Four Launch36 Grads Get BDC Notes

As it announced ambitious organizational changes, PropelICT revealed Thursday that four startups that went through Cohort 4 of its Launch36 accelerator have received $150,000 convertible notes from BDC Venture Capital.

Propel held its annual general meeting Thursday night, formalizing its plan to hold three simultaneous cohorts this autumn and announcing a new board of directors and new role for executive director Trevor MacAusland.

The organization said the following companies have received a $150,000 convertible note from the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada:

Adeptio, Charlottetown, which offers software and programs for personal coaches;

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, which allows for remote payment of parking meters and helps small businesses manage customer relationships;

Qimple, Moncton, which helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

• And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, whose aerial surveillance system helps farmers detect crop diseases.

BDC Venture said last summer it would extend convertible notes of $150,000 each to recent graduates of Canadian accelerators that it deems to be investment ready. As well as Launch36, it makes this offer to such accelerators as GrowLab in Vancouver and FounderFuel in Montreal.

With the inclusion of the four most recent companies, seven Launch36 graduates will have now secured BDC funding through the program.

In other news, Jeff Thompson (profiled today on Entrevestor) became chair of the organization, replacing Scott MacIntosh. He welcomed new directors to the board that reflect the organization’s regional nature. The new directors are Rob Cowan (Halifax), Steven Burns (Fredericton), Jeff Grammer (Boston), Gerry Lawless (Charlottetown) and Jo Mark Zurel (St. John’s).

MacAusland, who has overseen the Launch36 program since its inception and made it a regional initiative, will now become the Vice-President of Business Development.

“It will enable me to focus on what I love doing the most -- helping to curate the entrepreneurial community, build a more diverse and international mentor network and work with our community partners,” said MacAusland in a statement. He said the goal is “to make sure we continue to deliver the quality accelerator services that the community has become accustomed to in recent years.”

Earlier this month, Propel announced that it would collaborate with Volta Labs in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton to deliver its next cohort.  Both of the startup spaces will host a new initiation program called Launch36 “Start”, which will provide mentorship and physical space over 12 weeks for seed-stage startups. 

Meanwhile, growth stage companies will be able to enter the Launch36 “Build” accelerator, which will meet over 12 weeks in Moncton.

Propel aims to have nine companies in each of the “Start” programs, and six in the “Build” program. That means 24 companies will be mentored by PropelICT this autumn. It also means that if every team completes the course, the total number of Launch36 graduates in three years will be 56. 


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


After 2 Exits, Thompson Heads Propel

Having founded and successfully exited two tech startups by the time he was 43, Fredericton native Jeff Thompson brings a lot of street cred and star quality to his new role as chairman and president of regional startup support group, Propel ICT.

Thompson took up his role on Thursday, although he has been involved with Propel ICT, most recently as vice-president, since 2011 when he helped thrash out the vision for what has become the group’s successful regional accelerator, Launch36.

His new role will see him focusing on Propel 2.0, a vision of what should come next for Propel and the Atlantic Canadian region.

“The focus will be on achieving growth through working with regional partners and differentiating between the opportunities we offer early- and late-stage companies,” Thompson explained from his Fredericton home, having just returned from an early morning run.

Never one to do things by halves, Thompson is training for Fredericton’s Fall Classic half marathon.

He regularly runs half marathons (21 kilometres) and credits the exercise with helping him stay mentally and physically healthy during the stressful years spent building companies.

The early riser is often out running the trails around Fredericton’s St.John River as early as 4 a.m.

“I run solo so it is an opportunity to get away from everything,” he said.

“Sometimes I reflect on business. Other times I don’t think at all, just notice the birdsong.”

Thompson began running in 2006 when he was the founder and CEO of his first startup, Conseros Software, which prioritizes and distributes work to a company’s best-skilled and available employees.

“All startups are stressful,” he said. “We bootstrapped Conseros. We had no outside investment. There were months when we had no money for payroll and you don’t miss payroll, ever.

“The company had a line of credit and I was the guarantor. It gets really personal. I got hyper-focused when clients owed us money.

“But, of course, having no outside investors is good when you sell, and 100 per cent of the company remains in the hands of you and your team.”

Thompson hit payday with Conseros when he sold it to Genesys Telecommunications in 2009. He continued to work with Genesys for the next three years, taking the product into the Asia Pacific region, and garnering big clients like Telstra and PayPal. But the role meant he often spent 10 months a year abroad, usually living in hotels.

“Running became very important then,” he said. “I had to start my day with a run. If I didn’t, something would get under my skin and it would be a horrible day. The body gets into a routine.”

Eight months ago, he sold his second company, UserEvents, to California-based LiveOps for an undisclosed sum. The UserEvents product analyzes a corporation’s data to detect when a customer is having problems with a website or other communications channel. It then notifies the company’s call centre so the problem can be sorted out.

Since the sale, Thompson has continued to work with LiveOps on product strategy and business development.

All startups might be stressful, but Thompson said that experience helped when it came to working on his second venture.

“You are more realistic the second time,” he said. “The first time, if a sales meeting went well, I would expect them to buy and that doesn’t always happen. The second time, I wore less rosy glasses and I knew how to close the sale, and I think I was better at managing staff.”

Having spent so much time selling his products around the world, these days Thompson is happy to stay close to home.

“I haven’t found a better place than Fredericton to live,” he said. “It’s a good place to start a company. I’ve twice found good people to hire here.”


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

Entrevestor on Holiday Next Week

Entrevestor will take its annual summer holiday next week and will not be covering news until after Labour Day. 

We will return as usual on Sept. 2. 

We hope all our readers have a happy and safe long weekend. 

Peter and Carol Moreira. 


GetGoing Gets Going at Bootcamp

Starting this week, a new Halifax startup is taking part in a boot camp for women in technology at Waterloo, Ont.-based Communitech, the country’s premiere startup lab.

GetGoing hopes to use its time in the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp to get feedback on its product for entrepreneurs. It has created a simple app that helps small businesses — traditional businesses as well as innovation-based startups — come up with a simple, effective business plan very quickly.

“What we’re trying to do is bring an added sense of confidence to small-business planning, especially people starting businesses for the first time,” said founder Emily Richardson in an interview before leaving for the boot camp.

The team is one of 25 startups accepted into the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, which started in Waterloo this week. Richardson, a Halifax entrepreneur who previously worked for such startups as Truleaf Smart Plant Systems and Carboncure Technologies, applied for the boot camp, competing against 70 other teams.

The other team members of GetGoing are Moontasir Abeer (who previously worked on the software for Halifax startup Presenters Podium), Matthew Carleton and Ben Boudreau.

The idea behind GetGoing is to create a simple online tool for anyone starting a business — especially those averse to using products that use Excel spreadsheets. Once the entrepreneur fills out the forms in the program, he or she will be in a position to talk to a banker about the prospects of the business.

The product comprises three components:

•The value proposition: GetGoing helps the entrepreneur craft a single paragraph describing the business and explaining why it has a good chance of succeeding.

•A modified business canvas: This is a basic template outlining the business model, bearing in mind such factors as customer demand, location, competition, etc.

•A financial planner: In about 15 minutes, the entrepreneur can produce realistic financial projections for a new business. A really cool feature of this tool is it includes Industry Canada statistics that show what revenues a certain type of business can expect in a specific province in Canada. So if you’re planning a restaurant in Saskatchewan, you can see the average revenues for a restaurant in that province in its first year. That is important because business people rarely know what revenues to realistically predict in their first few years.

 “If you can get through these three programs, you are in pretty good shape with your business, but if you get stuck on any one part, you should probably re-evaluate,” said Carleton.

Richardson said the market is huge given that there are six million new businesses launched in Canada and the U.S. each year. GetGoing will initially target three markets: people under 30, baby boomers, and recent immigrants.

GetGoing spent three days this week at the boot camp, where the mentors included Sally Ng, executive director of Fredericton’s Planet Hatch. The GetGoing team will now return to Halifax to execute on what it learned at the camp. It will return to Waterloo for a wrap-up session in September. It is planning a full launch of the product in late October.

The team has so far not sought any equity funding for the project. Richardson said she and her teammates are hoping to get to launch without taking any investment.

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


BioPort Now a More Regional Event

BioPort Atlantic, the annual conference for the East Coast life sciences industry, is moving closer to being a truly regional event as it is now being promoted by organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has announced that companies from the three provinces will be able to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, the $15,000 pitching contest at BioPort. And BioNB and the PEI BioAlliance will promote BioPort on a more regional basis. The parties also hope to secure the participation of Newfoundland and Labrador at some point.

“This represents a positive step forward for regional collaboration as we need to be taking advantage of each other’s strengths to assist companies in developing faster,” said Scott Moffit, Managing Director of BioNova.  “We need to get to market sooner and compete harder. After all, our competitors are global not local so collaboration just makes good sense.” 

BioPort will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax on Oct. 20 and 21.

The organizers are now calling for new biotech and medical device companies to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, saying it is an “opportunity to capitalize on valuable coaching and exposure.”

The first prize for the competition is worth $15,000 in cash and in-kind services. Applications, which are available here, close Sept. 3. 

The semi-finals will be held on October 20 in Halifax. The top three qualifiers will present the following day at the BioPort conference.

The winner last year -- when the competition was open to just Nova Scotia and New Brunswick companies -- was Spring Loaded Technology of Halifax, which is developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but brings power to the legs. 

Moffit said the organizers are still putting together the agenda for the BioPort conference and will have more announcements in the next two months. 

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

Gillis, 15, Brings Bitness to Market

While most of the teens at the Shad Valley tech and entrepreneurship camp in July focused on their science projects, Alex Gillis might have been a bit distracted by the business he’d started two months before.

He is now launching the business, which places a small electronic monitor in retail locations like coffee shops to track the customer traffic and spending, and provide data on customer behaviour. Gillis and his partners call their service Bitness and the little device the Bitness Beacon. And he hopes to have them in scores of locations by the time he’s midway through Grade 12.

“I definitely have the goal of getting 100 customers by the end of next year,” the 15-year-old Haligonian said in an interview shortly after his first sales call at a metro Halifax coffee house. “I really want to get a few chains on board.”

Gillis is now entering Grade 11 at Sacred Heart School, and he already strikes you as an entrepreneur worth listening to. On a humid August afternoon, he’s clad in creased trousers and a dress shirt. He has already pitched his business model at Volta Labs, the Halifax startup hub. And the fact that he attended Shad Valley — a competitive national program that selects only accomplished high-school students — shows that he’s one to watch.

He began to toy around with a serious business in the past year, when he set up a company called MicroCent Technology, which is now the corporate umbrella for Bitness. (Because he’s too young to be a director of a company, his mother owns the stock and has a board seat.)

He brought in a classmate, Aristides Milios, who is helping develop the company in return for equity. And they signed up Troy Nelson, a hardware specialist who divides his time between San Francisco and Moncton, to make the Bitness Beacons. Nelson will receive a cut from the licensing of the beacons.

“Having a three-person team work on this with no money has been crazy,” said Gillis. “We’ve put a total of 200 bucks into this. Now that’s bootstrapping.”

The way the product works is to place a Bitness Beacon in a store or coffee shop — one is all you need for a regular-sized coffee shop. The customer pays $99 to license a beacon, and then pays $45 per month per store (for a regular-sized location) for the service.

The beacon tracks anyone who enters the establishment with their cellphone set to receive Wi-Fi signals (which is most people with smartphones). It can track who lingers at the cash register (signalling a sale), who stays in and who leaves. It can track the number of returning customers. The system assigns numbers to customers and does not identify them by name, thereby preserving their privacy.

The service includes an easy-to-use dashboard that can tell the business owner what are the peak times in the establishment, which helps with staffing and in arranging promotions.

Gillis said the first sales call went well and he hopes to sign up the customer soon. He is especially keen to sign up a few retail or restaurant chains, because that will help to impress investors.

The company is now hoping to raise $50,000 in investment to buy more beacons and hire a salesperson.


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

Press Release: FoodTender Launch

FoodTender, the Shediac, N.B.-based online ordering system for restaurants, issued the following press release today:

FoodTender Launches Free Online Ordering Service In Major Technology Advance for Restaurants and Foodservice Suppliers

Web-based Platform Allows Restaurants to Easily Order from Multiple Suppliers

For Immediate Release - August 19, 2014

SHEDIAC, CANADA—FoodTender, the first comprehensive web-based ordering system for restaurants, is now available as a free service to restaurants in the United States and Canada. FoodTender’s founders are a restaurant owner and a chef who understand why this new service is badly needed by restaurant managers and chefs.

While technology has been quick to change the “front of the house” in the restaurant industry, the “back of the house” has lagged behind. Today most restaurants juggle orders from a dozen or more suppliers through faxes, phone calls or texts. It’s a time consuming and complicated process.

FoodTender solves that problem with its user-friendly service, saving the average restaurant up to six hours each week. FoodTender lets restaurants easily manage orders from multiple suppliers through a simple web-based platform. The FoodTender service is free for restaurants. Foodservice suppliers, from local farmers to international operators, can sign up to deliver special promotions to a growing number of restaurants that are part of the FoodTender community.

“As a restaurant owner and someone who worked in the foodservice supply business for many years, I know firsthand the struggles that restaurants face in managing their suppliers. We used our experience to create FoodTender and make life easier for chefs and restaurant managers, saving them time and money,” said Andre Pellerin, co-founder of FoodTender.

FoodTender lets restaurants:

•Centralize orders for all suppliers

•Create customized supplier lists

•Manage costs

•Avoid time-wasting calls, faxes and texts

•Make it easy for receivers to reconcile deliveries and prices

•Keep a running history of all orders

“As a chef, I spent many hours each week trying to manage all my suppliers and making sure I received what I ordered at the right prices. It’s a problem that chefs and restaurant managers face every single day. We’ve built FoodTender to streamline and simplify ordering so chefs can focus on their true passion; creating great menus and running outstanding restaurants,” said Andre Leblanc, co-founder of FoodTender.

Restaurants can sign up to FoodTender for free at http://www.foodtender.com


About FoodTender.com 

FoodTender offers the first and only comprehensive online foodservice ordering platform for restaurants. This free service saves chefs and restaurant managers up to six hours per week. Find out more at http://www.foodtender.com @Food,Tender_FT or Facebook.com/FoodTendercom.

Pitch 101 To Be Held Tuesday

Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a Pitch 101 competition Tuesday, August 19, at 12:30 pm at the Innovacorp offices at 1344 Summer St., Halifax.

Pitch 101 is an initiative launched by Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic to encourage students and rookie entrepreneurs to hone and deliver concise pitches.

“The pitches are designed to be the first step in helping prepare these entrepreneurs and perhaps those in the audience to develop longer pitches for when they meet real-time investors and potential partners,” said a statement from Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Each participant is given 60 seconds to describe a business proposition, after which judges will provide them with feedback. The judges will be: Ross Finlay, Co-founder & Director, First Angel Network: Gregg Phipps, Managing Director, Innovacorp; and Sean Williams, President & Founder, Williams Marketing.

The audience will select the top three pitches. The winner will receive $500, second place $300 and third place will be handed $200.

The online registration is free. 

Profile: Robert Niven’s Next Product

Eight years after he attended a climate change conference as a student and realized that his carbon capture theory could help lessen climate change, Robert Niven is launching a ready-mix concrete product he expects to grow his company and cut pollution.

Niven is CEO and founder of Halifax’s CarbonCure Technologies, a clean-tech company that adds waste carbon dioxide to concrete production, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

Concrete is the world’s most-used construction material, and it emits five per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.

CarbonCure’s concrete looks and performs like regular concrete, is priced the same and is increasingly sought after, Niven said.

“Since January, CarbonCure has licensed its technology to 12 concrete factories in Canada and the U.S., with an additional 18 by the end of the year,” said Niven, who last year oversaw a Series B financing round of $3.5 million for the company’s expansion.

Back in 2006, Niven was an outdoors enthusiast and an environmental engineering student at McGill University when he attended a United Nations climate change conference in Montreal and realized the potential of his technology.

“Attending the conference put the significance and human side of the idea in context. I thought, I need to get this into the real world.”

The company raised its first round of funding in 2012. Since then, it has focused on injecting carbon into concrete blocks and other concrete masonry products. Niven said Atlantic Canada’s Shaw Group was the first industrial partner, and it sells CarbonCure to the local construction market. But the ready-mix concrete industry is about four times larger than the block market.

“Ready-mix has a larger potential to allow us to expand rapidly, and it is an important bridge to international markets,” said Niven, adding that no direct competitors use similar technology.

The company’s first ready-mix client is a well-known but as yet unnamed Halifax company. Other markets are much further away, including the Middle East and China, where Niven spends a lot of time.

“Bill Gates recently said that in the last three years, China has used as much concrete as the U.S. used in the last 100,” he said.

“We’re a wonderful fit for those countries that need to develop economically and can’t afford environmental degradation.”

The company’s growth in the ready-mix industry is assisted by the increasing global demand for green building materials that is being led by consumers, government regulators and forward-thinking investors.

Navigant Research predicts that the worldwide market for green construction materials will grow from $116 billion in 2013 to more than $254 billion in 2020.

“New rules introduced in November by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program mean that building material manufacturers must report their environmental and health implications, including CO2 emissions,” Niven said.

“Despite concrete’s many sustainability attributes, concrete makers have lost market share to producers of perceived greener materials, like wood and steel that have done a better job of telling their green story.”

It has been a hectic ride bringing the venture to this point. Niven has been working on his company since 2007, when he used his environmental consulting business to support the development of the technology under the name Carbon Sense Solutions.

CarbonCure now has a Halifax team of 17. Niven has worked all along with Sean Monkman, a McGill classmate and the company’s vice-president of Technology Development.

Niven said the company benefited from the worldwide recession that hit while the technology was being developed and is set to profit from the economic upswing.

“When we were developing the technology, the industry was in the gutter so concrete plants were able to give us production time,” he said.

“And now the technology is ready to go, the economy is picking up. CarbonCure’s timing has been excellent.”


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

Engage Conference Set for Sept. 25

The Engage 2014 Conference, which will encourage innovation and commercialization at post-secondary institutions, will be held in Halifax on Sept. 25 and may lead to other similarly themed events throughout the region.

Although the number of events in the startup space has risen dramatically in recent years, organizer Mark Taylor said there is a need for an event examining how universities and colleges spawn innovation and then turn it into young businesses.

 “Atlantic Canada has a lot of world-class research and a lot of talented entrepreneurs, and the goal of Engage is to bring them together and to help them reach the next level,” Taylor said in an interview from Fredericton.

He held his first Engage event in Saint John last October, focusing on export development as the theme. But he believes there is a bigger issue to be tackled in the region in bridging the gap between researchers and profitable businesses.

It is a problem that is often discussed in Atlantic Canada. The region’s universities employ researchers who are recognized in their fields around the world. But too often, there are problems either spinning this research into new businesses, or in linking these researchers with corporations that would benefit from research.

 “This event will break down the barriers to innovation in the region and help entrepreneurs discover what it takes to bring their ideas to life and who can help,” Taylor said.

One of the speakers at the conference will be Chuck Cartmill, CEO of LED Roadway Lighting of Halifax. Taylor said LED Roadway is a sterling example of a company that has tapped the research capacity of universities in the region and used it to produce products for the global marketplace.

The other speakers and panelists include: Dawn Jutla, founder of the master of technology entrepreneurship and innovation program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax; Milan Vrekic, executive director at Volta; Patrick Keefe, partner at Build Ventures; Jeff Grammer, partner at Rho Canada Ventures; Permjot Valia, founder of MentorCamp; and Rob Cowan, partner at McInnes Cooper.

Taylor hopes that his Engage conference can bring people together to encourage more commercialization. He also is planning to host a series of seminars around the region under the Engage brand that will also address the potential of innovation and commercialization.

The Engage 2014 Conference will take place in an already busy week in Halifax for startup enthusiasts.

MentorCamp, a one-day, intensive mentoring session for invited startups, will take place Sept. 22, followed the next day by Startup Empire, a new event organized by Vrekic. Entrevestor and Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a dinner Sept. 25 focusing on developing the startup ecosystem in Halifax. The following week, on Sept. 29 and 30, Invest Atlantic will take place.

Press Releases: Planet Hatch

Planet Hatch, the Fredericton startup centre, has released the following press releases:

 Launch36 Information Session

As you may know, applications for the Fall 2014 Cohort are now OPEN!

In collaboration with Volta Labs, we will be adopting both the Start and Build accelerator programs, products of Launch36, for our next batch of startups!

This evening (Thursday) we will be hosting an information session from 5pm-6pm at Planet Hatch on our partnership and programs..Did we mention there'll be PIZZA?

If you have a colleague or friend that is interested, feel free to pass the message along! To register  https://phprograminfo1.eventbrite.ca/

Startup Weekend New Brunswick Updates

It’s been a busy couple of months but we are sad to announce Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Youth Edition) won’t be happening this summer.

However, the next Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) is just around the corner! Startup Weekend New Brunswick is organizing their fourth event to be held on November 21-23 for ages 16+ in Fredericton, New Brunswick as part of GLOBAL STARTUP BATTLE!

Global Startup Battle is the only event of its kind, with over 40 cities and 15 000 participants around the world. This incredible initiative is driven by Up Global as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

For more information about the previous Global Startup Battle 2013, check out the blog!

Stay up to date by checking out our new community site nb.up.co. It will be updated soon with the new Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) information and registration. 

Entrevestor-EF Dinners Set for NL, NS

Entrevestor and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are delighted to announce we will host the next in our series of dinners in St. John’s on Sept. 11 and in Halifax on Sept. 25.

The first Entrevestor Dinner was held in Fredericton in May, and we received glowing feedback on the format that features discussions on improving the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups. Now we’ve partnered with Entrepreneurs’ Forum to jointly host the final dinners of the year.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinners convene in the late afternoon for two discussions on how we can improve the ecosystem for startups in the region. Each discussion is led by a leader in the startup community, who invites entrepreneurs, funders and support personnel to join in with their opinions on how to improve the environment for startups.

“We believe the entire community benefits when its members get together to discuss common problems and initiatives,” said Kathleen Rayworth, Executive Director of Entrepreneur’s Forum. “We hope that entrepreneurs and others in the startup community will join us to try to plot a course to a stronger ecosystem.”

The Sept. 11 dinner will take place at the Common Room at Gushue Hall at Memorial University of Newfoundland, starting at 4 pm. We will hold two one-hour discussions before adjourning for dinner:

--  Mark Kennedy, the Founder and CEO of Celtx, the St. John’s-based maker of pre-production software for the film industry, will moderate a discussion on the new venture-angel fund that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is working on. The government has outlined a model that would combine investments from both wealthy individuals and government to fund startups. This discussion will provide an opportunity for members of the community to say how they’d like the fund to be structured.

--  Emad Rizkalla, CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, the St. John’s-based training software company, will lead a talk on how to encourage corporations to invest in and support startups. Atlantic Canadian startups get more funding from strategic partners than many of us would expect, but we’ll look into how to increase the number. The discussion will also look at other ways that corporations can help young companies.

The dinner in Halifax will be held Sept. 25 at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting also at 4 pm. The two discussions will be:

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

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

Tickets for the dinners are $75 each. Tickets for the St. John's Dinner  are available here, while those for the Halifax event can be purchased here.



Oasis Farmery: Aquaponics Pioneers

Imagine, if you will, a goldfish tank sitting in your kitchen, with a vegetable and herb garden sitting on top of it. The waste from the goldfish fertilizes the plants, a process that in turn cleans the water for the fish. Now imagine your family sitting beside it, eating the produce from this system.

This simple system — known as aquaponics — is the premise behind Oasis Farmery, a Fredericton startup now trying to raise $10,000 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Oasis is dedicated to using aquaponics to increase the production of local food in an environmentally sustainable manner. It has just graduated from the Summer Institute, an entrepreneurial program at the University of New Brunswick, and has a prototype facility that will show it can produce vegetables for the local market in Fredericton. And it is developing a residential product.

Now it is looking for $10,000 to fund a larger, energy-efficient facility to allow full production of food for restaurants.

 “We’re helping to reduce global food waste by focusing on local food development,” said Jake Wildman-Sisk, one of the project founders.

 “We need to look at the way we’re growing food and constantly improve on it. There are ways to improve it, and I think aquaponics is a step in that direction.”

Wildman-Sisk and co-founder Andrew Mathis -- shown above with mentor Philip LeBlanc -- have travelled to Nevada, California, Milwaukee and Chicago talking to experts in food production and discussing their aquaponic ambitions.

Throughout the summer at the institute, they have developed a 1,000-litre prototype in which they are growing basil, tomatoes, sunflowers and herbs. They have expressions of interest from restaurants that may take their produce. So far, they are using goldfish to provide nutrients for the plants, but eventually they want to introduce food fish.

 “Our aim is to be able to produce fish that you can eat like trout or arctic char, as well as cilantro, basil, a whole bunch of herbs and vegetables that you can use every day,” said Mathis.

They have learned that the system can grow vegetables faster than traditional farming and uses 90 per cent less land and water.

The two entrepreneurs are developing small systems that people can set up in their homes, and a pledge of $250 to the Kickstarter campaign will get you one when they are released in November. But their main focus is on their new facility. It will be a greenhouse powered by renewable energy, with two rows of vegetable gardens over fish tanks. There’s an observation area through the middle of it. That’s important because Mathis and Wildman-Sisk believe part of their mission is to educate school children and the public at large about the importance of innovative food production.

 “I really have a lot of faith in the Oasis Farmery … to really make a huge difference because they’re combining technical rigour with a real care for social causes and food and things that really matter to people,” Fredericton author and architect Johnny Leroux said in the video on the company’s Kickstarter web page.

As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign has raised $2,644. In order to claim any money, they must receive commitments of $10,000 by Aug. 29. People contributing to the campaign will receive gifts made by local businesses in Fredericton.

Summ’er Up! to Expand Next Year

As they wrapped up their first Summ’er Up! Accelerator on Monday, Mary Killfoil and Ed Leach announced the program will expand next year, thanks to a $100,000 donation from the John Dobson foundation.

Kilfoil and Leach, who teach business, innovation and entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University, are best known for their Starting Lean Initiative, which entails several courses and programs teaching lean methodology to startups. They organized the eight-week Summ’er Up! program to give several teams of entrepreneurs the guidance needed to launch their companies.

On Monday, four teams presented their businesses to a packed house at Dal, displaying how they are now positioned to take their products into beta tests and (hopefully) the broader market.

“Every single one of them plan to do these things,” said a proud Kilfoil after the pitches. “They need more work. They need some help. But they’re all planning to proceed with it.”

She also outlined plans for next summer when the Starting Lean Initiative will be able to fund more teams because the Dobson Foundation, which supports entrepreneurial training at 16 Canadian universities, has offered $100,000 in support. It will likely mean 10 teams can take the program next year, and each would receive $10,000 to fund the development of tits product.  

This year’s accelerator provided student entrepreneurs with working space, some funding, programming and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and business people.

The four teams that presented on Monday are:

Bootstrap, a community-based magazine. Claire Zimmerman and Stephanie Taylor are King’s College journalism grads who wanted to produce their own magazine to celebrate the lifestyle and opportunities in Nova Scotia. It will be part of a movement to tell stories from across the province. They are experimenting with a community-based business model in which the magazine reports on small businesses and organizations that have become members of the Bootstrap community.

Peanut, a social gaming app for sports fans. Founded by Callum Mayer and Costa Zafiris, Peanut lets sports fans bet against one another during a sporting event for “peanuts”, a sort of virtual poker chip.  Friends bet against one another for bragging rights, and players can buy additional peanuts for real money if they run out. Venues like sports bars can use the app for in-house promotions.  

Salubrian, an e-booking system for medical clinics. Cameron Seiffert and Justin Javorek, pictured above, have devised a system that lets patients book online for doctors’ appointments. The doctors pay a monthly subscription fee, and the patient can pay $2 to get alerts if the doctor is running late. The pair will beta-test the product this autumn with a Halifax clinic.

Vantij Software Inc., a communication system for hospitals. Tyler Zemlak, a PhD who works as a porter at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, teamed up with Ashraf Abusharekh to produce Harmonized Healthcare, a software product that  allows staff in emergency wards to communicate better. It will also provide valuable data to hospitals to help improve operations. The QEII is working with the team in developing the product.

“We are very pleased to see the success of this program,” said Leach in a statement. “Young people have the ideas and the enthusiasm to be great entrepreneurs. We can provide the learning tools to help them achieve their goals. We have the very good fortune to be working with the willing.”

Irap Funding on the Rise

Irap funding has returned almost to Economic Action Plan levels – and the rise has been especially strong in New Brunswick.

The National Research Council’s Industrial Assistant Program, known as Irap, is a cornerstone program of startup communities across the country, and certainly in Atlantic Canada. Data from the NRC show that Irap funding in Atlantic Canada rose 49 percent to $20.6 million in the year ended March 31, 2013 (The most recent data available). The growth was strongest in New Brunswick, where Irap funding rose 80 percent to $8.3 million. New Brunswick accounted for 40 percent of the total Irap funding in Atlantic Canada.

As part of its Keynesian response to the recession of 2008, the government greatly increased Irap funding for startups. That additional funding ran out two years ago. Then the government decided to ramp up funding again, this time as part of a sustained effort to increase innovative industries across Canada.

When Entrevestor asked Atlantic Canadian startups in its survey what government programs they had tapped in the past two years, 66 said they had tapped Irap, more than any other program. The second most frequently mentioned was the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, cited by 49 companies.

One facet of Irap that is under-appreciated is its advisory service, which actually helps more entrepreneurs than its financing and which is growing strongly. The number of advisory clients in Atlantic Canada has more than doubled in the past two years to a record 606 companies.  Though the number of clients receiving financial aid rose 70 percent in 2013, it was only reaching the numbers seen two years earlier.

The place where Irap funding really took off in 2012-13 is New Brunswick, though not in the way you’d expect. The New Brunswick startup community is more concentrated in IT than any other Atlantic province, and indeed its Irap contributions in ICT increased by one-third to $2.0 million. But that was dwarfed by growth in other segments – food and agriculture up 160 percent to $1.1 million; construction and related products up 497 percent to $1.1 million; and the “Other” category doubled to $1.1 million.

Irap funding for ICT is most pronounced in the region in Newfoundland and Labrabor, where the $2.2 million accounted for half the provincial total.

As might be expected, Nova Scotia was the largest recipient of Irap funding for health and life sciences – its $1.4 million accounts for 54 percent of the funding in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences segment. And P.E.I. punches above its weight in this category – with $391,000 of funding or 16 percent.


Irap Funded and Advisory Clients in Atlantic Canada                                                       


                                Funded                  Advisory                             

2008-9                   206                         558                        

2009-10                377                         581                        

2010-11                344                         283                        

2011-12                201                         559                        

2012-13                340                         606                        


This article first appeared in our June 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which you can find here

Profile: MacAusland Extends Reach

With this week’s announcement of new collaborations with regional partners Planet Hatch and Volta Labs, East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 is moving one step closer to its goal of being a truly regional organization.

On Wednesday, the group’s friendly-and-frank leader Trevor MacAusland announced the group will hold its Launch36 Start program for new companies at Volta in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton. Launch36 Build, for growth-stage companies, will continue to be held in Moncton.

“The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said MacAusland, executive director of Propel ICT, the group that runs the accelerator.

“We’re aiming to be geographically agnostic and to become the world’s first federated accelerator model.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John 10 years ago, but MacAusland lives in Moncton and travels to boost regional links.

The group’s virtual programming will be improved with funds it has been awarded by the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (amount yet to be announced).

Virtual programming will allow Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to participate in accelerator programs, events and workshops.

There is a lot of untapped entrepreneurial potential in rural communities, MacAusland said.

“In the digital world, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, only where you’re going. We want to overcome the challenges entrepreneurs face in accessing the right people at the right time.”

The NRC funds will also allow the group to diversify away from pure tech to serve companies in other segments, and it will help with building better bridges to startup hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Europe.

Propel ICT began Launch36 early in 2012, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years.

Launch36 has now graduated 32 startups from across the Maritime provinces and is known for the quality of the support it offers graduating companies. These include well-known names such as Eigen Innovations, which is developing an Internet of Things application for the food industry, and topLog, which helps to prevent network failures.

In May, the accelerator won Incubator/Accelerator of the Year in the Startup Canada Atlantic Awards.

When he became executive director in February 2011, MacAusland vowed to boost mentorship, believing it essential to entrepreneurial success.

Now, he gives credit to the couple of dozen regular volunteers on whom the non-profit relies.

“Our mentors strive to get entrepreneurs the answers they need,” he said. “They work tirelessly and open up their networks. If not for them, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have.”

MacAusland said the group will “never have real estate” but will continue to keep costs down by working with community partners and relying on the generosity of sponsors, who provide free office space when required.

He describes himself as, “not the smartest or most talented person, but I am the hardest working.”

“I believe it’s my responsibility to future generations to foster entrepreneurship as much as I can.”

MacAusland is a francophone and fully bilingual. He grew up just outside Moncton, where his dad, Gerald, was an entrepreneur, owning a successful fire protection company.

The junior MacAusland worked for two decades in sales and marketing in the ICT sector, for T4G Limited and Whitehill Technologies.

MacAusland is the father of six-year-old Emma, and he says parenthood increases his commitment to local entrepreneurship.

“I want Emma to be able to stay in this region, if she chooses,” he said. “I feel a cultural shift is needed if Atlantic Canadian youngsters are to have that choice.

“If you see a problem, don’t say ‘Someone should fix that.’ Say ‘I can fix that, or if not, how do I find someone who can fix that?’”

David King Leaves Genesis for Qatar

The Genesis Group of St. John’s, which operates one of the most successful business incubators in the country, will soon enter a new phase of its development — but without the man who has steered the firm for the past two decades.

David King, who joined an earlier incarnation of the group in 1993, has announced that he will leave his post as chief executive officer to move to Qatar in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of retiring, King will become the dean of business at the College of the North Atlantic’s campus in the Middle Eastern country.

Genesis Group, the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s technology commercialization arm, will soon begin its search for King’s replacement. The next chief executive officer will lead the organization through a new phase, as it considers shifting focus from incubation — mentoring fledgling startups — to developing an accelerator, which would help young firms make plans for growth as they become established.

 “There’s been a whole kind of entrepreneurial revolution in the past few years,” King said, pointing to groups like Startup St. John’s, Build Ventures and the province’s coming venture capital fund, which are changing the landscape. “This whole spectrum is there in pieces, and what we’d like to do is to bring it all together.”

A bit of background: In the 1990s, Memorial University set up a technology transfer group — a common feature in academic institutions that helps them commercialize their research, either through startups or in partnership with corporations. That unit evolved into the Genesis Group, which took over commercializing university research and became the Genesis Centre in 1996.

That centre nurtures between 10 and 12 startups at a time. It has graduated many of the leading startups in the region, including fraud-detection company Verafin, risk-analysis provider ClearRisk and a marine training company, Virtual Marine Technology.

This summer most of the technology transfer responsibilities went back to Memorial University, leaving the Genesis Group mainly focusing on mentoring startups.

It’s also preparing to move from the university campus to The Battery, a former hotel complex on the slopes of Signal Hill. Memorial University bought the old complex last year and plans to turn it into housing for graduate students and the Genesis Group’s new home.

The incubator is now plotting out how it will grow and adapt to its changing environment. King said it may develop an accelerator that would mentor companies that receive venture capital funding.

King has taught business at Memorial University (he describes himself as an “MBA/CA type”) and, of course, has immense experience in mentoring entrepreneurs.

He had been planning to help oversee the changes at Genesis Group, and retire in the middle of next year, but then he caught wind of the opportunity in Qatar.

When he leaves the Genesis Centre on Aug. 21, he will head straight to the airport to travel to the campus that Newfoundland and Labrador’s technical college established in Qatar.

 “I would have liked to have had a little more time to prepare for it,” he said. “But it’s like everything entrepreneurial — you have to seize the opportunity when it’s there.”

Wagepoint Launches in the U.S.

Having attracted its 500th client by focusing on Canada, Wagepoint last month launched in the U.S. and is now offering its online payroll service in all 50 states.

Wagepoint offers an affordable solution to help businesses perform all the tasks associated with payroll through a single solution. That means that small and medium-sized businesses can use Wagepoint to pay employees, deduct taxes, keep records of their payments and similar functions.

The company has assembled an impressive client list since launching in June 2013, handling more than $120 million in paycheques, and its business has doubled in the past six months. CEO Shrad Rao has known that it had to move into international markets, but that’s hard because of so many tax codes from many levels of government.

“We’re now in all 50 states in the U.S., which is an accomplishment because it means we deal with 13,000 tax codes,” said Rao in an interview from Toronto late last month.  “We have a very good team, and we’ve been able to find people who understand all these tax codes.” He said one of the company’s keys to success has been finding people will experience in human resources and payrolls and who understand the technology used in the fields.

Wagepoint was formed in Halifax two years ago. Though it is now headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., it has retained a presence in Nova Scotia, employing four people in Halifax and Amherst to handle customer service and operations. It also has a few Nova Scotian investors, advisers and customers.

It also has customers in the region, including Halifax-based Analyze Re, which provides risk management services to the reinsurance industry.

"We have been using Wagepoint since June 2013 and are very happy with it," said Co-Founder Shivram Rajdev in a statement provided by Wagepoint. "Wagepoint's on boarding process was quick, the customer service is excellent and the costs are reasonable for a start-up such as ours. It takes me literally 30 seconds to do my payroll and this is very important to me given the time constraints for other critical tasks."

Wagepoint recently graduated from Hyperdrive, the accelerator program at Communitech, the startup hub in Kitchener-Waterloo. It has also been accepted into the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, one of the federal government’s three accelerator programs in the U.S.

The advantage of entering the New York program – the other two are in Boston and San Francisco – is that New York is of course the financial capital of the U.S. so it is an excellent place for developing business networks and finding mentors.

“We want to grow into a very large company,” said Rao. “We know the U.S. is a very large market so we have to learn how to grow there. We’re now trying to march toward the 1,000 customer mark and we will keep investing in Canada.”


Press Release: Propel, Volta & Hatch

PropelICT, the regional accelerator program, released the following press release yesterday, announcing its partnership with Planet Hatch and Volta Labs:

Launch36 Announces Launch of "Start", "Build" Tracks

For immediate release

Moncton, NB – August 5, 2014 – East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 has opened applications for its fifth cohort of companies. So far, 32 companies have completed the 12-week program and it is expected that the next cohort will help Propel ICT exceed its goal of launching 36 companies in less than three years. The deadline for application is September 8, 2014.

There are some big changes ahead for the Launch36 format with news that Propel ICT will be collaborating with community partners to deliver programming at Volta and Planet Hatch.  Each location will host a program track called Launch36 “Start” which will be 12-weeks in duration, provide mentorship and physical space.  Workshop sessions will be in the evenings twice a week and will focus on helping founders pick the right co-founder and team; how to perform customer validation using lean startup methodologies and securing early-adopter customers.

 “Volta will assist this program by providing meaningful mentorship and a physical space with a strong internal community,” states Milan Vrekic, Executive Director at Volta Labs.

 “We are excited to take our programming to the next level by collaborating with Volta and Propel ICT to better serve and align resources for entrepreneurs and startups across Atlantic Canada,” said Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng.

The Launch36 “Build” track format will be a bi-weekly cohort session held in Moncton, NB for later stage startups who are looking to shape a repeatable model for customer acquisition (sales), strengthening their startup team, and putting in place a framework for scale across people, process and systems.  Only startups that are accepted into the Build track will be eligible for BDC’s $150,000 Convertible Note program.

 “The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said Propel ICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland.

Propel ICT plans on adding more Launch36 community partners in the future as demand for the program grows.  Companies interested in applying for the Start or Build tracks should visit http://launch36.ca



About / Stats:

Propel ICT

Website: Launch36.ca or propelict.com

Twitter: @PropelICT/@launch36

Volta Labs

Website:  voltaeffect.com

Planet Hatch

Website:  planethatch.com

Press Release: Startup Calendar

The Atlantic Media Group issued the following press release last week:

Atlantic Mentor Group Launches Startup Calendar in Halifax

July 31, 2014 – Halifax, NS

Today marks the official launch of Startup Calendar, an online tool to enable start-ups to share their events with other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The intent is to connect events with start-ups, sponsors, supporters, and attendees – all in one convenient, easy-to-use location. By visiting www.startupcalendar.ca, stakeholders can post and view events, or raise the profile of their event through the use of sponsored listings.

“We’re very excited to introduce Startup Calendar to the entrepreneurial community,” said Steve Willson, Partner, Atlantic Mentor Group. “Our contacts in Atlantic Canada tell us they’ve been looking for a solution to the challenge of searching multiple start-up sites to be sure they don’t miss out on important events.  By consolidating these events in a single place we hope to simplify their day, allowing them to get on with the important job of creating a successful business.”

In addition to a calendar and event listing, registrants can create a free directory listing, allowing others to find their business, start-up, or organization.  They can also get events sent right to their desktop or mobile devices though our media links.

The Atlantic Mentor Group consists of four partners: Bob Williamson, Judy Lugar, Megann Willson, and Steve Willson. The members are based in Atlantic Canada and work as advisors to organizations at home in North America, and abroad.


VidSnippets Eyes Autumn Launch

To enter the pitching competition at Invest Atlantic this year, entrepreneurs must submit a one-minute video introducing their business, and they can highlight the most enticing 10 seconds using an exciting piece of technology being developed in Halifax.

VidSnippets is preparing to launch its new product at a few events this September after incubating the product for almost a year in the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Saint Mary’s University.

The product is designed to solve a problem common to people who post or send digital video online — usually you have to wade through minutes of footage to see a really good part. Or just as often the viewer doesn’t bother watching an entire video because it takes too long to see the highlights.

VidSnippets’ technology allows users to create and share highlight clips of up to 10 seconds from their video. If viewers are impressed by the preview clip, they can go to the VidSnippets site to see the full video.

That means that you can post the 10 seconds from a youth soccer game when your child scored a goal, or the 10 seconds of a 15-minute corporate presentation that highlights your main point.

“Every person who sees this can find their own way to use it,” said Josh Galloway, the company’s head of technology. “There are almost too many applications. It’s a good problem to have.”

Co-founder Paul Farmer came up with the idea before joining the program last year, and fellow students Suman Pettem and Kevin Gallant soon joined him as co-founders and began working on the product. Galloway, a veteran of Dartmouth multi-channel marketing firm SimplyCast, joined earlier this year. Over the summer, the team has included two interns from Dalhousie University’s computer science faculty, Scott Theriault and Brian Yip.

The team members are now preparing for a launch of a prototype website and Android-based mobile application in September, and have a few projects under consideration.

VidSnippets is hoping to launch a product in time for university frosh weeks so students can post and send the highlights of the videos they take.

The group is looking at a LinkedIn product, so people can video a description of themselves and post the 10-second highlight of the talk on the social networking platform.

Organizers also plan a launch of the product for the startup pitching competition at Invest Atlantic, the regional startup conference taking place in Halifax from Sept. 29 to 30.

Delegates and the public will be able to view the pitches and vote for their favourites; they’ll have a chance to see a 10-second highlight and, if that intrigues, to see the full-length version.

They also hope to get involved with online video contests that allow registered members to submit and vote on videos. Whoever submits and votes for a video will receive SnipCoins (a form of loyalty points).

Right now, VidSnippets is working to get a product out as the universities welcome students back to their campuses.

“We thought it might work well to roll it out though the universities, maybe through frosh week or maybe some of the sports teams,” said Farmer. “It will give us a chance to see how it goes.”

Profile: Building a Metamaterials Hub

Now that Dartmouth-based Metamaterials Technology has signed a partnership agreement with Airbus, founder and CEO George Palikaras aims to turn Atlantic Canada into a centre for producing optical metamaterials.

Palikaras has developed metamaterials — synthetic substances with properties not found in nature — that use nanotechnology to filter, absorb or enhance light. Now he’s looking at partners to create a manufacturing facility in this region.

“We’re the first company in the world to commercialize optical metamaterial thin-film technology on a large scale and Atlantic Canada is the ideal location,” he said. “Atlantic Canada offers quick access to key markets, and the aerospace and defence ecosystem is strong. We are here because we believe this is the right location to grow our business.”

The first application Palikaras and his team have focused on is a transparent nano-composite thin-film that offers a solution to the problem of laser interference — there are now 4,000 laser attacks on airplanes annually in the U.S. alone.

The company’s Lamda Guard division recently partnered with Airbus, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, to develop the thin-film which can be applied to an aircraft’s cockpit windshields to block laser beams.

Since the Airbus announcement in June, Palikaras has begun to increase his Atlantic Canadian staff. Two new local jobs — a thin-film designer and a metamaterials scientist — have already been posted. Palikaras has received applications from around the world but says he is talking to regional universities about setting up training programs to educate workers.

“We want to attract new talent, especially local talent,” he said. “And we believe the Maritimes has a highly qualified workforce.”

Palikaras now has enough money to go forward with Lamda Guard and its sales growth will help finance the other two divisions: Lamda Solar, which focuses on increasing solar energy output by up to 100 per cent, and Lamda Lux, which can increase the efficiency of LED lighting by 10 times.

“We have four patent families, two of which are dedicated to solar technology that can improve solar panels enough to save costs, increase output, and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

It is 15 years since metamaterials first emerged as a scientific field with great promise, and Palikaras believes market analysts will soon see growth in the sector which will surpass their predications.

“Analysts predict that the market for metamaterials will be worth more than $800 million in less than 10 years,” he said. “But I’m on the inside and I say our industry will be a multibillion-dollar industry. Nanofabrication costs are coming down, so the technology can be applied to making consumer products less expensive in larger quantities and easily attainable.”

Palikaras’s interest in metamaterials was sparked by Alex Feresidis and Prof. Clive Parini, whom he studied under in England between 2002 and 2010.

A born problem solver, Palikaras was shocked to learn of the emerging problem of laser attacks during a visit to his native Greece at that time.

“Watching TV, I saw fans committing laser attacks on basketball and soccer players,” he said. “Research told me that laser attacks were also affecting pilots. In the U.K., I found that laser attacks on pilots there were more than doubling every year. I knew metamaterials could be a potential solution.”

He got to work, establishing his company in 2010 with co-founder Themos Kallos. His search for a manufacturing partner revealed that the University of New Brunswick and Universite de Moncton both had facilities that could help to produce his first prototypes. With the support of several groups, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, he contracted the New Brunswick universities and other Canadian researchers to start work on his designs in 2012.

He said he and his wife, life scientist Nadine Geddes, intend to stay here. “We’re passionate about using this new science to make the world a little better and to assist the economic development of this region,” he said.

Persistence Pays Off for eOLIO

Traci Johnstone’s story is a study of tenacity and style, and she has poured those two facets into the startup she’s launching this year, eOLIO.

The startup — the name is a shortening of e-portfolio — is an online tool that helps people present a portfolio of their work online, and helps companies view such portfolios when they are recruiting prospective employees. The Halifax company has been going through limited launches for its two products this summer, and is planning a full commercial launch in the autumn.

 “The beautiful thing about eOLIO is we’ve streamlined the process of presenting your brand,” said Johnstone, the CEO of the Halifax-based company. “LinkedIn is about what you’ve done and eOLIO is about who you are.”

Personal branding is important to Johnstone. In fact, the company’s promotional literature says that “without personal branding, your career is dead.” Her mission with eOLIO is to help people assemble their work and personal assets and present them in the best way possible to create, maintain and promote a personal brand.

Her emphasis on personal branding comes from her own experience. She was, to use her own words, a “big girl,” weighing, at one point, 268 pounds. But she lost her excess weight and has kept it off for more than a decade. After she posted some indiscreet beach photos online in 2009, she came to understand we all have personal brands and it’s important to create the best brand possible.

Excited by the startup world, she set out to launch a company that would help people establish a favourable brand for themselves. She founded eOLIO in early 2012 and worked to find the right niches to make money from her vision.

She has worked with 13 partners, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Department of Economic and Regional Development and Tourism and Dalhousie University. The result is a software-as-a-service product that is visually compelling, with a striking black, white and red motif.

After reworking the business model, Johnstone is targeting two markets: “creators,” or people who want to create an online portfolio of their work (photos, writings, videos), and “locators,” or business recruiting people who need to see people’s portfolios, and organize and score them.

The company held a private launch for creators in July by contacting 10,000 people and alerting them about the new product. “The response has been phenomenal,” said Johnstone. “It’s the summertime and still we’ve seen this incredible response coming in. … It’s all been positive. We haven’t really had any negative response at all.”

The soft launch for the locators product is coming in August, and then the company, which now has two full-time employees and one part-time employee, hopes for a full commercial launch in the autumn. The basic products are free, and eOLIO charges for premium products.

The company has received some investment, so it now has eight shareholders and it is now raising capital, with a target of $300,000.

FounderFuel Accepts Brownie Points

Brownie Points, the St. John’s startup that has developed a customer loyalty tool for small retailers, has been accepted into the Montreal accelerator FounderFuel, offering it a chance to grow in a major Canadian city.

The company now has its point of sale product in about 40 locations in St. John’s and Halifax and now has to figure out a way to increase sales dramatically, especially in larger markets. Founders Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe believe the 12-week course in a large city like Montreal will help their business immeasurably.

“I think it will be big for us,” said Puddicombe. “We’ve established some pretty good traction in St. John’s and Halifax that’s allowed us to validate the idea and the product. But we feel we’re ready to scale. I think the access to mentors FounderFuel offers will provide us with the direction and focus we need to reach our goals.”

The two former business students at Memorial University began Brownie Points as a tool for coffee shops (as the name suggests) but their product has applications for other retailers as well. The thinking is that larger companies can afford loyalty programs; but small retailers need the sophistication of a digital program that engages customers and generates data to help the shopkeepers track of and retain customers.

Stenback said they are pleased with 40 customers but know they have to do a lot more to get clients. They surveyed all their clients this month, and 80 percent responded on the first day with overwhelmingly positive feedback about the product.

The two founders had thought about just moving to a larger market. Then they realized that attending an accelerator like FounderFuel would place them in a city of 1.6 million people and give them an instant network and mentors within that city.

“We’re sort of poised now to scale and we’re looking for the strongest way to scale,” said Stenback. “So at FounderFuel, we’re going to be looking forward to working with mentors who understand growth.”

He added that the team believes the best route to growth may include partnering with other companies that target SMEs. For example, they recently spoke with Phillip Curley, the CEO of HotSpot Parking of Fredericton. The two sides agreed there may be opportunities to work together as they offer different but complementary services to SMEs.

The 10-team FounderFuel cohort begins on Sept. 1 and runs until the DemoDay on Dec. 2, and after that Stenback and Puddicombe expect to return to St. John’s. “We had discussed plans of moving to Montreal or Toronto but we need to sell remotely,” said Stenback. “We can field calls from everywhere, regardless of where we’re based.”

The company plans to raise funds, but is taking time to decide the best approach. It will receive a $50,000 investment on joining FounderFuel, and at the end will be eligible for the $150,000 convertible note that BDC Ventures offers some graduates of major Canadian accelerators (including PropelICT). The team also wants to consult with its new mentors on the best route to financing the company. 

EnginuityMED: Idea to Sales in 1 Year

Taking a new product from concept to customers in a year is difficult, and in medical devices, it’s unheard of.

But EnginuityMED of Halifax is now selling the FIVA product it dreamed up in June 2013.

FIVA is designed to solve a very simple — and sort of obvious — problem for hospitals, especially for anesthesiologists and nurses in operating and emergency rooms. There has never been a device to tell them when a gravity-fed IV bag is empty and needs to be filled — until EnginuityMED invented one.

FIVA, which stands for Fluid Intravenous Alert, clips onto the tube at the bottom of a gravity-fed IV bag and beeps when the bag is empty. It requires no altering of the system of bags and tubes, and runs on a long-term battery. It’s now being tested at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax and at other hospitals across Canada.

“The device itself is fascinating, but what is really, really exciting about this is that we went from concept to market in eight or nine months,” said Ben Garvey, a principal of the company.

The story began last summer when Orlando Hung, professor of anesthesia at Dalhousie University, pointed out the need for such a device to Barbara Campbell, the head of Hammock Facilitation, a consulting firm that advises companies on the development of medical devices.

Together, they took the project to Garvey and his colleagues at Enginuity, an engineering firm in Halifax. It had experience in design and manufacturing, but had never built its own medical device.

They ended up forming a five-member team, comprising Hung, Campbell, Garvey and two Enginuity execs, business development expert Alastair Trower and engineer Lee Babin. Thus EnginuityMED was born.

What followed was a fascinating story of resourcefulness, strategy, discipline and teamwork. It’s a textbook case of conceiving a minimum viable product, and rigorously developing it to bring in early revenue before proceeding to more sophisticated products.

With little more than a concept, Hung received $50,000 from Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund, which allowed early prototyping and meetings with focus groups. With their business model honed a bit, they entered I-3, Innovacorp’s competition for Nova Scotia startups. They finished in the top five for the Halifax region, and set a goal for themselves.

In preparing their January 2014 pitch for the I-3 competition, EngiunityMED decided to focus on a single, simple product that it could produce by the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society’s annual conference in St. John’s, N.L., in June. If they didn’t have the product ready for that conference, they’d have to wait a year to go to the next national conference.

All five members had other full-time jobs, but they managed to develop the product over the winter. That meant Babin and Enginuity engineer Gleb Sekretta produced six different prototypes. They were even able to obtain the necessary medical device establishment licensing for EnginuityMED and put the FIVA product through the regulatory approval process for a Class 1 (i.e., simplest) product with Health Canada.

The founders financed it themselves. They were working on it up till the night before Babin and Trower boarded the plane for St. John’s.

But they made the deadline and landed sales.

Now, with experience in producing and getting approval for a medical device, EnginuityMed is planning its next products. It is securing a round of financing, and is hoping to hear from other clinicians with ideas for products.

Said Campbell, “We want to see people’s concepts, vet them and see if they fit our stream of clinician-driven innovation.”

Press Release: LED Promotes Lavoie

LED Roadway Lighting, the Halifax-based manufacturer of LED-based street lighting and wireless controls, released the following press release Monday:

Denis Lavoie Appointed President of LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (July 28, 2014) -- LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) CEO Charles Cartmill is pleased to announce the appointment of Denis Lavoie as company President.  The appointment was announced today in Halifax and received unanimous approval by the company’s board of directors.

Mr. Lavoie is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in international sales and marketing and senior management.  Denis joined LRL in January of 2013 and was most recently Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing.  He graduated from l’École Polytechnique de Montréal as an Industrial Engineer in 1990.  He has been an active member of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) since 1991, and has chaired numerous committees at the local, regional and national levels.  He also received two Presidential Awards for his work on the TM-15 (Luminaire Classification System for Outdoor Luminaires) and the MLO (Model Lighting Ordinance).  After eight years on the Board, he also served as President of IESNA for the 2011–2012 term.

Charles Cartmill will continue in his role as company CEO and focus on strategic initiatives.  Mr. Lavoie will oversee all day-to-day operations and will report to Mr. Cartmill.

LRL has experienced tremendous growth over the last 3 years, and the company expects this level of growth  to continue.   Mr. Lavoie’s appointment will allow Mr. Cartmill to focus on company vision and strategy and ensure that the company meets its aggressive sales and operational goals

In 2013, LRL launched its award-winning NXT series luminaires, and expanded its reach into lighting controls and smart street lighting with technology partnerships and new products.  Today’s announcement is a positive development that will ensure that LRL continues to be a leader in LED based street lighting and controls.

About LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) is a leading designer and manufacturer of LED (light-emitting diode) based street and area lighting fixtures and control systems. LRL is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with primary manufacturing located in Amherst, Nova Scotia. LRL also has manufacturing capabilities in the US, UK, and Australia.   In addition to research and design facilities in Halifax, our Victoria, British Columbia operation is engaged in the design and manufacturing of our Lumen IQTM wireless control system.  Our NXT TM series luminaire was awarded Best in Class – Local Residential Roadway in the 2013 Next Generation LuminairesTM Competition, and was also selected for inclusion in the 2013 Illuminating Engineering Society Progress Report.  LRL’s products are RoHS compliant (free of lead and mercury), provide average energy savings of 60% and substantially reduced maintenance costs. LRL has municipal, utility, and commercial installations in more than 40 countries. For further information please visit our website http://www.ledroadwaylighting.com.  






CyberPsyc Moving Ahead After Pivot

Having pivoted earlier this year, Fredericton startup CyberPsyc Software Solutions is gaining traction with new products that help employees treat mental conditions. Thousands of people have used its online products this year, and the number looks set to grow in the future.

CyberPsyc began in 2010 to develop a Software-as-a-Service product that would use the research of University of New Brunswick psychology professor Darren Piercey to help people treat phobias and anxiety.  Its first two products aimed to treat the fear of dentists and public speaking, but they did not gain the customer base Piercey and his team had hoped for.

So since January, CyberPsyc has been selling products to treat three conditions – stress, anxiety and depression. Together, they make up a massive market when you consider that anxiety and depression cost the North American economy an estimated $46 billion each year.

Chief Operating Officer Natasha O’Brien said in an interview the company has signed up three major providers of Employee Assistance Programs – voluntary, confidential programs that large employers have for their staff – to distribute the CyberPsyc products. One of these EAP providers is now giving CyberPsyc access to 200,000 individuals, and is part of a larger group that has access to 2 million people. The other two EAP providers can distribute to 100,000 people each.

O’Brien said the company’s products so far have been used by about 10 percent of the people who’ve had access to them. That’s impressive given that as a rule only 2 to 7 percent of the people with access to EAPs use their products.

“These early customers are critical for obtaining large volumes of data and proving our metrics to help us better understand the market and future customers,” said Piercey in an email exchange.

The company – which now has six employees -- is still offering companies its public speaking product, which animation and virtual reality to acclimatize the user to speaking in front of people. The program to help people get over their fear of dentists has been shelved after not receiving sufficient sales. The focus of the company is now on selling the stress, anxiety and depression products.

Piercey this month is attending the Human Resources Management Institute West Coast in Newport Beach, Calif., at which he has lined up sales meetings with 14 multi-national companies, which are potential customers. 

In 2012, CyberPsyc was in the first cohort of the Launch36 accelerator and it received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Mariner Partners chair Gerry Pond and other angels. Last year, the company raised $200,000 in funding and Piercey is now raising money again with a target of $200,000. 

Profile: Karina LeBlanc’s Social Mission

Having graduated a successful first cohort of social entrepreneurs from the B4 Change accelerator, the Pond-Deshpande Centre’s executive director Karina LeBlanc is redesigning the program to better assist entrepreneurs in this emerging sector.

A social entrepreneur is someone who founds a for-profit or non-profit venture with the aim of addressing a social or environmental issue. The sector is increasingly relevant as charities experience lower donations and consumers pressure businesses to demonstrate a social conscience.

The B4 Change accelerator is held at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick and has been designed to help social entrepreneurs deal with the unique challenges they face.

“Social entrepreneurship has elements of charitable non-profits but it’s about creating new models that create shared value and wealth,” explained LeBlanc. “It can be hard to make this kind of venture financially viable,” she added.

“We try to create focus, to give entrepreneurs a robust infrastructure to test their ideas from the perspective of financial viability. We aim to make that as important as the social mission.”

Seven ventures graduated from the first cohort, two non-profits and five for-profits, and they covered a range of sectors and were at different stages of growth, which did cause some problems.

As a result, the accelerator will now run from September through May, instead of for just six months, and include as many as 18 to 25 social ventures. The many seminars and workshops will be offered more than once and ranked at different levels so entrepreneurs can attend at the time that’s right for them. Some previously external programming will also be included.

“It will be a more open model. We want the programming to offer the right tools at the right time,” said LeBlanc.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre is funded by serial tech entrepreneurs and UNB alumni Gerry Pond of New Brunswick and Gururaj Desh Deshpande, originally from Hubli, India, and now resident in Boston.

The centre, which opened in 2012, advances innovation and entrepreneurship for all entrepreneurs, not just social entrepreneurs, by facilitating collaboration among emerging and aspiring companies, students, faculty and alumni.

The centre is fortunate to be able to work with the other Desphande Centres, two in the Boston area, including one linked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the other in Deshpande’s hometown of Hubli, said LeBlanc.

“Desh Deshpande’s vision is to combine the executional excellence of the private sector with the compassion of the non-profit sector,” she said.

“The international network is a great strength, allowing the sharing of experience and best practices,” she added.

“In India, the Deshpande Centre helps rural communities, which are often the poorest, to innovate. They create relationships with the Western World so that technology from MIT is used to solve local problems by Indian entrepreneurs.”

LeBlanc said her own involvement “feels like a gift.” Her role allows her to combine her two decades of management experience in the private sector, including 10 years at Proctor & Gamble in Toronto, with her experience of working for non-profits.

Originally from Montreal, LeBlanc moved to Fredericton to join the startup community. Prior to joining UNB, and for six years, she was the vice-president of operations at Autism Pro, a virtual autism clinic.

She was also a president of the board of directors of the YMCA Fredericton and was the campaign co-chair of the Your New Y fundraising initiative.

She said that when it comes to social entrepreneurship, the U.K. and the U.S. are setting the pace.

“In the U.K., especially, governments are engaged. They facilitate social impact bonds that finance social entrepreneurs. They have broad curriculums in post-secondary institutions, and support for social innovators. … The U.S. followed the U.K. and has come out blazing with support from the federal government.

“It’s not a fad. Social entrepreneurship will last, but if it’s a 100-metre race, we’re only just out of the starting gates.”

NB Council Backs Regional Tax Credit

A New Brunswick committee that includes both candidates for premier in the coming provincial election is calling for a regional equity tax credit to help fund startups and improve innovation in the region.

The New Brunswick Research and Innovation Council on Wednesday released its 2013-2014 annual report, which called for the development of a more entrepreneurial and tech-savvy society. Among its many recommendations, the council calls for a regional tax incentive that would allow investors in one province to invest in companies in another.

“The Government of New Brunswick should help its investors build bridges for new capital to flow into the province and accelerate the growth of our best companies,” says the report. “The creation of a regional tax incentive or similar vehicle would provide a unique value proposition for outside investors.”

It’s a significant move because private-sector investors and entrepreneurs have been calling for years for such a vehicle to encourage greater flexibility in financing growing businesses. The four provinces now each offer tax credits of 20 to 35 per cent to people investing in growing companies, but both the investor and company must be based in the same province.

Given that the population of each Atlantic province is so small, there have been calls to award the credits to people investing in any province in the region, thereby expanding the pool of investors.

This is probably the first time a committee that includes elected officials has supported regional tax credits.

Premier David Alward created the council last year so members of government, academia and the private sector could work together to improve research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the province. The premier co-chairs the council with Geoff Flood, CEO of tech consultancy T4G, and its 20 members include Opposition Leader Brian Gallant.

“This report outlines ways we can continue our momentum by building an increasingly digitized society which we feel offers an opportunity and platform for growth,” said Flood in a statement.

Overall, the report lays out three goals for New Brunswick to improve its economy and make government more responsive: build a digital society, establish an innovation-based procurement policy, and create an R&D infrastructure fund.

The council challenges New Brunswick to become “a North American leader in digital government services” by 2017. These services would include developing a single entry point and secure online access to all government services.

For its procurement policy, the council believes government departments, agencies and Crown corporations should earmark a specific percentage of overall procurement budgets for innovations created by local small businesses. It also calls on the government to join the New Brunswick Business Council’s early-adopter program to use the products of New Brunswick startups.

The council said New Brunswick should encourage public and private investors and academic institutions to work together to build up an R&D infrastructure fund, to invest in various forms of innovation in the province.

Startup Empire Set for Sept. 23

Startup Empire, a new conference aimed at educating founders and employees of startups, will take place Sept. 23 in Halifax.

Milan Vrekic, the Executive Director of the Volta Labs and the organizer of the conference, said Startup Empire will feature a range of top-flight speakers from the tech and startup world who can advise young companies on the path to success.

“This conference will not be a typical cheer-leading conference,” said Vrekic, who recently announced he will soon leave Volta. “The focus will be on learning. We want all the startups to understand where they are right now and what it will take for them to move forward. “

Held at the Park Lane Cinemas on Spring Garden Road, the conference is now planned for Tuesday, Sept. 23, though Vrekic said it may be extended to the 24th because of the number of speakers attending the event continues to grow.

The speakers so far include: Don Harrison, Head of M&A, Google Inc.; Daniel Debow; Senior VP, Salesforce; April Dunford, COO, Tulip Retail; John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2Learn; and Michael Litt, Founder and CEO, Vidyard.  Vrekic said more speakers will be added.

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

The program also includes 15-minute Startup Showcases by five Halifax-based startups – GetGiftedtopLog, Modest Tree Media, DashHudson, and Swapskis. It’s worth noting that four of the five founders delivering these presentations are women – a pleasant change in the male-dominated world of tech startups.

Vrekic said the cost of the conference is being held to $90 for startup founders and employees to encourage people to attend. The price will be $25 for students and $499 for service providers.

Startup Empire will be one of several startup events in the final 10 days of September in Halifax. MentorCamp, a one-day, intensive mentoring session for invited startups, will take place Sept. 22, and Invest Atlantic will be held Sept. 29 and 30. Entrevestor and its latest partner will also hold our dinner in Halifax Sept. 25 – details are coming soon. 

Code Kids to Air Saturday on CBC

Code Kids, a documentary on the movement to teach computer coding to Atlantic Canadian school children, will air on CBC television Saturday at 8 pm, hopefully building greater support for tech education.

Though Code Kids was directed by Greg Hemmings, , the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John, it is really a collaboration between Hemmings and a range of tech evangelists in the region, especially in New Brunswick. It shows how these evangelists started a movement to teach coding to school kids, and the team traveled to Estonia and Finland to discover how those countries developed technical education.  (We previously featured the project on Pages 14 and 15 of our Winter 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report.)  

The story began when David Alston, the Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive, the Fredericton- and Washington-based relationship analytics company, began to push for coding in schools and to work with Premier David Alward on such a plan. Other enthusiasts such as GoInstant CEO Jevon MacDonald in Halifax were also pushing for similar measures.

Hemmings had recently completed a documentary called Sistema Revolution about a music education program for children of all income-classes in Venezuela. He and Alston decided to apply the same approach to the tech project. They would find the best computer education programs in the world, which happened to be in Estonia and Finland, and use a documentary to show how they could be replicated domestically.

“The outcome was phenomenal,” said Hemmings in a phone interview yesterday. “There’s no way we could have known what the final product would be like when we started.”

He said that in the 12 months since they had the idea for the project, they witnessed a grassroots movement gain momentum, and the New Brunswick government actually take action on the project.

The government action was Alward’s announcement last winter that Alston would work on a new educational initiative called Brilliant Labs, which encourages teachers throughout New Brunswick to adopt new strategies for teaching programing. The goal is to produce a generation of computer-literate citizens who can compete in the modern economy.

The Brilliant Labs concept is gaining steam and moving throughout the region.

Hemmings said the artistic side of the project was interesting because “so many cool things happened” during the course of the filming. It was difficult to develop a unifying impression that runs through the whole film, he said, because so many things happened in so many different locations. But throughout the 12-month project, the team was able to capture wonderful scenes that are scattered throughout the documentary.

Code Kids will be broadcast initially in the Maritimes and is due to air nationally at a later date, both on CBC TV and on the CBC Documentary channel. It will also soon be available online.

Hemmings now hopes the film will continue to build the momentum for more tech education in schools and greater prosperity through a digital economy.

“We want Atlantic Canada to be one of the healthiest and more thriving economies in the world,” he said. “We saw it done in Estonia. It can be done.”


Press Release: Lee Joins Fundmetric

Fundmetric, the Halifax startup that provides SaaS fundraising solutions for charities and non-profits, has released the following press release:

SCoReS Founder Joins Fundmetric to Build and Implement Charitable Predictive Analytics

HALIFAX, NS- Today, Fundmetric is excited to announce the addition of Sports Commentary Recommendation System (SCoReS) founder and creator, Dr. Gregory Lee, as the newest member of the Fundmetric team as Lead Data Scientist.

SCoReS is an innovative system, developed in Alberta that uses Artificial Intelligence to automatically match sports situations to relevant stories and anecdotes for announcers and colour commentators.  Dr. Lee will be applying machine learning and predictive analytics in order to further enhance and develop Fundmetric’s donor score system built to better predict whom charitable organizations should contact for donations next. 

SCoReS had previously been featured on National Public Radio, CBC, The Verge, and Engadget.

“We are incredibly excited to have Dr. Lee bring his research and skill set to Nova Scotia as we continue to expand Fundmetric’s offering and develop our Donor Score Algorithm,” says Fundmetric co-founder Christopher Kolmatycki, “Dr. Lee’s successes and findings with SCoRes will be invaluable as we continue to develop new and innovative ways for charities and non-profits to increase their success in donor interactions.”

Dr. Lee will now be focusing full time on improving Fundmetric’s ability to tell charitable fundraisers which donors to contact next, as well as developing an automated and predictive system to help charities better communicate with their donors using SCoReS’ scenario-based predictive modelling technology.

“I’m looking forward to focus and apply my previous research and findings to an organization committed to helping charities and non-profits make the world a better place.  It is clear that different situations and scenarios require different forms of communication from charities and their stakeholders,” says Dr. Lee, ”I’m further excited to be able to do it in Atlantic Canada where I was raised and educated.  What Fundmetric is currently doing is exceptional in the field of machine learning and predictive analytics and I hope to take what they are doing to the next level.”


Fundmetric is a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool for charities and non-profits who need to better target their campaigns and in turn save time and money. Unlike other solutions that utilize blanket (volume) approach, Fundmetric leverages social and public data to prioritize prospects. By providing real-time analytics, using predictive modelling and statistical analysis, we are able to turn gut-feeling and guess work in to statistically relevant decision-making data.  Fundmetric also automates and personalizes several day-to-day communications processes for charitable and non-profit organizations.

 For more information check out: http://www.fundmetric.com

TotalPave Preps for Autumn Launch

More than a year after capturing the $192,000 first prize in New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, brothers Drew and Coady Cameron are deep into the development of their TotalPave product and preparing for a launch in the autumn.

It’s a smartphone app that helps municipalities and their contractors test road surfaces at a fraction of the current cost. It has drawn the attention of a few local governments and at least one private company, all of whom are impressed by its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

The concept won the 2012 national Nicol Entrepreneurial Award for a new technology coming from a Canadian university, and the 2013 Breakthru competition, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial contest for the province’s top new startups.

In addition to winning several awards, TotalPave has just gone through the ACclr8 program at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, where their mentors were Jeff Thompson, the founder of UserEvents, and Ryan Strynatka, the chief adoption officer at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

“What we’ve been doing in the last three months is a huge focus on development,” said Coady Cameron in an interview in Planet Hatch last week. He added that they have completed the first of three phases of the product’s development. “By September, we hope to have all three pieces done, and then we have to sell the thing.”

The Cameron brothers were students at the University of New Brunswick — Drew in business, Coady in engineering — when they got the idea for TotalPave. In the TotalPave system, the user mounts smartphones into standard municipal vehicles to collect data on road surfaces as these cars and trucks drive around on their customary routes. They relay this data to a central facility that automatically assesses it and reports on what roads need repair most acutely.

Getting such data is critical because a typical road will maintain its surface for several years, but once the roadway starts to break down it will do so quickly and dramatically. If a municipality detects the deterioration at the right time, it can make minor, inexpensive repairs promptly rather than paying a lot of money to repave the road.

According to the 2012 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, 52 per cent of Canadian roads are in bad repair and it would cost an estimated $92 billion to repair them all.

Coady Cameron said the first phase of development involved the manual input of programs and logarithms, and this has been finished. The next phase involves mounting the phones in cars and collecting data. In the final phase, the company will complete its web portal.

TotalPave now has one full-time employee, Coady Cameron, and it has been contracting out the development. Under the company’s sales strategy, TotalPave will allow clients to download the app on as many phones as they want, and then the clients will pay every time they use the system.

The company is looking to secure its first clients, possibly starting with a private contractor, in the fall. That means they could test it before snow falls and spend the winter analyzing the data and working out any bugs.

The Cameron brothers so far have financed the development from their Breakthru winnings and a few government programs. They will consider whether they need to raise capital after they complete the development.

Press Release: Modest Tree, CGTrader

Modest Tree, the Halifax startup whose software-as-a-service product reduces the cost and time involved in making three-dimensional training programs by as much as 85 percent, has put out the following press release:

Modest Tree and CGTrader.com announce partnership to streamline access to 3D models and creation of 3D interactive scenarios

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, July 21 2014 – Modest Tree Media Inc. ("Modest Tree"), an innovator in 3D authoring software, and CGTrader, a leading 3D model marketplace are pleased to announce that they have formed a partnership to streamline coordination between access to CGTrader’s marketplace of 3D models and Modest Tree’s 3D authoring software.

Customers of Modest Tree’s 3D authoring platform, Modest3D, will be referred to CGTrader’s marketplace, as the preferred off the shelf model provider, which houses a library of over 65,000 models. Modest3D is currently in beta and will be commercially released in the fall of 2014. CGTrader’s 3D modelling customers will be able to bring their 3D models to life by creating 3D interactive scenarios in Modest3D.

Modest Tree’s Modest3D uses a drag-and-drop framework to apply behaviours, animations and interactions to 3D models to create an interactive scenario.  “Partnering with CGTrader is a natural fit as it provides our clients with access to an impressive library of models that fit well in Modest3D’s asset pipeline, as well as access to curated designers for custom projects. ”, said Sam Sannandeji, CEO of Modest Tree.

For CGTrader customers the partnership provides 3D authoring software to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios using the CGTrader models. “Modest Tree empowers anyone to create animations and interactive scenarios without any programming experience, and with CGTrader no 3D modeling skills are required as well. We are very excited to make the creation process seamless for both our and Modest Tree customers by working together.” said Marius Kalytis, CEO of CGTrader.

CGTrader and Modest Tree are both part of the growing movement to demonstrate and view the world in 3D.

About Modest Tree Media Inc.

Modest Tree is an innovator in 3D authoring software and training solution services. Modest Tree was founded to bring the power of authoring 3D visualizations to all, by simplifying the development process of creating 3D interactive scenarios. Modest Tree is the creator of 3D authoring software, Modest3D. Modest3D empowers users to bring their 3D models to life by applying animations, behaviours and interactions to 3D models to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios. Modest Tree also provides services for developing 3D interactive solutions.

For more information, visit http://www.modesttree.com


Press Release: Teen Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend New Brunswick has announced a 54-hour event for teenagers next month in Fredericton. Following is a press release for the event:

Startup Weekend NB (Youth Edition) is coming to Atlantic Canada for the first time!

On August 22-24, 2014, Startup Weekend New Brunswick will be putting on a youth event for 14-18 year olds. The event will be happening at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The event will begin at 5pm on Friday, August 22.

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered community leaders, and entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. All

Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: participants have the opportunity to pitch, but anyone is welcome! Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation.

Participants engage with community leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors and leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic, but fun world of startups. You can find out more at http://startupweekend.org


Through workshops, mentors, and collaborating with other young people, participants will gain essential skills in creating, pitching, and building ideas. We are inviting students from across the province to join us for a weekend of creativity, collaboration and connection.

To register and for more information, check out our community site: http://nb.up.co

Nova Scotia Revamps VC Funding

The Nova Scotia government unveiled a new policy on business development on Thursday, which will result in a three-pronged approach to venture capital investment in the province.

The most immediate change will be Innovacorp, the provincial innovation agency, becoming the sole Crown corporation responsible for VC investment and adopting a simplified procedure for seed investments. Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has a portfolio of 12 companies, will no longer make venture capital investment. Its primary roles will be business attraction and the development of businesses and trade.

Meanwhile, government will release a Request for Proposals in the autumn for proposals from the private sector to launch a new investment vehicle that would use public and private funds.  

The third prong is Build Ventures, the regional private VC fund for follow-on financing, which all Atlantic Provinces and the federal government have committed to funding.

Michel Samson, the minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, said the government is not saying how much it will contribute to the new Nova Scotian investment fund, preferring to first review the proposals it receives.

"The private sector has told us … that government needs to be more responsive to the needs of business," said Samson in a statement. "This means having experts who understand solid business cases and the need for quick turnaround.”

Nova Scotia has had two publicly owned VC funds, with Innovacorp tending to invest in early-stage companies and NSBI doing later stage investments.  Innovacorp will now consider whether to take over some members of the NSBI portfolio, said CEO Stephen Duff. (There are a few companies, such as Oris4 and Health Outcomes Worldwide, that have received investment from both organizations.)

Innovacorp has adopted a new policy in which it will offer a simplified term-sheet to companies receiving seed investment, of say $250,000 or less. More thorough negotiations may still be required for larger investments.  Duff said the goal of the simplified term sheets is “to introduce speed, lower costs and more efficiency when we’re reaching agreements.”

As for the new VC vehicle, Samson said the government wants private operators to look at gaps in the current financing ecosystem and propose a system that would improve it. In a brief interview with Entrevestor, the minister said his department is aware of reforms now being introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador that could serve as a model.

Newfoundland will put money into a fund managed by GrowthWorks Atlantic, and members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network will also be invited to invest. NLAN members putting money into the fund will be eligible for an investment tax credit.

“I’m pretty sure the Newfoundland model will be something we’ll be looking at,” said Samson.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for NSBI said the organization is reviewing the future of its investment portfolio, and the team headed by Peter MacNeil.

NSBI will assume some of the business development duties -- including the Capital Investment Rebate and the Small Business Development Program -- now handled by the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. It means the government will no longer operate the Jobs Fund, which had been criticized as a political slush fund.

Thursday’s announcement came about after the government received three reports in the last year: the report of the OneNS commission led by Acadia University President Ray Ivany; a report on venture capital by consultant Gilles Durufle; and a review of economic development tools by former Dalhousie University president Tom Traves.

The companies in the NSBI portfolio, as listed on the Crown corporation’s website, are:


Industry: CRM Software Development

Authorized Investment: $2,500,000


Industry: Energy Control Management

Authorized Investment: $1,000,000

Halifax Biomedical

Industry: Life Sciences

Authorized Investment: $2,000,000

Health Outcomes Worldwide

Industry: Healthcare/ e-health/ technology

Authorized Investment: $1,500,000

Impath Networks

Industry: Software Development

Authorized Investment: $4,000,000


Industry: Electronic Voting Software

Authorized Investment: $2,800,000


Industry: Medical Product Development

Authorized Investment: $2,000,000

LED Roadway Lighting

Industry: Renewable Energy

Authorized Investment: $11,000,000

Origin BioMed

Industry: Health

Authorized Investment: $7,928,000


Industry: Enterprise Technology

Authorized Investment: $1,000,000


Industry: Responsible Gaming Software

Authorized Investment: $13,000,000

Unique Solutions

Industry: Apparel and Health

Authorized Investment: $5,628,108

Stressing Economics in Social Ventures

There’s a common misconception that you have to be naive or idealistic to create a socially responsible business.

In fact, establishing social credentials makes sound business sense, believes Kristy O’Leary, co-founder and lead impact strategist at Halifax communications agency Scout & Burrow.

“Lots of people think that because you want to create social change you’re some kind of flake,” O’Leary said as she sat in the May Street office that still feels new 11 months after the agency opened.

“But companies need to look at their social and environmental impact. Studies show that more than 80 per cent of consumers want to know what companies are doing to make the world better.”

O’Leary and co-founder Carly Murray established Scout & Burrow in August last year with the aim of helping businesses increase their impact for social good, and thus boost their customer base and their profits.

“It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. Today, you can build a better company or organization,” she said.

“Advertising corporate social responsibility is powerful, so do it right and create impact. Then let people know about it.

“We scout for clients that demonstrate the will to be better,” she added. “It doesn’t matter what industry they work in.”

An increasingly popular way in which companies demonstrate their social responsibility is by acquiring B Corp (Benefit Corporation) status, O’Leary said.

A U.S.-based initiative, B Corp certification 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.

Traditional companies score an average of 44.

O’Leary and Murray went ahead and acquired B Corp status for their own agency and now they assist many of their clients in the process. O’Leary said she believes Scout & Burrow to be the only B Corp certified marketing group east of Toronto and the only female-led B Corp in the Maritimes.

“B Corp matters because it’s a third party saying you’re not green washing or social washing,” she said.

 “You can’t fake it. Of our for-profit clients, 100 per cent are going for B Corp certification. A year ago, no one in Nova Scotia knew what B Corp was, but it’s starting to filter into consciousness.

“We’re aiming for 10 new B Corps in Nova Scotia by the end of the year,” she continued. “At the moment, there are just four — us, Common Good Solutions, Maritime Tidal Energy and EcoAdvisors.”

Many companies take several attempts to achieve B Corp status. But weakness in one area can be offset by strength in another. For example, a tire maker can increase their score by developing community projects.

Originally from Smiths Falls, a small town in Ontario, O’Leary, now 36, has been in Nova Scotia for nearly 11 years.

Her parents ran a general store which was decimated by the arrival of big-box stores, she says. Jobs were lost in the town when big businesses closed local operations.

That background gave her a natural interest in social justice which she developed initially through art.

She was a NSCAD artist-in-residence and completed an archiving project that documented the changes caused by climate change and witnessed by seniors on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

In 2008, she entered the advertising world, cutting her teeth on food and energy clients. “I wanted to help consumers make choices on an ethical level,” she said.

She and Murray are still bootstrapping their business and have been assisted by completing the B4 Change accelerator program for social entrepreneurs at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick.

“There is a lot of interest in our process and we are working on our first companies that have huge scalable potential. We are going to change the game,” she said, her eyes brightening at the thought.

Press Release: Peter Zimmer Retires

CarShareHFX, the Halifax-based car-sharing outfit, has issued the following press release:

CarShareHFX cofounder retires

CarShareHFX announced today that its cofounder and co-owner, Peter Zimmer, is retiring from his position of general manager. Peter has grown CarShareHFX into a Halifax institution with almost 1000 members and 25 cars.

“Peter is a true pioneer for starting CarShareHFX. It was his passion and dedication that enrolled me into the partnership and made it happen operationally. He’s created a real legacy for Halifax”, says President Pam Cooley.

For ten years, Zimmer gathered the knowledge, resources and passion he would need to start CarShareHFX, before he teamed up with Pam Cooley in 2008 to launch the ideas into action. To date, CarShareHFX has taken 250 personal vehicles off the road by offering residents an alternative mode of car ownership. Now Zimmer is ready to pass on everything he knows.

“I’m the resource,” says Zimmer, who will be close at hand for guidance and support. “I want CarShareHFX to benefit from the things I’ve learned.”

Zimmer’s position will be filled by John Laroche, from Ottawa. Laroche spent the last four years in various positions at Vrtucar, Ottawa’s carsharing company. There, he saw the company grow from 50 to 100 cars and 1,000 to 2,500 members. Laroche is ready to drive the same growth at CarShareHFX. One of his first tasks will be to oversee the addition of five more cars to the fleet over the summer, bringing the total to thirty and creating more value for CarShareHFX’s members.

“Halifax is extremely fortunate to have John’s experience imported from Ottawa!” says Cooley. Car sharing is a game changer for cities that want to have a mobility mix that creates a higher quality of life. We are an important part of that mobility mix.”


About CarShareHFX

CarShare Atlantic Limited (“CarShareHFX”) is a year-round service that provides Halifax businesses, institutions, organizations and household members with easy, self-service access to a fleet of vehicles that can be rented on an hourly basis. CarShareHFX aims to make Halifax greener, by providing a viable, convenient alternative to vehicle ownership.

Bluelight Partners with Henry Schein

The world’s largest provider of health-care products and services has begun to offer Halifax-based BlueLight Analytic Inc.’s main product to its customers in Canada.

Henry Schein, Inc., the Melville, N.Y.-based medical product distributer that had US$9.6 billion in sales last year, issued a statement last week saying its Henry Schein Canada subsidiary will be the first distributor of checkMARC, BlueLight’s main product. CheckMARC is the world’s only independent and accurate measurement system for testing the amount of light dentists use for curing the resin in their patients’ dental fillings.

 “We’ve been doing things with Schein almost from the very beginning,” said BlueLight CEO Colin Deacon in an interview. “They’ve even lent us dentist chairs at conferences so we could do demonstrations. Then about a year ago we really began to talk seriously about doing something together.”

Deacon said BlueLight is also talking to “about half a dozen” other private sector companies about distributing checkMARC. The company is now four years old and Deacon said it is starting to bring in meaningful revenues in 2014, though he declined to provide details.

 “What’s really great about this deal is that they (Schein) are paying for the first test provided to each dentist,” said Deacon. “They see checkMARC as central to the quality of care.”

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

BlueLight provides the checkMARC equipment and software to Henry Schein. and then earns revenue each time they are used to test a dentist’s curing light.

 “Henry Schein customers rely on us to provide the latest innovations in products and services,” Peter Jugoon, Henry Schein Canada’s vice-president, marketing and planning, said in the statement.

 “BlueLight’s checkMARC service brings cutting-edge technology to dental practices, helping to improve the quality of care and patient experience.”

In January, Deacon gave a presentation on checkMARC to the U.S. military at an event in San Diego, and he said the talks with the military are ongoing. The American forces provide medical and dental treatment for all their personnel, and spend more on dental services than all of Ireland.

 “What’s exciting about the U.S. military is that they have the payer, the provider, and the patient all in one organization,” said Deacon. “They’re unique from that perspective and we can provide them a unique opportunity.”

Still, the driving force behind the company’s growth now is the dealings with private sector distributors, including Schein. The company has 10 full-time employees, is now searching for two programmers, and will soon announce other openings.

BlueLight so far has been funded by angel investors, and has just closed a round of $750,000 in equity funding.

Verafin’s Culture Led to $60M Deal

One week before he announced the deal that would transform his company, Verafin CEO Jamie King came home to his alma mater to describe the secret to his company’s success.

King and two co-founders had started Verafin, which develops software that helps banks fight money laundering and fraud, at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2003. The story is often told in St. John’s that they set out to develop software for the mining industry. But they soon realized there was a better market in helping banks prevent fraud and money laundering, so they pivoted.

On Thursday May 8, King delivered the closing address at the Open House being held that day by the commercialization centre of the Newfoundland university.

He made a vague reference to the pending $60 million buy-in by Spectrum Equity, saying only that he’d been talking to investors and hoped to have an announcement soon. One week later he would reveal that the Boston and Silicon Valley-based private equity firm would take a major stake in the company, allowing several early investors to exit. During his speech, what he wanted to detail for the students and entrepreneurs at the Open House was the culture that makes Verafin unique.

“I realized years ago our continued success as a business would not be based on my ability to write code or algorithms all day that would detect and prevent fraud,” he said. “Our business success depended on developing a company where innovation could flourish.”

And Verafin has undeniably become a success. It attracted its 1,000th customer in March 2013, and has kept growing. It has 200 employees, and its revenues this year are expected to increase 50 percent to $30 million. King plans to continue growing and to add as many as 150 employees in the next two to three years.

And the company meets a definite need as debit fraud losses could reach $20 billion by 2015 and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in 2009 that the amount of criminal proceeds laundered globally each year reached $1.6 trillion.

Verafin frequently learns of its software being used to catch people engaging not only in white collar crime but also drug trafficking, terrorism, elder abuse and human trafficking – news that invigorates the entire staff.

King stressed in his speech that Verafin is perpetuating its winning formula by developing a corporate culture that stresses six facets: purpose, value, growth, reward, freedom and joy. And the speech demonstrated that Verafin goes beyond the usual clichés in addressing these values.

“Verafin has been a great company to be associated with, both in their product and their approach to management,” said Mark Dobbin, the head of Killick Capital, an early investor in the company. “I’ve learned more from being on their board than from working with any other company I’ve been associated with.”

Case in point: when Verafin opened its first office, King and his cofounders didn’t like the factory-made cubicles that were available because they didn’t engender teamwork or creativity. So they bought plywood and built their own tables – circular and portable. They could be moved anywhere. That means employees can sit around a table one week and move around the next as teams reconfigure. Some staff sit at a different table each day, depending on who they need to sit with.

Verafin encourages “continuous improvement” throughout the entire organization, King said. Once a month, there are hackathons in which a team proposes a new product and has 24 hours to come up with a prototype. King said the benefits of such innovation radiate throughout the organization.

Verafin also has each of its divisions set its goals for the coming quarter, and detail those goals to the entire company. That means 30 teams, quarter after quarter, set higher standards for themselves and fight to meet those standards.

“People love it,” said King. “Do you know what they like about it? They love it because no one is telling them what their target will be. They’re setting it themselves.”

Much of the culture in Verafin rests on the employees setting their own standards, and having their performance assessed by their peers.

Rather than performance reviews set by managers, Verafin encourages peer reviews so everyone – even King himself – is assessed by other staff members.

The company aims to reward its employees, but not necessarily with cash. There are no performance-related compensation packages, even for the sales people. King said the sales team is paid well but not with commissions.

So how does it reward employees? The employees – sales people and others – compete to see who can make the most noise when they meet their quarterly targets. (King’s slides included photos of cowbells, fog horns, gongs and other instruments of mass dissonance the staff use.)

Any team hitting a target can celebrate by making all the noise they want. A big sale calls for a chain of high fives. That means every employee (as many as 200 people on any given day) line up and the sales person who scored the sale runs through the office high-fiving them.

There may be fewer than 200 people on some days because Verafin employees are allowed to work wherever they want, at home or at a coffee shop, as long as they meet their targets. Or they may be on vacation. Verafin does not track its employees’ vacation. “We’re talking about adults here,” said King simply.

King also said he and the company founders have had their own book club since they started the company. They read and discuss the same books to mine the ideas of leading business thinkers. “If you ever want to build something impressive, never, ever, ever stop reading,” said King, who is trained as an engineer. “If you stop reading, you’re done.”

Finally, King said his staff likes to have fun. The company has been known to clean out the nerf gun section of Toys R Us so the staff will have guns to play with. If he’s walking through the office and gets hit by a nerf dart in the side of the head, he just keeps walking because it’s just another day at Verafin.

As King delivers his speech, it’s necessary to keep reminding yourself that this is a company that successfully foils the world’s leading crime syndicates in their essential goal of laundering illicit funds. And the company that hands out nerf guns to its staff is good at fighting financial crime, as $30 million in revenue and a $60 million buy-in will attest.


This article first appeared in the Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which can be found here

Marli MacNeil, BioNova Part Ways

BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has adopted a new strategic course that has resulted in the departure of Marli MacNeil, who was the group’s executive director since its founding 12 years ago.

MacNeil said in an interview Friday that her position ended last week and is now taking time to enjoy the summer and consider her options.

“I’d love to be able to continue working to help the life sciences companies because I continue to believe we’ve got some super companies here.”

BioNova was founded early in the century when there were a handful of life sciences companies in the region, but the sector was embryonic at best. A group of founding members understood there was huge potential to commercialize the research being carried out at the hub formed around Dalhousie University’s medical and dentistry schools and the hospitals in Halifax.

In 12 years, the sector has grown to the point where it could be on the cusp of becoming a significant hub on a national or international level.

Several of the life sciences companies in the province are now gaining notice, because of impressive sales or the potential of their technology or both. For example, Halifax Biomedical of Mabou has landed some huge sales lately.

ABK Biomedical of Halifax has received funding recently from First Angel Network of Halifax and other angel groups across North America. It also received a $2.1-million Atlantic Innovation Fund loan to commercialize new biomaterials that will simplify and enhance the delivery of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for patients.

MacNeil said a group of BioNova members recently attended the BIO International Convention for life sciences in San Diego, where Immunovaccine of Halifax was “the talk of the town” because of new-found interest in immune system-based medicine.

She said BioNova and the sector overall now need to determine ways to move these and other companies on to “the next level.” Essentially, the industry has gone through a lot of company formation and now has to gain expertise in helping these startups grow into bona fide companies.

“We’re great at having babies, but what are we going to do when they’re teenagers?” MacNeil said.

Asked what is needed and how to provide it, she said BioNova is beginning to determine what is required and what to do, and more work will be needed to plot the next chapter.

BioNova is now headed by a 12-member board of directors chaired by Brian Lowe, the head of ABK operations and co-founder of First Angel Network. The three-member staff is now led by managing director Scott Moffitt.

MacNeil’s news marks a changing of the guard at two of the leading startup support organizations in Halifax. Milan Vrekic, executive director of Volta Labs, the city’s main tech startup facility, said this month he will be stepping down in the autumn to pursue other opportunities.

MacNeil said she hopes to stay in Nova Scotia and will always support the local companies in any way she can.

“My job has always been to be a cheerleader for these companies, and now I’ll be cheering from a different side of the field.”

BioNova could not be reached for comment.

Kinduct Buys HealthMet Tech

Kinduct Technologies, the Halifax health-technology company, has acquired Vancouver-based HealthMet Technologies for an undisclosed sum to extend its reach in the community and corporate markets.

Founder and CEO Travis McDonough said in a statement Saturday that the combination of the two companies will accelerate their growth in key markets.

Kinduct has developed a technology platform that helps medical professionals, trainers, coaches and other improve the health and fitness of people.  The platform is multi-faceted and can be adapted to specific markets. For example, it includes the world’s largest databank of medical animation, which can help physicians to explain procedures to patients and to educate them.

Now the Halifax company will be able combine its work with HealthMet, which has spent two decades developing scalable programs to deliver health training to the masses. Its three main programs are the Corporate Challenge, Community Challenge, and 60-Minute Kids Club Challenge. These will now be offered under the Kinduct brand.

“Both Kinduct and HealthMet are passionate about the benefits of healthy living,” said McDonough. “But we know most people have trouble attaining – and maintaining – the health and wellness levels they need. Together our products offer a powerful combination of information, motivation, accountability, tracking, behavior change tools and analysis that is currently lacking in the health, wellness and performance marketplace.”

HealthMet founder and CEO Matt Young will remain with the enlarged company and said he perceives benefits of combining the two companies’ operations.

“Kinduct’s technology platform is so robust and scalable that it has exponentially boosted the power and reach of the HealthMet program,” Young said. “Existing and future clients will see enormous benefits in functionality and results.”

Kinduct has been growing this year in part because of the partnerships it is striking with complementary groups. In April, the company joined with Capital District Health Authority, OrthoMX Inc., both of Halifax, and Laval, Que.-based Emovi to form Mobility at Capital Health, a $2.6 million project designed to accelerate the treatment of patients with mobility issues. The project received a $1.7 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

O’Brien Capitalizes on B Corp Status

With less money and staff than corporations, community groups and non-profits often struggle to make their websites and social media effective. To help them, Kelly O’Brien, a Fredericton-based web designer, has established BBoards.org to allow non-profits to easily post and share content.

“We want to help non-profits and social enterprises around the world find their voices and connect with each other,” said O’Brien, who has more than 20 years of technical experience in product and business development for names like U.S. Surgical Corp. and NBTel Global.

“A few years ago, I became engaged with non-profits and I realized how few tools and resources they have to deliver on their mandate compared with corporations,” he said. “It struck me as unfair and I did a mid-life pivot from the global IT marketplace to help these organizations keep up online.”

Born in Halifax, where he worked for Enercom and AT&T, O’Brien has been developing BBoards.org in collaboration with many partners and has just completed the B4 Change accelerator program for social entrepreneurs at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The six-month program helps those who found a business that meets a social, economic or environmental need and turns a profit.

“B4 Change made me feel part of the growing global social enterprise movement,” he said. “They also introduced me to the idea of the Benefit Corporation (B Corp).”

A growing U.S.-based initiative, B Corp certification requires companies to meet high standards that demonstrate their commitment to social good. Acquiring B Corp certification is tough, but O’Brien went ahead, becoming New Brunswick’s first B Corp in the process.

“It took a couple of months to get B Corp certification. There were challenges, but B Corp status demonstrates that we think differently, operate differently, and are not going to change. For instance, we’re not going to clutter our customers’ boards with adverts. We even have non-profit shareholders. It helps us establish credibility among the people we want to support.”

So far, most BBoards.org clients are Canadian, although there are a few in the U.S., Mexico and Latvia.

The venture has high-profile New Brunswick business accelerators as clients, as well as some small businesses that have been attracted by the system’s ease of use and ability to share content. Pictures, videos, links and supporting documents can all be shared in one bulletin, O’Brien said. A single click allows the bulletin to be shared to social media where links direct the viewer back to the home page where there is a donation button.

“We also provide analytics; we give clients real-time feedback on the content people are engaging with,” he said. “And we allow organizations to connect and syndicate their content on each other’s boards; it’s co-operative, not competitive.”

BBoards.org’s basic cost is $19 a month, but discounts for early adopters and groups are available.

O’Brien said he is currently talking to interested First Nations communities and plans to target large umbrella organizations that often shelter thousands of smaller groups, such as Lions Clubs International.

During these years of hard development work, O’Brien has had little time to play his treasured Les Paul guitar or listen to vinyl, but things are coming together.

“We’ve had people volunteering to help us,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful and challenging experience to bootstrap this and it’s exciting to be getting to market now. We’re aiming to build a global community of change-makers.”


Assessing the First Half of 2014

Looking back on the first half of 2014 in the Atlantic Canadian startup world, there’s not a single event, company or story that stands out as a singular highlight.

So in writing a wrap-up of the first half, I think the dominant feature would really be a state of mind that didn’t exist six months ago. It’s a new-found maturity.

There were lots of candidates to be highlights of the first half. The Big Data Congress in Saint John and Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax were both successfully held for the second time. St. John’s held its first Innovation Week. There were exits by UserEvents of Fredericton and Compilr and Newpace, both of Halifax. PropelICT of New Brunswick and the P.E.I. BioAlliance both received federal funding under the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program that will change the scope of their work.

All of those are great, but there’s a bigger story in this sector. People were pleasantly surprised when Entrevestor reported in March the startup community now directly employs about 3,000 Atlantic Canadians, and is indirectly responsible for about 15,000 jobs in the region.

Yes, that was a shameless plug, but the findings of our survey were reported in the National Post and several regional media outlets. And they set a baseline from which to assess future employment growth. They also showed that young innovative companies are becoming a force in the economy.

That message was borne out two months later when 26 companies pitched to investors from the region and across the continent at the Atlantic Venture Forum. As we reported recently, 22 of these companies revealed their revenue for the past two years, and in total they booked $4 million in 2013. For this year, they’re expecting revenue of $13.8 million — an increase of almost 250 per cent. Eight of the companies are expecting revenue of $1 million or more.

Here’s the thing about the Atlantic Venture Forum pitchers: they weren’t out of the ordinary. Yes, there were some great startups that were pitching, but I believe the organizers could have chosen another 26 companies with no decline in quality.

There are a handful of Atlantic Canadian startups that are shooting ahead of the pack and there’s a lot of buzz about Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton, Blue Light Analytics of Halifax and Halifax Biomedical of Mabou, among others. Marching behind them is a regiment of companies that are growing at an impressive pace.

If I were asked to name one thing to watch for in the next six months, I think the answer would be the biotech sector. The digital segment so far has captured most of the attention in the startup world, but I think life sciences could be about to correct that. Two biotech companies — Neurodyn of Charlottetown and DeCell Technologies of Halifax — captured the top award for pitching at the venture forum. The segment as a whole could produce a lot of news in the last half of the year.

Of course, all of this means the bar is being raised across the startup community. Weaker companies are being left behind, and support organizations have to let them die. Financial and human resources need to be concentrated on the best companies. Is that a harsh reality?

Nope. It’s just part of being in a more mature ecosystem.

Vrekic to Step Down at Volta

Milan Vrekic will soon step down as the Executive Director of Volta Labs, the organization that has established itself as the hub of the startup community in Halifax.

In an Interview Tuesday, Vrekic said he is eager to return to his first love, which is building young companies. He said he is considering three options, one of which is in Halifax, and his preference would be to remain in the city. He is aiming to leave Volta on about Sept. 1, but it will depend on the ability to find his replacement.

“We basically agreed from day one that this should be a temporary role,” said Vrekic. “We don’t want to build a cult of personality. The role should always be fresh. … The way to do this is to have someone in the role for a year or a maximum of two years.”

Having previously served as Co-Founder and CEO of the secure document-sharing startup TitanFile, Vrekic joined Volta Labs when it opened in May 2013 and played a key role in establishing the startup house and setting its tone.

The facility on Spring Garden Road is home to about a dozen startups, houses Build Ventures and hosts regular events.

Vrekic said the continuity in the organization will come from the staff members and from the board, which includes Jevon MacDonald, Co-Founder of GoInstant, and Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Venture.

In filling the new position, it’s possible the board will opt for an entrepreneur-in-residence rather than an executive director so the focus will be on working with startup founders.

“We’re looking for someone who has done it [running a startup] before – someone who entrepreneurs can relate to,” said Vrekic. He said his replacement will have to work with inexperienced entrepreneurs and show them how to structure and manage their company, attract investment and land clients. The person should also have a network of contacts in and outside the region to help open doors for entrepreneurs.

Whether Vrekic’s successor is an executive director or not, the Volta team is now looking at expanding its operations and searching for a larger physical space. The startup house has formed a partnership with PropelICT of New Brunswick, which will soon offer 12-week accelerator programs at the facility.

It wants a larger space because it wanted to house more startups, including space for more late-stage companies. (The current tenants are now expected to move on after a year.) 

ACOA Unveils $43M AIF Funding

The Federal Government on Tuesday announced that it has awarded $43 million in loans to research projects in the region through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The AIF lends money to startups and public organizations to conduct market-oriented research, usually over a period of years. The ACOA press release said the projects have a total value of more than $123 million, and will bring in an additional $80 million from a variety of private and public sector sources.

The following is a description of the projects and the amount they will receive:

Nova Scotia

Capital District Health Authority

AIF funding will allow the Capital District Health Authority to develop push-button MRI diagnostics to ultimately improve diagnostic capabilities and aid in clinical decision making to improve patient outcomes. 

AIF Amount: $2,959,855

ABK Biomedical Incorporated

ABK Biomedical’s project will focus on the development and commercialization of new biomaterials that will simplify and enhance the delivery of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for patients.

AIF Amount: $2,140,000

Dalhousie University

This project will help to improve the performance of underwater sensors and instrumentation by developing an innovative acoustic wireless modem that performs complex signal processing.

AIF Amount: $2,321,299

Metamaterial Technologies Inc.

With AIF funding, Metamaterial Technologies Inc’s project will develop and commercialize a thin, transparent film that can be applied to the windscreens of airplanes in order to protect against cockpit laser illuminations.

AIF Amount: $3,000,000

New Brunswick

Forest Protection Ltd.

AIF funding will allow Forest Protection Limited to develop new products and techniques to intervene early in spruce budworm outbreaks in order to mitigate pest-related impacts on forest integrity, timber supply, and industry productivity.

AIF Amount:  $10,000,000

Enovex Technology Limited

Through this project, Enovex Technology Ltd. will develop an adsorbent material that produces nitrogen at lower costs compared to existing products in the industrial gas market.

AIF Amount: $2,319,554

Prince Edward Island


iWave will develop and commercialize a new software solution designed to provide an efficient and effective tool for prospecting and fundraising initiatives undertaken by non-profit organizations.

AIF Amount: $1,994,624


Springboard Atlantic

With AIF funding, Springboard will continue its focus on programs and activities that help accelerate academic innovation, push technologies to market and attract industry demand for university research.

AIF Amount: $8,500,000

HotSpot Aims for Third City This Year

Now that it has completed the Launch36 accelerator, Fredericton startup HotSpot Parking is gearing up to roll out its solution for downtown shoppers and merchants in its third Atlantic Canadian city.

HotSpot Parking began as a product that allows consumers to pay parking meters remotely through their cellphones. But as it passed through two accelerators — ACelr8 at Planet Hatch and Launch36 — the company has refined its product and the focus of its technology.

When he presented the company at the Launch36 DemoDay last month, CEO Phillip Curley said the company is now operating in Fredericton and Saint John and hopes to be on the streets of Halifax in the autumn. And the aim is to help to sustain downtown businesses in these and other cities.

 “What we’re all about is connecting cities,” said Curley. “Every city is growing but the downtown cores are in trouble.”

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

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

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

The system is now bringing in about 20 to 40 customers a month for a restaurant, said Curley, enough of a boost that it makes it worthwhile for the operator to subscribe to HotSpot.

Curley said that a small business can now spend $2,000 to $4,000 a month on radio ads, which is not focused on its customers and has no way of tracking the ad’s effectiveness. But with HotSpot parking, the business proprietor knows when a customer is nearby, can send a targeted ad and see whether it works.

 “It doesn’t matter if I only brought in five customers as long as I can prove I brought in those five customers,” he said.

There are now about 100 businesses in New Brunswick that use the service, up about 10 fold from late last year. The company has a strong pipeline of other companies planning to subscribe. And about 3,500 individuals have signed up for the parking app — a figure that is growing 20 per cent per month.

 “We’ve got to keep growing it. There are 12,000 people in the Fredericton downtown daily, so what can we do to excite these people and get them enrolled.”

Curley is still looking to grow the company. In terms of geography, HotSpot has identified 400 advanced cities in North America and has already contacted 175 of them. In terms of products, the company is looking at expanding into a transit service.

The company has already raised $325,000 in equity funding from angels and other investors, and added about $175,000 from government programs.

Startup Cape Breton Event Monday

Startup Cape Breton, the new group promoting entrepreneurship on the island, will hold its inaugural event Monday, July 14, from 4 to 6 pm at the Verschuren Centre of Cape Breton University.

The event aims to explore new opportunities in technology, business, and education and will feature speakers from Cape Breton, Atlantic Canada and outside the region.

Startup Cape Breton said it aims to develop a startup community on the island to capitalize on its strengths in creativity and human resources. It wants the island to be a “place that is home to hundreds of startups — small and medium-sized technology and innovation companies, working in everything from healthcare and the health sciences, to energy and transportation, to government and education.”

The guests at the event will include: Gavin Uhma, CTO , GoInstant; Valerie Fox, CEO, Digital Media Zone;  Wes Gould, COO, REDspace, Annette Verschuren, Chair/CEO , NRStor Inc.; David Rae, Dean, Shannon School of Business, CBU; Rachael Mackeigan, Coordinator, Community Access Program, Darren Gallop, CEO, Marcato Digital Solutions, Dale Keefe, VP, Academic & Research, CBU; Andrew Swanson, CEO, Verschuren Centre, CBU; Sheldon Levy, President, Ryerson University; David Wheeler, and President, Cape Breton University. 

Dan Martell: Tier 1 Accelerator Needed

Whenever we build a component of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, we have to model ourselves on the best examples in the world.

So we need to develop an accelerator in the region that meets the criteria of the Global Accelerator Network, or GAN, the governing body of startup accelerators. That means there has to be an Atlantic

Canadian accelerator backed by a fund, and that invests in the companies it mentors.

It’s the model used in the U.S. by Y Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups. It’s also being used in Canada by such leading groups as Grow Labs in Vancouver and FounderFuel in Montreal. It’s simply best practice in the accelerator world. You can’t be recognized by the GAN without it.

Atlantic Canada now has a few accelerators and there are discussions about developing more. We have groups that call themselves accelerators, but fall short of the accepted model. But what we need is a mentorship group backed by private sector investors who can attract the best companies from anywhere in the world, as well as companies grown in Atlantic Canada.

By developing an accelerator backed by a fund, we will suddenly occupy a different position in the global market. Investors will insist that the accelerator be able to court the best companies anywhere and attract them to the region.

That doesn’t mean we’d be crowding out Atlantic Canadian companies.

It means that local startups have to make sure they are as good as any in the world to gain entrance to the accelerator. If they’re not at this level already, they have to up their game to get in – which is the whole point of an accelerator, isn’t it?

Many of the companies that would come to Atlantic Canada to work in the accelerator would end up staying here. That has certainly been the experience of Startup Chile, which follows the fund-backed model and has been attracting entrepreneurs from around the world. TechStars is based in Boulder, Co., and 35 to 40 percent of the companies that enter TechStars end up staying in the Boulder area.

The accelerator will need to focus on a specific growth segment – such as 3-D printing, drones, bitcoin, big data, biotech or stem cell – to differentiate itself from all the other accelerators out there. By focusing on a specific sector, this accelerator would become option of choice for startups around the world operating in that specific growth industry.

To attract the best companies, you can’t be the fourth or fifth option for startups that couldn’t get into Y Combinator. You have to be their first choice. And that means developing an accelerator that is recognized globally.

It would not take a ton of money to launch this initiative. TechStars was started with an initial funding of $118,000. Half the money could come from local entrepreneurs and the other half from a fund-of-funds. There would have to be physical space – another criteria of the GAN.

The biggest challenge will be finding the right person to run the accelerator. It would have to be a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in the specific segment chosen by the accelerator. And if we find that unique person, we could create an accelerator in Atlantic Canada that would gain an international reputation quickly.

 Dan Martell is the Founder and CEO of Clarity.

 This article first appeared in our Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which can be found here

Financing Ugandan Entrepreneurs

Eight years after it was founded to save a sick child, Uganda Venture and its dedicated managing director, Fadi Al Qassar, are getting high-profile help in its efforts to finance Ugandan entrepreneurs.

Among its many valuable projects, Uganda Venture reduces poverty in rural Uganda by providing entrepreneurs with access to capital through micro-credit loans of between $300 and $750.

There is huge need, and the group is struggling to meet demand. It’s hoping that with the help of a local entrepreneur who is part of California-based tech giant Salesforce.com, that effort will receive a boost.

Salesforce is well known in the region after buying into several Atlantic Canadian companies, including New Brunswick’s Radian6, co-founded by Marcel LeBrun. It was sold to Salesforce for $326 million in 2011.

“Marcel LeBrun is now senior vice-president and general manager of Salesforce Radian6 and he is going to be mentoring me for six months,” said Al Qassar by phone as he strode the streets of Halifax, keen to catch up on local work after spending seven weeks in the village of Tabiro, the venture’s Ugandan base.

“We’ve been able to provide loans to 25 individuals since the micro-loan program launched in May 2013,” he said.

“People are expanding their businesses, paying us back and living sustainable lives, but many others would benefit from this kind of loan.”

Al Qassar said that, among other things, LeBrun will advise him on raising funds through crowdfunding, the collection of money from many backers that usually occurs through the Internet.

“It will be great to have the help of someone who has a lot of knowledge in the area of bringing a digital product to market.”

Born in Jordan, Al Qassar joined Uganda Venture as a student volunteer in 2006, when the connection between Halifax and Tabiro was forged through the work of Halifax physician Wally Schlech.

While working in Uganda, Schlech met Dorcas Nazziwa, a teen with a heart ailment. Schlech and his colleagues brought Dorcas to Halifax for treatment free of charge. Sadly, Dorcas did not survive, but her illness created a profound connection between the two communities that endures and strengthens.

Back then, Al Qassar had already completed a commerce degree with a major in marketing. He was working in advertising and offered to re-design Uganda Venture’s logo and help with the fledgling group’s marketing plan. Since then, Uganda Venture has been a central focus of his life, and he is often on the road.

The last few months have been exciting. In addition to linking up with LeBrun, Al Qassar has participated in the first cohort of the social entrepreneurship program at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The six-month B4 Change accelerator program helps social entrepreneurs — those who found a business that meets a social, economic or environmental need and turns a profit.

“Often, accelerators are focused on technical organizations, but B4 Change had a good mix of social entrepreneurs,” Al Qassar said. “It brought in intelligent people who wanted to learn where we wanted to go and who wanted to help us bridge the gap.”

Additionally, the centre awarded Uganda Venture $15,000 toward its work providing micro-credit.

MBA students from Halifax’s Dalhousie University have also provided assistance. They gave accounting and financing training to the recipients and provided valuable evaluation of the group’s first year providing loans.

According to LeBrun, the Uganda Venture team is led by special people who have accomplished amazing things in Uganda and for the Canadians who have partnered with them.

But Al Qassar feels he’s the lucky one.

“For me, it feels awesome, satisfying and a privilege to be working with the people I’m working with and serving the people I’m serving.”

Building Startups in Rural Areas

Having spent a career in rural economic development, Andrew Button was blown away when he discovered the potential of startups in creating jobs and wealth. Now he’s using the startup model to encourage economic growth in rural communities.

He was the CEO of the South Shore Business Growth Association when he began to notice a few years ago that new tech businesses were growing strongly. He heard about the growth prospects from entrepreneurs like Blair Ryan of the Rounds and Leah Skerry of Norex, two Halifax tech companies.

 “I was working in the business development role for eight years, and none of this hit my radar,” said Button, sitting on the sun-strewn deck of a Mahone Bay coffee shop last weekend. “This got me to thinking that businesses in my community are just not aware of this.”

As a result, Button formed MashUp Labs, an organization devoted to nurturing startups on the South Shore. Button, who is also chairman of the Acadia Centre for Entrepreneurship at Acadia University, has a network that spans the province, and he intends for MashUp Labs' reach to extend throughout the province, the region and beyond.

Button has been studying how startups are formed and the resources they need. He said the model can be exploited more fully in rural settings. MashLab is not an accelerator like Launch36, he said, but it can bring entrepreneurs together, flesh out their ideas and prepare them for such accelerators.

So far, MashUp Labs has worked with the Hub South Shore in staging events to bring together entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs and familiarize them with the ways of startups. It has invited Ryan and others to come in and talk about their businesses and held instructional sessions on methods in growing lean businesses.

For example, Alistair Jarvis, executive producer of gaming studio Orpheus Interactive, led a session on the uses of a lean canvas, a digital device entrepreneurs use to plot the course for a business.

What was interesting about the session was the range of entrepreneurial pursuits of the 20 or so South Shore residents who attended. One person was developing a data analytics startup, another a mobile app and another a biotech company. One is working on a project to recycle coffee grounds.

Button stressed during the interview simply how many businesses — and people who have ideas for innovative businesses — there are in rural communities. They simply need some guidance in getting these off the ground, he said.

Button plans to continue with these programs and to link the startup community with the young, growing businesses on the South Shore. Beyond that, he said he wants MashUp Labs to work with a range of startup entrepreneurs.

 “It’s not a stretch to think, how do we bring this to any community with socio-economic challenges in North America, and combining it with the work of, say, a Launch36.”

Using Social Media to Fight Violence

LifeRaft, a Halifax startup focused on detecting signs of dangerous behaviour on social media, will launch its beta test this week with the participation of several educational and law enforcement groups.

LifeRaft is a social media monitoring tool that detects language signalling threats, cyberbullying and other signs that people may pose a threat to themselves or other people.

While most social media monitoring systems are used in marketing or measuring public opinion, LifeRaft is designed to help educational bodies and law enforcement agencies ensure public safety.

The company is being spun out of Citrus Mobile Solutions, a Halifax tech consultancy best known for its mobile real estate product TxT2look. The firm has spent about eight months developing LifeRaft and is now launching a 30-day test.

Three U.S. universities, a Canadian university and half a dozen law enforcement agencies are participating in the test. Citrus is planning a full public launch of the product once it assesses the results.

The tool “allows us to listen to what’s going on in social media and drill down and see what’s happening on a granular level,” said Citrus CEO Brian Perry. “We can understand the context of their discussions and in most cases can identify their geo-location.”

LifeRaft aims to help solve several serious issues. It can detect cyberbullying and therefore help schools, universities and school boards intervene before bullying results in a crisis. It can help identify people who strongly resent authority or the police, or could even be planning violence at a school.

Using LifeRaft, authorities can tell in real time who posted the questionable material and where they are, and can even see an archived street view of the building they are in. Authorities can also follow people of interest to make sure their social media posts don’t indicate they’re about to do something violent or harmful.

Perry said the device does not violate people’s privacy because social media posts are public information and police departments already monitor it. For example, the New York Police Department already has 12 employees assigned full time to monitoring social media. LifeRaft will simply improve the efficiency of such work, said Perry.

Citrus has been working with several partners in developing the product, including the Saint Mary’s University Sobey School of Business and the computer science department at Dalhousie University.

Perry said Citrus plans to develop LifeRaft as its own company, with the new entity employing about eight of the 10 people now working in the service company.

He said Citrus expects to be able to continue with its other work, in part because it contracts out to overseas developers. In the past year, it has even helped two of these programmers move to Halifax from Uruguay.

To finance the early development of LifeRaft, Perry and his team are now working on raising $1.5 million in seed financing. They have started talks with a few potential investors, he said.

Citrus’s main activity is custom software development, focusing on building and managing SMS communications and mobile technology platforms. The company evolved into this line of work by initially launching and operating SaaS text message solutions for the real estate and mobile marketing industries.

Our Anti-Spam Policy

As Canada’s new anti-spam legislation went into effect yesterday, we want to assure our readers that we respect their privacy and to clarify our policy on spam.

Every single person receiving our daily email does so because they left their email on our website. We therefore felt no need to pester people with emails asking them to confirm their wish to continue.

If you now receive the emails and wish to stop, please use the unsubscribe function at the end of each email. If that doesn’t work, please contact me at peter@entrevestor.com and we’ll remove you from the list.

At the same time, if you don’t receive our daily updates and would like to, please leave your email address at the bottom of our homepage. 

The Mentra Grows in Atlantic Canada

The Mentra Co-operative, a new initiative dedicated to developing a network of mentors throughout Atlantic Canada, has launched in New Brunswick and is looking for members from other provinces.

In early June, The Mentra hired as Executive Director Janna Hare, a coach, management consultant and training expert. And the organization is now building an online platform that will serve as a dating service between mentors and mentees.

Mentra was created by a group of organizations in New Brunswick that identified the need for a broader and deeper pool of mentors to help entrepreneurs develop their business. As it’s the home of the Launch36 accelerator, New Brunswick already has the best pool of business mentors in the region and now they want to improve it.

“There are a lot of organizations that are keenly excited about this,” said Hare in a phone interview on Friday. “The vision for the Mentra is to become a centre of excellence for mentoring, and we’re going to partner that with several organizations and develop these relationships to make it happen.”

Hare’s mission now is to train not only more mentors but more mentees as well. One of the curious aspects of mentorships is that the parties receiving lessons have to be prepped as thoroughly as the teachers themselves, otherwise the advice falls on deaf ears.

Hare is a certified coach and she plans to build coaching skills into the fabric of the program to encourage the development of both mentors and mentees.

She said the online platform for the group is now in development and the full service should be launched by the end of the year.  The beauty of the platform, said Hare, is that it allows the co-operative to link mentors and mentees in different locations. Entrepreneurs participating in the program will be asked how important it is to them to meet face-to-face with their mentors. If it’s not important, the network could allow founders to work with mentors in other locations.

One of the priorities now is to attract member organizations from other provinces for two reasons: first, it will allow more companies to benefit from the project; and second it will broaden the pool of mentors, in terms of numbers and expertise.  

“I have had a couple of conversations with Innovacorp in Halifax,” said Hare. “They’re keenly interested in the training program. Entrepreneur’s Forum will be in the list. I’m reaching out to people to see … how to have a strong mentoring network in all four provinces in Atlantic Canada.”

The development of the Mentra began last year when the New Brunswick Government put out a request for proposals for an organization to mentor entrepreneurs, and seven organizations came together with a single proposal, which won.

The Mentra will operate out of the Venn Centre (formerly Tech Southeast) on Main Street in Moncton. The founding members are: The Wallace McCain Institute; BioNB; the New Brunswick Business Council; Planet Hatch; the Pond-Deshpande Centre; the Venn Centre ; and the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network.

They have held discussions with other members who may become members, including: Propel ICT; the New Brunswick Information Technology Council; the University of New Brunswick's Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship; the New Brunswick Community College; 21inc., and Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick.



Press Release: EY’s Analytics Centre

EY, the global accounting and business consultancy, announced the opening of the Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics in the following press release:

EY opens Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX, June 27, 2014 - EY is empowering Canadian businesses to capitalize on the transformational power of data analytics, with the launch of its Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics (CAA) in Halifax today.

"In times of increased competitive pressure, businesses are constantly looking for innovative ways to grow and improve bottom line performance," says Jim Lutes, EY Atlantic Managing Partner. "Data analytics can help organizations improve their performance through driving better business decisions. This Centre exemplifies our commitment to supporting clients through the acquisition of talent, delivery of resources, technology and, above all, analytics insights."

EY's Centre will leverage the rich talent pool right here in Atlantic Canada to build its dedicated team, which will serve clients across Canada and around the world.

"Atlantic Canada – Halifax in particular – has been selected as the hub for analytics in Canada at EY and we're very proud of that," says Steven Maynard, Performance Improvement Partner in Halifax. "EY's investment to grow this capability in Atlantic Canada, along with our recent acquisition of Ambir Solutions, the leading independent IT and business consulting firm in Atlantic Canada, will support our efforts to respond to the significant demand for analytics.  We are currently serving clients from around the world from our new state of the art Centre at RBC Waterside place.  We will continue to expand both in numbers and capabilities in the coming months."

EY's opening of the Centre for Advanced Analytics is not only a benefit to its clients, but also represents a boost for the Atlantic economy.

"Private sector investment is vital to Nova Scotia's economic growth, and EY's new centre is a positive example of the impact it can have in our province," says Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. "It also reinforces the strength, drive and innovation of our province's biggest asset — its people."

About EY's Centre of Advanced Analytics

The Center of Advanced Analytics (CAA) consists of a team of highly specialized Advisory professionals, part of EY's Performance Improvement Advisory practice. The CAA will support Canadian and Global EY clients to enable them turn data driven insights into improved productivity, competitiveness and growth.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY is proudly celebrating 150 years in Canada. For more information, please visit ey.com/ca. Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

CTA@Boston Seeks Applicants

The Canadian Technology Accelerator at Boston, or CTA@Boston, is calling for applications for its coming cohorts.

The applications for the four-month program open on Wednesday and run until July 23.

The following is a description issued by the Canadian Consulate in Boston, which operates the program:

The Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston (CTA @ Boston) is a 4-month immersion program that connects your business to the unique resources and contacts in New England to help accelerate your growth. The benefits of participating in the CTA and the resources in Greater Boston are highlighted below.

Program Placements:


Winter /Spring



Accelerator candidates are small to mid-sized Canadian companies from Life Sciences, ICT (Including Green IT and Health IT), Robotics and Security technologies, and emerging food product sectors, with initial traction in the market, differentiated technology, and potential to scale the business through the CTA experience in Boston.

WHY: Benefits of participating in the CTA@Boston:

•Space/services at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square for up to 4-months

•Trade Commissioner's Assistance – including connections in the territory to help meet your goals.

•Mentors – from the Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England (http://www.TheCENE.org)

•Pitch Coach to refine your investor, partner, or client-focused presentation

•Member privileges at key industry associations

•Introductions to potential industry partners/funding groups/customers

•Weekly CTA Client Newsletter highlighting upcoming events/opportunities

You’ll find the following resources in the Greater Boston area:

•Over 400 biotechnology companies

•R&D sites for global pharmaceutical companies

•Strong tech cluster (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, EMC, Akamai, IBM,Nuance,…)

•World renowned research institutions (MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern)

•Venture Capital Firms, Corporate VCs and Angel investors interested in Canadian technologies

The online CTA@Boston application opens Wednesday, July 2, 2014 through Wednesday, July 23, close of business. 

Press Release: Oris4-Box Deal

Halifax-based Oris4, which has developed a cloud-based document-organization system,  has issued the following press release:

Oris4 Integrates with Box to Simplify File Migration and Discoverability

Palo Alto, Calif. — June 30, 2014 — Oris4 today announced a new integration with Box. The integration makes it easier for businesses to search for content across various software applications and provides the option of migrating it to a centralized cloud-based platform like Box.

When files are stored on numerous applications, such as network drives, email or legacy software, users often lack a secure and simple way to find what they are looking for from any device. According to an IDC report, information workers waste a significant amount of time each week dealing with a variety of challenges related to working with documents. This wasted amounts to a loss of 21.3% of the organizational total productivity. For organizations with 1000 employees, this time wasted would equal hiring an additional 213 workers.  Many organizations try to solve this challenge by building expensive interfaces between systems that are expensive and difficult to maintain. Instead, the Oris4 and Box integration greatly improves the discoverability of content with an easy point and click search method that gives a centralized view of an organization’s files, while also providing customers with an affordable way to either synchronize or migrate their content to the cloud.

“The biggest organizational expense firms are trying to grapple with is the time wasted searching numerous information repositories” according to Reza Kazemipour, CEO of Oris4. “People just don’t know where it is or how to find it. Box is a powerful platform for content management and collaboration in the cloud, and their customers are challenged with migrating all of their most important files from disparate, legacy solutions. We make finding all of this easy but clients were asking us if certain content can simply be moved directly into Box making it the ultimate online repository.”

The partnership between Box and Oris4 does just that providing a simple UI making things findable and by offering enterprise the ability to sync or migrate content from a current source into Box.com. 

About Oris4

At Oris4, we automate the organization of content. Oris4 is an easy to use and scalable cloud content management system that delivers real ROI for business as soon as you install it. The system gathers and indexes information from sources such as Box, Salesforce, network drives and email, organizing it in a manner that lets you find anything in a few clicks. Each file is linked to the people or companies you are working with and available to you regardless of how and where it was saved. For more information visit Oris4.com/box.

Ryan’s New Take on Maternity Wear

Like most women, Danielle Ryan struggled to look stylish when she was pregnant with her daughter, Penny-Laine.

Her clothes strained at the waist and it was hard to feel comfortable. The lifelong fashion lover decided women needed clothes that would expand throughout their pregnancies. When she failed to find the clothes she wanted, her company Penny Posh was born.

That was five years ago. Ryan, previously a director of business development for an Alberta land company, turned herself into a clothes designer, coming up with two novel garments: a sleek faux-leather jacket and a cosy hoodie. Both have subtle stretch panels in the sides that expand as the mother’s body grows and shrink back after she has given birth, while still allowing space for a baby to snuggle in close to Mom’s body.

St. John’s-based Ryan launched her venture in November. Her clientele is now growing and so is her product line.

“I was surprised at how difficult it was to find maternity wear that would fit my blossoming body and still allow me to feel sexy and stylish at the same time,” she said by phone from her Newfoundland base.

“The St. John’s climate reminded me of the need for maternity jackets that will zip up over a growing belly and remain zipped. When I was pregnant, I had broken zippers all the time,” she said with a laugh.

It took Ryan four years to learn how to design clothes. She was helped by Julia and Bonnie Cook, a mother and daughter team who co-own Newfoundland company AbbyShot Clothiers.

“I would send over sketches and Julia would forward them to their technical designer,” Ryan said.

“Bonnie helped guide me on the business side of manufacturing, and they also facilitated my manufacturing overseas.”

The new entrepreneur has also been fortunate with her father, Bruce, who is her financier.

“After watching me work on these designs for four years, Dad saw my passion and financed my whole project.”

Ryan’s garments are sold at Bellies & Bundles Maternity Boutique in St. John’s, but her focus is on growing her online market because online retail allows her to keep more of her profits and expand her client base nationally and even internationally.

So far, most of her clients are based in St. John’s and Ontario, but she is working with a branding firm on putting together a pitch in the hopes of selling her clothes to large American department stores.

“Our fake leather jacket currently sells for $139. Our mid-level price points are perfect for medium- to higher-end department stores. We think it’s a good fit,” she said, “excuse the pun.”

Despite being new to this line of work, Ryan feels she has got off to a good start. She credits her early Facebook party and her launch, which was held in conjunction with the national Oh baby! magazine, for giving her business an initial splash and attracting early clients.

“I’d highly recommend this kind of partnership to anyone starting out. You want to reach as many people as you can.”

She had initially planned to call her company Penny-Laine after her daughter and was disappointed to find the name heavily trademarked.

“But Penny Posh is working out. My faux leather jacket is posh. It looks and feels real. It’s the image we’re after. The name flows nicely.”

She is working on new designs for a blazer and leggings that will be available this summer. Jeans, which are unexpectedly tricky to design, are planned for the fall.

Stewart: Lessons in Civic Open Data

I like to think of myself as a pretty creative person. This past weekend, however, I got to meet a whole lot of creative people – many much more creative than me. 

I was privileged to experience firsthand what happens when you put a bunch of these insanely creative people in the same room for two entire days.  This is exactly what happened at the True Growth Civic Hackathon this past weekend.

Hosted by the University of New Brunswick’s Maker Space, this civic hackathon was incredibly timely considering the perfect storm that is now under way. With the current trend for global urbanization, leaders need to find innovative solutions to make their infrastructures work in ways that they were not originally designed for. The convergence of technology and the vast amounts of data now available translates to an infinite number of innovative possibilities.

Today’s cities have access to inexpensive technologies capable of capturing and storing huge amounts of data. This data can be sensor data taken from wireless traffic cameras, infrastructure monitoring of buildings and bridges, mobile health and fitness, and people tracking to name a few. Government organizations also have access to many sources of data ranging from property tax assessments, geographic mapping, and location based service information.

It has been recognized that sharing such data can lead to things like smarter transport, lower energy consumption and increased efficiencies and productivity.

Over the course of the sunniest weekend that I can remember, this civic-minded event focused on ‘people solving problems for people’ using open data. That is, data that organizations make available to the public without restriction on usage or distribution. Making such data open has the ability to transform a city by increasing transparency of governance and enabling outside expert collaboration. The reality is, most government agencies do not have the resources to create innovative solutions, nor do they typically enjoy a culture that allows for failure – a prerequisite of innovation. Allowing citizens to apply their specialized skills and localized knowledge from an outside perspective is a powerful model that benefits from experimentation.

The group of 20+ civic hackers present was complemented with people traveling from other cities, and even other provinces to compete. Imagine, people care enough about making a difference that they are willing to invest in traveling to another province to help solve problems. Good food, great conversation, and new friends made sitting inside during this first weekend of summer awesome.

At the end of the weekend, there were three amazing products completed.  These ranged from a portal to all pertinent information on a given address (see civic311.com), an interactive virtual city tour, and a service to find the location of the most desirable parking spots in the city.  All of these were built using open data, which, as we all quickly found out, is scarce.

This event should serve as proof of the value of open data. Despite how open the government claims to be, we still have a long way to go.  For example, we may have ‘access’ to property tax information, but it is not ‘open access’. 

Open means unrestricted.  Open means sites like propertize.ca would flourish – the very site that property assessors are rumoured to use themselves because it is better than their own site.  Need another example?  Try to obtain your city’s geocoded civic addresses, something you can create yourself if you know how, just to see the restrictions placed on it and anything you build on top of it.

The true smart city empowers its citizens from the bottom up to create a living lab.

The true smart city empowers its citizens from the bottom up to create a living lab. While there are glimmers of brilliance being shown in the innovative work being done across city departments like transportation, energy, and public safety. This is just the beginning as the real data mining and analytics opportunities arise from opening all data and combining these datasets together. Powerful transformative insights exist in these combined open datasets, and they are just waiting to be unlocked to provide useful patterns, trends and predictive power. Tim Berners-Lee tells us of the innovative power that comes from blending different data sources together to enable people to do “wonderful things in ways we would never have imagined”.

‘Government 2.0’ should be in stark contrast to the opaque, “we know better” attitudes of current bureaucracies and needs to embrace the power, innovation, and insights that the crowd will bring to advance good governance. Government should not squander the opportunity to shine a very bright light on its practices with open data (such as pseudo-open policies that attempt short-term gains by monetizing access rather than seeking the big time savings that will come from innovation by allowing open access by all to all).

Every elected government in the free world claims they are simply interested in improving on the cost effective delivery of their systems and programs; if this is indeed a core value, then there should be no hesitation in inviting the electorate to scrutinize their performance and provide valuable feedback and innovation to achieve improvements in cost and service.

There are very few options for governments to both reduce spending while increasing economic activity, but embracing an open access approach just might provide that opportunity. The spoils will go to the government who chooses to take a leadership role in fostering technology innovation in big data analytics by adopting true open-access.


James Stewart James Stewart, Ph.D. candidate,  is an intelligence analyst at Predexa Analytics and teaches data mining at the University of New Brunswick. This blog first appeared on the Predexa website. 



SimplyCast Aim: Double Sales Monthly

As he prepares for a lengthy sojourn in Silicon Valley, Saeed El-Darahali laid out a lofty goal for his Dartmouth company, the multi-channel marketing startup SimplyCast.

He wants it to at least double its revenues monthly.

That’s right. Double its sales or better. Every. Danged. Month.

SimplyCast was founded in 2009 as a platform-as-a-service product that would help companies and organizations carry out marketing and communication campaigns over email, social media and a range of other channels. A year ago this month, after three years of development, SimplyCast launched its flagship product, the 360 Automation Manager, which allows incredible ease of use in these campaigns.

The product is selling, and revenues are rising at 30 per cent per month, but that’s not enough for the company’s founder and CEO.

“I want growth percentage up to triple digits per month,” said El-Darahali in an interview at the company’s headquarters. “Five per cent is OK, and 50 per cent is good but not good enough. But 100 per cent would be super.”

El-Darahali has never lacked ambition. When the native of the Middle East left his job as a fund manager at Innovacorp in 2009, he said his goal was to build a $1-billion company based in Nova Scotia. He’s never deviated from that goal and never lost his belief that SimplyCast could be such a titan.

The company has grown to 34 employees, virtually all of them in Dartmouth. (One is in South Korea because his wife took a job there.)

The company is not on a hiring binge because El-Darahali believes he has the firepower he needs to drive sales with the 360 Automation Manager.

Certainly, customers have been rolling in lately. On June 3, the company, which already had clients in 175 countries, reported that customer totals of SimplyCast 360 increased 266 per cent in the first quarter.

Customers who have signed up include the Make-A-Wish Atlantic Provinces foundation and cartoonist and marketer Stu Heinecke. SimplyCast has not revealed all its customers, but El-Darahali said they include two banks in the United States and several government agencies.

El-Darahali said the focus of the company is on revenue growth, whereas for the first three years the critical mission was building the platform.

“We couldn’t have had the revenue growth that we’re now seeing if we’d focused on revenue at the start,” he said.

SimplyCast was formed with $758,000 in financing from Innovacorp and Nova Scotia angels. El-Darahali has never raised money outside Nova Scotia. He said he’s been approached by two or three potential investors, purchasers or strategic partners every week but has so far not signed a deal.

“We continue to look for the right partner, but we don’t need the money,” he said. “We haven’t found the right partner yet, and we’re not on our knees.”

Yet within the next two months, he will head to Silicon Valley to meet with potential partners. His options for financing further growth include a public listing, venture capital, private equity or a strategic partner. But he emphasized his main goals for the company — a billion-dollar enterprise based in Nova Scotia — have not changed.

“The public markets are one of the options we would look to in the future. But we want to build this company properly and keep the headquarters in Nova Scotia.”

Revolution in Newfoundland Funding

There’s a quiet revolution taking place in seed funding in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Charlene Johnson unveiled in her spring budget that the province would participate in two venture capital funds, she was signaling her government’s commitment to improve funding for companies on the Rock.

The province’s government is on board with a strategy to develop more startups and is therefore radically altering the seed funding of young tech companies.

Most visibly, the province has announced it will invest $10 million in Build Ventures, the regional VC fund. More quietly, it is working with GrowthWorks Atlantic, the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network and an as-yet-unnamed financial institution to develop the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund. Complementing this effort, the government will soon allow private investors in the Venture fund to receive equity tax credits for the fund’s investments. In total, it will mark a huge advance in funding startups in the northeastern province.

“I hope that we can develop a community of funding societies here in Newfoundland and Labrador and across Atlantic Canada so that more of our entrepreneurs can be supported and help to grow our economy,” said Mark Dobbin, the founder of Killick Capital, one of the province’s prime funding bodies.

The most visible announcement so far was the investment in Build Ventures. The other investors are the three Maritime Provinces, the Business Development Bank and private investors, who together with Newfoundland have committed a total of $65 million.

Build so far has invested in tranches of $1.5 million, so the Newfoundland and Labrador government also wants to improve financing in the earlier phases of a company’s development.

An official with the provincial government, who asked not to be named, said startups in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have an easier time finding seed funding than those in Newfoundland because of bodies like Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

This Venture fund is meant to fill that gap, but it will be structured differently to allow maximum fire power. First, it will have a private fund manager in GrowthWorks Atlantic. GrowthWorks already has several investments in Newfoundland, such as Virtual Marine Technologies, adfinitum Networks and ClearRisk.

Members of NLAN will also be invited to invest in the fund. People in the community say NLAN has previously had trouble finding lead investors to identify target companies, draw up terms sheets and lead the funding. In the future, such tasks would be taken over by the fund manager. And the angels will be allowed to receive equity tax credits based on the fund’s investments. Newfoundland and Labrador’s current equity tax credit is granted only to individuals investing directly in Newfoundland companies.

The official said the government will contribute at least as much to this fund as it did to Build Ventures, meaning the new fund will be substantially more than $10 million. The hope is there will be a substantial body of money at the inception, and over time the government’s role in the fund will diminish as it attracts more private capital.

“We really feel that this is an area we have to build up to develop these great young companies,” said the official.


This article first appeared in our Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence Report, which can be found here.


Resson Unveils Deal with McCain

Resson Aerospace, a Fredericton company that uses aerial imaging to improve farm productivity, has signed a multi-year memorandum of understanding with Canada’s largest food producer aimed at improving potato production.

The company unveiled its deal with McCain Foods Ltd. at an event Monday near Fredericton, at which Premier David Alward announced the province would invest $5 million in a research and development project with McCain.

The other startups involved in the project include Eigen Innovations, Solanum Genomics, Envirem Organics and Hyton Innovation.

Resson was co-founded by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl in 2013 while they were studying at the University of New Brunswick. They came up with an idea to use aerial drones as surveillance mechanisms and develop software that can analyze the data they collect. The first application they came up with was an agricultural product, gathering and analyzing a range of data that can improve crop production.

Plants, like animals, undergo metabolic changes, including changes in their temperature, when they contract diseases. Resson’s system — which it calls the Resson Agricultural Management and Analytics System — detects these changes and reports it to the farm operator before the disease spreads. That means the operators can quickly address the problem in a contained area.

Tests have shown that the system decreased the chemical used in farming and increases crop yields.

“Our software is the brain behind the platform,” said Goggin in an interview. “Any imaging platform can capture images. Our software processes the information and generates the report.”

The company has just completed the Launch36 accelerator program and has been in talks with three major food producers. In April, it signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with McCain Foods to apply the management and analytics system to potato crops. The memorandum calls for a business relationship covering several years that is worth seven figures. It will produce $280,000 in revenue for Resson this year.

In his presentation at the Launch36 graduation last week, Goggin said the company continues to work with major agricultural companies involved in such crops as wheat and canola. There are other crops and industries that Resson hopes to focus on in the future.

“We’re working with McCain, working to tailor the system for potato production,” he said.

“Different crops react differently and need to be calibrated individually. But once it is calibrated, it can be used by anyone.”

It’s rare for a startup so early in its development to be working with such a large customer, and that may be why Resson Aerospace has already been able to raise about $600,000 in equity funding. Goggin said during his Launch36 pitch that the company is working on a funding round totalling $2.1 million — the largest target ever revealed in a Launch36 graduation pitch.

Goggin said one thing he and Behr learned going through the accelerator was to aim high.

“The biggest thing limiting a lot of Atlantic Canadian companies is a restrictive mindset. Launch36 taught us to go after the big fish and be a big fish. That mindset is critical.”

Press Release: Oris4’s New Features

Halifax-based Oris4, which has developed a cloud-based document-organization system,  has issued the following press release:

Oris4 to unveil latest integration at Salesforce.com event in Toronto

Oris4 will participate in salesforce.com’s Force1 World Tour event in Toronto on June 25th and unveil a new integration developed for a major telecom designed to help improve user adoption of salesforce.com’s social enterprise application, Chatter, while improving the company’s ability to quickly find files across multiple software applications like SharePoint, email and network drives via salesforce.com.

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five Exabyte of data.”  This massive amount of content is stored across numerous applications and the Internet and as a result is often difficult to find.

“Our previous integrations which automatically link files from SharePoint, email, and the most popular cloud-based file storage solutions were key in understanding how we can enhance the social enterprise experience” according to Reza Kazemipour, CEO of Oris4. “Clients were asking us how we could improve their ability to easily find previously shared presentations and relevant comments regarding the opportunities they were currently working on. Working with the client team really helped us design this offering and we’re ready to share that experience.”

According to IDC, information workers waste a significant amount of time each week dealing with a variety of challenges related to working with documents. This wasted time amounts to a loss of 21.3% of the organizational total productivity. For organizations with 1000 employees, this time wasted would equal hiring an additional 213 workers.  Oris4 helps clients gain back the lost time looking for and managing their files by providing an easy point and click search method that gives users a secure, centralized view of an organization’s files.

“During one of our presentations there was a lot of excitement. One executive said, “This will make us use salesforce even more.” said Peter Hickey, founder of Oris4. “That’s the fun part. Seeing something we built get the client excited. We’ve tied it all together; salesforce, the social enterprise, SharePoint, email and the cloud. We’re giving people a complete view of the information they require to make decisions and win business.”

Social enterprise software is gaining popularity within many organizations for its ability to share information and collaborate with colleagues organizations have adopted it as part of their culture. Oris4 allows for content shared within Chatter to be automatically organized and linked to relevant contacts, accounts and opportunities.

About Oris4

At Oris4, we automate the organization of content. Oris4 is an easy to use and scalable cloud content management system that delivers real ROI for business as soon as you install it. The system gathers and indexes information from sources such as SharePoint, Salesforce, network drives and email, organizing it in a manner that lets you find anything in a few clicks. Each file is linked to the people or companies you are working with and available to you regardless of how and where it was saved. For more information visit Oris4.com.


Populus Inks Major Deal in Barbados

Health information company Populus Global Solutions has won an international bid to supply the Government of Barbados with a fully-integrated national electronic health information system – its fourth major contract in the Caribbean-Central American market.

Fredericton-based Populus, which received a $260,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation several year ago, has commercialized software for running an electronic health information system, or HIS. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the best all-encompassing systems of its kind, said the company.

“We have developed a big data, health software product that manages more than 1 million transactions every day,” said Populus CEO Tristan Rutter in a statement. “Harnessing the power of our Canadian technology, governments like Barbados are proving that we can expand access to healthcare, reduce the burden of disease and save money all at the same time.”

Populus began to gain traction in 2007 when it sold a system to the government of Belize. Though located in Central America, Belize is a member of Caricom, the Caribbean Community, and word began to spread through the island nations of the strength of the Populus system. In the past seven years, Populus has installed national HIS products in St. Lucia and in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and now in Barbados.

In an interview, Rutter said the company did not set out to become a supplier to Caribbean customers but it simply gained traction there. And it hopes its success in Barbados can help it expand to other markets.

“What this really means to us is Barbados is a country that everyone knows,” he said. “The hospital is a 600-bed facility that does a full range of [procedures]. . . . “What Barbados means is to us is validation. It’s the opportunity to refine the process.”

Populus will provide every Barbadian citizen with an electronic medical record and electronically tie all its doctors, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies together under one cloud-based integrated system. The features of the system include: E-prescribing with inventory control; embedded disease management protocols; data analytics complete with real-time reporting; and billing.

“The entire system will be up and running within nine months at cost of less than ten dollars per citizen,” added Rutter.

He said the company’s priority in the near-term is to install the system properly in Barbados, but it is also planning to grow in more markets. It now has about 18 employees, 15 of them in Fredericton. It has only done one round of fundraising with NBIF and a group of angels mainly based in Atlantic Canada. The company’s board has discussed raising more capital, but has no immediate plans, Rutter said.

In the long-term, the company wants to get into the Canadian market and believes it can help governments improve service and save money. Rutter notes that Canadian healthcare spending rose 54 percent between 2002 and 2010 and that did nothing to improve mortality rates. He believes the country is at a crossroads in terms of healthcare and will have to adopt new technologies.

“Out of my office in Fredericton, I look out at the Department of Health,” he said. “Do I want my software running there? Yeah I do.”

Propel, BioAlliance Win CAIP Funding

PropelICT and the P.E.I. BioAlliance have been awarded five years of funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP, which will allow them to expand their programing.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Waterloo, Ont., today that the federal government will devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the BioAlliance. Though the government did not announce the size of funding, it said no accelerator would receive more than $5 million over the five-year period and all recipients must come up with matching funds.

People familiar with PropelICT, the New Brunswick-based tech mentoring group that operates the Launch36 accelerator, say it will be sufficient to pay for a meaningful increase in the group’s work.

“It means we can finally scale our operations regionally in each of the Atlantic Provinces,” said PropelICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland in an interview. “We’ll be taking the program and tweaking it a bit and developing programs based on various categories [of businesses].”

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 10 years ago to foster growth in the technology industry. In the winter of 2012, it launched its own accelerator, Launch36, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years. With the graduation of five companies on Monday, PropelICT has now graduated about 30 startups from across the three Maritime Provinces.

Headed by Executive Director Rory Francis, the P.E.I. BioAlliance is a not-for-profit organization that has brought together government, academics and private companies to nurture the life sciences industry on the Island. Its growth has accelerated during the last 10 years as the members of the alliance -- including Nautilus Biosciences, Island Abbey Foods and Neurodyn – have increased their activity and are now coming into their own.

In recent months, senior people within PropelICT have been talking internally about “Propel 2.0”, in which the increased funding will produce a richer program offering that extends across Atlantic Canada.  The plan involves working with various partners – including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta Labs in Halifax and StartupNL in St. John’s -- to develop more and better tech companies. The ultimate goal is to establish at least one billion-dollar company in the region.

MacAusland said Propel 2.0 will feature 12-week programs offered in specific locations so companies can go through the course without having to travel between provinces. The group is planning to offer cohorts at both PlanetHatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax this autumn. Propel plans to have a program director who can travel to the various cities to conduct the programs.

In the future, Propel may offer sector-specific accelerators if it determines there is a critical mass of one type of company in one location that could benefit from the course.

“It’s incredible to have this opportunity to work organizations across Atlantic Canada and align our resources,” said Sally Ng, Executive Director of PlanetHatch. She added it is an “exciting next step in the evolution of our region and Planet Hatch.”

One of the strengths of the Propel programming has been its stable of mentors, many of whom are in New Brunswick. In the future, the accelerator will develop networks of mentors across the region, including Launch36 graduates who can help to coach a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Propel will also use the services of Moncton-based Clarity to link its entrepreneurs with thousands of international mentors. Founded by serial entrepreneur Dan Martell, Clarity links entrepreneurs and business people with the best advisers in different fields from around the world.

MacAusland said Propel, which now has two staff members, will likely expand to a staff of five this year with the goal of eventually increasing to seven people.

Propel has no plans to own a working space for its member companies as some accelerators do, largely because its mission is to mentor startups across a broad geographic area. Similarly, the group will continue to be a not-for-profit organization and will not be affiliated with a fund that invests in the companies it mentors.

The government announcement had been expected for several months, and follows an intense effort in October by a number of groups in the region to land the CAIP funding. 

Teaching Youth Art, Entrepreneurship

A strong smell of pizza, along with words like “futurepreneur” and “artpreneur” drift in the air as the first cohort of ArtPreneur 2.0 meet at the Halifax offices of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, or CEED. This is the second of eight meetings for the young artists who are here to learn skills they hope will help them turn their talents into profitable businesses.

A collaboration between CEED and the Youth Art Connection, a group that partners with community organizations and professional artists to deliver programs that empower youth, the new eight-week business incubation program offers 15 young creators the opportunity to learn useful skills, such as creating a business plan.

“At (the art connection) we are very concerned about the issues youth are facing in Nova Scotia right now,” said Ryan Veltmeyer, co-founder of the organization with his wife Ann Denny.

“High youth unemployment rates, stress and mental-health challenges and a cultural gap with older generations, are some of the issues causing young people to leave our province for opportunities elsewhere in Canada.”

Veltmeyer, himself a musician, said it makes sense to teach artists business skills as “every artist is an entrepreneur, but artists wouldn’t think to go to CEED.”

The students are receiving business training from CEED staff and mentoring from Veltmeyer, Denny, and hip-hop artists J-Bru and Shevy Price. The young artists will also attend off-site meetings, workshops and individual coaching sessions with the goal of designing a professional-level product or service by the end of the eight weeks.

“I’m hoping I can get the tools, help and advice I need to propel my business to the next level. Currently I’m selling my jewelry through word of mouth and online, but I want to make a name for myself here in Halifax,” said participant Aaron Stevens of X.A.C. Productions.

This is the first of this kind of program for CEED, although the organization has over a decade of creating programs that connect youth to the workforce through either entrepreneurship or employment.

CEED education and small-business consultant Melissa MacMaster said the students in this group are younger than those in regular cohorts and the program has been adapted to their specific needs. Students are looking at creative industries in some depth. All the artpreneurs will present and pitch their product or service at the ArtCeleration event on July 8 at the offices of sponsor McInnes Cooper.

As he sat down, pizza in hand, ready to learn how to write a business plan, rapper Nima Tabatabaei, 18, said he has been rapping since he was 12 and had decided it was time to learn the business side of the music industry. “I’ve learned a lot so far,” he added.

AVF, Launch36 Prove Our Progress

To assess the superb quality of the companies on display in Halifax this week, we should start with Charlottetown drug discovery company Neurodyn, which captured the best growth stage company at the Atlantic Venture Forum.

It’s difficult to highlight just this company.  You could choose DeCell Technologies of Halifax, which won the award for the best early-stage company.  Or any of the five companies that pitched Monday night at the Launch36 DemoDay. Or the other 24 startups that presented at the AVF. You could even focus on topLog of Halifax, which missed these events but was at metabridge 2014 in Kelowna, B.C. as one of the Top 15 startups in Canada.

Suffice it to say the quality of these young companies was exceptional. It can be seen in the comments from visiting venture capital fund managers, who validated the feeling in Atlantic Canada that our startups can compete anywhere.

“At Launch36 last night, the teams were incredible,” Jeff Grammer, a Boston-based Partner with Rho Canada Ventures, said Tuesday. “They were equal to or better than the teams we see at accelerators across Canada. The energy and camaraderie were incredible.”

Let’s focus on Neurodyn, which specializes in treating diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Last year, it bought a drug candidate called Memogain, an updated compound that had already been developed and commercialized in Germany. Neurodyn bought the drug because it displayed stronger treatment powers than existing drugs for Alzheimer’s, with none of the awful side effects such as diarrhea.

Neurodyn Executive Director Bob Cervelli said the company decided to test the drug not on old people with dementia problems, but on young, healthy people. They gave some college students a battery of cognition tests, gave them Memogain (some received a placebo) and then had them take more tests. The cognitive powers of those who’d taken Memogain increased dramatically.

“We saw not side effects – we expected that,” said Cervelli. “But we noticed improved memory performance, and this is in healthy adults.”

He added the drug could have an accelerated regulatory process for two reasons: first, there has not been a new Alzheimer’s medication in 11 years so the Food and Drug Administration has lowered the bar somewhat for such drugs; and second, Memogain is a derivative of a previously approved drug and can build on previous tests.

The company, which is also developing other drugs, is now looking for $10 million in equity funding to finance the development of Memogain.

Neurodyn is a graphic illustration of the great stories being told by Atlantic Canadian startups, and I don’t have the space here to tell the others.  But the written AVF program shows how a broad range of our startups are performing, because it reveals the revenue data for 22 of the 26 startups that presented at the forum.

In 2013, these companies reported total revenue of $4.0 million. Ours is a young startup community and only seven of these companies had sales of more than $20,000 last year.

We’re now half-way through 2014 and these companies have a pretty good idea of their sales for this year. They estimate a total of $13.8 million – an increase of almost 250 percent. Eight of the companies are expecting to book revenue of $1 million or more.

As for their forecasts for 2014, you would expect startup founders to be optimistic about their prospects. So we could take this with a sizeable grain of salt. But for what it’s worth, these 22 companies are forecasting $56.9 million in revenue in 2015 – a gain of 13 times over 2013.

If these projections miss the mark by 50 percent, these companies will still report better than 600 percent revenue growth over two years. It speaks to the quality – not to mention the breadth of markets – on display this week. 

Car Service Uber Comes to Halifax

Uber, a car-for-hire service that’s created controversy across the continent, has come to Halifax.

The San Francisco company announced Wednesday that it has launched its service in Halifax, so a fleet of drivers can now use its app to communicate with customers and accept payments.

Uber, which began five years ago, provides users with a smartphone app that takes their credit card number and connects them with a fleet of cars. When users need a car, the app shows a map of their immediate vicinity and outlines what cars are nearby. They can view the ratings of each driver as determined by previous users, order the car they want and watch its progress on the map. The rider doesn’t have to fumble for change at the end of the trip because the ride is paid for through the app and a receipt emailed out immediately.

 “It’s great to see this spreading across to Halifax now,” said general manager Ian Black in an interview at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax on Wednesday. “What’s important for us is to offer a high level of service to our customers.”

Uber offers taxi services in some cities and black car limousine services in others. For example, it offers both services in Toronto and just a taxi service in Montreal. Halifax will be its third Canadian city and will offer only the black car service at first.

In entering other markets, Uber has met with strong opposition from both taxi operators and those that regulate the industry. Reuters reported last year that Uber has faced licensing offences in Toronto, been declared illegal in New York, and served with cease-and-desist orders by regulators from California to Massachusetts.

The problem is that Uber either is a taxi service or performs many of the tasks of a taxi service, and taxis are a heavily regulated industry. Taxi operators usually require licences, so some jurisdictions have tried to have Uber behave like traditional taxi companies.

 “The problem is that the laws weren’t written to account for technology that exists today,” said Black. “In most cities, taxis are a large and entrenched lobby group, so they pushed back.”

What many drivers have found over time, he said, is that Uber actually helps them because the service allows them to make more money. Riders also prefer it, he said, because it allows greater flexibility contacting, selecting, rating and paying drivers.

Uber began four years ago when founders Travis Kalanick and Calgary native Garrett Camp grew tired of waiting for cabs in San Francisco, so they developed a smartphone app that would improve the experience of ordering a cab. The company has since spread to 140 cities, notwithstanding the controversy. Black said the company has lined up a fleet of Halifax drivers — he wouldn’t say how many — and users can now download the app on Uber.com.

Press Release: SHIFT in Vancouver

SHIFT Energy, a Saint John company that is developing automated energy-control systems for large facilities, issued the following press release yesterday with Canucks Sports & Entertainment:


17 June 2014, Vancouver, BC

Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE), in conjunction with SHIFT Energy, announced the launch of a comprehensive, automated Energy Optimization System (EOS™) at Rogers Arena. As part of CSE’s commitment to environmental sustainability and energy conservation, SHIFT’s EOS solution, the first enterprise-wide Intelligent Live Recommissioning solution on the market, will allow for significant reduction in energy consumption. 

 “As a live events facility, Rogers Arena has a dynamic, complex footprint of energy usage,” Al Hutchings, Director of Facility Operations and Engineering at Rogers Arena.  “EOS™ is able to fine-tune the entire facility from HVAC to chillers to lighting - optimizing the facility in real-time, while respecting our event management needs.  We feed the EOS™ solution with our event needs and the system takes care of the energy and space planning, continuously adjusting the equipment setpoints for optimal efficiency and performance.  The result is big savings without significant changes to our daily operations.”

EOS™ began as a pilot project in June of 2013.  After six months of development and another three months of engineering implementation, EOS is live at Rogers Arena, saving 14 percent of total energy in the arena. 

“We were very pleased to have the Canucks collaborate with us on the development of EOS™,” Brock Sansom, President and CEO of SHIFT Energy said commenting about the launch. “The joint effort has produced an excellent result – establishing a new paradigm in building energy management.  When big data analytics, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are combined with engineering principles, a new era of energy waste reduction begins.  We have taken an ‘intelligent-ready’ building and truly made it an ‘intelligent building ‘.”

The sophisticated intelligence powering EOS™ is a collection of patent-pending algorithms that have been developed by SHIFT over the past five years.  These algorithms, combined with recent technological advances, have enabled EOS™ to derive a new, optimal energy plan for a building each minute of the day and immediately action the plan using the existing building automation systems.  EOS saves $.30 to $.80 per minute for each building, resulting in an average annual portfolio energy savings of 15% to 35%.

About Rogers Arena

Owned by Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE), Rogers Arena is home to the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League and operates as one of the most active and versatile entertainment venues in North America. Rogers Arena has welcomed more than 23.6 million visitors through its doors since opening in September 1995.

In March 2011, CSE became a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance along with a num­ber of professional sports teams based in the Pacific Northwest. This alliance offers the opportunity for leagues, teams and venues to build on individual greening initiatives by working together to implement effective, science-based and measurable environmental programs. Concourse recycling and food waste disposal are now available for fans to use.

Singh Sets Sites on Incubators, Grants

When Paul Singh speaks, it’s usually a good idea to forget the F-bombs and concentrate on the wisdom and candor of the other 60-percent of his speech.

When he returned to the Atlantic Venture Forum yesterday morning, he set the tone for the discussion for the rest of the day by challenging some of the pillars of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, including the availability of government grants and the number of incubators and accelerators.

Singh is the founder of Disruption Corporation in Washington, D.C., which operates the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund. Last year, when he was with 500 Startups, he was the keynote speaker at the AVF. He has a tremendous global perspective because he travels constantly, visiting startup events around the world.

And his cheerfully foul-mouthed oratory Tuesday pulled no punches in telling entrepreneurs to sharpen their game and to realize they can compete with their peers in the U.S.

“I think you guys have a confidence problem,” Singh told local startup founders during a panel discussion. “Canadian founders have to realize they’re just as smart as their counterparts in the U.S.” (I must have a puritanical pen – none of the quotes I jotted down included his expletives.)

He bemoaned the politeness and lack of aggression of the entrepreneurs he meets in Canada, and said there is a huge problem with companies exiting too early in the country.

Singh has heard that Atlantic Canada has become the development shop of Salesforce.com due to the San Francisco giant’s acquisitions in the region. But he said the problem is founders are exiting too early and too cheap. So large American companies are buying startups “for pennies” because our entrepreneurs don’t have the resources or confidence to move through the growth phase.

Canadian venture capitalists and other investors should be looking at ways to let founders remain in business longer, he said. For example, U.S. investors are now doing growth-stage rounds in growing companies that would allow the founders to take money out of the company, improve their lifestyle and continue to grow the company.

Singh also warned that the startup community has to be more aware of the costs of growing businesses. “While it’s true that it’s cheaper than ever to start a startup, it’s also true that it’s never been more expensive to grow a business,” he said. “When you hire people, you have to pay them a market rate.”

His sharpest criticisms were for our dual reliance on incubators and grants.

On incubators and accelerators:  “Most of them misunderstand their goal. Most of them are this Kumbaya  thing rather than weeding out the companies that are failing.”

He said he hates going to accelerator demodays that are celebrations of mediocre companies. On the flip side, he loves going to the Start-up Chile demoday because the organizers announce how many companies started the program and how many graduated, highlight those that fell by the wayside.

On grants: “They’re a great idea but you’ve got a lot of living-dead companies.” He said the government grants let companies survive when they should be allowed to die so their employees can join more productive businesses. “A lot of talent is locked up in things that aren’t going to happen.”

Not everyone agreed with all of Singh’s views. Keynote speaker Dan Park, the Calgary-based Vice-President of Azure Capital said he likes the opportunities for leverage that are offered by so many government programs.

Park’s speech outlined the opportunities for e-commerce in Canada. He noted the market is now dominated by Amazon, which is growing in Canada. That’s a good thing because it will lower shipping rates and develop a greater mindset among Canadian consumers to buy online. That will create opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs.


Proposify Named to Techvibes 20

On the day it delivered a superb pitch at Atlantic Venture Forum, Halifax-based Proposify was named Tuesday to the Techvibes 20.

Launched in February, the Techvibes 20 is a bi-monthly list of the hottest and most promising tech startups across Canada. The list is carefully curated by Techvibes editorial staff and reflects who's making waves in our nation's tech ecosystem right now.

Proposify’s founders Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer recently sold their web design firm Headspace Design so they could concentrate full time on Proposify. Formerly called PitchPerfect, the company helps service providers produce professional-looking written proposals.

The company has about 20 paying customers and raised a funding round of $670,000, including an investment from Innovacorp and loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 

Launch36’s Cohort 4 Focuses on Sales

A few hundred startup enthusiasts gathered at Pier 21 in Halifax on Monday evening to graduate the fourth cohort of tech companies from Launch36, the regional startup accelerator.

While the headline story is five more tech companies progressing into the real economy, the deeper story is about the quality of great mentorship growing out of New Brunswick and spreading through the region.

Dealing with the headline first, the graduating companies include:

Adeptio, Charlottetown, which offers software and programs for personal coaches;

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, which allows for remote payment of parking meters and helps small businesses manage customer relationships;

• KinderGuardian, Moncton, which is developing a game monetization platform;

Qimple, Moncton, which helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

• And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, whose aerial surveillance system helps farmers detect crop diseases.

What was impressive about the pitches was the emphasis on revenue. KinderGuardian was only devised in January, and is therefore pre-revenue, but the other four companies are already drawing clients. Resson has signed a $1.48 million first contract. Qimple raked in $200,000 last year and is on track for $400,000 in revenue next year; its target for 2015 is $1.2 million. Hotspot has 3,000 users and has programs operating in Fredericton and Saint John. It will soon add Halifax. It’s expecting sales of $600,000 this year. Adeptio has doubled its customer base just in the 12 weeks it was in the Launch36 program and is forecasting $400,000 in revenues in 2015.

With this graduation in the books, Launch36 now has 29 alumni companies. That means that with one more seven-member cohort, executive director Trevor MacAusland will have achieved the goal he established two and a half years ago — to launch 36 companies in 36 months.

These graduates should be ready to attract investment and take their products to market. BDC Ventures has an agreement with Launch36 (and other accelerators) to assess their graduating companies, and grant a $150,000 convertible note to those it deems “investment ready.” Three of the six companies in the last cohort received these notes. The assessment of the fourth cohort will be completed in the next few weeks.

Launch36 is operated by PropelICT, a startup support group that started in New Brunswick 10 years ago and is determined to spread its work across the region. It has graduated companies from the three Maritime provinces and is working to bring in its first Newfoundland and Labrador startup. And the fact its latest graduation ceremony was held in Halifax shows its regional ambitions.

The reason this is important is New Brunswick is ground zero for mentorship in the region, and mentorship is absolutely essential in developing great companies. While more companies have formed in Nova Scotia in the past two years than in the other provinces, New Brunswick has a stronger record for whipping companies into shape.

When we surveyed Atlantic Canadian startups this year, 76 Nova Scotian companies shared their revenue data with us, while the number was 41 in New Brunswick. Those 76 Nova Scotia companies recorded sales of $35.8 million in 2013, whereas the figure for those 41 New Brunswick companies was $33.2 million.

We’ve dug down into the data and can find no single reason that New Brunswick is generating more revenue on a per-company basis than Nova Scotia. But a huge factor is that the province has a stronger, more established and co-ordinated network of mentors. It recently launched The Mentra Co-operative, which will co-ordinate and promote mentorship in the region.

Monday night’s celebration — and the Atlantic Venture Forum, which begins today — are showing the products of that wave of mentorship. It’s already spreading through the region and will continue to do so.

Bungalo Sets Up Office in Halifax

An Icelandic startup that markets cottages to international tourists is setting up shop in Halifax as the launchpad for its Canadian expansion.

Bungalo began in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to help Icelanders in financial straits earn some income by renting out their cottages to tourists from around the world. The enterprise was so successful that it has expanded into Sweden and is now moving into the Canadian market.

“We want to start off in Nova Scotia,” said Founder and CEO Haukur Gudjonsson in an interview Friday. “We think it is the perfect market to establish our proof of concept.”

Bungalo now has 500 Icelandic cottages listed on its site, and has about 16,000 registered users. It also markets cottages in Sweden and has begun a Canadian section on its site, which features a handful of cottages in Nova Scotia. Gudjonsson intends the number of Nova Scotian cottages to grow in the coming months.

He first arrived in Halifax last October, as one of the international mentors at MentorCamp, the one-day instruction session for startups. At that time he had been planning an international expansion, possibly in the Nordic countries, but he grew excited about Halifax and the Canadian market.

Gudjonsson said the size of the Canadian cottage market is impressive and no website has come close to dominating it. He believes Bungalo has a great opportunity to gain market share because of its complete range of services – displaying the property, detailed descriptions, online booking, an international client base and a relationship with tripdadvisor.com.

The company has already hired a sales representative in Halifax and is working out of Volta Labs, while Gudjonsson himself is dividing his time between Halifax and Reykjavík.

He said the company intends to spend the rest of 2014 establishing its proof of concept in the Nova Scotian market and lining up listings for the next season. He then plans to expand across the country, building up presence in one province or region at the time.

Having been in and out of Halifax for several months, Gudjonsson has grown intrigued by the startup community that has many complementary qualities with that of Iceland. Both have young companies growing quickly among a small population base (Iceland has 320,000 people).

He is impressed with the enthusiasm of the Atlantic Canadian community, and the willingness of entrepreneurs here to help one another. Atlantic Canadian governments offer much more support to their startups than Iceland does, which Gudjonsson said is a good and bad thing. Though it supports companies through their lean years, he said, it reduces the incentive to focus on sales. In fact, he believes there is too much emphasis on fundraising over all in Atlantic Canada, even from private sources, when companies should be focusing on generating revenue.

“You have some very talented people here but I think you’re lacking a bit on the sales side,” he said.

As he develops his business here, Gudjonsson hopes to build links between the two startup communities, hopefully getting startups from each community to take part in each other’s events and combining resources.


33 Startups to Pitch in 6 Days

In the next six days, at least 33 startups are going to present their business cases before crowds in the Halifax area, and what’s impressive isn’t just the number but the quality of the companies.

On Monday night, the Launch36 accelerator will hold the demoday for its fourth cohort at Pier 21, featuring six presenting companies. And on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Atlantic Venture Forum will take place at the Westin Nova Scotian, at which 24 companies will pitch for international investors and others. And today starting at noon, there will be a pitching session at Volta Labs on Spring Garden Road. (A few are pitching twice)

The activities of the next week comprise an opportunity to take stock of where the startup community in the region is today.  It’s easy to be impressed by the volume of companies with 33 presentations, but the quality of the companies is really strong. That will be borne out by the presentations and their demonstrations of traction. It’s also impressive that the audience in most cases will include a range of investors from around the continent.

Here are the companies that are presenting:  

Fourth cohort of Launch36:

Adeptio, Charlottetown

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton

Hyton Innovation, Fredericton

KinterGuardian, Moncton

Qimple, Moncton

Resson Aerospace, Fredericton

Presenting companies at the Atlantic Venture Forum

Growth Stages Companies

Atlantic Hydrogen, Fredericton

Chelation Partners, Halifax

Chemgreen Innovation, Sackville, NB

Eigen Innovations, Fredericton

Halifax Biomedical, Mabou, NS

InNetwork, Halifax

Livelenz, Halifax

Marcato Festival, Sydney, NS

Neurodyn, Charlottetown

RtTech Software, Moncton

Sagecrowd, Halifax

Zed Creative Inc. Spot

Early stage

Adeptio, Charlottetown

Cellufuel, Halifax

DashHudson, Halifax

DeCell Technologies, Halifax

DeNovaMed, Halifax

FoodTender, Shediac, NB

Heimdall Networks, Sydney, NS

Hyton Innovation, Fredericton

Island Water, Stratford, PEI

KinderGuardian, Moncton

Proposify, Halifax

Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax

Presenting companies at the pitching session at Volta (all from Halifax):


Modest Tree Media

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Pond, UNB, Kilfoil Win National Awards

Atlantic Canadians captured three Startup Canada Awards at a gala affair at the CN Tower in Toronto last night, shining the spotlight on mentorship and education in the region.

Gerry Pond, the chairman of East Valley Ventures, captured the headlining Wolf Blass Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of contribution to startups and innovation in the country. 

Mary Kilfoil, who heads the Starting Lean Initiative at Dalhousie University with her husband Ed Leach, took home the Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year award. And the University of New Brunswick was named Most Entrepreneurial Post-Secondary Institution of the Year.

There’s certainly an educational theme the selections in Atlantic Canada. Though many think of Pond as an investor first and foremost, I think he has two roles that are of greater value. First, he’s tremendous at building the ecosystem, a pursuit in which he’s tireless. And second, he’s a great mentor, and his lessons on sales and getting to market are timeless.

In a similar vein, the other winners are devoted to imparting knowledge, wisdom and lean methodology on a new generation of entrepreneurs.

As well as being the home of the Pond-Deshpande Centre, UNB has a long history of blending engineering and/or scientific research to produce great companies. One interesting feature is that the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, headed by Dhirendra Shukla, is part of the engineering school, highlighting the link between development and commercialization at the university.

Kilfoil and Leach have been teaching their Steve Blank-inspired entrepreneurship course for almost two years, giving birth to several startups along the way. They are also the driving force behind Canada’s Business Model Competition. 

I’d like to congratulate Rick Spence of the National Post for winning the Media Person of the Year category. The runner up for this award was Rob Lewis of Techvibes, while I received an honorable mention.

Runners-up from Atlantic Canada were Rob Cowan of McInnes Cooper in Professional Services Organization of the Year, and Startup Fredericton in Startup Community of the Year.

The other people who received honourable mention were Bob Pelley in Community Builder of the Year, Dan Martell of Clarity in Entrepreneurial Effect Award and Robert Zed in Mentor of the Year.

BioNova Recognizes Acadian Seaplants

Acadian Seaplants Ltd. has received recognition from BioNova as the Good News Story of the Year.

The Dartmouth company, a global leader in the processing of seaweed-based products, received the award last night at BioNova’s annual Good News and Blues bash in Halifax. The party celebrates one good news story from the past year and features three bands made up of people from the life sciences community – one from Innovacorp, one from Dalhousie medical research, one from ACOA. Somehow, it works.

Acadia Seaplants, which exports products to more than 80 countries, won the nod for its recent acquisition of Arramara Teoranta, Ireland’s largest seaweed company, and the completion of its enhanced production facility in Cornwallis.

BioNova said that Acadian Seaplants announced in 2009 – when most companies were downsizing -- it would expand its Cornwallis plant to improve quality, boost productivity and increase exports. The grand opening of the Deveau Centre, which has improved production capacity by as much as 80 percent, takes place next week. 

“We're honoured to be receiving the good news story award,” President Jean-Paul Deveau said in a release.  “Everyone has been working hard these last few years and yes, we’ve taken risks, but with a global vision, excellent technologies, excellent products and a great team, those risks are paying off.”

Re-inventing the Retirement Home

For Tyler Sellars, visiting a relative in her retirement home was a distressing experience. The relative was unhappy and felt uncared for. Now, her sadness has led the 20-year-old New Brunswick entrepreneur to a new business idea that aims to optimize care for the elderly.

In the mid-2000s, Sellars’ relative had suffered a stroke and was living in the facility where she spent her final years.

“They didn’t give her sufficient stimulation to counter the effects of the stroke; that made her health deteriorate,” said Sellars by phone from his Moncton home. “And although a few of the nurses clearly loved their jobs, others were not as committed.”

The experience left Sellars with an understanding of the needs of the elderly and now he is CEO of a new venture that plans to build three retirement communities together in Atlantic Canada. The plan is to build the three communities in a city centre and offer a high level of care.

“Stage 1 will be a retirement community for people who just need help with things like lawn care. Stage 2 will be a continuing care retirement community, offering minimal medical care. Stage 3 will offer hospice care,” he said.

“The homes will be built together on one large piece of land. Because they’ll be together, people won’t have to move. If someone gets sick, they might move to another building but they’ll still be near their family and friends.”

He said that age-segregated housing is a $51-billion industry and that Moncton has been chosen as a potential location for his venture because it is fast-growing but still affordable, and a great place to run a business.

This might seem an unlikely project for a man his age to be involved in, but Sellars has the support of experienced Halifax-based entrepreneurs. Despite his youth, this is not the first entrepreneurial venture for Sellars, who learned the value of self-reliance back in 2008 when, as a 15-year-old, his parents told him they could no longer afford to pay his soccer fees.

A gifted soccer player, Sellars was on New Brunswick’s provincial team and the travel and expenses cost up to $10,000 a year. His parents, Jim and Barb, worked in the financial sector and were hard hit by the economic collapse.

The young Tyler could not bear to lose his soccer, so he started raising money himself, beginning by asking the public for cash at Moncton stores.

“It was mid-December and freezing. I hated it; you have to use puppy dog eyes on everyone,” he said.

He began to look for other ideas and, without his father’s knowledge, made $8,000 on eBay by selling soccer jerseys and other items in his father’s name. Then he created his own e-commerce website, selling clothes made in South Korea.

“I realized this effort is called ‘entrepreneurship.’ I met with a bunch of local entrepreneurs and fell in love.”

He later set up a venture called Redknot that links volunteers who want to work in developing countries with non-profits.

He has just sold Redknot to a partner.

He has also recently completed Year 1 of a commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University, but plans to commit himself to the retirement project rather than finish school. He said he has been a good student, but intends to pursue this opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but, with my other ventures, I haven’t fully committed myself. I wanted to be safe. But this is taking off. I don’t want to miss the chance.”

He said he wants to share his story because he knows there are many successful young entrepreneurs, but he rarely heard about them when he needed encouragement.

“I always wanted a helping hand, not physically, but emotionally. I wanted a story to back myself up with.”

Press Release: Foursum’s New Feature

Want to Play Against the Pros? Foursum Golf Introduces In-App Profiles for the PGA’s Top Players

All-in-one mobile golf app will now let you compare your stats to the pros, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and more.

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 9:00am EST

New Brunswick, Canada: Foursum, the all-in-one mobile app for golfers that allows golfers to manage their game while connecting with friends, announced today that they are rolling out their newest feature: reserved profiles for the top 50 players on the PGA Tour. This exciting addition to the app will compliment existing features such as in-app GPS, scorecards, and the option to set up games and compare stats with friends.

With the introduction of the reserved profiles, users will now be able to follow the scorecards of their favorite PGA players within the app, including crowd favorites such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson.

Unique to Foursum, users will have access to their favorite PGA player’s scorecards from their smartphone, allowing them to follow their score, putts, fairway accuracy, driving distance and more. Users will also be able to browse each PGA player’s stats from their most recent round to their stats over the last season, scorecards will be updated once players have completed their rounds.

“By integrating PGA Pro Profiles into Foursum, we’re bringing golfers together - of all skill and experience levels. We’ve created a way for golfers to interact with the game - using our app to discuss their rounds, and the rounds of their favorite pros,” explains Foursum CEO and Co-Founder Matt Eldridge. “And when Rickie Fowler is ready to use Foursum - his profile will be there waiting for him to claim.”

Starting today, Foursum users will be able to compare their scores with those of their golf heroes. Whether you want to see if you can drive it long like Bubba Watson or hit as many greens as Tiger, Foursum makes it easy to connect with friends to share how you rank against the PGA’s best.

Recently, Foursum announced a strategic partnership with COBRA PUMA GOLF. They have also been selected as the official statistics partner for the Maple Leaf Junior Tour. To learn more about Foursum and discover the new PGA branded profiles visit http://foursum.com/



Quick Facts:

The Company: Foursum

Website: http://Foursum.com

Blog: http://blog.foursum.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foursumgolf

Twitter: @Foursum

President / Co-Founder: Matt Eldridge

Technical Lead / Co-Founder: Adam MacDonald (@amacdonald) PGA of Canada / Co-Founder:

Louis Melanson (@louismelanson)

Headspace Sold, Spins off Proposify

In a deal that impacts at least five Nova Scotian tech companies, New Glasgow businessmen Jim Fitt has bought Halifax web design company Headspace Design, allowing its two co-founders to focus on their new startup Proposify.

Fitt, the founder of training materials provider Velsoft, paid an undisclosed amount for Headspace. He promises the highly regarded web development company will continue to meet clients’ needs and to grow in the future.

Headspace co-founders Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer, while assisting with the transition, will move on to work on Proposify (formerly PitchPerfect), which helps service providers produce professional-looking written proposals.

Proposify is already making strides, having secured about 20 international paying customers and closed its first round of financing, Racki said in an interview. The $670,000 round includes a $250,000 equity investment from Innovacorp, an investment from angel investor Patrick Hankinson and a contribution from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The company recently completed two programs in Boston, the Canadian Technology Accelerator organized by the Canadian consulate and 48 Hours in the Hub organized by Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England.

 “It kind of helped us get out of this little bubble of Atlantic Canada and get into a big city with a thriving tech scene,” said Racki. “We got to meet a number of experienced mentors that we’re going to stay in touch with.”

Velsoft will gain access to creative tech talent, and Fitt will develop Extrify, an online collaboration tool that had been incubated within Headspace. Extrify lets companies create messages, files and threads of comment and share documents across the whole company or within specific departments.

It recently placed first in the northern Nova Scotia zone in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition.

In an interview, Fitt said the deal allows New Glasgow-based Velsoft and its sister company znanja, access to the talent within Headspace.

 “A problem that I have in rural Nova Scotia is attracting talent,” said Fitt. “Velsoft has clients in 164 countries and we’ve worked hard to grow it into a global name. But our No. 1 problem is finding talent and it was stunting our growth. We wanted a way to look for talent.”

He learned Racki and Springer were trying to free themselves from the service business so they could concentrate on Proposify, which they have been working on for almost three years.

As he delved into Headspace, Fitt learned it had incubated a few different products that could be developed into independent companies.

He instantly latched on to Extrify, a collaboration software that gelled beautifully with a project of his own, which he calls “predictive collaboration.”

This technology assesses a user’s behaviour in the collaborative process to predict his or her next action and make collaboration more effective and timely.

Fitt wrapped the two technologies together, adopting the Extrify name, and now has clients using the unified product. He plans to hand off management of Velsoft to other staff so he can focus on Extrify.

The Headspace assets also include a social media monitoring product called Social Gopher, which Fitt is setting aside for now. Meanwhile, Fitt continues to grow znanja, a two-year-old software company that converts normal digital documents into e-learning material in seconds. It will also now have access to the Headspace talent.

Springer and Racki have been trying for a couple of years to focus exclusively on Proposify.

Report Probes NL Entrepreneurship

A new report on entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador reveals the province has a healthy entrepreneurial environment, especially among older entrepreneurs and immigrants.

The findings were released Wednesday in the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Newfoundland and Labrador Report, part of an annual study of entrepreneurship throughout the world. The provincial report was authored by Gary Gorman, Dennis Hanlon and Blair Winsor at the Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration.

“This is a good news report as it tells us that, in spite of Newfoundland and Labrador’s history of being a “have not” province, the state of entrepreneurship in this province is strong,” said Hanlon, associate professor of entrepreneurship.  “In particular, early-stage entrepreneurial activity is being driven by opportunity rather than necessity, which is likely a reflection of the strong provincial economy.”

The GEM report says Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of immigrant early-stage entrepreneurship in Canada at 19 percent. Quebec has the second-highest rate at 14.8 percent.

It also said the province has the highest rate of early-stage entrepreneurial participation in the 55-64 age group at 27.3 percent compared to the national average of 9 percent.

The report said Newfoundland and Labrador’s entrepreneurship community differs from the rest of the country in several ways. Entrepreneurs are accorded high social status than in the rest of Canada, said the report, and total early-stage entrepreneurial activity is slightly lower than the national average.

The report, the first of its kind for NL, also identifies some areas that can be further improved to strengthen entrepreneurial activity such as access to private funding, education and training, and greater support for high-growth firms.

“The real excitement and action [in NL entrepreneurship] is on the startup end -- that area where founders are taking their innovative ideas and turning them into high-growth enterprises,” Roger Power, Co-Founder of Startup Newfoundland & Labrador. “We see businesses form rapidly, develop their products and services quickly and most importantly, attract customers.  These startups are developing apps, software, ocean tech and other innovative technologies that are entering markets around the world.”

The key findings of the report include:

•81.2 percent of the province’s labour force feels entrepreneurs are accorded high social status (Canadian result: 70.1 percent).

•75.9 percent indicate the media is doing a good job of supporting entrepreneurship (Canadian result: 69.9 percent).

•65.6 percent believe there are good opportunities to start a business in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, only 53 percent believe they possess the skills and knowledge to do so.

•Slightly more than 28 percent of the province’s adults (ages 18-64) are actively engaged in activities related to starting or running independent businesses.

•The rate of early stage entrepreneurship (i.e. those who are contemplating setting up a business or have started one in the last 3.5 years) in Newfoundland and Labrador is 10.8 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 12.1 percent.

•The business services sector has the highest rate of entrepreneurship participation in the province (37.9 percent) and in the country (40.5 percent).

•The rate of necessity-driven early-stage entrepreneurship is the lowest in the country, at 0.7 percent in Newfoundland and Labrador versus 1.8 percent in Canada.

•The province has one of the lowest rates of people planning to start a business in the country at 13.3 percent (Canadian result: 17 percent).

•Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest participation rates in angel investing in the country: two percent compared to the national average of 3.9 percent.

•Nearly one in five early-stage entrepreneurs in the province is growth-oriented, which is comparable to the overall average for Canada. However, Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t fare as well in either innovation or internationalization, areas which are necessary to compete at an international level.

•Entrepreneurs exhibit higher scores for well-being than the general population. Among entrepreneurs, females express greater well-being than their male counterparts, and owners of existing businesses report greater well-being than employees in the province.

Demographics (from APS)

•In the 55-64 age group, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of early-stage entrepreneurial participation at 27.3 percent compared to the national average of nine percent.

•The provincial ratio of 0.73:1 female to male early-stage entrepreneurs is stronger than the overall Canadian ratio of 0.68:1.

•Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of immigrant early-stage entrepreneurship in Canada at 19 percent. Quebec has the second-highest rate at 14.8 percent.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem (from PES)

•The experts surveyed think that entrepreneurial opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador are increasing; however, know-how to start and manage small businesses and high-growth firms is considered low.

•With the exception of government assistance, the experts believe that access to funding in the province for entrepreneurial activity is problematic. Entrepreneurs among the experts surveyed are more negative about access to capital, particularly from private sources.

•In the opinion of experts, there are shortcomings with education and training, especially at the secondary and primary educations levels where respondents indicate low levels of teaching directed to knowledge of market economic principles, and entrepreneurship and new firm creation. 

•According to the experts, support for women entrepreneurs is generally positive.

•The experts also thought that support for and attitudes toward innovation were positive.

•Physical infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador is considered to be good, but still ranks lower than the other provinces participating in the study.

•Experts in Newfoundland and Labrador think that Canadian culture is less supportive of entrepreneurship compared to experts in other provinces.

•Specific recommendations by the experts focus on financial support (venture capital), education and training (mentoring and experiential programs) and government policies (enhance those directed at small businesses).

BioVectra Begins $3.8M Expansion

BioVectra, the Charlottetown drug manufacturer purchased last year by Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif., for $100 million, has begun the latest expansion of its facility near the city’s airport.

The drugmaker is demonstrating the economic benefits of an exit by adding 13,000 square feet of space to its factory at a cost of $3.8 million. The company needs the extra space because it is increasing its work force from 140 people in 2012 to 250 people by the end of this year.  

BioVectra received a $3 million loan last year through theAtlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's  Atlantic Innovation Fund, which it said would help to finance anexpansion of the business.

The company said in a statement the expansion will primarily comprise laboratory, offices, workstations, and amenity space.

Current office and lab areas at the facility are also being renovated to accommodate new equipment and meeting configuration requirements, said the statement. It expects to complete the construction by November.

‘We are pleased that our business growth has created new jobs at BioVectra, and we are investing in establishing proper workspace for our employees, and support services for our clients,” said CEO Ron Keefe in the statement. ‘We are continuing to grow the business with existing and new customers, requiring new skilled employees in key areas such as manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance, engineering, and maintenance functions.”

A Strategy to Get Early Adopters

When Gregg Curwin met potential clients in New England last month, he tried using an early adopter pitch he’d just learned from Gerry Pond at the Entrevestor Dinner in Fredericton.

Curwin is the Founder and CEO of Truleaf Smart Plant Systems, a Halifax venture that grows plants in stacked trays under LED lights. He attended the dinner in Fredericton and was especially impressed by the strategy for signing up early adopters outlined by Pond, the chairman of East Valley Ventures.

“I was in the States, and used the early adopter pitch with the Truleaf pitch,” said Curwin. “They loved it and it worked very well. They want me back to meet senior execs.”

Pond’s solution was a quite simple strategy for young companies to get that all-important first client. Atlantic Canadian business-to-business startups find it an especially difficult task because of there are few large companies in the region. Governments can fill the void in theory, but they tend to make decisions and adopt new processes slowly.

To help ameliorate this key pain for the community, Entrevestor invited Pond to outline the problem at our dinner, propose some solutions and generate some discussion among the 50 or so guests. (We also debated mentorship, which I will discuss in a coming column.)

Pond suggested that one way for startups to gain early adopters is to propose a pilot project. The startup can propose to work – possibly without pay – with the potential customer so that the two parties test the new innovation. For the customer, it’s an opportunity to bring on new technology without a large financial outlay, and the possibility of a productivity gain. For the startup, it’s a chance to gain feedback and to work out kinks. And of course, the goal is to remove the word “potential” from potential customer. The idea is to convert the customer into a paying client, possibly even an investor.

Pond recounted the story of one of the East Valley Ventures companies, SHIFT Energy, which has developed an automated solution to help large facilities save energy. It had no national clients but sent out messages to companies around the continent offering this sort of arrangement.

SHIFT got some responses, including interest from the Vancouver Canucks, which owns the Rogers Centre in the Western city. It turns out a hockey rink is a surprisingly complex consumer of energy, and SHIFT was able to work with the group and is looking forward to converting them into paying customers. Pond suggested that this is a strategy that should be adopted more frequently in the region.

“It’s about building relationships with strangers,” said Pond. “We didn’t know anyone from the Vancouver Canucks when we started the process.”

We want to solicit more opinions from the broader community on this subject. Should accelerators do more to develop early adopter strategies? Do we need formalized early adopter strategy? Should we formally recognize early adopters from the region? Please join in the discussion by leaving comments below.

Developing a better infrastructure for finding early adopters will mean more companies will get to revenue more quickly.

Press Release: Banyan-Pennecon Deal

Banyan Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Toronto and Vancouver, announced it has teamed up with management to buy the concrete division of Pennecon Ltd., a Newfoundland and Labrador construction and engineering company.

The parties did not reveal the financial details. Though this deal doesn’t fit squarely with our mission of reporting on Atlantic Canadian startups, it is another sign of institutional private capital flowing into private companies in the region.

The following is the Banyan press release:

 Management buys out the concrete division of Pennecon

TORONTO, June 3, 2014 /CNW/ – Pennecon Limited (Pennecon), one of Newfoundland’s leading heavy civil construction, energy and real estate businesses, announced today that Larry Puddister, Chief Executive Officer of Pennecon, has led the management buyout of the concrete division of Pennecon. Banyan Capital Partners (Banyan), a Canadian private equity group, provided funding for the deal. Going forward, the concrete division will be renamed Newcrete Investments Limited Partnership (“Newcrete”).

With over 40 years of history, Newcrete is a leading producer and supplier of ready-mix concrete, precast concrete, and masonry products for the construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador (“Newfoundland”).

Jeff Wigle, Managing Director of Banyan Capital Partners, said “We perceive a significant opportunity for Newcrete to build on its strong position in the concrete and aggregate market in Newfoundland. We look forward to working with the Newcrete team to achieve their objectives.”

Larry Puddister, who is also CEO of Newcrete, said “This is an exciting time for our employees, customers and other stakeholders. Banyan’s support for Newcrete will preserve our unique corporate culture while enabling us to continue growing as a provider of concrete, aggregates and masonry products to the Newfoundland marketplace. I am happy to confirm that it will be business as usual.”

Adam Jezewski, Director of Banyan Capital Partners, said “Newcrete is a great example of the kind of business we look for as investors, with an established reputation in the marketplace, a cohesive, sharp management team and strong client relationships.”

About Newcrete Investments Limited Partnership

Newcrete is a leading producer of construction aggregate and supplier of ready-mix concrete, precast concrete and masonry products to the construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. With over 150 employees, Newcrete owns the largest fleet of concrete boom pump trucks, operates the only fully automated block production facility and are the only producer of Concrete Paving Stones and Keystone retaining wall systems in Newfoundland and Labrador.

About Banyan Capital Partners

Banyan Capital Partners is a Canadian based private equity firm that buys and invests in private and public middle-market companies located in North America. As a generalist firm, Banyan provides full or partial liquidity to existing owners or partners with owners wishing to grow their companies and become more successful. Banyan is part of the Connor, Clark & Lunn Financial Group, a multi-boutique asset management firm whose affiliated companies collectively manage over $51 billion in assets. http://www.banyancapitalpartners.com

SOURCE Banyan Capital Partners

NewPace Tech Bought by NewNet

Bedford-based NewPace Technology Development Inc. has been bought by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill., greatly expanding the sales power of the mobile technology developer.

NewPace, which is headed by founder and CEO Brent Newsome, will become a subsidiary of the NewNet messaging division, based in Amsterdam. The company will change its name to NewNet Canada, and Newsome will become a vice-president of NewNet Communications and general manager of the Canadian operation. NewNet, which is a portfolio company of Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital, did not reveal financial details.

Krishna Viswanadham, president of NewNet’s mobile messaging business unit, said the company bought NewPace because the Bedford company created technology facing strong demand around the world.

“Mobile operators are trying to develop content-rich messaging applications and NewPace has developed technology that we can offer to the mobile operators’ customer base,” said Viswanadham. “NewPace is probably the top one, two or three players in the world in this technology space.”

The deal is the third exit this year for Atlantic Canadian tech companies. Fredericton-based UserEvents was taken over by LiveOps Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., in January, and Compilr of Halifax was bought by lynda.com  of Carpinteria, Calif., in April. With no financial details, none generated massive media interest.  But already in 2014 there have been three exits by Atlantic Canadian startups whereas last year there were only two – BioVectra of Charlottetown and RIVALUS of Halifax.

NewPace has spent the past few years developing a suite of rich communications service, or RCS, mobile phone products. These products increase the flexibility that companies can offer in texting services on mobile handsets. It means texts can be used for chat, group chat, file transfer, video and voice calling across networks and using any smartphone. The goal is to upgrade the current standards of voice and text messaging offered by mobile carriers.

The company, whose revenue was well into seven figures in 2013, has been focusing on sales for the past year, but its 28-person staff simply didn’t have the firepower to sell to mobile operators around the world. NewNet has that sales force. It now supplies products to 80 operators around the world, including the top one or two operators in each major market, said Arjan Lasschuit, senior director, product management, for the messaging unit.

“We simply can’t reach the world the way NewNet can,” said Newsome.

He said the company will maintain its current workforce in Halifax, honour existing contracts and likely grow it in time, given the sales potential that comes with the new ownership. In the past, NewPace offered consulting services in a range of mobile businesses, and that side business will in the future focus more precisely on RCS-based work.

NewPace has been in existence for five years, and in that time, paid a total payroll of $10.2 million, almost all of it within Nova Scotia. The company was owned by Newsome and CTO Gavin Murphy. Without giving specifics, Newsome said that they’ve done well from the deal. Yet he made it clear that the deal with NewNet was very much their second option.

“We would have preferred to stay independent,” he said.

He had been trying to raise equity capital, but could not secure the $5 million or so that would have been needed to build the bona fide sales force that NewPace required.

Newsome said all the components exist in the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem to develop tech companies whose products can sell globally, but the acute shortage of growth capital is preventing them from growing.

“It’s a missing piece in our ecosystem,” Newsome said.

CoinCity Celebrates Bitcoin in Moncton

When the organizers of the CoinCity conference on Friday took up a collection for the families of slain RCMP officers, the attendees could contribute in one of two ways – conventional money or Bitcoin.

It was fitting that the organizers of the Moncton event paid tribute to the fallen Mounties hours after their suspected murderer had been captured. It was also fitting that they used the collection to show the flexibility of Bitcoin.

Commonly known as digital currency, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system introduced as open-source software in 2009. It is a decentralized currency controlled by no central bank and can be transferred electronically between parties anywhere in the world. And there are a group of entrepreneurs dedicated to making Moncton a Bitcon hub.

Entrepreneur Raphael Paulin-Daigle organized CoinCity to explain the potential of the new technology and currency, and possibly to lay the foundation for new businesses based on the Bitcoin protocol.

“We’re hoping some entrepreneurs with passion for Bitcoin will learn more about it and take the lead,” said Paulin-Daigle as the session wound up. “There’s still tons of stuff you can do with Bitcoin.”

He has established his own consultancy called DucatFlow, which will advise companies on all aspects of adopting bitcoin. He is assembling a team of programmers to take care of the technical aspects, and has struck partnerships with a lawyer in New York and accountant in Ottawa for professional services.

Held in the new offices of Venn Innovation (formerly Tech Southeast), the conference featured explanatory talks by  Haseeb Awan, CEO and co-founder of BitAccess, an Ottawa startup that makes Bitcoin ATMs, and Michael Curry, co-founder of Vault of Satoshi, a Brantford, Ont.-based exchange that allows trading of traditional and digital currencies.

And on display was Moncton’s first Bitcoin ATM, which will be installed today in the Main Street location of Freshii, the Moncton-based health-food deli. Freshii is the first Moncton retail company to accept Bitcoin, and it has the first two-way ATM (it can accept deposits and dispense Bitcoin) in the region.

About 100 people attended the conference – a great number considering much of the city was in lockdown 15 hours earlier. And the crowd ranged from local entrepreneurs to reps from the local startup-focused PR agency Onboardly to members of the new Crypto-Currency Club of Dalhousie University.

Clarity Founder and CEO Dan Martell, one of the region’s greatest proponents of Bitcoin, said his own bullishness on Bitcoin is based on three factors: first, everyone understands money so it’s not like you have explain a concept no one gets; second, anyone can participate; and third, there are clear opportunities for innovation.

“This city has the potential to adopt the technology to adopt the technology and move it forward,” said Martell.

Venn Innovation President and CEO Doug Robertson agreed.

“If there’s a decent chance that this is going to fly, then we’ve got the right people, the right mindset,” he said. “It’s a golden opportunity for us to seize.”

Press Release: Pond-Deshpande

The Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick issued the following press release:

Eastern Canada’s First Social Enterprise Accelerator Launches Six New Businesses

(June 6, 2014, Halifax, NS) Eastern Canada’s first Social Enterprise Accelerator program gathered a cohort of individuals and organizations from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the early stages of launching a new social enterprise and provided them with mentorship, expertise and investor exposure as part of a six-month program that started in January 2014.  Participants in the new B4Change Social Enterprise Accelerator celebrated their graduation at a Demo Day in Fredericton, New Brunswick, earlier this week.

B4Change participants participated in training sessions offered by leaders such as Lisa Hrabluk who is a writer, entrepreneur and founder of Wicked Ideas. Mentor matches were created with seasoned business professionals including Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president for Salesforce Radian 6.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre in New Brunswick bridges the gap between challenges facing social entrepreneurs — lack of funding resources, lack of connections, lack of support network — and the creation of sustainable, scalable social enterprise. “We are very pleased to welcome Nova Scotia-based CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development) on board as our collaborative sponsor for social enterprises,” says Karina LeBlanc, Executive Director at the Pond-Deshpande Centre.

“The B4Change program is a great example of like-minded organizations working across geographic boundaries to support entrepreneurs who are passionate about building profitable businesses that will ultimately change the world. We like to call it “the business of good,” says Heather Spidell, President and CEO at CEED.

CEED, with support from the Province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism sponsored two social enterprises from Halifax, Nova Scotia to participate in the B4Change cohort.

Fadi Al Qassar, Uganda Ventures
Uganda Ventures is an Atlantic Canadian social enterprise working in rural Uganda to bring individuals, families and communities out of poverty. They build safe schools, support orphans in Uganda and provide entrepreneurs with business ideas with access to capital through a micro-credit loan. For more information: www.ugandaventure.com

Kristy O’Leary, Scout & Burrow
Scout & Burrow is a full service advertising agency with the unique mission to Market What Matters. They help their clients communicate and create profitable social impact. Scout & Burrow recently become a certified Benefit Corporation. For more information: www.scoutandburrow.ca

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Seeding Growth in the Third World

Philippe Levesque wants his farm-in-a-box to help feed the world’s hungry, but the New Brunswick-based botanist and horticulturist must first raise $10,000 so that he can produce 200 boxes to validate his idea in Canada.

For the last year, Levesque, 34, has been working alone on producing a self-contained gardening model to share with the world. His solution: wooden boxes containing seeds, tools and instructions that will be honed to suit each region and community.

 “I’ve met many farmers around the world and, in developing countries, I always thought, I’m so privileged; these people need the information I have. I could do so much to help,” said Levesque, who has worked in London’s Kew Gardens and in Australia where he conducted experiments in tropical farming on an ethnobotanical farm (one that studies the relationships between people and plants).

Levesque returned to Canada two years ago and is running an import-export nursery from Balmoral and trying to get his new business, the Agrarian Revolution, off the ground. It’s been difficult for him to devise a working model for the new venture because, although he has experience in running professional gardening-related businesses, this is a new kind of entrepreneurship for him.

But he is now energized after receiving a boost by participating in the B 4 Change accelerator program for social entrepreneurs at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. Levesque is among the first cohort of the six-month program which has been created to help social entrepreneurs — those who want to found a business that meets a social, economic or environmental need and turns a profit.

Levesque was awarded $6,000 by the Pond-Deshpande Centre but he gained more than money.

 “With the Pond-Deshpande Centre’s help the Agrarian Revolution is taking off,” he said. “I needed to make my model marketable and the program has given me impetus. And it’s linked me with other contacts, including a Uganda-focused group that I may partner with.”

Now, he must validate his concept by selling variations of his boxes in stores across Canada. He needs to raise $10,000 to produce 100 gardening-themed boxes and 100 patio-themed boxes. If Canadians buy these, he will reinvest the money into producing his farm-in-a-box versions. The Canadian boxes will help pay for the farming boxes and, in time, he intends to charge the communities in developing countries a small sum for the boxes they receive.

 “I believe that if we charge even a dollar or two, they will appreciate and utilize it,” he said.

He hopes that the first testing of the product in a developing country will take place later this year, probably in Uganda. He feels that using basic, sustainable farming methods is the best way to help poorer communities, citing the example of India, which he says has a high rate of suicide among farmers who are often in debt because of the steep cost of chemical fertilizers.

 “We will start by building community gardens and I hope acceptance will come. I want everything to be local,” he said.

He is looking forward to sharing the knowledge acquired through his work and education, which includes studying horticulture at the Royal Horticultural Society in the United Kingdom and at the University of Guelph.

 “We will target lack of water by letting farmers know which crops grow best in their conditions,” he said, his voice lively with anticipation.

 “And there are a few plants that I believe will become our flagship plants. Amaranth, for instance, a Mexican plant, is great. You can eat the leaf and seed and it is heat and drought tolerant and the leftovers can be cooked. It’s not widespread yet but has a great future.”

Press Release: The Rounds’ Partners

Physician Associations and The Rounds Partner Up To Improve Healthcare For All Canadians

The Rounds Announces Partnership With The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada and The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians

NOVA SCOTIA, Canada., June 3 -- The Rounds, the largest online community in Canada exclusive to physicians, and The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC), the national voice of Canadian rural physicians, announced the first association partnership to improve the quality and efficiency of SRPC membership communication.

According to the SRPC, 31.4% of Canada’s population or roughly 9 million people live in predominantly rural regions. Towns under 10,000 people account for 22.2% of the population, and yet they are served by only 10.1% of physicians. Canada's larger rural and regional centers (with populations from 10,000 to 100,000 people) constitute 15.9% of the population and have only 11.9% of the physician pool. With sub-specialists and high technology of large cities distant, arming these physicians with the tools they need to connect, collaborate and stay informed is critical. 

The partnership presents the first of many with Canadian physician associations. The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians announced their partnership with The Rounds at their annual CAEP conference. The combined membership of these two entities will support an ongoing mission to help move healthcare forward across the country.

“The Rounds is an exciting and effective tool to put in the hands of our members” said Lee Teperman, Administration Officer of SRPC. “Our members face challenges particular to rural in their practices and are a group of early adopters who truly want to be a part of the advancement of healthcare in this country. The Rounds has put together an elegant platform that provides our members an opportunity to collaborate with physicians across the nation in a secure environment and offers us an opportunity to communicate more effectively with members.”

“Healthcare transformation starts with physicians” said Dr. Michael Clory, Co-Founder of The Rounds. “Our team is excited for our partnerships with SRPC and CAEP as we strive to enhance and improve the way our nations healthcare providers connect and collaborate with one another.

For more information, visit: http://www.therounds.com

About The Rounds

The Rounds is Canada’s largest and fastest growing online network exclusive to Canadian physicians. The Rounds is a secure network where Canadian physicians communicate using privacy compliant tools to discuss clinical cases, research journals and industry questions.

About The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada

The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) is the national voice of Canadian rural physicians. Founded in 1992, the SRPC’s mission is to provide leadership for rural physicians and to promote sustainable conditions and equitable health care for rural communities.

About The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) is a not for profit member organization that has been educating and advocating on behalf of emergency physicians and their patients for better healthcare since 1978. CAEP is the national voice of Emergency Medicine.

Lamda Guard Signs Deal with Airbus

In a textbook case of a startup landing the perfect early adopter, Halifax-based Lamda Guard announced Wednesday that it has signed a deal with Airbus to jointly develop its technology to protect planes from laser attacks.

The world’s largest aircraft maker will cooperate with the Nova Scotian startup on the development of a transparent, flexible film that can go over the aircraft windshields to block out laser beams. The shield is necessary because aircraft pilots are increasingly subject to people – from terrorists to pranksters – shining lasers at cockpit windows to blind the crew.

Lamda Guard is the brainchild of Founder and CEO George Palikaras, a PhD who has developed a metamaterial that uses nanotechnology to filter out, absorb or enhance certain forms of light. Palikaras and his team are working on various applications, but chose to focus first on a laser shield because the pain of laser attacks is so pronounced.

``It was solving something that was real,” said Palikaras in an interview.  “It was also something that was very close to my heart because in my home country laser attacks are a problem. At basketball games, players are lased. In the street, Police are lased.”

He added that the pain is growing as laser attacks on aircraft in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have risen from 300 in 2005 to almost 4,000 in 2013.

Palikaras is an expert in metamaterials, which are synthetic materials that have properties not found in nature. It is a rapidly growing academic discipline with huge commercial applications, and Palikaras said his goal is to make Atlantic Canada a global leader in metamaterial research and development.

Under the deal with Airbus, the European company will put up about $1 million in human and other resources to help Lamda Guard test and commercialize its technology in the first phase.  Then in phase two, it will help the company get certification and more testing at a cost of several million dollars. Palikaras said a confidentiality clause prevented him from discussing the financial details.

"At Airbus, we are always on the lookout for new ideas coming from innovative SMEs, such as Lamda Guard,” said Senior Vice President of Innovation Yann Barbaux in a statement. “We are very pleased to explore together the potential application of this solution to our aircraft, for the benefit of our customers."

Palikaras has formed a Nova Scotian holding company Metamaterials Technology Inc., which has three divisions overseeing different aspects of the company’s research. Lamda Guard deals with blocking light. Lamda Solar focuses on absorbing light. And Lamda Lux concentrates of solutions that enhance light.  

The company, whose chairman is Atlantic Composites founder Maurice Guitton, has struck research partnerships with University of Moncton and the University of New Brunswick. It has raised $600,000 from private investors and received loan commitments of $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Palikaras said his company is now working on a fund-raising round with a goal of about $2.5 million. 

Cirrus9-Cloud-A Merger to Aid Growth

Cirrus9, a Saint John-based managed cloud and data center operator, has acquired Cloud-A of Halifax, forming an nationally focused IT infrastructure and cloud services provider with operations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Alberta.

The companies announced the transaction last night in a press release, but declined to reveal the financial details other than to say it was an all-stock deal. Cloud-A Co-Founder and CEO Brandon Kolybaba will remain with the merged group, becoming Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer.

The Cirrus9-Cloud-A union will combine two companies on strong growth trajectories, and the principals believe the merger will actually accelerate the growth.

“We both [companies] have a particular offering that appeals to a certain type of customers, but some larger companies need both,” said Cirrus9 CEO Fred Bullock in an interview this morning. “They need a cost-effective offering for a portion of their needs, but for other they may want, perhaps, the securities-certification service or another service.”

He said the combined company will now be able to offer the range of services required by enterprise client. What’s more, the larger company will have greater visibility and may attract the notice of some companies that haven’t yet heard of Cirrus9 or Cloud-A.   

The two companies complement one another as they’re in related but distinct businesses, and they have little geographic overlap. Cirrus9’s client base is largely in Atlantic Canada whereas Cloud-A so far has done business outside the region.

Cirrus9, whose revenue has more than doubled each of the last two years, operates data centre facilities, managed enterprise cloud infrastructure and related hosting services. The company serves both public and private sector clients in many industries including the automotive, energy, financial services, healthcare, and telecom sectors to name a few. 

The company is a member of the East Valley Ventures stable of companies, having received investment from members of the Saint John investment and mentoring group in 2010.

Cloud-A offers a flexible infrastructure-as-a-service solution over the cloud for Canadian customers. It was formed in 2012 by Kolybaba, the Founder of Sheepdog Inc., and Dynamic Hosting Founder Jacob Godin , who collaborated with Dalhousie University in developing the product. They identified a need for an OpenStack-based elastic platform in which all the data is stored in Canada to take advantage of the country’s privacy laws.

“We doubled our customer base over the past few months,” said Kolybaba in the statement. “This will give us the platform we need to continue that growth at that rate and even accelerate it.”

Bullock said the two companies will continue to operate with own brand, but that the team is reviewing what longer range branding will be. “We each have our own following today and we do not want to abandon it,” he said.

Bullock said the company has no immediate plans to raise capital. But he added the accelerated growth may lead the company to consider a raise to finance the accelerated growth.

The Cirrus9-Cloud-A merger is part of a developing trend in Atlantic Canada in which startups are merging to accelerate growth by becoming bigger players. In February, Meductic, N.B.-based cymbal manufacturer Sabian Inc. bought drum equipment maker Billdidit Inc. of Sydney.  Other deals are in the works.

DC2GO’s Year 1 Sales Set to Top $1M

Last Friday was an important day for Andrew Coe and his company, DC2GO, which manufactures portable, customized data centres in Dartmouth. The company signed its first major sales contract.

But as he does every Friday, Coe drove out to the company’s prototype on a side road in Dartmouth’s Burnside Park.

Friday is the day when he runs its generator and makes sure all the components — the generator, cooling and security systems — are working smoothly.

But during conversation as he inspected the premises — really, a data centre built into a shipping container — he kept coming back to the sale and its importance for the startup.

 “It proves our solution is viable in the market,” said Coe, 24. “It gives us quite a bit of credibility to say someone is putting money behind us.”

What’s impressive about the DC2GO story is how quickly Coe has got to a strong stream of revenues. The company has bid on $5 million in tenders since it started last October, and has been shortlisted for each tender it bid on.

Though Coe is reluctant to discuss specific contracts, he did say the company is on track to exceed $1 million in revenue when it ends its first year in October.

Coe began to do tech consulting work around Halifax when he was 14, and a few years ago he realized there was a demand for data centres that were secure, portable and resilient. They could be used in disaster recovery, as telecom relay centres and meet the needs of a range of clients. Three years ago, he and his partner Jessica Gomes began to work on their prototype and last October opened for business.

The idea was not a complicated one: they decided to build a data centre inside a shipping container so it could be placed anywhere and moved at will.

Data centres are basically stacks of servers, and as the world becomes more and more dependent on data analytics, they become more critical to the operations of companies and large organizations. And the owners of data centres need to know they will run all the time, regardless of power outages, natural disasters or whatever.

DC2GO’s solution to this demand was to build data centres within shipping containers. Each unit has a generator to be used as a backup power system in case of an emergency.

There’s enough fuel to last several days. There are two air conditioners in each unit, with the second kicking in if the first cuts out.

The interior is fitted out like a small office. The prototype has four racks of servers, though they can hold as many as 20. The layout includes a small anteroom, meaning there are two doors to the data centre itself, providing double security.

DC2GO will now start filling the order it just won and has the capacity to build 15 units simultaneously.


Coe said the company will build the units through the summer and they should be ready by September.

So far, the company has been funded with $150,000 Coe has put into the enterprise. He is now raising financing with the goal of raising about $500,000, which will be used to expand the manufacturing facility and establish an office and sales team.

Press Release: NBIF Research Chairs

Three Researchers Receive $3.5 Million To Work With Industry

New Brunswick Innovation Research Chairs Announced

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) today established three new applied research chairs valued at $3,525,000 over five years. Areas of research include the commercialization of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids for food and pharmaceuticals; advanced cyber security threat detection, response and mitigation systems; and biomedical human prosthetic and augmentation devices.

They are:

Dr. Marc Surette - New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Biosciences

Dr. Erik Scheme - New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices and Technology

Dr. Natalia Stakhanova - New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Cyber Security

Today’s ceremony presents the first three of six recipients. Each will receive $1,000,000 in applied research funding over five years, plus two graduate research assistants and one research technician, valued at $175,000.

Obtaining the chair was a highly competitive process held over several months. In total, the province’s research institutes and universities sent 19 letters of intent. Of those, nine were requested to submit a written proposal and five invited to make a presentation before a selection committee of NBIF and PETL officials, academics and business people. Three were chosen, highlighted in detail below.

The remaining three chairs will be selected in the winter of 2015. The competition begins with a letter of intent to be delivered to NBIF not later than October 31, 2014. For the final round, preference will be given to candidates that are external to the applicant organization. For more information about the competition, click here.

The 2014 recipients of the New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair are:

Dr. Erik Scheme  - NB Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices and Technology - University of New Brunswick - $1,175,000

As technology advances, the demand for advanced wearable medical devices has seen a rapid increase in the past five years, including smart prosthetic hands and limbs, multi-monitoring devices for human physiology, and more recently, human augmentation technologies. Dr. Scheme’s mandate is to position New Brunswick as a world leader in the discovery, innovation and commercialization of medical devices and technologies.

Dr. Marc Surette - NB Innovation Research Chair in Biosciences – Université de Moncton - $1,175,000

Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids currently come from animals, and most predominantly fish. However, their increased use in food and supplements is pushing demand beyond supply. Dr. Surette will work in partnership with agricultural companies to develop crops of a specific plant that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, opening up new opportunities for farmers and industry in New Brunswick and beyond.

Dr. Natalia Stakhanova – NB Innovation Research Chair in Cyber Security – University of New Brunswick - $1,175,000

Despite enormous achievements in computing, the recent Heart Bleed Bug demonstrated that no organization, regardless of size, power, or wealth, is immune to cyber security threats. As more industries, enterprises, and governments integrate their online systems with countless other organizations, doing business in the digital age has opened a whole new set of problems. Dr. Stakhanova will lead the research and development of novel detection and response technologies for current, trending and anticipated cyber security threats, and facilitate their adoption by primary industries.

NB Liberalizes SME Tax Credit

When Gerry Pond is asked how good New Brunswick’s new Small Business Investor Tax Credit is, he says it’s among the best provincial tax credit for startup investments in Canada.

The provincial government liberalized its tax credit this year to encourage more investment in young businesses, and to give a tax break to corporations investing in young companies.

“Some people say that the British Columbia credit is the best in North America, but I think ours is at least as good,” said Pond, the chairman of East Valley Ventures.

In his February budget, Finance Minister Blaine Higgs responded to years of lobbying by the startup community and announced reforms to the tax credits – which are breaks in provincial taxes to encourage New Brunswickers to invest in small businesses such as startups.

Under the new provisions, which will come into effect for the 2014 tax year, New Brunswickers investing in small businesses in the province will receive a 30% non-refundable personal income tax credit of up to $75,000 per year.  So that means someone investing $250,000 in an eligible business, will receive a $75,000 tax break, but someone investing more than that amount could still only claim $75,000 in a single year.  The credit can be carried forward seven years or back three years.

What’s interesting is the government will now let corporations as well as individuals claim the tax credit. Natacha Poirier, Manager in Tax Service at Ernst & Young in Dieppe, said this will help owners of established businesses invest in startups in a more tax-efficient manner.

To claim a tax credit before, business owners had to take money out of their business (and pay personal income tax on it) and then invest the money. Now the corporate entity can invest its cash on hand in a new venture and receive the credit.

The tax credit for corporations is worth 15 percent and applies to investments of up to $500,000 per year.

“I think it will be great for the people who don’t have the funds immediately available (in their personal accounts) but don’t want to take money out of their corporation,” said Poirier. “Now they can invest through their corporation and receive the tax credit.”

New Brunswick is leading the region in allowing high investment limits in its equity tax credit program. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia both have ceilings of $50,000 in their programs. 

Of course, the region still needs to address the problem of tax credits only being offered to residents of the province in question. Some U.S. states, such as Arkansas and Minnesota, have devised ways for people and institutions from outside their states to receive the tax credits to encourage greater investment in the fastest growing segment of their economy. Pond dreams of the day when the Atlantic Provinces extend credits to those beyond their borders, or at the very least to residents of other provinces within the region.

“I can get a credit for investing in Arkansas but not in Nova Scotia,” said Pond. “We have to fix that.”

 This article appears in the Spring 2014 edition of Entrevestor Intelligence, which you can find here.

StartupNL-Corner Brook Meeting Set

StartupNL-Corner Brook, the latest pod for the Startup Newfoundland and Labrador group, will hold its inaugural meeting on Monday at 6 pm at the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre in Corner Brook.

StartupNL  and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries have been working on the group for several months and are now moving ahead with the plans.

“We're looking for entrepreneurs and those that support entrepreneurs,” said StartupNL in a statement. “Brad Feld author of Startup Communities calls these leaders and feeders. We're hoping to identify a team of three or four leaders in Corner Brook that want to champion this project.”

The provincial body is offering support and looking for local leaders to step forward to organize the Corner Brook chapter.

The founding of the Corner Brook organization is the first step in a plan to spread the work of StartupNL across the province. 

Intelligence Report Highlights Funding

The most important trend in the Atlantic Canadian startup community last year was that provincial government agencies played a smaller role in financing startups than funds based outside the region and local private venture capital funds.

The June 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence Report, which we’re publishing here today, focuses on startup financing in the region, especially on equity financing for innovative young companies. Providing equity financing for these innovative young companies was until recently the domain of provincial agencies — the Nova Scotia Crown corporations Innovacorp and Nova Scotia Business Inc., and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, a not-for-profit that has certain governmental roles.

But part of the plan has always been for these agencies to take a back seat as other sources of financing come into the region. And our data show the provincial agencies accounted for $17.2 million or 78 per cent of the venture capital funding for Atlantic Canadian startups in 2012. Then it dropped to $6.9 million, or 22 per cent in 2013.

Overall, venture capital financing in the region rose to $31.2 million in 2013 from $23.3 million a year earlier. The big reason for the increase is the huge jump in funding from institutions based outside the region. This shows that exterior funding groups are taking more notice of the startup opportunities in Atlantic Canada.

“There’s definitely a different attitude among co-investors coming into the region,” said Patrick Keefe, a partner at Build Ventures. “Their interest started to tick up after Q1 and Radian6 were sold (in 2011) and continued after GoInstant exited (in 2012).”

The research by Entrevestor shows that investments from these venture capital and private equity firms soared last year — to $15.4 million in 2013 from $800,000 in 2012. Last year, BDC Ventures made its first investments in the region in four years, and initiated its convertible debenture program with Launch36. Under that program, it issued $150,000 in convertible debentures to Analyze Re, Eigen Innovations, FoodTender, R17, and topLog.

Build Ventures itself represents the final trend we’re seeing in the venture capital space — the rise of private, local financial bodies. These groups invested $3.8 million in local startups in 2011, but more than doubled their contribution to $8.9 million in 2013.

So are the provincial agencies starting to wind down? Not a chance. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has been on a roll lately, booking two exits in the last three years and taking a leading role in the New Brunswick government’s $80-million innovation program.

There’s a review underway of venture capital in Nova Scotia, but no one expects the government to get out of this line of work. And Newfoundland and Labrador is now putting together a fascinating private-public partnership for financing startups — an initiative detailed in the Entrevestor Intelligence Report.

The report provides data on key federal funding programs, and details on Verafin, the Newfoundland company that received $60 million in private equity funding last month. The supplement also features the first directory for the region’s startup community.

Announcing the Startup Directory

We’re pleased today to unveil the first Atlantic Canada Startup Directory, sponsored by Launch36.

The directory is published today in the Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which is now on our site. Hard copies will be available next week, and will be available at the Atlantic Venture Forum. We’ll do our best to get copies out to groups in all four provinces.

The directory includes the coordinates for 159 startups, arranged in four main groups, IT, Life Sciences, Cleantech and Advanced Manufacturing. It also has a selection of service companies that are part of the community.

We have also included information on a range of support organizations, under the following headings:  Education, Finance, Government, Industry Associations, Management Consultants, Media, Mentoring/Work Spaces, Professional Services and 3D Design & Printing.

The goal of the directory is to help connect people within the community, and to give people outside the region document to find companies in the region. We hope it will be something people keep on their desk as a resource.

We’d really like to thank Trevor MacAusland at Launch36 for stepping up and sponsoring the directory. Kudos also to our tremendous layout artist Roxanna Boers and for last minute assistance from Allan Gates and the crew at Bonfire Stories

Strong Startup Voice in NS Panel

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil yesterday unveiled an economic planning panel that is rich with talent from the startup community.

The 17-member panel, to be chaired by the premier, will take a year and a half to devise a 10-year economic plan in keeping with the report of the recent Ivany Commission on the Nova Scotian economy. The panel is being greeted with some skepticism, but there are a few things I really like about it.

First, it’s remarkably similar in structure to Premier David Alward’s New Brunswick Research and Innovation Council, announced last year. Both bodies include opposition leaders, a broad range of community leaders and a steep concentration of knowledge economy entrepreneurs. It would be great if these two panels sat down together to discuss harmonized policies that would benefit the whole region. It would be better still if representatives from Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island joined them.  

Second, it’s great that both premiers brought in opposition members to these panels. It highlights the importance of their work and builds hope that it will continue if governments change.

Third, and possibly most important, the Nova Scotia panel has a lot of talent from the startup community – people who understand the economic necessity of local companies selling technology to the global market. They include: J.P. Deveau, president, Acadian Seaplants Ltd.; Saeed El-Darahali, president and CEO, SimplyCast.com; and Jevon MacDonald, GoInstant.com. These are not just people who’ve worked in the private sector. They are people who have built up successful companies by commercializing proprietary technology.

Other members of the group, such as Dalhousie University vice-president of research Martha Crago and Engage Nova Scotia head Danny Graham, understand the power of startups in galvanizing the economy.

The startup community is becoming more and more a pillar of the business community, which is a healthy development.


Press Release: SimplyCast And SMU

SimplyCast in Partnership with Saint Mary's University Executive and Professional Development to Launch Leadership Training Course

SimplyCast is looking to create leaders among its team by offering comprehensive communication and management training.

The Saint Mary's program, designed by instructor Brenda Fair, develops communication skills and strategies through team building exercises and ongoing communication challenges.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, May 28, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, today announced that the company has partnered with Saint Mary's University Executive and Professional Development in order to offer company staff a professional business course which will help train them for leadership and management roles, while increasing their knowledge of communication challenges and solutions.

The training course allows employees to work alone and in groups to assess many communication strategies, participate in team communication exercises and learn new ways to effectively communicate with different types of personalities.

“Our employees are our most valuable assets, and we want to ensure that they have the skills they need to succeed and keep our company strong and progressive,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “We would like to thank Saint Mary's University for helping us train the next generation of leaders.”

A core SimplyCast value is finding great people who are passionate and talented, regardless of their experience level and investing in their future. Many employees do not have prior management experience and this course is designed to add to their knowledge while building on their established skills. SimplyCast is committed to developing leaders who can thrive in a business environment while helping to grow and innovate the local community.

The entire SimplyCast team would like to thank the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism for their support and assistance with the management training program.

ERDT is dedicated to supporting economic growth in Nova Scotia.

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

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a feature-rich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication.

With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.


EY to Buy Ambir Solutions

Ambir Solutions, one of Atlantic Canada’s leading technology consultancies, has agreed to join EY Canada (formerly Ernest & Young) as part of its business consultancy division.

The Saint John-based service company, which has offices in Halifax, Fredericton and St. John’s,  said in a statement it had signed a letter of intent to join EY. The organization’s 60 employees will all be joining the international firm.

“We decided last year that we were going to embark on a growth strategy, only we envisioned it would be as independent company,” said Ambir CEO Ian Cavanagh in an interview Thursday afternoon. “But this opportunity presented itself, and the opportunity to join forces with a global firm like this is a very exciting one.”

He explained that in the fallout of the Enron scandal in 2001 the large accountancy firms were forced to divest their business advisory units. But eventually they learned to operate within new regulations and began to grow that side of the business again. EY has been growing aggressively, and several of its five acquisitions in Canada in the past four year have been designed to bolster its business advisory division.

Cavanagh, who was a finalist in EY’s prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010, said there would be no layoffs because of the transaction. And he stressed that the two companies complement one another very well in terms of business mix and culture.

Ambir’s award-winning business and IT consulting services team is focused largely on technology, whereas EY’s advisory business concentrates on business development. So there is little overlap.  

“We’re proud to be aligning EY’s brand and global reach with Ambir’s unparalleled client service and sector expertise,” Trent Henry, EY’s Canadian Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Ambir truly is the leading independent IT and business consulting firm in Atlantic Canada. We’re looking forward to building game-changing services, together.”

The two sides have been working on the deal for about six months, and Cavanagh said they have learned the cultures at the two organizations are remarkably similar.

“I would never have done this deal if we couldn’t tick a couple of key boxes,” he said. “Strategy is one and another is culture. We found someone we have a great cultural fit with and I wouldn’t have expected that in a big company.”

He added EY is passionate about growing in Atlantic Canada, and the addition of the team from Ambir will help achieve that goal.

Cavanagh is a former board member of PropelICT and said he will continue to pursue his passion for entrepreneurship in the region. 

Profile: The Hankinsons’ Golden Touch

They are stars in the regional startup community, enjoying a high degree of success at a young age.

When they are asked to explain their early achievements, brothers Stephen and Patrick Hankinson say that growing up in rural Nova Scotia they had few leisure options, so they began tinkering with their dad’s computer, learning a passion for tech and entrepreneurialism from him.

Both credit their father’s enthusiasm for computers and his own entrepreneurial leanings — Owen Hankinson ran a car dealership and gas station in the riverside community of Weymouth — with inspiring them. There may also be other genetic components to their success — their family line includes store owners, a shipbuilder and myriad other business people.

“Dad had a computer in the house since I was two. Dad loved technology. The first ISP (Internet Service Provider) in Weymouth was on top of his garage,” explained Stephen, 32, an electrical engineer and co-founder of Affinio, the Halifax social media analytics company. He is also the Co-Founder of 26ones, the Halifax engineering and incubation operation he runs with partner Tim Burke. 

“As kids, we started website businesses,” said Patrick, 26, who focuses on marketing and is a co-founder of Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code.

“We ran an online website to sell computer parts and another that sold general merchandise.”

Compilr has recently been acquired by lynda.com, a California online education company, for an undisclosed sum.

“We were always trying to sell something,” Patrick said. “In a small town, the only way to solve our entrepreneurial itch was running an online business.”

The brothers say they always knew they would be entrepreneurs, like their forebears, who include great-grandfather George Hankinson, who ran a general merchandising and lumber business and also started Hankinson Shipbuilding Co. George and their grandfather, Ken Hankinson, sold Irving products early on in K.C. Irving’s own entrepreneurial journey, Patrick said.

Many of their cousins are in business, including James Hankinson, who has served as CEO and president of Ontario Power Generation, as well as CEO and president of New Brunswick Power Corp.

“Even our mom, Sharron, started her own daycare from our house and grew it large enough to need a new building,” Patrick said as the brothers relaxed in the bright new Bedford offices of Affinio.

The brothers respect each other’s talents and have collaborated on various projects, including the wildly successful Tether, which allowed people to go online on their laptop using their smartphone plan. Stephen, who is widely known for his technical speed and ability, built the product in just a month and they, together with Burke, launched it in March 2009, accruing six figures of revenue within three days.

The brothers will probably work together again, but right now both are busy with their own ventures.

Patrick and co-founder Tim Speed are continuing to operate Compilr from Halifax, despite selling their company to lynda.com.

“We’re growing our local team and we have a new office on Argyle Street,” Patrick said. “We are integrating our technologies with lynda.com. It’s interesting to be part of a massive organization. I like the knowledge-sharing. Lynda has a lot of processes in place that make me wonder, why didn’t I do that?”

After Affinio raised $1.5 million from Build Ventures, the Halifax regional venture capital fund, last October, Affinio is piloting its product, which allows small businesses to mine social media and other data to find potential customers, partners or employees.

Stephen says he is “at full tilt, travelling all over.”

“We’ve had a lot of interest in New York.”

The brothers believe they are natural-born businessmen but say they are more reserved than is ideal in an entrepreneur. They cherish their alone “thinking” time, but they also solicit each other’s advice; the close relationship allowing them to be franker than they might be with others.

“We haven’t killed each other yet,” Stephen joked as the two began to make plans to meet up for an online gaming session.