates with Brilliant Labs, the New Brunswick-based non-profit that brings technology to students through project-based learning.

Alex Gillis and the Wisdom of Youth

Cameron said that in higher grades, students concentrate on getting the marks they need for universities and colleges.

“They’re focused on academics as opposed to the fun side of life…Creative exercises give them permission to think differently.

“Entrepreneurship is about attitudes and competencies. We want to support the development of leaders, problem-solving, risk-taking.”

She said that at a high school education day hosted by the province last October, CEED introduced youth to the business model canvas, a visual chart that helps users understand and develop new and existing business models. 

“Each team was given two words and then had to brainstorm a business concept around the words. They had to fill in the business canvas and pitch. They did very well.

“Youth today are confident and collaborative. They’re not easily intimidated. They’re not necessarily looking at the bucks and the bottom line. They care about health and the environment, about society, about the wellness of everyone.”

Cameron said that CEED advocates for entrepreneurship as a career option, and provides funding and advice for people who want to start their own business.

The group’s recent RBC award was presented at the Action Entrepreneurship Canadian Summit in Toronto in May.

The colourful event provided welcome validation for CEED’s work, said Cameron, who has been with the group since November 2014.

She feels the province and region need to reduce red tape and barriers to business. Barriers are lessening, she said, but progress is slow.

“Inter-provincial regulations need to be looked at,” she said. “Someone recently told me they can export out of Canada more easily than to neighbouring provinces.

“In Atlantic Canada, we’ve got to let kids unleash their talents and support them…I’d hate to see that youthful enthusiasm stymied, because of regulatory barriers.”

She believes that successful entrepreneurs have passion for what they do and also know how to take calculated risks.

“Some people think entrepreneurs are risk-takers at large, but successful entrepreneurs know the pros and cons of what they do. They do their homework.  And they often have good support networks.

“A lot of excellent mentoring goes on in this community. … At CEED, we tap into the mentoring network of the youth group Futurpreneur. Peer mentoring is also valuable, a lot of that happens at universities and other educational institutions.”

 She finds the current growth of entrepreneurship in the region exciting.

“The landscape is changing. In a few years, it will be even better if we enable youth to unleash their talent.”

Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, BioNB

Dash Hudson is growing rapidly, and its openings for a product manager and junior brand strategist headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

The Halifax startup launched two-and-a-half years ago and has developed a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.

In May, CEO Thomas Rankin told Entrevestor that the company was growing strongly and would be adding people as it developed a new product for Snapchat.

This week, we’ll also look at the mobile app development company 14 Oranges, which is looking for a web developer in Halifax, and the Fredericton-based life sciences promotion group, BioNB, which is seeking an international business development officer.

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Product Manager

Dash Hudson is looking for a candidate with a joie de vivre and intense burning desire to make things happen. Product manager will be a critically important position within the company, and the successful applicant will have to acquire information from a broad array of sources including engineering, sales, marketing, and customers. Then he or she must make critical project decisions based on data and qualitative analysis. This person will have to gain a deep understanding of customer experience, identify and fill product gaps and generate new ideas that grow market share, improve customer experience and drive growth. The company is looking for someone with two to five years of experience in a similar role. He or she should have experience in product design, pricing, management, customer experience, feedback, and strategy.

Junior Brand Strategist

The junior brand strategist will work with the company’s brand strategy team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. Dash Hudson is looking for an organized, creative person who can take on new challenges and have the confidence to figure them out. This person will work with the brand strategy team in lead generation, sales outreach and progress tracking with major brands. The skill set of the successful applicant will include analytical capabilities, business development, strategy, sales and marketing.

14 Oranges

Web Developer

14 Oranges Software is a mobile application development company that strives not just to understand customers’ mobile application needs but their actual business problem. With that in mind, the company delivers the complete mobile application solution. The company is looking to hire a back-end web developer whose responsibilities will include developing web sites and back end systems, working with customers throughout the life of the projects, and fixing bugs in existing code bases. As well as a good attitude, the company wants someone with at least two years of PHP/mySQL development and two years of working with Javascript and/or jQuery. The requirements also include experience with: MVC Framework (Laravel or similar); WordPress; JSON and/or REST API development; as well as Twitter Bootstrap, Photoshop, and GIT.

Fredericton

BioNB

International Business Development Officer

BioNB works with startups, small and medium-sized businesses, growth-stage companies and researchers to help foster economic development in New Brunswick's biosciences sector. The international business development officer will work closely with BioNB staff to increase the visibility of the province's Bio sector on the global stage. He or she will also support clients' efforts in becoming export ready and opening new international market opportunities. This person will collect information on potential international market clusters, successful models for global partnerships; and

existing models for inward investment attraction. This role involves research, relationship-building, and intelligence-gathering. The candidate must hold a valid driver's licence, passport and possess a second language. This is a 20-month contract with the possibility of extension. The successful applicant must have experience in gathering market intelligence gathering, developing news market development and working with stakeholders like the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service or the province’s Trade and Export team. Speaking both French and English would be an asset. 

NS Searches for Private VC Partner

The Nova Scotia government on Wednesday resurrected its plan to establish another venture capital fund in the province, and is seeking a private partner to lead the fund and most likely invest in it.

The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. The VC community in and outside the region had expected a request for proposals, or RFP, in the winter of 2014-15, but none came through two winters.

Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget, and on Wednesday announced that it would spend about a year finding a private sector partner and establishing the new fund.

“When businesses have better access to capital, it means more jobs for Nova Scotians,” said Business Minister Mark Furey in a statement. “The creation of this fund will mean stronger communities and more opportunities for young people to live and work here in Nova Scotia.”

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The statement said Innovacorp, the government owned early-stage VC fund, would lead the search for the partner. It will be backed up by a selection committee comprising:

–- Rob Barbara, general partner with Build Ventures;

–- Charles Baxter, vice-president of investment with Innovacorp;

–- Dominique Belanger, managing director of BDC Capital;

–- Gilles Duruflé, the consultant whose 2014 report recommended changes in the funding ecosystem in Nova Scotia;

–- And Bernie Miller, senior executive adviser for the province.

The government would like the fund to be established in 2017.

The strong growth of startups in Atlantic Canada has ramped up demand for investment capital, and the success of companies in the region has piqued the interest of venture capital funds from outside the region. I was surprised at the Breakthru dinner in Fredericton 15 months ago when two VC fund managers from outside the region were talking about the Nova Scotia RFP and when it might come.

From the outset, people familiar with the project have said the province does not simply want someone who can manage a fund in Halifax. It wants a party that will bring its own capital to the fund, and possibly attract money from other parties, known as limited partners. That means the $25 million commitment from the province could turn into a $50 million or $75 million venture capital fund. With the private money, it would also have a mandate to invest outside of Nova Scotia, which would help the fund to build partnerships with other investors.

The announcement comes as the current VC bodies based in Halifax could reach the point in a year or two where they will be constrained in making new investments. Innovacorp has been investing about $5 million a year and is approaching the point at which it will need new funds, a few exits, or a new mandate. Build Ventures, the three-year-old privately managed fund, has invested in about a dozen companies. Again it could make a few more new investments, and then will have restrict itself to follow-on investments until it raises a new fund. GrowthWorks Atlantic has not raised money in years and has signaled that it is managing its existing fund rather than making new investments.

 

Disclaimer: Build Ventures and Innovacorp advertise on Entrevestor. 

Airbly To Launch 100 Units This Summer

When Chris VanHorne bought his own small plane with seven other pilots, he wished there were some system that automatically compiled the flight logs.

There is now.

VanHorne set up a company to make one.

An engineer by training, VanHorne teamed up with developer Peter Osif to form Argyle Shore, P.E.I.-based Airbly, which has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the flight log.

The company, which has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out these logs by hand. If they’re lost or destroyed, the plane’s value can plunge.

Presenting at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax, VanHorne explained that preparing flight logs by hand are a hassle for aircraft owners, but aircraft lose their value drastically if the owner can’t produce a detailed history of flights and maintenance.

“An aircraft’s value is very tightly linked to the history of the plane,” said VanHorne. “But 90 per cent of plane owners still write their logs on paper . . . to get aircraft owners out of the stone age, we have created a block box for small aircraft.”

Airbly’s product is the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, a small piece of hardware that is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel. The device monitors the aircraft's position, usage and cabin environment and regularly sends the data over a cloud-based relay to Airbly’s data centre.

The company’s software then automatically generates flight logs. It also tracks the aircraft’s maintenance and alerts the owners when something falls outside a normal range.

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The business model is similar to a cell phone plan — the customer pays for the hardware then pays a regular bill for the tracking. VanHorne said the initial market is flight schools — an $8-million market.

These schools often have a fleet of five or more airplanes and Airbly can spare them the bother of doing flight logs and make sure they have a regular rotation of planes in maintenance.

In an interview, he said the Canairy monitor simplifies things for groups of people who join together to own a plane, such as VanHorne himself and his friends. The costs each person pays depend on the amount of use, and Airbly sorts out each person’s usage.

Airbly, which recently went through the Propel ICT Launch accelerator,  now has two installations in the U.S. and two in Canada, and the company is now manufacturing its first 100 units.

VanHorne will present the product this summer at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin, which bills itself as “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”

VanHorne said the company plans to market the Canairy to other segments of the aviation market, such as the sight-seeing and plane-for-hire markets, and is also interested in products in other industries.

It is thinking about developing fast and affordable in-flight internet for small planes. And the team is interested in products for the drone and marine markets.

Airbly is now working on raising $220,000 to $250,000 in investment, which it hopes will cover the costs of hiring sales and development support.

Affinio Adds Staff as Sales Rise

Tim Burke, left, and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke, left, and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke wandered through the empty half of Affinio’s office to the meeting room where the interview would take place.

In the early morning sunshine, this half of the open-plan office was an expanse of empty tables, and a ping pong table, but no sign of anyone working – so far.

“Oh, it will fill up,” Burke said with an easy smile when he was seated.

When Affinio, the company Burke heads, moved into the space in the spring of 2016, the co-founders wanted a lot of room for growth. The three-and-a-half-year-old social media analytics company is staffing up – fast. It had nine employees when it raised $4 million in venture capital last November. Six months later, there were about 37 employees, all but three of them in the Halifax headquarters. By the end of 2016, Burke expects to have a staff of 60, and he foresees the company’s galloping growth to continue through 2017.

“It’s pretty aggressive,” Burke said of his hiring spree, adding that most of the hires are in sales, marketing and customer support. “It’s primarily because it’s an enterprise SaaS [software-as-a-service] sales structure. It’s very similar to Radian6, and we see very aggressive growth. We’re going after accounts we think we can and should win.”

There’s no shortage of buzz in Halifax about Affinio, given its rapid expansion plans. The company does not release revenue details, but its strong funding and growing staff have turned heads.

“They are definitely one of the rising stars,” said Dawn Umlah, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp. “Even in terms of talent acquisition, they’re working very well … I hate to say ‘killing it’, but that’s what they’re doing.”

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The buzz is nothing new for Burke and Stephen Hankinson, his technical co-founder and long-time collaborator. In the first decade of the century, they formed Quark Engineering, a small team of product whizzes that built products for themselves and others. It was a team with diverse talents, and at the core were Burke, an engineer with an entrepreneurial flare, and Hankinson, a programmer who other coders speak of in reverential tones. They struck gold in 2009 when they produced TetherBerry (later called Tether), an app that let people gain an online connection for their laptop through their cell phone plan. That consumer product brought in more than $100,000 in revenue in the first three days, and won the team Innovacorp’s 2010 I-3 Technology Startup Competition.

Tether was a cash cow for Quark and provided revenues while Burke and Hankinson built out the team, including Ardi Iranmanesh, an expert in SaaS metrics, and Phil Renaud, who is now Affinio’s VP Engineering. As well as working on their own projects, the team did contract work for several companies, including startups. Hankinson is known throughout the region for the speed and precision of his coding, and clients came to Quark to get the team to build out their technology.

Then in 2013 the Quark team began to work on a new project, which they called Affinio. It is an advanced database technology that allows low-cost, real-time processing of social network data to determine how every person on the web is connected. It mines publicly available social media posts and other business data to find people who are connected by common interests, experiences or networks.

Burke admits there are other similar products on the market but what sets Affinio apart is its ease of use, its interpretive functions and its vivid graphics. From the outset, it drew attention.

“Even at that stage, the response to the demo was overwhelming,” said Burke. “The most common response we got was, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before.’”

The company launched in 2013 with $1.5 million in investment from Halifax venture capital fund Build Ventures. Build Principal Rob Barbara says his firm likes to invest in technology that “a few really smart guys can’t duplicate in a couple of months.” Affinio fit the bill as it immediately drew international attention. In the past three years, Affinio has been showcased at the O’Reilly Strata Conference in New York, and has participated in the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, the BBC Worldwide Labs incubator in London and Microsoft’s Seattle Accelerator.

And, the company is having success in sales, with 80 percent of the revenue coming from the U.S., led by the New York-based Vice-President of Customer Success John Gleeson.

“It was a really smart move for us to have a guy in New York,” said Burke. “John has a daily presence there and it’s been significant in developing and retaining clients. … We’ve got a lot more traction in the media and entertainment industries that are using our platform to guide their brand strategy.”

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Along with the sales came more funding. Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto led a $4 million round last November, joined by Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures and several angels. And that money is funding the hire of a significant staff. From nine to 37 in six months and then an expected 23 more in the next seven months.

“We’re hiring a lot of great young talent,” said Burke. “It’s a really young group, most of them straight out of university.”

About one-quarter of the staff is in product development, with 35 percent in sales and marketing and the rest in executive positions and customer support. As he focuses on building his staff and the company, Burke is leaning heavily on some key mentors. First there are Marcel LeBrun, Chris Ramsey and the team that built Fredericton-based Radian6, one of the most success tech companies in the region. Burke talks with them regularly to discuss scaling of a company. And he’s found that the Microsoft accelerator has a tremendous alumni program, which has been instrumental in introducing Affinio to clients.

As the summer deepens, Burke is turning his attention more and more to a Series B round of financing, which he hopes to close in early 2017. He didn’t reveal many details but he said some clients in the media industries have investment arms that have noticed Affinio. The company is also working with clients to adapt new products, some of which analyze data owned by the clients themselves.

“With a lot of the new products, growth will continue on a really fast pace, even more fast than what we’re doing now,” said Burke. “Our revenue per customer is growing and the size of deals is continuing to rise as well.”

Grads Love Region, Worry About Jobs

An overwhelming majority of students studying at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges want to stay in the region but have grave concerns about opportunities here, a new poll shows.

The poll by Corporate Research Associates also found that a mere two per cent of university and college grads want to start their own business.

The survey of 4,643 graduates of 21 post-secondary institutions in the region found that 82 percent of the grads would like to remain in the province where they studied. Among international students, 75 percent would like to stay. However, most grads also believe job opportunities and compensation levels in Atlantic Canada are inferior to other jurisdictions. Graduates also told CRA they believe the most important considerations in planning where to live are quality of life, job opportunities, cost of living and compensation levels.

Corporate Research president Margaret Brigley released the findings Friday at the Atlantic Leadership Summit, the annual half-day conference of the Atlantic Association of Universities.

“We found that students hold this region in such high regard,” said Brigley. “But they clearly have some concerns about what opportunities would be presented to them if they stay.”

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Atlantic Canada has the oldest population in Canada, and Statistics Canada said the region suffered a net out-migration of 6,700 people in 2014-15. The largest outflow was in New Brunswick, which lost 2,800 more people than it attracted.

Thus, there is an urgent movement to increase immigration and retain young people in the region, and educational institutions have a key role to play in both missions.

The poll findings showed that 75 percent of international students would like to remain in the province where they studied.

Don Mills, the chairman and CEO of CRA, said the fact that so many students would like to remain in the region is good news given that so much of the Atlantic Canadian workforce is nearing retirement. He said the current problem of too few jobs will soon turn into a greater problem of too few workers, and students who want to stay here will be needed to meet demand.

The CRA poll reveals that 87 percent of graduating students are highly satisfied with the overall quality of post-secondary education they have received in the region.

“The high degree of satisfaction expressed by graduates about their educational and living experience while studying in the region speaks volumes about the high quality of our institutions and the communities in which they are located,” said University of New Brunswick President and AAU Chair Eddy Campbell in a statement.

But he and others expressed disappointment that only one in 50 grads want to start their own business, despite the resources that institutions have devoted to entrepreneurship.

Brigley emphasized that the survey assessed the immediate plans of graduates, and it does not mean more grads don’t want to start a business at some point in the future. (The survey found that 33 percent of graduates will look for a job, 29 percent return to school, 23 percent have a job and 15 percent will travel or do something else.)

Some three percent of international students want to start their own businesses and half of these grads want to locate their business in the province where they studied.

Startup Zone Opens in Charlottetown

Government and geeks came together in downtown Charlottetown on Friday to officially open the Startup Zone, the new incubator for young businesses on P.E.I.

The 3,600-square-foot facility at Water and Queen streets has enough space for about 16 companies, and will be a work zone for tech and innovation startups as well as other entrepreneurial pursuits. It will also be the P.E.I. base for Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator.

The opening of startup zone means there are now co-working spaces throughout Atlantic Canada allowing Propel and other regional groups a network of local bases for staging events and hosting mentoring programs.  The other community incubators and co-workign spaces are Common Ground in St. John’s, Volta Labs in Halifax, the Venn Centre in Moncton, the Navigate startup house in Sydney and Planet Hatch in Fredericton.

“The Startup Zone provides a space for our entrepreneurial community to gather and continue to grow,” said Startup Zone Executive Director Christina MacLeod in a statement. “Entrepreneurs of all ages and sectors can contribute to developing our diverse economy and create partnerships globally through our incubator space.”

MacLeod, the founder of Fusion Charlottetown and a member of the first Prince Edward Island cohort for the 21 Inc Emerging Leaders program, was named to the post recently. 

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day

The Startup Zone is a non-profit entity whose mission is to provide entrepreneurs with support and mentorship, enabling them to become successful. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is contributing $500,000 to the project, while the government of P.E.I. is putting up $514,395 over the next three years.

The opening was attended by P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLaughlin and Charlottetown MP Sean Casey,  who represented Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

P.E.I. has recently witnessed a strong growth in its tech sector, and this year hosted its first cohort of the Propel ICT accelerator. Life sciences startups have deeper roots in the province and are supported by groups like the PEI BioAlliance, the Emergence incubator program and the newly created headquarters of Natural Products Canada. The growth in the tech segment gives the island a more diverse entrepreneurial community.

Jobs of the Week: Resson is Hiring

Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Resson’s new motto could be: Have Money. Will Hire.

The Fredericton agriculture technology company last week announced it had raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.  Now the company has fours openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board and is the highlight today of our Jobs of the Week column.

We’ll also look at Carleton Manor, a Woodstock, N.B., nursing home that is looking for a chief executive officer.

Founded three years ago by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl, Resson has created software to assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

The company is looking for software developers, an agronomist and an optical engineer.

Carleton Manor is now an 80-bed nursing home under renovations to expand to a 110-bed facility that specializes in providing nursing care and services to adult clients.

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

Fredericton

Resson

Agronomist

The successful candidate will help to apply Resson's machine-learning engine to multiple levels of agricultural data under observation. He or she will assess the data collected by the analytics team and work with others to use the data to improve farm yields.  This work will be done in collaboration with machine vision and robotic systems engineers, corporate agronomists and agricultural operators. The candidate will help to design and monitor field experiments. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor degree in agronomy and crop science or an agricultural field.

Optical Engineer

This person will immediately be involved in a rapidly expanding project to bring computer vision to agriculture. The goal is to integrate and optimize hardware systems, linking optical technologies to farm-management equipment to meet defined requirements. The work will be carried out in both lab and field environments, moving quickly through calibration, testing and deployment phases. Resson is looking for a candidate familiar with computer vision hardware, experienced in troubleshooting and failure analysis and someone who thrives in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. The company would like someone with a master’s degree in optics, computer vision, electrical engineering or computer science.

Computer Vision Software Developer

Resson has actually posted two openings for software developers, including a computer vision developer. The computer vision software developer will contribute to the development of an image classification system for agriculture. The ideal candidate will be driven by his or her own creativity and ingenuity and a passion to pioneer the capabilities of state-of-the-art machine-learning and image-processing solutions. The role requires a robust understanding of the theory and practice of computer-vision techniques and the related fields of algorithm development. Resson is looking for someone with two to five years’ experience in a similar role and a bachelor or master’s degree in computer science.

Software Developer

The successful candidate will be responsible for all aspects of development, from rapid prototyping through to implementation, testing, and integration. In addition to being familiar with front-end and back-end development technologies (including Java and cross-platform mobile technologies), the applicant would benefit from experience with image processing, machine learning, and/or high-performance computing. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and two to five years’ experience in a similar role.

Woodstock, N.B.

Carleton Manor

Chief Executive Officer

Carleton Manor is looking for someone to provide leadership and organize the nursing home to effectively and efficiently provide services to residents. The successful candidate must manage human resources and maintain an excellent rapport with the residents, their families, the community, related agencies and government departments. The nursing home is looking for someone with proven leadership and management skills and excellent decision making skills regarding financial and budget issues. The candidate must have strong financial, communications and team-building skills, and preference will be given to people who have worked in long-term care. Carleton Manor is looking for a candidate with at least five years’ senior management experience.

WoodsCamp, 4Deep Win AVF Honours

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

The 2016 Atlantic Venture Forum wrapped up Thursday with the announcement that 4Deep Inwater Imaging was chosen the leading growth-stage company to pitch at the event, while WoodsCamp was the top seed-stage company.

The delegates at the conference – which serves as a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region – chose the winners, both of whom demonstrated strong potential in a global market.

Halifax-based 4Deep is a maker of advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time to take samples and send them to a laboratory.

CEO Stephen Jones enticed the audience to imagine a product that could detect algae outbreaks in water before they become a menace, that could monitor ballast water in ships for microscopic invasive species, that can check oil rigs under water to detect leaks in real time.

“In the not too distant future, all those potential situations will be a reality and 4Deep will be right in the middle of it,” said Jones.

WoodsCamp is an online marketplace that helps private woodlot owners understand the value of the trees on their land to improve their profit from responsible forestry. It’s been a big week for the company as it pitched at the Propel ICT Demo Day on Tuesday and gained many new customers from a range of media coverage.

WoodsCamp Aims to Disrupt the Timber Industry.

WoodsCamp pitched with the seed stage companies on Wednesday while 4Deep and the other growth-stage startups presented their companies on Thursday morning. These more advanced companies showed how they had recently increased their sales, often with very impressive clients.

Halifax-based Athletigen, which analyses genetic codes to help with athletic performance, said it has now built up a databank of genetic samples from more than 20,000 people, with gives it more than 5 billion data points. That’s the largest such data set in the world, and it is working with nutritional and sports partners to gain more revenue.

Saint John-based NB Biomatrix, which uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals from contaminated water sites, explained how it had gained clientele from governments and emergency agencies.

St. John’s startup HeyOrca’s Joe Teo said his company, which helps marketers collaborate on projects, is now gaining traction with such clients as Microsoft, Saatchi & Saatchi and Amazon. Its main market is marketing agencies, and its monthly recurring revenue is now increasing 31 percent per month.

Halifax’s Fundmetric, which provide customer-relationship software to charities, has sold its product to 26 charities across Canada and just landed its first U.S. client, St. John’s college. Its MRR is growing at 30 percent per month.

Gemba Software Solutions, another Saint John company, has found a range of customers for its product ProcedureFlow, which helps companies bring all employees up to speed on their processes. The company, which has a range of clients, is forecasting revenue growth of 300 percent next year and more than 200 percent in 2018.

Pacta, a Halifax company whose software monitor portfolios of contracts for large corporations, is gaining traction in its $15.9 billion market. It has signed a range of partnership and is raising $1 million, 60 percent of which is already committed. 

Itavio Enters Matter in Silicon Valley

Itavio, the Moncton startup that helps parents control how much money their children spend on online games, has been accepted into the prestigious Matter accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Itavio is the first Canadian company ever accepted into the accelerator, which teaches curriculum developed at Stanford University and works with such partners as the Google News Lab, the New York Times and the Associated Press.

Melani Flanagan and Matt Pichette, the co-founders of Itavio, arrived in the San Francisco area about a week ago to attend the one-week bootcamp for the accelerator. Matter on Thursday morning announced the 13 companies that will go through the program, which lasts until October.  

“This accelerator is an amazing connector,” said Flanagan in an interview from San Francisco on Thursday. “The people who we already met in our first week are pretty awe-inspiring.”

 Itavio allows parents to set limits for their children’s spending, almost like giving them a digital allowance. Parents can use the app not only to restrict spending but also to monitor how long a child is using the game.

Flanagan says the system helps game makers, who actually pay for the product. First, they don’t hear from infuriated parents whose kids have racked up a huge bill. And second, gaming companies using Itavio know how much money each customer has available to spend so they can market products to the child appropriate to their budget.

Itavio can also reduce a gaming company’s cost of hosting a young client and thereby improve the profitability of each game.

Flanagan said that Itavio applied to Matter because the company  is designed for technology media companies. She said the curriculum emphasizes the Stanford design principals, with a strong emphasis on the fast development, testing and failure of new features for each product.

Itavio in the past year has been beta-testing its product with a couple of early adopters, including Gogii Games of Moncton. Flanagan said it is now at the point at which it needs  to connect with more gaming companies to serve as early adopters for its product, and working in the Bay area should help meet this need.

“We could think of no one better to help with our out-reach and to build our message,” she said. “Being so much closer to our customers just makes so much sense. It’s that’s building of relationships that is so important when you’re starting out. That’s how you build technology.”

The two-year-old company, which is a graduate of the Propel ICT accelerator, raised about $275,000 in its first year, including an investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Itavio recently raised additional funding from NBIF, and received some investment on joining Matter. It is now hoping to raise another $250,000. 

The Farmers’ Truck Rolls into Moncton

Fred Laforge.

Fred Laforge.

After starting Moncton’s first farmers’ truck to sell local produce last year, Fred Laforge and his co-founder Mathieu Reyjal, are working out of Moncton’s Vennture Garage with the aim of franchising their idea.

The duo set up The Farmers’ Truck to sell a range of produce farmed within 160 kilometres of Moncton after realizing the difficulties farmers face in getting their products to market.

Farmers’ markets often have waiting lists of would-be vendors and big stores and chains require a large quantity of produce. 

A farmers’ truck could address those issues, decided Laforge who grew up on a New Brunswick farm, and Reyial, who turned to farming after becoming an engineer and gaining an MBA.  

“Most consumers choose local when it’s easy to do,” Laforge said. “It needs to be easy for both the consumer and the farmer.”

The Farmers’ Truck stops at seven locations around Moncton between June to October, and the number will soon rise to 13.

The partners have 25 suppliers and the number is growing. They have designed a new truck, to be unveiled in July, which holds more produce and allows clients to browse shelves as in a store. Refrigeration has been installed to hold meat and dairy.

The partners minimize waste by donating unsold good produce to the local food bank. 

“Such trucks are popular in Europe,” Laforge said. “Mathieu saw trucks like this in France, but they’re not as nice. We wanted to stay away from the greasy food truck image and have a higher- end feel so people would buy in confidence.”

Moncton's BFL Launches OceanSlim

The co-founders met at a startup event. At the time, Laforge owned an advertising agency and Reyial was thinking of opening a farm store in his barn.

“We discussed branding,” Laforge said. “I asked if a store is a good idea. Will people travel 40 minutes to go to a store? He needed to reach urban populations.”

Laforge said mobile food markets like theirs are usually in areas of poor food availability.

“Some non-profit groups bring in fresh vegetables and fruit to improve community health. We’re trying to encourage the local economy,” he said. “We could produce a white-label truck for non-profit use eventually.”

The partners are complementing the truck with an online store which is launching in central Moncton.

“The online store has the same variety as the truck and some more. It will continue throughout winter,” Laforge said.

The partners are currently working out of the Vennture Garage incubator space.

 “The Venn Garage has been critical,” Laforge said. “We’ve been getting advice from peers and mentors.”

 While he develops The Farmers’ Truck, Laforge is also working for a company called Dovico, which makes a time-tracking app. And he visits schools to spread awareness of drug addiction, which caused him to drop out of high school before seeking treatment.

“I was a drug addict, mostly pot, but I did everything I could get my hands on,” he said. “In schools, drugs are an epidemic. Parents need to know it can happen in any setting…Some parents can’t relate, but they need to try to understand.”

When he finished high school Laforge studied graphic design at College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick and started his own marketing company called Smithy Creative Group.

“We grew nicely and had big clients like Bell Aliant, Johnson Insurance, Irving Oil…I started working with startups and really fell in love with the community.” 

He ran his company for six years but had trouble scaling (growing) and decided to close.  

“The first thing I thought about with this new business was -- how do we scale?”

So far, the partners have funded The Farmers’ Truck themselves, but they will be looking to fundraise in the fall.

They want the idea to go Canada-wide, and believe franchisees will be tempted by the company’s custom-built trucks, knowledge and support.  

“We want to move fast,” Laforge said. "Being first to market is important." 

AVF Pitchers Highlight Initial Markets

If there is a theme developing in the pitches we’ve seen this week in Halifax, it is that East Coast startups are finding their paths to an initial market.

In the Propel Demo Day on Tuesday and the first day of the Atlantic Venture Forum on Wednesday, we’re seeing pitches that highlight sales or lay out (for the most part) credible plans on getting to market.

At its heart, the AVF is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region. And the underlying message in many of the meetings is that the founders have identified their first markets and know how to get to them.

“We’re looking at getting these products to market – one this year – and we want to move our research forward,” said Mary Lynch, the President of Halifax’s Panag Parma, which is developing cures for chronic pain.

Panag is developing three products, including some using compounds from marijuana, to cure pain. It received Health Canada approval for its first product the week and hope to launch it this year. Panag is in talk with a partner to handle distribution to retailers.

Several of the pitches by early stage companies on Wednesday stressed the work the companies have done to make inroads in their initial markets. Martin Greenwood, CEO of PhotoDynamic of Halifax, said his company will first tap the Canadian orthodontic community for its product, which kills plaque. This is a $60 million market for the company.

Propel To Create New Grow Program

Alastair Jarvis, the CEO of WoodsCamp of Mahone Bay, N.S., said the first market for his company’s online market place for timber is private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia. Essentially the company has to create an identifiable market so it is building up a network of woodlot owners. He added the company has been inundated with contacts this week due to recent media coverage of the company.

Milan Vrekic of Halifax-based Zora said landlords are already subscribing to his software that helps in screening tenants, and the company already has $16,000 in monthly recurring revenue.

Some of the investors providing feedback on the pitches criticized the founders for dwelling too much on the initial market and not giving a broad enough picture of the total addressable market that can be tackled.

Most of the entrepreneurs responded by describing large markets, but emphasized that they are now focused on attacking that first beachhead.

The material that the presenting companies have submitted to the AVF organizers shows how the founders expect these early sales campaigns to go. All but one of the early-stage companies had no income last year. However, five of the seven are expecting traction this year totaling $1.3 million in revenue.

The seven growth-stage companies that will present today demonstrate how startup revenues can grow once sales begin. Only one of these companies had six figures of sales in 2014, but in 2015 all but one had sales, and for the group they totaled $830,000. Collectively, they expect revenues to increase almost fourfold in 2016 to $3.1 million. 

Resson’s $14M Round Led by Monsanto

Rishin Behl, left,  and Peter Goggin

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin

In a landmark venture capital funding, Fredericton agriculture technology company Resson has raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.

Resson said in a statement today that the investment was led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant that is best known for its genetically modified foods. Monsanto is a new investor in the company, as is McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past two years.

The other investors in the Series B round are returning investors that participated in the $3 million Series A round in 2014. They include Build Ventures, Rho Canada Ventures, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and East Valley Ventures.

Resson also said that Jeff Grammer, a partner at Rho Canada Ventures, will become the executive chairman of the company. Peter Goggin, who had been the CEO, will move to VP of Operations.

Resson’s funding marks one of the largest venture capital investments ever in Atlantic Canada, and lends credence to claims that American institutions are beginning to take an interest in some of the region’s startups. The investment by the McCain group is also significant because it marks a strong investment by a local blue chip company that served as the startup’s early adopter.

“This is an example of what can happen when things come together properly,” East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond, one of the investors, said in an interview. “You’ve got smart young people not long out of university and they hooked up with a great early adopter. And the space they’re working in is hot.”

Mariner Grows with Shift Energy Buy

Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl established the company three years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

Their breakthrough came when they signed up McCain as their first customer and were able to improve the yield of the company’s potato crop. The company booked revenues of almost US$1 million in 2015 and Goggin hopes it will triple that number this year.

“We have worked with Resson from the earliest days of the company and have seen the tremendous potential to improve our operations by using their predictive analytics technology,” said Dirk Van de Put, President and CEO of McCain Foods. “We continue to work with Resson towards the implementation of their breakthrough technology and are excited by the prospects it brings to the community of potato professionals.”

There are many companies using data to improve agriculture by assessing a crop’s variation from what’s known as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. But Resson has moved beyond that to diagnose problems that can be corrected immediately.

 “We envision this impressive data-driven technology helping to improve yields, while reducing costs across a number of crops and cropping systems,” said Ryan Rakestraw, Venture Principal at Monsanto Growth Ventures. “We’re looking forward to working closely with Resson as its team continues to develop a predictive solution that could benefit the entire global agriculture industry.”

Goggin said in an interview the company plans to double its staff to about 45 people by early next year. Resson will continue to be headquartered in Fredericton, and will open an office in San Jose, Calif.

“Monsanto is one of the world’s top agriculture companies and its support will help us continue to develop a product that helps large and small farms improve crop production,” said Grammer in a statement.

Propel To Create New Grow Program

Six companies from the Propel ICT Build Program displayed last night the budding revenue streams that place them in the top tier of the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator – at least, for now.

Up until now, Propel has been divided into two programs – Build for more advanced companies and Launch for seed stage startups. And six Build companies last night made their case for investment by laying out their path to market and telling of the revenue they had already captured.

But Propel also announced that soon there will be a third layer in its programing. Propel Chair Dave Grebenc said the accelerator by year-end will launch its new Grow program for its alumni and other late-stage companies. It is designed to help the burgeoning number of mature companies develop from startups into corporations that are attracting global clients.

But on Tuesday night, the focus was on the Build Program and the six companies that had just completed it.

Read our recent coverage of these Build Program grads:

WoodsCamp Aims To Disrupt Timber Industry

Onset Communication To Improve Film Set Efficiency

Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports

Fredericton-based TotalPave exemplified the messages by showing traction and an acceptance by investors.  TotalPave, which won New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition in 2013, has developed a smartphone app that helps municipalities and their contractors test road surfaces at a fraction of the current cost. The goal is to identify small cracks, which are cheap to mend, before they become more expensive potholes.

“What we’ve got is technology that allows municipal engineers to collect this vital data at 15 times less money than the industry standard,” said CEO Coady Cameron, who founded the company with his brother Drew.

TotalPave is now being used by four Atlantic Canadian municipalities. The company now has $16,000 in annual recurring revenue, or ARR, and is on track to raise it to $250,000 by the end of the year. TotalPave is now raising $500,000 and has already lined up $150,000 from a lead investor.  

Another Fredericton company, WellTrack, is raising $1 million. The company, which went through a previous Propel accelerator in 2012, has developed software that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

COO Natasha O’Brien explained that the company has recently gained customers by tracking universities, where 45 percent of students experience depression at some point. Because of depression, about 20 percent of first year students drop out, costing Canadian universities about $14 million a year. WellTrack now has $260,000 in AAR and is on track to reach $1 million by year-end.

Garago of Moncton has developed software that simplifies the grant application process, both for the applicant and the organization issuing the grant. The company, which is looking for $500,000 in funding, can help the applicant find the right grants, complete the application and track it. CEO Francis Thériault said the company has two price levels, including a more advanced product for the enterprise market.  The product has already been used by 300 schools and by Canadian Tire, and it helped the New Brunswick government save $90,000.

In his speech, Grebenc said Propel will continue to evolve by offering virtual mentorship sessions to reduce the travel of its far-flung members. These livestreamed sessions would complement in-person meetings to retain the program’s community spirit.

By offering remote programing, Propel will be able to offer cohorts for companies in similar fields but based in different cities, thereby enhancing the benefits to the mentees.

Propel is now accepting applications to its next cohort. The applications are open until July 22.

8 Launch Startups Pitch at Demo Day

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald of Swell Advantage

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald of Swell Advantage

Eight companies from the Propel ICT Launch program pitched at Demo Day today Tuesday night, seeking in total investment of more than $3 million.

The companies – two from each Atlantic Province -- entered the program at an early stage less four months ago, and displayed in their pitches their paths to their markets.

The companies are:

Airbly

Argyle Shore, P.E.I.

Led by Chris VanHorn, Airbly has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the plane’s flight log. The company, which already has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out logs by hand. Airbly, which is presenting at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin this summer, is looking for $250,000 in investment.

Empowered Homes

St. John’s

Empowered Homes is dedicated to lowering energy consumption in the 15 million homes in North America that have multi-zone heating systems. These systems place thermostats throughout the home, and are too complicated to allow smart thermostat to run off the homeowner’s cell phone. Empowered Homes is developing Mysa, which places a hub adjacent to the family’s electrical panel. The hub communicates with thermostats throughout the house and the homeowner’s smart phone. The company is planning to a Kickstarter campaign next February.

Mighty Pebble Games

Charlottetown

Mighty Pebble is a video game studio whose first game is called Miner Meltdown.  The 2D game takes place inside a mine, in which teams have to find gold so they can buy better weapons to use on the other team. The game, to be played on PCs or Macs, is scheduled to be released on the prestigious Steam market in February, 2017. Mighty Pebble is hoping to raise $350,000 to $500,000.

ReadyPass

Fredericton

ReadyPass calls itself the smart bus upgrade every transit agency deserves—including accurate GPS tracking, clear routing, and simple e-ticketing. The company is creating smart and simple transit systems by tracking buses, ridership and client satisfaction, and presenting the data analytics to the transit agency. The company is now undertaking a pilot project in Fredericton and will soon do a project in Cape Breton. The company is trying to raise $400,000.

SEAformatics

St. John’s

Seaformatics Systems is an ocean technology company that is set to revolutionize the ocean monitoring industry. It makes products that harvest power from ocean currents and communicates them wirelessly, thus providing reduced costs and risk for monitoring of oceans and waterways. Traditionally, boats must be used to change batteries on and download data from ocean sensors at great cost. SEAformatics’ patented technology uses a subsurface turbine that harvests power from ultra-low-speed ocean currents. The systems also enables real-time data communications so that data is immediately available. SEAformatics is seeking $750,000.

Shed

Halifax and Moncton

Shed is an on-demand household services platform, which means people can use the website to contact a range of service-providers to, for example, shovel snow, mow lawns or do home repairs. The company began last winter in Moncton with a snow removal function. It is now targeting three cities with 20 service providers. The site is designed with ease-of-use in mind, so homeowners can find a service provider within three minutes, seeing the price and customer reviews. Shed is hoping to raise $650,000.

Swell Advantage Ltd.

Halifax

Swell bills itself as AirBnB for moorings, docks and wharves. The company is developing an app that allows people with docks or mooring sites to connect with boaters looking to tie up their boat for a short period. CEO Iaian Archibald said the company will run a trial with the product with Waterfront Development Corporation in Halifax this weeks. It will also be used at six moorings and boat clubs within two weeks. In the winter, he plans to work with the product in the southern U.S. Whereas some competitors target major yacht clubs, Swell plans to work with small- and medium-sized locations.  The company is seeking $200,000 in investment.

Yimbie

Saint John

Yimbie helps local merchants communicate with their ideal customers when they are only steps away and most receptive. For the end-user, information is live and intelligent as Yimbie matches user preferences with merchant products/services within communities. The company is now raising $500,000.

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market

The thing to consider about WoodsCamp isn’t its pedigree, its potential social impact or its business case.

They’re impressive, but the highlight of this young Mahone Bay startup is its ambition.

Founded by Will Martin and Alastair Jarvis, WoodsCamp aims to revolutionize the way timber is harvested in private woodlots. Within 10 years, it hopes to be the world’s leading manager of timber.

That title now belongs to Weyerhaeuser Co. of Washington State, which now records about US$7 billion in annual revenue.

Martin and Jarvis are planning something big.

“If we get the momentum, and we create value for landowners, loggers and mill owners, we can scale it to regions all over the world and it’s conceivable we can be the largest manager of timber in the world,” said Jarvis, whose last startup was the gaming company Orpheus Interactive.

He teamed up with Martin, who recently stepped down as president of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association, to develop an online tool that could correct what’s wrong with the province’s woodlots. If successful, the platform should work in other jurisdictions.

Read our Coverage of Another Propel Pitcher, Onset Communication.

The timber industry is extremely complicated. Sixty per cent of Nova Scotia’s woodland is privately owned — often by families whose older members have managed them through decades-old relationships. But the lands are passing down to younger, more urbanized generations who lack the knowledge or relationships to manage the lands. They worry that harvesting their forests will simply lead to clear-cutting, so many decide to do nothing.

The industry also features an interdependent web of woodlot owners, loggers, forestry technicians, truckers and two types of mills (pulp and saw). The goal of WoodCamp is to give all these players data to improve efficiency throughout the supply chain.

The main WoodsCamp product for landowners uses open data available from the provincial government to quickly tell owners what is growing on their property. This open data, gained by remote sensors, represent a digital catalogue of what trees grow across the province. WoodsCamp ascribes a score to each lot to assess the value of its contents. That means owners selling their timber have an idea of the value, even if they live thousands of miles from the woodlot.

If they sell timber through WoodsCamp, the company gets a cut.

The website also offers a product calls Load Tracker, which helps to track shipments to the mill.

WoodsCamp, which will pitch in Halifax this week at both the Propel ICT Demo Day and the Atlantic Venture Forum, launched the product a month ago and the owners of about one per cent of private Nova Scotia woodlots have already used it.

Jarvis and Martin, who are in the process of raising a round of funding with a $550,000, now aim to build up a meaningful base of owners, then move on to loggers and mill owners.

This is an ethical business because it is a rural company that aims to help families retain their woodlots and manage and harvest them responsibly.

“We’re doing this because we want the industry to be successful in the long term,” said Martin. “Up to now, the option that people feel they have had is to clear-cut or do nothing. There is now another option out there and that is to increase the value of that resource over time.”

Your Guide to Pitchers at Propel, AVF

In the next three days, 26 Atlantic Canadian startups will pitch publicly in Halifax, and we’d like to help people learn more about them.

The Propel ICT Demo Day at Neptune Theatre tonight, and the Atlantic Venture Forum at the Nova Scotian Westin Wednesday and Thursday both feature pitches by 14 companies from around the region. Two companies, Airbly of Argyle Shore, P.E.I., and WoodsCamp of Mahone Bay, N.S., are pitching at both events.

We have covered most of the companies previously. So here are links to previous Entrevestor articles on the presenting companies. We hope this will help anyone viewing the presentations learn more about the companies they’re interested in.

Here is a complete list of the presenting companies, their links and our previous articles on them:

Propel ICT

Build Cohort:

Onset Communication, Charlottetown:

Onset To Improve Film Crew Efficiency, June 2016

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

Garago Software, Moncton: No previous coverage.

Repable: Moncton and Toronto:

Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports, April 2016

TotalPave, Fredericton:

TotalPave Advances After Breakthru Win, July 2014

TotalPave Wins NBIF's Breakthru Prize, March 2013

TotalPave To Improve Road Testing, January, 2013

WellTrack, Fredericton (Formerly called CyberPsyc):

CyberPsyc Breaks Into US Market, May 2015

CyberPsyc Moving Ahead After Pivot, July 2014

CyberPsyc Funding Aids 2 Products, March 2012

WoodsCamp, Mahone Bay, N.S.:

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market, June 2016

Propel ICT Demo Day

Launch Cohort

Airbly, Argyle Shore, P.E.I.:

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

Empowered Homes, St. John’s: No previous coverage.

Mighty Pebble Games, Charlottetown:

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

ReadyPass, Fredericton: No previous coverage.

SEAformatics, St. John’s: No previous coverage. 

SHED, Halifax and Moncton:

Propel's Local Demo Day in Halifax, June 2016

Swell Advantage, Halifax: 

Propel's Local Demo Day in Halifax, June 2016

Swell Advantage Set To Launch, May 2015 (The company has since pivoted)

Yimbie, Saint John: No previous coverage.

Atlantic Venture Forum

Early Stage

Airbly, Charlottetown: See above

DMF Medical Inc., Halifax:

Boyd's OccluRad Wins BioPort Event, September 2011

Panag Pharma Inc., Halifax : No previous coverage.

Photodynamic Inc., Mount Uniacke, NS (Previously called Fenol Farm):

Aiding Dentists with NS Plant Extracts,February 2014

Site 2020, Halifax: No previous coverage

Woods Camp, Mahone Bay, NS: See above

Zora, Las Vegas and Halifax:

Innovacorp Award $850K in I-3 Prizes, January 2016

Vrekic Launches Platform for Landlords, July 2015

Growth Stage

4-Deep Inwater Imaging, Halifax (Previously called Resolution Optics):

4-Deep Raises $500K from Bosma, November 2015

Resolution Adds Products, Targets Asia, January 2014

Resolution to Ink China Deal, January 2013

Athletigen, Halifax:

Athletigen Raises US$1.55M in VC, January 2016

Athletigen's Gene Analysis for Athletes, October 2014

Fundmetric, Halifax:

Fundmetric Lands Clients in NYC, March 2016

Fundmetric Lands BDC Investment, January 2015

Mark Hobbs' Mission to Aid Charities, November 2014

Charities Knocking on Mundmetric's Door, April 2014

Gemba Software Solutions, Saint John:

NBIF, Innovatia Put $1.5M into Gemba, September 2015

HeyOrca!, St. John’s:

HeyOrca! Adds Staff After Funding, February 2016

Build Pitchers Highlight Sales, September 2015

HeyOrca! Travels To Gain Mentorship, June 2015

NB BioMatrix, Saint John:

NB BioMatric Wins BioPort's BIC, October 2014

PACTA, Halifax:

PACTA Pitches at Google Demo Day, April 2016

PACTA Wins Fundica Roadsow, March 2016

HotSpot, PACTA Win AVF Honours, June 2015

PACTA: Idea to Beta in Six Months, November 2014

25 Named to Fierce Founders Bootcamp

(Photo: Communitech/Matthew Smith)

(Photo: Communitech/Matthew Smith)

Communitech has announced the 25 teams that will participate in this summer’s Fierce Founders Bootcamp, an entrepreneurship program for female-led startups.

The founders will complete the first phase of programming at the Communitech Hub July 19-21, then return to the Hub on August 23-25 to wrap up the program.

During the first three days of the bootcamp, founders will participate in classes on personal branding, customer validation and personas, and venture capital panel with Janet Bannister from Real Ventures.

When they return in August, they’ll take part in pitch practice, one-on-one meetings with venture capitalists, and user experience and graphic design workshops.

The teams will pitch their startups to a panel of industry experts on Aug. 25. The three top winners will divide $100,000 in prizes.

The 25 startups in Fierce Founders this year are:

Think Dirty

Eye Check

Hacktivision

The Dialogue Exchange

Acorn Cryotech

BridesMade

Navi

Pression Inc.

Acerta

Myeffect

Braze Mobility

Oneiric

The Mod Market

Snappy App

Tranqool

Brizi Cam

Neurescence

Comfable

UCIC

Borealis Wind

Henosis

Brownie Points

Ambience Data

Emmetros

SafeSump Inc.

VidCruiter Aims to Triple Sales in 2016

Sean Fahey is keeping some impressive company today.

The Founder and CEO of Moncton-based HR software maker VidCruiter is in Washington, D.C., where he is attending the Select USA conference. He’s been meeting with the American ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, and later in the day will hear a keynote address by President Barack Obama.

It’s interesting that Fahey is visiting the American capital because he’s a student of business processes and strategy who has learned a lot from observing how they do things in the States. It’s one reason VidCruiter is now doubling annual revenue and hoping to triple it.

“I’m sort of panicking because our revenues are only doubling every year,” he said in an interview last week, adding that “panicking” may be overstating the case. “The standard in Silicon Valley is tripling and that is what we’re working toward.”

I last interviewed Fahey in early 2013, when he was about to attend the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Silicon Valley. I contacted him Friday to discuss his trip to Washington, which came about after he met Heyman at a New Brunswick Export Awards ceremony. Before long he steered our conversation to Entrevestor’s recent report on gazelles, which we defined as companies with at least $100,000 in revenue, gaining 20 percent annually over four years.

Twenty percent, said Fahey, simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s climate.

Fahey said that Silicon Valley investors are only interested in companies that are tripling revenues. VidCruiter has never taken on VC investment, though it has raised more than $1 million in its history. Yet the company aims for that Silicon Valley standard. It’s a philosophy that has brought it a strong client base, including ten Fortune 500 customers.

Qimple Raises $1.1M Funding Round

VidCruiter started in 2009 by producing a tool that recruiters could use to conduct interviews online to streamline the hiring process. Fahey describes it as a part-time project in the early days, then in 2012 he and his team rebuilt the platform, which they launched a year later. “We set out to build a n automated hiring system but video is a core component of that,” said Fahey.

VidCruiter still has the video interview system, but it now combines it with an applicant-tracking system and other features that help to simplify workflow for recruiters. It’s a crowded field as there are about 1,000 competitors in applicant tracking, and about 80 in video-interviewing. He added that VidCruiter is probably in the top three or four providers of the video-interviewing application.

The product is gaining acceptance and the VidCruiter website lists such clients as General Motors, Groupon and Tufts Medical Centre.

“We’re getting more and more people contacting us,” said Fahey. “We’re breaking records with new clients. … and revenues are increasing all the time.”

Right now, Fahey is hoping revenues in 2016 will triple those of 2015. But he admits that is difficult in Atlantic Canada of the challenges in raising the multi-million-dollar funding rounds needed to fund big sales teams.  So East Coast Canadian companies have to be creative in growing sales.

“You can’t do it the same way that they’re doing it [in Silicon Valley] so you have to be thinking outside the box on how to do it,” said Fahey. “It’s all about distribution. You have to form distribution channels with the right partners.”

Jobs of the Week: Celtx, KDP, Dynagen

Two sales and/or marketing positions and an opening for a full stack IoT developer headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Our offerings this week are located across the region. In St. John’s, Celtx, which makes software for the film industry, has an opening for an independent and energetic person as Vice-President of sales. Dynagen, which makes controllers to automatically start, monitor, and protect industrial engines and generators, is looking for a full stack Internet of Things developer in Dartmouth.  And in Montague, P.E.I., KDP Online is looking for a head of sales and marketing for its business, which focuses on improving food safety audits.

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

St. John’s

Celtx

VP Sales

Celtx is looking for a head of sales to ramp up its B2B sales. The focus is to develop and implement a sales process for the company’s enterprise and SMB markets. Celtx wants someone who will “build a sales machine”. He or she will create a repeatable sales process to address the large number of organic inbound enterprise and SMB leads the company already enjoys. This person must conduct discovery meetings with potential clients to understand their workflow, roles, software tools used and technology gaps. Celtx is looking for someone with a successful track record in B2B sales and an understanding of common marketing technology.

Dartmouth

Dynagen

Full Stack IoT Developer

The company is seeking a passionate builder of new applications using next generation technologies in the Internet of Things. This is a unique challenge as the successful candidate will be the main driver in developing an exciting new web application to remotely manage industrial machinery over the web. He or she will have the opportunity to work closely with Dynagen’s controls engineering experts to deeply understand customer requirements and constraints to design a customizable system with friendly user interfaces. Dynagen is looking for someone with capabilities in Websocket, HTTP, TCP/IP protocols, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, Wireless, and IOT. A knowledge of embedded systems, microcontrollers, and wireless would be considered an asset.

Montague, P.E.I.

KDP Online

Marketing and Sales Coordinator

The successful applicant will coordinate day-to-day marketing, sales and communication responsibilities and support the KDP management team.  Besides working with a collection of talented colleagues, the sales and marketing coordinator will be involved in developing an international company scaling to a SaaS platform that will test his or her skills and abilities as a professional. The key responsibilities include overseeing sales and marketing projects, messaging and creating social media campaigns.  KDP Online is looking for a graduate in the past five years from a recognized institution in Journalism, English, Marketing, Communications, Business, or a related field. The applicant should have a basic understanding of sales and marketing tools and techniques. Some experience in in sales, marketing, or marketing administration is strongly preferred.

Alex Gillis and the Wisdom of Youth

Alex Gillis with the King of the Selfies.

Alex Gillis with the King of the Selfies.

Young entrepreneur Alex Gillis was keen to share his views on education with the Prime Minister when they met earlier this month.

Gillis was one of eight young Canadians, (Halifax-based Sage Franch was another) to be invited to meet the PM to discuss how education has fueled their success.  

“I told the PM there isn’t enough creativity in our school curricula,” said Gillis, who two years ago co-founded Bitness, a retail-focused location analytics product that allows stores to monitor customer traffic. Bitness uses devices called Bitness Beacons to track where, when and how long customers are in a store. 

“Students try to fit the mould, and simply receive good marks to impress universities,” Gillis said. “I told Trudeau that a lot of people are missing out on developing their interests. There needs to be more opportunities for expressing yourself.” 

Trudeau agreed. He told Gillis, who has recently graduated from the Sacred Heart School in Halifax, a story about when he was training to be a teacher. 

Apparently, one of Trudeau’s professors said that if you ask a primary class which of them are artists, the little ones all raise their hands. But by Grade 10, maybe one girl at the back of the class will admit to being an artist. Unless they are professionals, kids learn to be shy of their creativity.

Gillis has learned how to fill the gaps in conventional schooling. In Grade 12, he worked with Sacred Heart to add an experiential learning program to their curriculum, which meant students could receive academic credits for work such as starting a business. 

He and his technical co-founder on Bitness, Aristides Milios, a fellow student, worked with the school to develop the program.

Gillis got going as an entrepreneur after he won a hackathon at Halifax startup house, Volta Labs, in January 2014. Wanting to see more youth enter the business and technology space, he partnered with Volta’s Melody Pardoe to create Hoist Halifax, which offers free monthly workshops to teens. 

He was named Startup Canada’s Atlantic and national Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015. 

Gillis, who was born in Toronto but has grown up in Halifax, has recently been awarded a $100,000 Loran Scholarship, and will soon begin studying business at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he may set up another Hoist program. 

Milios will remain in Halifax to study computer science at Dalhousie University. 

Gillis said he and Milios intend to keep developing their business.   

“We have an aggressive plan for sales and development for the coming months,” he said. 

“We will have a co-founder on each coast. We also have team members on the west coast, in Halifax and in the Toronto-Waterloo area. Being on the west coast will be good strategically…There’s a lot of money on the west coast. 

 “I’m hoping my move will offer me real experience and increased networking opportunities. I’ve been taking the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach until now.”

Gillis said he always enjoyed math, coding and robotics. His interest in entrepreneurship was sparked by a video game in which the player runs an arcade and has to manage supply and demand. 

He credits the mentoring he has received in Atlantic Canada with helping him on his way. His mentors include well-known lights in the local startup community, such as Patrick Hankinson, previously of Compilr, Gillian McCrae of Propel ICT, Melody Pardoe of Volta Labs and Ying Tam, currently head of the Digital Health Cluster at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. 

Gillis doesn’t think boosting creativity in schools is an easy fix. But he said mentors are accepting of younger faces in the local business community, and innovations like the experiential learning program at Sacred Heart help.   

“There isn’t one solution to this problem, but I hope people see Trudeau as an innovative leader,” he said. “I hope people will take that image and wonder how they can be innovative and drive change themselves.”

Nature’s Way Applauded by BioNova

BioNova, the Nova Scotian life sciences industry association, has chosen Nature’s Way’s acquisition of Ascenta Health as its good news story of the past year.

The association last night held its annual Good News and Blues festivity – a chance to celebrate a good news story in the biotech sphere, and listen to blues played by members of the life sciences community. And it announced the best news of the past 12 months.

Dartmouth-based Ascenta Health, whose NutraSea brand of nutritional products are made naturally from omega-3 fatty acids, said last May it had been bought by Nature’s Way, an affiliate of Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany. Nature’s Way, a global natural health leader, decided to make Halifax its Canadian headquarters after the acquisition.

Ascenta Founder and CEO Marc St-Onge retained the ownership of Ascenta Skin, the company’s newly developed high-end skincare brand. Though the financial details of the sale to Nature’s Way were not disclosed, St-Onge said there was no earn-out, and he was free to develop Ascenta Skin as a new business. It is now known as Bend Beauty

“We are thrilled to be recognized as such a positive story in the region,” said Steve Chiasson, Vice President and General Manager at Nature’s Way Canada.  “We have spent a great deal of time over the past year building a team, strengthening our brands, and expanding our infrastructure to facilitate long-term growth for our business in Canada,”

BioNova said in a statement the availability of a talented workforce, universities and a strong research support system were deciding factors for Nature’s Way. The transition was made easier with the support of Ascenta’s existing team.

“This acquisition validates what we believe – we have the ability to compete on a global scale and be home to high-value companies that are making a global impact. Attracting companies like Nature’s Way is something to be celebrated and embraced,” said BioNova’s Managing Director Scott Moffitt.

Qimple Raises $1.1M, Led by NBIF

Yves Boudreau: Approaching $1 million in revenue.

Yves Boudreau: Approaching $1 million in revenue.

Moncton-based Qimple, whose software helps companies recruit talent, has raised a $1.1 million round of seed capital from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Toronto-based Green Century Investment.

The funding means the two-year-old company, which last year attended the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley, has raised a total of $1.6 million. Having launched its product last year, Qimple has brought in almost $1 million in revenue since its inception and has doubled its team to 12 people in the past three months.

The Qimple funding comes at a time when more and more growth-stage startups in Atlantic Canada are raising seven-figure funding rounds, often backed from investors outside the region. Qimple is the 10th company from the region this year to announce a raise of $1 million or more, and the fifth to attract investment from outside investors.

Stating its mission is to humanize online hiring, Qimple said it will use the funds to grow its team and further break-down the barriers associated with online hiring practices.

“Qimple understands the issues with online hiring and knows exactly what needs to happen to make it a better experience,” said Co-Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau in a statement. “The team respects that job searching can be a very emotional experience with feelings of stress, frustration and sadness.”

Eigen Raises $1.4M, Names New CEO 

The Qimple statement noted that 54 percent of unemployed people in the U.S., according to Gallop, feel they are struggling with the stress of having an uncertain future. Qimple aims to ease that anxiety by developing software that helps through the job search.

“Our platform boosts job-seeker self-esteem and we’re proud to say that we receive daily positive feedback from job seekers on how rewarding and empowering the application experience is for them,” said Boudreau. “Job seekers who are upbeat and optimistic perform better in interviews [and] are more likely to …  enter jobs ready to help their teams succeed.”

The product launched in 2015 is a quick and simple hiring solution. Today, the company has been strategically evolving away from traditional online hiring practices into a more comprehensive approach with a personal touch.

Qimple also operates several job boards, including the Entrevestor Job Board.

Qimple said it will soon launch the world’s first Resume Snapshot tool in an applicant tracking system to further help hiring managers find the best candidates.

Build, NBIF Invest $1.8M in Fiddlehead

“We first invested $100,000 in Qimple two years ago as a startup—before they launched and started raising capital,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement. “Now that they’ve launched their product and are showing good market adoption, we’re helping them to go from a start-up company to a scale-up company and accelerate their growth.”

Qimple’s newest investor is Green Century Investment, a Canadian private equity and venture capital investment company that looks to add value when investing in technology and innovation, real estate and alternative energy.

“Qimple’s mission stems from their deep-rooted company culture of constant learning, open-mindedness and collaboration,” said Green Century Principal Larry Yiu in the statement. “Yves is building a great team that will be a core part of Green Century’s portfolio of companies.”

Halifax Startup Group on Facebook

Mike Cyr

Mike Cyr

There’s a new social media platform to connect entrepreneurial Haligonians, and it uses that most ubiquitous of all networking sites, Facebook.

St. Mary’s University student Mike Cyr created a group on Facebook called the Halifax Startup Community on Friday and as of Wednesday it already had 160 members. You can find it here. In true Facebook fashion, it is a place where members can post articles, videos and other content and have a discussion about what’s going on in entrepreneurship in Halifax.

On a local level, it resembles the Startup North group on Facebook. Founded by Halifax’s Jevon MacDonald and David Crow, one of the partners in the Atlantic region mentorship group TheNextPhase, Startup North is an online meeting place for Canadian startups, and the discussions among entrepreneurs from across the country take place in its Facebook group.

The Halifax Startup Community is already becoming an online chat room for the city’s entrepreneurial community.

“After the first day, we had just shy of 100 members join the group and engage with like-minded individuals,” said Cyr, who is entering fourth year of university with a major in marketing and entrepreneurship. “That number has continued to grow since.”

Affinio, Kinduct Kill It With Pitches

Cyr wants the community to be a broad group so the membership is not restricted to the founders of tech startups. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship is welcome to join and participate in conversations. It could be people who have started businesses or those who are interested in working for or with a young venture.

On Tuesday, for example, Stephanie MacDonald, who owns Halifax Paper Hearts, posted to tell people about her note card business. She also told the community about an organization she co-founded, 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$, a micro-funding platform for youth ventures. Sixty-nine people saw the item.

An hour later, the Volta startup house posted a notice that it is hosting a pitching competition on Wednesday, June 22.

“I refer to it now as almost a matchmaker for professionals,” said Cyr. “We’ve seen some great connections take place and people aligning strategic hires for their startups.”

Cyr said there are a lot of people who are of the entrepreneurial mindset but don’t have their own business. The Halifax Startup Community is a place where they can join discussions, get to know what’s going on and get to know people with similar interests. By placing it in Facebook, he’s chosen a site with a high level of user acceptance — hence, the quick take-up of the group.

Cyr himself is entrepreneurial by nature. He runs Scotian Sails, which imports sails and sells them to Atlantic Canadian boat owners. And he previously was a member of a team of SMU students that developed an event discovery platform. He’s focusing now on graduating in 2017 and then possibly another venture. And he plans to use the Halifax Startup Community group on Facebook to help get it off the ground.

“This will be a great resource to meet different people and get involved with their groups,” said Cyr. “You’d be surprised how much you can actually present yourself to people through this group.”

Briefs: Sequence, VidSnippets, Volta

Tyler Wish named a Canadian Innovation Leader

Tyler Wish, the co-founder and CEO of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, has been named one of 10 Innovation Leaders by Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Bains announced the 10-member panel on Wednesday while outlining his department’s innovation policies. These policies aim to foster science, entrepreneurship, creativity with a special emphasis on digital and clean technologies.

Bains said in a statement he will spend the summer holding public consultations on innovation that will result in a national action plan.

Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease. It recently signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank to study colon cancer.

Before Sequence, Wish was founder and president of Research Avenue, a niche contract research company that provided outsourced development services to health care and life-sciences companies.

VidSnippets releases its first product

Halifax-based VidSnippets has released its first product, VidSnippets Web.

VidSnippets Web is a B2B solution that helps content publishers, marketers and others to select segments of a video to attract interest with a short clip. By flagging the choice portions, marketers and content providers can draw more traffic to their videos, which are the fastest-growing medium on the internet.

VidSnippets has designed the product for ease of use, so organizations can avoid extensive training. You can see the demo here.

“Our product can help you provide a more interactive viewing experience, while still allowing your visitors greater control over what content they watch and when they will watch it,” said Co-Founder and CEO Paul Farmer in a statement.

VidSnippets is now offering potential customers 14 days of free trails with VidSnippets Web with no obligation to take the product after the trial. 

Volta to host pitching competition

Volta, the Halifax startup house, will hold a pitching competition for Nova Scotia tech companies on Wednesday, June 22, starting at noon.

The competition, which will be held at the Volta offices at 1505 Barrington Street, will feature five-minute pitches that will be judged on their quality and content.

 “This is an opportunity to practice your pitch and get feedback from peers and industry professionals,” said Volta in a statement. “The goal of these competitions is to give you more experience pitching to investors and potential early adopters.  Each competition will have a panel consisting of entrepreneurs, potential investors and community leaders.”

The winners will receive a gift card, trophy and have their photo on the "Pitch Wall of Fame" board in Volta’s Event Space. You can sign up here

Mariner Grows With Shift Energy Buy

Curtis Howe: 'One of the world's best talent pools in internet video.'

Curtis Howe: 'One of the world's best talent pools in internet video.'

Last autumn, Mariner Partners concluded a sizeable transaction the way it does much of its business – quietly.

The Saint John technology conglomerate works with a host of startups, and one that captured a lot of its attention was Shift Energy, an Industrial Internet of Things concern that provides automated energy controls to large facilities. Mariner and several of its principals had great faith in Shift’s technology, so they sank both time and money into the company despite several setbacks. Then last fall, they decided to buy the company outright and make it a wholly owned subsidiary of Mariner Partners.

“This year, we began to get traction with the owners and operators of large buildings who are taking the lead in sustainability and energy efficiency” said Mariner CEO Curtis Howe. “This is a market measured in billions, so it is a really significant opportunity. We’ve learned enough about the business that we really believe we can move it forward.”

The Shift acquisition transitioned the entire Mariner group. Emerging from the deal, Mariner has four main business divisions, one of which is Shift Energy. Shift has the potential to generate significant revenues for the group, said Howe, and this can be done partly by selling to existing Mariner customers. As a developer of IIoT technology, it’s active in a hot, hot space, with companies such as Cisco, IBM, and General Electric increasingly involved in the IIoT segment. And the investment in Shift represented a substantial amount of money.

“It was a lot,” said Howe with a laugh. “More than I ever thought we’d invest in a startup.”

Read Our Entrevestor Intelligence Report, which Showcases Scaling Startups

Here’s one interesting thing about this transformative deal: it was carried out with no fanfare. There was no announcement that this startup was now a unit of one of the most powerful tech companies in Atlantic Canada. There was merely a redesign of the Mariner website to show that Shift was now one of the principal operating units.

Interesting, but not surprising.

Mariner should be far better known than it is in Atlantic Canada and across the country. It had revenues in each of the past two years of more than $25 million (growth was stunted in 2015 because it had clients in the Alberta oil patch). It offers world-leading video streaming technology, and its portfolio of startups represents untold potential. Its executives, some of them veterans of New Brunswick Tel, were the driving force behind Propel ICT, the regional accelerator.

What’s more, the company’s chairman and co-founder is probably the best known member of the Atlantic Canadian startup grouping. Gerry Pond, the former head of New Brunswick Tel, has been celebrated across the country for his contributions to startups and technology. He is the face of Mariner, and is better known than the company itself.

“It would be difficult to overstate the impact Mariner has had in the regional ecosystem,” said Doug Robertson, President and CEO of the Venn Centre in Moncton.  “Building on the transformative innovations that characterized their days at NBTel, Gerry Pond and his colleagues have played a significant leadership and catalytic role, from initiatives like Propel in its various iterations to investment in and mentorship of so many dynamic IT companies, to policy and thought leadership both provincially and regionally. The positive impact of Mariner’s contribution will be felt across the region for many years to come.”

A close examination of Mariner’s four divisions shows why it should be considered the most influential company in the East Coast tech community.

Mariner xVu

Mariner xVu (pronounced “X-View”) is an analytics system that allows online video content providers to identify and correct problems with Internet video delivery systems.

“The internet wasn’t built to deliver video”, said Howe. “And the pieces bolted on to support video are quite sophisticated. When they don’t work properly, it’s really hard to figure out what went wrong.”

Mariner xVu can figure out what went wrong even when the issue is hidden deep in the largest systems. It’s a difficult task because online video delivery – which has grown even more complicated with the advent of mobile video – involves different components based in different places. In fact, the xVu software now searches out issues in more than 135 billion video network transactions annually. Howe calls it “finding a needle in a continental haystack.”

It’s an attractive business because video is by far the fastest growing segment of the internet and that growth is nowhere near reaching a plateau. We’ll see that growing strongly for the next few years,” said Howe.

Mariner Innovations

This is a consultancy business that specializes in application modernization and IT professional services. It helps corporations and other organizations solve IT problems. It has strong client relationships in Atlantic Canada, and its customers extend across Canada and into the U.S.

Mariner Innovations had been growing strongly so it became one of the four pillars of the group. However, 2015 proved to be a challenging year because several of its clients were in the Alberta oil patch and were cutting back.

Shift Energy

Mariner itself started Shift in 2009 to develop data-based products addressing energy consumption of large facilities. In May 2013, the company changed direction, building an IIoT application that would react automatically to the data it collected. With the software installed, a large building or group of buildings can automatically reduce energy use in key areas based on data analytics.

To achieve this goal, its EOS software uses a technique called Intelligent Live Recommissioning, which applies sophisticated algorithms to the data to determine the optimal settings instantly through the existing building control systems. In a typical large building, EOS collects and analyzes about 5 million data points per day, and uses that analysis to fine tune the energy performance of centralized heating and ventilation components such as boilers, chillers and air handlers – about 2,000 adjustments daily. Those small adjustments can reduce energy costs in a large office building, hospital or arena by 10 to 20 percent.

Mariner is so excited about the Shift company that it bought out other investors and now showcases the IIoT unit as one of its four pillars. A year ago, the Shift technology was being used by Rogers Centre in Vancouver and an Ontario hospital. Now it’s being installed in office towers, hospitals and arenas across Canada and the company has signed its first U.S. customer.   

The Mariner group worked hard to tweak the product so it would find a market.

“Finding the right market for this was a real puzzle,” said Howe. “If EOS were deployed into the top 10 percent of the world’s building stock, it would decrease the world’s energy consumption by 3 or 4 percent, and the world’s carbon emissions by the same amount.”

Shift is now in talks with 50 potential customers, and is finding strong interest especially in sports facilities and convention centres. Howe expects Shift Energy to be a major contributor to Mariner’s top line by 2017.   

East Valley Ventures

This is the unit that makes Mariner Partners unique in the region. No other tech company has an investment portfolio comprising dozens of tech startups.

Headed by Pond and finance specialist Jeff White, East Valley is almost a club in which Mariner and people associated with the group invest in startups. Mariner itself has invested in about half a dozen of the 25 startups listed on the East Valley website. All but two of the investments are in Atlantic Canada (Ottawa’s gShift bought a Mariner company InNetwork in an all-stock deal; and Mariner invested in Victoria, B.C.-based Tutela Technologies for strategic reasons.) Some past investments have failed. A few have exited. A few – like Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies and Charlottetown- and Montreal-based Spotful – are building revenue rapidly.

“They consider themselves something very different than an investment company,” said David Baxter, President of Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, one of the East Valley portfolio companies. “They believe they’re there to help these companies. Money is not the first thing they offer. They offer a support network right out of the gate.”

Recent Highlights of the East Valley Ventures Portfolio
EyeRead, a Halifax-based educational-technology company, was accepted into Google for Entrepreneurs program in Kitchener, Ont.
Eigen Innovations, a Fredericton-based Internet of Things company, placed third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai.
Automotive technology company Selectbidder of Moncton has signed auction partners in California, Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania.
Halifax-based Swept (formerly Clean Simple) raised $575,000 in equity funding, becoming the first Atlantic Canadian portfolio company of the venture capital fund Highline.
Spinzo, the Saint John-based developer of a crowdsourcing platform, signed on the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League as its first professional sports client. 

One final point about Mariner Partners is its pedigree. The origins of the company began in New Brunswick Telecom. Before it merged with its Atlantic Canadian counterparts to form Aliant, it was known as one of the most innovative phone companies anywhere. Its executives – like Pond, Howe and operations whiz Bob Justason – are still mainstays of Mariner.

Then during the dotcom boom of the 1990s, many of the NBTel alumni worked at Saint John-based iMagic TV. It blossomed into a publicly listed company by helping phone companies offer TV and Internet to customers. After Alcatel bought iMagic for about US$30 million in 2003, the people that built iMagic worked on other ventures such as Radian6 and Q1 Labs (both of which exited in 2011-12) while others wanted to work in online video.

“We realized we had one of the world’s best talent pools in internet video,” said Howe. “We are now the world’s leaders in what we do.”

He adds that these companies – Q1 Labs, Mariner, Shift -- share several technological elements. The talent pool has grown, and Mariner recently moved into new larger office on the top floor of Brunswick Square in Saint John. Howe said the company’s revenue grows at about 15 percent per year, and he does not foresee any slowdown in that growth.

A question about the future prospects is whether the company will raise capital to accelerate growth. Howe said a public listing is “not top of mind for us” but he wouldn’t rule it out either. If the company were to raise capital, a more likely vehicle would be a strategic investment from one of its blue-chip clients. One idea that Howe douses immediately is an exit.

“It would be easy to sell the company but that’s not our goal,” said Howe. “We definitely think that Atlantic Canada needs to build companies that can attract foreign investment as Q1 Labs and Radian6 … have done so successfully, but we think it’s equally important to grow headquarters operations here in the region, and we’ve positioned Mariner in that latter group.”

1 Week Until Atlantic Venture Forum

The Atlantic Venture Forum, the conference that aims to link Atlantic Canadian startups with investors, has issued a last call to register for the event that starts one week from today in Halifax.

Critical Path Group, which is organizing the event, says people hoping to attend still have time to register here.

The organizers said that at least 39 investment and tech support groups will attend this year’s AVF. The event will feature pitches from 15 East Coast companies, and others will attend to meet with investors. The investment groups from outside the region include NewRoad Capital, iNovia, Vistara Capital, MaRS Catalyst Fund, Real Ventures, Highline, and Omers Ventures.

“This year is all about building connective tissue between Atlantic Canada’s tech entrepreneur superstars and the greater community of investment heavyweights from outside the region,” said AVF Project Manager Zach Silbernagel in an email.

“By featuring a stellar list of investor speakers from as far away as Arkansas and Vancouver, the aim is to expose Atlantic Canadian companies to the perspectives and tools necessary to attract investment capital into the region, while simultaneously exposing outside investors to the tremendous entrepreneurial talent that exists on Canada’s East Coast.”

The keynote speeches at the event this year will include:

-- "How To Build Your Minimum Viable Product", by Michael Katchen, Founder & CEO of Wealthsimple Financial Inc.;
-- “Wind in the Sails: Writing a New Chapter in Alternative Energy”, by Russell Tencer, Co-Founder & CEO of United Wind;
-- And “The Five Things I Learned About Disruptive Innovation as an UberX Driver”, by Ted Graham, Innovation Leader at PwC Canada.

The Propel ICT Demo Day will take place the night before the AVF begins, which means a total of 25 Atlantic Canadian startups will pitch in a three-day span.

Our Report on Scaling Is Out

When the Halifax startup Proposify wanted to tell the world how it had grown in 2015, it put out a press release with some pretty gaudy numbers.

Founded by tech entrepreneurs Kevin Springer and Kyle Racki, Proposify had already been going for half a decade with the goal of producing a Software-as-a-Service product that would help agencies and others produce a better quality of pitches. It changed names, spun out of the web development company where it was born, took on a bit of capital. But it wasn’t until 2015 that Proposify really began to grow. The numbers tell the story:

Monthly recurring revenue, or MRR, rose 1500 percent to $66,517.

Paid customers increased 746 percent to 1,617.

The staff doubled to eight.

“It took years to get Proposify off the ground, and I can’t count the number of times most people would have given up and moved on, but we kept pushing forward,” said Racki. “As we sit on the cusp of $100,000 in MRR, I’m incredibly proud of what our team – now 12 – has accomplished.”

Proposify is an example of a recent trend in the Atlantic Canadian startup community – scaling companies. There was a baby boom in the East Coast startup world for the past few years with a lot of young companies forming, and now some of those youngsters are hitting a growth spurt. They’re gaining customers, hiring staff, and exporting products around the world. They are the focus of our latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, which we've published online today. 

This growth is great for the companies themselves, their staff and their investors. It also has a massive economic benefit. All the people who have invested so much blood, sweat, toil and tears in the startup community in the last five years did so with the vision of creating an innovative economy on the East Coast. In order for that community of innovators to really have an impact on the broader economy, some of the startups have to grow into bona fide corporations. That’s beginning to happen across the region. It’s not happening with ease, and there are still plenty of challenges. But the seeds have been planted and shoots are appearing.

Now several organizations are beginning to formulate ways to help established companies scale. For example, the regional accelerator Propel ICT is working on a program for scaling companies.

“We’ve all witnessed the growth in startup activity in Atlantic Canada,” said Calvin Milbury, President and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. “We’re pleased about it and excited by it but we can’t just be content with startups. We have to be internationally competitive.”

Recent Seven-Figure Funding Deals

Company City Business Funding
Icejam Charlottetown Gaming $3M
Appili Halifax Drug Discovery $2.3M
LifeRaft Halifax Social Media Analytics $2M
Spring Loaded Dartmouth Bionic Knee Brace $1.9M
Fiddlehead Moncton Predictive Analytics $1.8M
CarbonCure Halifax Green Building Materials $1.8M
Eigen Innovations Fredericton Internet of Things $1.4M
Ubique Networks Toronto/Sydney Server Acceleration $1M
SkySquirrel Halifax Vineyard Analytics $1M

 

Milbury refers frequently to the need for more “gazelles” in the regional economy. While “unicorns” are known to be high-growth companies with a billion-dollar valuation, gazelles are a slightly less well known species though no less important. Gazelles are companies of any size that are growing revenues by at least 20 percent per year over four years. It may be hard to find many of these companies in Atlantic Canada simply because not many of our startups have four years of revenue history. But there have been more frequent sightings.

“Our philosophy here is to grow these companies,” said Milbury. “It’s those companies, the ones that are growing quickly over a period of time, that are creating wealth in the economy.”

Though it’s difficult to get public statements on revenue growth, there is evidence of these companies blossoming. Halifax-based STI Technologies, for example, which helps pharma companies distribute samples, was named to the Deloitte Fast 50 last year when it revealed revenue growth of 204 percent over four years. That placed it 41st on Deloitte’s annual tally of the fastest-growing companies in Canada.

St. John’s-based financial technology company Verafin said last year that its revenues in 2014 had grown 45 percent, and that its compound annual growth rate in 2012-2014 had been 51 percent. Last autumn, Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing company SimplyCast said its third-quarter 2015 sales increased 105 percent from the same period a year earlier, and that it experienced a 99 percent retention rate among its customers.

These companies are by no means alone. Entrevestor estimated that at the end of 2014 there were about 80 Atlantic Canadian companies that had more than $100,000 in annual revenue and sales growth of 30 percent a year or more. By the end of 2015, the figure was probably closer to 100 companies.

The goal of Milbury and other people throughout the ecosystem is to keep these companies growing and scale them into major companies headquartered in the region. And coming up with programs to support such growth isn’t easy. It’s one thing for public agencies or government agencies to devise programs to give seed funding to companies; it’s riskier, more expensive and harder to sell to the public programs to help medium-sized companies grow into big companies. And at the end of the day, good companies will have to figure out how to scale on their own.

“The ecosystem itself is at the point where the companies are facing all these scaling issues,” said Dawn Umlah, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp. She said the big issue a lot of companies are facing is what she refers to as “operational debt”. Essentially, that is the weaknesses in a company’s structure or organization that creep into the business as it grows. They have to be addressed before the company grows further, and the process of removing operational debt can be painful.

“Operational debt can be found in a bunch of different areas,” said Umlah. “One that is prevalent in many startups is translating an R&D organization into a scalable company. You have a great, smart team and you have a few customers and now what? How can you effectively replicate this at scale? Some of it is cultural and it requires cultural changes. The company typically needs a different type of urgency, accountability and discipline.”

As a hypothetical example of the problem, she said a company might not have an individual who understands strong sales processes. The company might hire a seasoned sales leader, but that person may end up reporting to one of the founders, who still doesn’t understand fully how sales work. The company therefore has to adjust to make sure the expertise of the new person permeates the company culture.

NBIF has raised the banner of helping companies with revenue to grow, and recently held an information session titled “From Startup to Scaleup” that outlined three ways it will help growing companies:

Governance and leadership – While NBIF wants to help startup founders progress into executives, it also wants stronger governance. Research has shown that companies with boards of directors outperform those without boards. Some founders resist establishing boards, but NBIF and others in the community say boards can extend a company’s reach and talent pool. “Think about it as a great situation that you cannot do without,” said Daniella DeGrace, CEO of Gemba Software Solutions, at the Moncton event. 

Sales – Most startups have a few customers or early adopters. But to scale, companies need to master modern sales products. For business-to-consumer SaaS products, the companies need to learn the methods to get their product to millions of clients and to measure and amplify the things people pay for. For enterprise products, companies need to learn how to develop and execute on a sales funnel. They may have to open sales offices close to their customers.

Capital – NBIF has a ceiling of investing up to $1 million in each company, and will in rare exceptions increase that ceiling. The real change in its funding strategy is that the foundation is now willing to take a lead role in A and B rounds. Whereas it previously would join follow-on rounds led by larger partners, NBIF now could write the term sheets itself so the target company could show other funders an offer on the table.

“When companies are performing-to-plan or exceeding their plans, we will not be afraid to step up,” said Milbury. “We’ll work to get to those [bigger deals]. We’re hoping to take that on, hopefully through partnerships.”

Across Atlantic Canada, throughout the spring of 2016, more and more companies have been bringing in million-dollar-plus financing deals. As of press time for this publication, this amounted to almost $13 million in equity investment, most of it coming from private sources. At Entrevestor, we hear of deals coming down the pipe, and through the summer there will be more significant deals announced by scaling companies.

This issue of Entrevestor Intelligence examines trends in scaling companies. We profile a few that are gaining revenues or hiring staff. We look at the burgeoning communities in St. John’s and Charlottetown. And we profile the granddaddy of the Atlantic tech companies, Mariner Partners of Saint John. We’re doing this now because scaling is the most important issue facing our community.

“It’s of the utmost importance,” said Innovacorp’s Umlah. “From an economic standpoint, startups on their own don’t create all the opportunity. You need multiple big companies – and a few of them that grow big and stay here. If you have everyone still at the startup stage you’re not really building up the skill base the way you need to.”

Kinduct, Affinio Kill It with Pitches

Travis McDonough

Travis McDonough

To appreciate how successfully some Atlantic Canadian startups are scaling, check out these two pitches – one by Kinduct and the other by Affinio – that wrapped up recent West Coast accelerator cohorts.

Travis McDonough, CEO of medical-data provider Kinduct, delivered his pitch in November at the Dodgers Accelerator in Los Angeles. And Tim Burke, who heads the data analytics company Affinio, pitched this month at Microsoft’s Seattle Accelerator. The pitches by these two Halifax companies demonstrate conclusively how successfully these companies are growing, or scaling.

Scaling is the subject of the latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, which is being published today. Our quarterly printed report highlights the economic importance and success of scaling startups. One company it profiles is Affinio.

We interviewed Burke for our supplement last month, at which time the company employed 37 people. By the time he delivered the pitch in Seattle, the staff had grown to 40. He expects 60 people on the Affinio payroll by year-end.

Propel ICT Names Demo Day Presenters

The company has developed algorithms that allow large companies to group their social media followers into clusters and gain a deep understanding of the interests and linkages of those clusters.

As part of its pitch, Burke said Affinio analyzed 350,000 social media followers of Microsoft and studied what they are passionate about. It then aggregated that into a dataset of more than 700 million connections.

“In just a matter of minutes, our algorithm was able to segment that audience into 12 unique clusters, based on the similarities of their interests,” said Burke. Affinio can instantly dissect the interests of those groups, from the music they like to the video games they play.

It means someone at Microsoft tasked with building the tech giant’s gaming community can understand instantly what the community likes and how they relate to one another.

He added the global consultancy Gartner named Affinio one of the “cool vendors” in data-driven marketing in 2016.

McDonough, meanwhile, told the audience at the Dodgers Accelerator that Kinduct has built “the world’s most advanced human performance software platform.” That means the company can pull together disparate data on athletics and health and present them on one platform. The company has the world’s largest library of medical animation, which is essential in telling athletes what problem they’re experiencing and how to cure it.

In November, there were more than 50 pro teams and NCAA organizations using the platform, said McDonough.

“We are also very proud of the fact that we have multiple world champions using our platform to get results and each and every organization that used our platform last year saw a statistically significant improvement in winning percentage and a drastic reduction in preventable injuries,” he added.

Two points to drive home: first, Kinduct and Affinio weren’t pitching at a local hackathon — they were presenting to blue chip audiences on the U.S. West Coast. And second, they are exemplars of the scaling companies in Atlantic Canada but they are not alone. There is a solid core of growth companies that are gaining international attention.

Time to Consider B Corp Certification

I often discuss strategy with the companies I meet, and there’s one piece of advice I am giving more and more frequently these days: consider a B Corp certification.

And I’m making this recommendation based economic more than ethical grounds. I say this because B Corp certification can help staffing immediately and – I believe -- will become more and more important in sales and funding as time goes on.

B Corp certification is the seal of approval for ethical businesses. A U.S.-based initiative, the Benefit Corporation organization requires companies to demonstrate their commitment to social good by scoring at least 80 out of 200 in four key areas: workers, governance, environment and community. It’s a rigorous process that more than a dozen Atlantic Canadian companies have now completed.

The idea is that companies that go through the process identify ways to become more ethical, and they are encouraged to improve their scores as time goes on. It also is a sign to the world that your company is ethical. It is recognized by a swath of young talent as the gold standard for the organizations they want to work for.

“Finding people with the right skills and the right cultural fit in a competitive hiring market is always a challenge,” said Jennifer Hill, CEO of Waverly, N.S.-based Dadavan. It received its B Corp designation in 2014. “Our B Corp status has attracted our last three hires to the team, and they all integrated seamlessly. The Dadavan team is now the biggest it has been since we launched in 1998.”

As well as staff, she said, the certification can help attract clients who want to buy from ethical businesses. “Our clients make decisions based on trust,” Hill said. “B Corp makes it easy to communicate our values and build honest relationships.”

Dadavan, which gathers and analyzes data on first nation education, is not alone among tech companies gaining B Corp status. Hootsuite, for example, is a B Corp. And I think more high-growth innovation companies will be joining the ranks.

For one thing, there are angels and institutions that target ethical businesses for investment. What’s more, the new federal government is interested in this segment. It has begun to let the business community know its priorities, and the list includes the environment, middle class, and native people. No surprises there. But what is eye-catching is that the list also includes ethical businesses. That creates the question: how will the government encourage ethical businesses?

My own bet is there will be funding involved, possibly something akin to Sustainable Development Technology Canada, only for ethical businesses. There are already federal institutions (like BDC) and partners (like the MaRS Discovery District) that are doing more and more work with ethical businesses. If the government does set up a program for ethical businesses, it will no doubt smile on companies that can show a long-standing adherence to the triple bottom line (profits, planet and people) by already being certified a B Corp.

I know I’m sounding cynical. The goal of the B Corp movement is not to attract funding but to benefit society and the environment. But a lot of startups have ethical missions, and it would be a good idea to formalize that mission. All businesses need solid strategies, and this is one component of strategy to consider.

“Dadavan did not become an ethical business to become B Corp certified,” said Hill. “We have always been a company that cared about people and planet. The assessment really did challenge us to be even better. Becoming B Corp certified is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. But there is learning and growth in the process.”

Last Call for Entrevestor Survey

Last call for the Entrevestor survey.

We’ve almost wrapped up our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups, and we want to remind those of you who haven’t responded yet to please get your responses in.

We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had to the survey. A vast range of founders have taken a few minutes to fill out our 23 questions, and we’re getting a picture of what happened in the community last year.

You can find the survey here, and it only takes two to four minutes to fill it out. All the information we gather is confidential.

You should fill it out because Entrevestor’s data is the best measurement of what the East Coast startup community is achieving. Governments at all levels now understand the economic potential of startups, and the only way they can gauge the success in Atlantic Canada is through Entrevestor’s data. Our data is also used to tell investors and financiers outside the region what is happening in our community.

The Entrevestor data analysis is the most authoritative source of information on the East Coast startup community, but we need your help to complete it. The result will be a better informed group of policy makers as they design programs to help your businesses.

Moncton’s BFL Launches OceanSlim

Jean Mamelona: 'This is a dream come true.'

Jean Mamelona: 'This is a dream come true.'

Growing up on the island nation of Madagascar, Jean Mamelona became fascinated by the ocean and marine life. Now, the biochemist is launching a seaweed-based weight-loss aid from his Moncton startup, Biomolecules for Life.

Mamelona and his partner, Denis Brion, a marine chemist with experience in market development, began their venture in January 2013 with the aim of producing health supplements made from seafood and marine biomass.

They have recently launched their first product, OceanSlim, a dietary aid that Mamelona said will assist dieters in losing up to one pound a week.

The public are naturally suspicious of weight-loss aids because there are so many that promise miraculous effects but fail to deliver. Some can even be harmful. Mamelona said the fact Health Canada has approved the OceanSlim soft gel capsules makes marketing easier.  

To win approval, the company had to prove their product does not contain anything harmful, that it has been processed cleanly and that it contains the advertised number of active ingredients.

“Most people will lose one pound a week with our product,” said Mamelona. “We need to educate people that losing weight too fast is not healthy. It’s best to lose weight slowly but surely and then make adjustments in your habits so you don’t gain weight again.”

He said OceanSlim works by helping eliminate stored fat, preventing the accumulation of new fat and helping control the appetite.

Soricimed Wins Orphan Drug Status

Mamelona arrived in Canada in 1997, after gaining a scholarship from the Canadian International Development Agency to study at Université du Québec at Rimouski, where he obtained his PhD in Marine biochemistry.

He said he finds New Brunswick a good place to build a startup.

“In New Brunswick, there’s lots of encouragement. ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) gave us good orientation in the early stages, and New Brunswick helped us with startup funds.

“New Brunswick is a small province, it’s easy to get to see people from ACOA, or the Department of Fisheries. Compared with Quebec, there’s more direct access,” said Mamelona who previously researched developing marine natural health supplements at Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski. He was also an assistant professor in the Department of Biology of Université de Moncton. 

To date, Biomolecules for Life has been financed by provincial and federal funding and money from a private investor. The team may need to fundraise in a few months to facilitate growth.

The partners, who work with businessman Eric Brion, who is Denis’ father and the company president, have recently improved their website, with the aim of answering consumers’ questions and establishing the scientific validity of their product.

OceanSlim took about three years to develop. For the time being, the product is only available from the company’s site. Mamelona said he believes there is no similar product on the market, but there are so many weight-loss aids he can’t be sure.

He said that although Health Canada has approved Oceanslim, it should not be taken by breastfeeding mothers, and anyone taking other medications should consult with their doctor in order to avoid possibly harmful drug interactions.

The partners now intend to start work on a second product intended to boost health and immunity. Mamelona said Health Canada has already granted approval for the second product.

The company eventually aims to break into the global market, but Mamelona said there is a lot to be done first in terms of product and market development.

OceanSlim is a good start, he feels.

“This is a dream come true,” he said. “Since I was young in my country, fishing in the Mozambique Channel, I’ve been interested in the health benefits offered by the marine world, and dreamed about one day developing a drug.”

DNS Awards Priske, Sobey, UIT

Digital Nova Scotia this week named the winners of its first Digital Diversity Awards, the final phase of its 36-month Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy project.

The awards, which were presented Tuesday at the Centre for Women in Business’ Spring Finale, acknowledge and honour both female leadership and diversity champions in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector, while encouraging the province’s next generation of women leaders.

The winners in three categories were:

Women Leaders in the Digital Economy

Winner: Jenn Priske – Division Executive, REDspace

Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership

Winner: Jenelle Sobey – Managing Partner, Norex

Diversity Champion of the Year

Winner: UIT Startup Immersion at Cape Breton University

“Today we celebrate the success of leaders and organizations who make the decision on a daily basis to actively provide inclusive work environments,” said DNS President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia in a statement. “The Digital Diversity Award recipients take time to encourage and inspire young women and peers alike to excel in our sector, and they strive for parity in the workplace because they know how powerful it is.”

The launch of the awards program was initially announced at the 2015 Spring Finale, so hosting the first ceremony at this year’s Spring Finale was particularly fitting. The Awards will continue as a stand-alone legacy program in 2017 and beyond.

The ‘Call for Nominations’ for the 2nd Annual Digital Diversity Awards is now officially open with a deadline of March 8, 2017, which is International Women’s Day.

“There is a business case to increasing the number of women working and leading within the ICT sector,” said Bahr-Gedalia. “Organizations like UIT Startup Immersion, who reserve 50 percent of their seats for women, are leading by example and building what can be another competitive advantage for our region.”

Dal Names 10 Teams to Launch Pad

Megan McCarthy of PowerWhys heads one team accepted into the LaunchPad accelerator.

Megan McCarthy of PowerWhys heads one team accepted into the LaunchPad accelerator.

The Norman Newman Centre at Dalhousie University has announced its teams for the 2016 LaunchPad Cohort, the university’s summer entrepreneurship program.

Overseen by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach of Launch Dal, LaunchPad accepts 10 teams that receive $10,000 each in development costs to help get their business off the ground. The program received 20 applications this year.

A statement from Launch Dal said the teams chosen have what it takes to participate in a fast-paced and forward-thinking environment.

The 10 teams are:

Dugo: Provides intelligent remote-site battery and power management to the wireless industry. Cell towers sometimes suffer from power interruptions, in which case they are powered by batteries. But batteries degrade over time and have to be monitored. Dugo is developing a software-as-a-service platform that helps test batteries, centralizing the work and presenting the results.

SWAP: Developing a secure-payment system that identifies users through their fingerprints, and does not store the fingerprint data after the purchase. That means users can rest assured that it is much harder for hackers to access their accounts.

NeoTES: Aiming to take advantage of time-of-day electricity rates, it has designed proprietary technology that uses chemicals to release heat in a home that was produced when electricity costs were lowest.

Dal Hosts Accelerator for Military Personnel.

REP: The company is producing an app that helps amateur sport coaches communicate with athletes and their families. It is meant for the 32 million young people who participate in minor sports in North America. The app can help coaches communicate easily with families, and find and distribute content to aid in the coaching of young people.

Barkskin: The founders mission is to design watches and beauty accessories made from wood that has been sustainably sourced from Canadian forests. The goal is to encourage the proper nurturing of our forests.

Pursu.it: This is a crowd-funding platform that helps elite athletes raise money to cover the costs of their training. The company, which was spun out of the Halifax website company Norex, focuses on developing crowd-funding campaigns that are developed on the basis of quality, not quantity.

StuGig: Is developing an online platform on which students can find work doing odd jobs. It takes a percentage from each completed job, and lets students pay 99 cents for a recommendation card when they finish job. The more recommendation cards students have, the more likely they are to be hired.

Fresh-Tech Farming: The company is creating an online marketplace for local restaurants and local farms in which they can check each other’s stock to make sure there is never a shortage. It helps to solve the problems of restaurants running out of food and encourages local purchasing.

PowerWhys: Aims to encourage energy efficiency in home renovations. The company has created an application that will lets renovators select appliances and products before starting the renovation to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Coldstream Clear: Produces high-end moonshine liqueurs and vodkas. The company has had success in the Nova Scotian market and wants to grow into national and global markets.

Onset To Improve Film Crew Efficiency

Brian Sharpe: Turning 10-minute discussions into 10-second decisions.

Brian Sharpe: Turning 10-minute discussions into 10-second decisions.

Brian Sharp wants to limit the amount of time that film crews waste making and communicating creative decisions, and he’s launched a company to solve the problem.

Onset Communication Inc. is a Charlottetown-based company that is now completing its 12-week stint with the Propel ICT accelerator. As a member of the advanced Build program, Onset will be one of the startups presenting at the Propel Demo Day on June 21 in Halifax.

Onset has developed a communication system called Visual Assistant that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly in a more visual than verbal way. Film crews often communicate now by using walkie-talkies – a verbal tool in a visual medium. Another product on the market offers a single video monitor for each camera, but lacks the portability and collaborative features of Visual Assistant. Crews are frequently bogged down as a few members need to iron out some detail, like the head of photography telling a gaffer to redirect a spotlight. It holds up the whole production and increases overtime costs, which can add $50,000 an hour to production costs.

"One of the biggest problems on set is the amount of time it takes to make and share creative decisions,” said Sharp, the company’s founder and CEO, in an interview in Charlottetown last week. “Onset turns 10-minute conversations into 10-second decisions.”

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

Sharp, a 25-year veteran of the film industry, has teamed up with Co-Founders Peter Workman, a developer with expertise in image processing, and David LeBlanc, the acting chair of the computer science department at University of P.E.I.

Read about the Local Demo Day in Charlottetown

Sharp said his business model relies on renting out the kits rather than just providing software because a film company will need a glitch-free tool that works the first time and every time. “If it’s a mission-critical tool in the film market and it’s buggy, they won’t ever use it again,” he said.

Each kit would last about three years, and produce about $1.3 million in revenue for the company.

The market is massive, he said. There are 50,000 films made every year around the world, and the film industry is now worth $500 billion a year and growing. Sharp estimates he has a total addressable market of $4 billion in recurring revenue, and that Onset could chalk up $8 million a year in sales in Toronto alone.

What’s more, he said the company has had “100-percent product validation” in that he has yet to explain Onset to anyone in the film industry who hasn’t instantly agreed the product is needed.

Onset has already two clients to test the product – a film company in Halifax and a Toronto ad agency that films its own commercials.

Sharp is looking for $500,000 in investment. The company now has a prototype and needs the funding for certain upgrades requested by customers and to beta-test it with the clients.

Dal Hosts Accelerator for Military

Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur will hold a seven-day business bootcamp at Dalhousie University this summer to teach entrepreneurship to people moving on from the Canadian Armed Forces.

POE is a program of The Prince’s Charities Canada, the Canadian arm of the charitable organization established in the U.K. by Prince Charles. The Prince’s Trust for decades has been helping young Britons start their own businesses.

Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, or POE, provides business education to transitioning CAF members and veterans. Its organizers describe it as a made-in-Canada program that combines two of The Prince of Wales’ lifelong interests -- encouraging entrepreneurship and support for the CAF.  The program helps military members embarking upon their second careers to start their own businesses and create economic and social impacts in their communities.

Dalhousie professors are volunteering to teach in their area of specialization, and undergraduate business students from Enactus Dalhousie are paired with participants to provide one-on-one guidance to help participants build their business plans.

“These military members will be ready to start their second careers after the week,” said Mary Kilfoil, the Dalhousie professor who is also responsible for the training coordination of the program. “At Dalhousie, we are proud to support participants’ transition and offer them the skills and confidence they need to succeed in business.”

One of the military participants, Rebecca Park, designs handmade sheep skin and wool slippers.  At bootcamp, Rebecca wants to learn how to grow her business, “I am extremely passionate about my business, and would like to learn how to better market it, driving more customers to my website and expanding to new stores across Canada,” she said in a statement.

POE is the only program of its kind in Canada. “We have seen many inspiring stories of business success,” said POE President and CEO Amanda Sherrington. “His Royal Highness is deeply committed to supporting the military community, for whom he serves as Colonel-in-Chief to seven regiments.”

Propel Names Demo Day Presenters

Propel ICT has announced the 14 companies that will present at its Demo Day in Halifax on June 21, including eight from the Launch program for younger startups.

The companies are:

Launch Program

Halifax

SHED -- Shed has created a platform to help homeowners quickly and easily hire a service provider to carry out chores around the home.

Swell Advantage – AirBnB for docks and moorings.  Swell helps the boaters find short-term docking space and the owners of wharves and moorings to make money from their waterfrontage.

Charlottetown

Airbly – Airbly has developed hardware and software that automates flight logs for small aircraft.

Mighty Pebble Games – This is the maker of Miner Meltdown, a 2D team-based competitive multiplayer game that takes place in an underground mine.

Fredericton:

ReadyPass -- ReadyPass helps create smart and simple transit for passengers, bus drivers, and cities of all sizes.

Yimbie -- Yimbie matches user preferences with merchant products and services within communities.

St. John’s

SEAformatics -- Seaformatics has developed an energy harvesting system that allows researchers to collect ocean data at a low cost, with low risk and with improved performance.

Empowered Homes – This company is developing a smart thermostat system for homes and small businesses that have multi-zoned heating.

Build Program:

TotalPave, Fredericton – TotalPave has developed software to help municipalities assess the condition of roads in a simple and inexpensive manner.

WellTrack, Fredericton – This company has developed an online platform to help companies improve the mental health of their employees.

Garago Software, Moncton – Garago has developed a system for storing and extracting information that can improve the efficiency of an organization.

Repable, Moncton and Toronto – Repable is developing an analytics tool for the competitive gaming industry.

WoodsCamp, Lunenburg, NS – WoodsCamp connects buyers and sellers of timber in the massive private woodlot segment.

Onset Communication, Charlottetown – This company has developed a system to help film crews make creative decisions and communicate more quickly, thereby reducing production costs. 

Briefs: Shad, FAN, BioNova, Grind

BioNova Launches BioInnovation Challenge

BioNova is now accepting applications for the 2016 BioInnovation Challenge, a $50,000 pitching competition for early-stage life sciences companies or researchers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

BioNova, Nova Scotia’s life sciences industry association, created the BIC to help ease the transition from research laboratory to market. The organization said the BIC is more than just a competition: it is a support program to accelerate Atlantic Canadian researchers and life science companies and help them become bona fide businesses. 

Since its inception in 2011, 38 companies and research groups have competed in the BioInnovation Challenge, each receiving significant training.

“We are very excited about this year’s competition,” said Scott Moffitt, managing director of BioNova. “There is a lot of innovation happening in the life sciences in Atlantic Canada and we are on track to be one of the pillars of the new economy, we are definitely a sector to watch out for.”

The finalists will pitch at BioPort Atlantic, the annual life sciences industry event, on Oct. 25 and 26. Applications for the competition, which can be found here, close on Aug. 12.

Shad Launches NB Initiative

Shad, the national business and innovation program for high school students, has launched the Shad New Brunswick initiative, which aims to provide a life-long support network for the province’s top talent.

Shad participants will now be connected not only to Shad’s peer-to-peer alumni network, but also to businesses, incubators and educational programs in the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is providing $89,000 to help the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick to hire a coordinator to promote the Shad program, work with the business community and identify students to join Shad.

Hermoni to Speak at Startup Grind Halifax

Oded Hermoni, a partner at London-based hedge fund Rhodium Capital, will speak at the next Startup Grind Halifax event on June 29 at the McInnes Cooper offices.

Since 2012, Hermoni has invested in early stage companies in Israel and North America and acted as a bridge for Rhodium in Silicon Valley.

He has invested in and been involved with dozens of companies including Zooz, Chosen, Yotpo, Rounds, Silo, Compass, Switchap, and Comedy.com. Hermoni is also the founder and Co-Chair of J-ANGELS and the Israeli Founders and Executives in Silicon Valley.​ He has been in the tech world since 1999 as an investor, advisor, entrepreneur, and a journalist.

Tickets for the event are available here.

Webinar on Employment Contracts Set for June 14

First Angel Network and Stewart McKelvey will host a one-hour webinar called “The Start-up’s Guide to Avoiding HR Hell - Lesson 1 - Employment Contracts”. 

The webinar, which will emphasize the importance of clarity in employee contracts, will be held at noon ADT on June 14. 

A statement from FAN said the program will interest startups and fully operating businesses.

Anyone interested in the webinar can sign up here

Sentinel Alert Spends Week with d{}

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

Sentinel Alert, the St. John’s company developing worker safety products, spent last week delving into product development in Waterloo Region in a unique form of company retreat.

The week of working with d{} – the Deloitte outpost in the Communitech innovation hub – gave the members of the far-flung company a chance to come together to work on product and business models. With three pilots in progress, the company has amassed a trove of data. Last week, it worked with specialists at d{} (pronounced “dee space”) to find ways to use the data to improve the product.

At the end of the week-long pseudo-hackathon, the company has four prototypes to show to clients.

“It was awesome,” said CEO Sarah Murphy at the end of the week. “Over the last six months, we’ve been  [working on] making sure our product is scalable. This has been our first time [developing a more scalable product] now that we have all this data.”

Moyer Wants to Extend Pelorus Model

Co-founded by Murphy and Jason Janes, Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. From the outset two years ago, the idea has been that a smartphone can detect when someone has fallen and hit the ground, and the phone should be able to alert the company that an accident has taken place.

Now the application is also being used to detect worker risk – that is, to identify situations in which accidents could occur and or identify processes that could lead to worker injury. Then the worker and company can take steps to fix them. The software is originally being used on devices like smartphones, but the company hopes to eventually partner with a hardware company to produce a wearable device.

Last year, Murphy participated in Communitech’s Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp (now known as Fierce Founders), won the event and walked away with a $35,000 cheque. Then in January, Sentinel Alert announced it had received $535,000 in equity funding from the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund, Killick Capital and several unnamed angel investors.

The company now employs seven people, who are located in St. John’s, Halifax and Ottawa, so the week at Communitech was an opportunity to work together in the same place. Murphy, plans to spend the next few months in her native Halifax and then move to Ontario to be close to clients.

Communitech Seeks Women Entrepreneurs

Sentinel Alert originally targeted the oil and gas industry, but has now decided to focus on the Industrial construction and industrial manufacturing segments. The software can now identify some risks but the company aspires to develop predictive analytics to tell companies what practices could lead to injury. It has been investigating how repetitive motion in industrial work can lead to musculoskeletal injury.  And the company hopes to sell in the near term to major national and multi-national companies.

“What’s next is growing the client base out of the Atlantic region and working on getting much bigger clients, groups with thousands of workers,” said Murphy. 

Job of the Week: Smartpods

Today in Job of the Week, we’re presenting an opening for two software programmers with Smartpods of Moncton.

Smartpods has developed an automated, adjustable desk, which helps the user avoid the adverse health effects of sitting all day. The Smartpod desk automatically moves so that throughout the day the worker may be sitting or standing.

The Jobs of the Week article features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board which are currently accepting applications. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.

Moncton

Smartpods

Software Programmer

Smartpods wants to hire two programmers with a minimum of five years of experience each. The company is looking for creative programmers who can bring constructive feedback and find innovative solutions. It is seeking individuals who want to test the boundaries of product development. They will be working closely with the company’s current automation and software programmer.

The new hires should have experience with C#.net, Windows Presentation Foundation, VB.Net and SQL.

The tasks they will be responsible for include:  Software Development, Deployment and Testing; fixing bugs; enhancing software; website interface; onsite customers reviews; and application programming. 

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