Solid State Sees Growth Continuing

In a segment that is notoriously slow to get to market, Solid State Pharma Inc. is a two-year-old biotech company that is not only profitable but also is doubling revenue and staff annually.

Founded by CEO Mahmoud Mirmehrabi, the Halifax-based life sciences company has developed expertise at converting liquid medicines into solids — the pharmaceutical industry’s preferred state to transport and dispense drugs. Mirmehrabi said about 30 per cent of medical compounds are liquids in their natural state, and it is essential to ensure they retain certain properties when converting them to solids. Expertise in doing so is why his company is growing so quickly.

“It’s the demand that is out there, and basically that the pharmaceutical companies are thirsty for high-quality research and work,” Mirmehrabi said in an interview in his office in Halifax’s Innovacorp Enterprise Centre.

He started the company when he arrived in Halifax two years ago with a PhD from London’s University of Western Ontario, and more than a decade-and-a-half of experience with such blue chip drug companies as Pfizer and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. (He has also served as an expert witness in court cases involving drug manufacturing, though he’s too busy now to perform such duties.) Now, Solid State Pharma has a staff of 10, all with graduate degrees, and is growing rapidly.

He said the compounds in a drug can exist in different polymorphs — or a different arrangement of the elements in a compound. But changing the arrangement can affect the properties of the drug, including the solubility or dissolution rate. He noted that both diamonds and graphite are pure carbon, but they’re very different products because of the arrangement of their atoms.

And making mistakes in the solidification of compounds can prove expensive for drug companies. The most notorious case was Abbott Laboratories having to pull its HIV drug, Ritonavir, which resulted in lost sales worth $250 million.

SomaDetect Plans Pilot Project for 2017

Mirmehrabi said the largest pharma companies have the in-house capability to solidify their compounds in ways that meet regulatory standards, but small and medium-sized pharmaceutical and natural products companies have to outsource the work. Solid State Pharma is one of only a handful of companies in the world with the equipment and expertise to carry out the task.

The company earns 90 per cent of its revenue abroad and the other 10 per cent from out of province; all of its sales are outside the region. The company is also conducting research into new products or processes.

The company has $700,000 worth of equipment in its labs, and is planning to buy a further $500,000 in additional gear.

The company is profitable and is doubling its revenue and sales each year. It’s a situation Mirmehrabi believes will continue for several years to come, leveling off at a staff of about 60 people. The company has already had opportunities to exit, though he wants to grow the company.

“We’ve had two cases of European companies that were interested in acquiring us,” he said, adding that their interest was strong enough that they came to Halifax to examine the companies.

“We were not interested in pursuing the conversation. The primary reason is we want this company to be here 20 years from now.”

Knowledgehook Lands $1.25M in Funding

Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.

Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.

Knowledgehook, whose software helps teachers to tailor their support of individual students, has secured $1.25 million in financing to fund the platform’s expansion into global markets.

The Waterloo-based company has developed software that analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time games to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices. Knowledgehook, which has worked with the Accelerator Centre and Communitech’s Rev accelerator, was founded in 2014 by Ratnam, Francis, Lambo Jayapalan, and Arthur Lui.

Knowledgehook, which this year was named BNN’s Top Disruptor, plans to expand into new markets, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.

The round was led by Sayan Navaratnam, the CEO of Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Connex Telecommunications and head of the investment firm Aadya Capital. The funding team also includes investors Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific. “Knowledgehook has a novel solution to a global problem,” Navaratnam said in a statement. “I believe this technology will be defining for the edtech space, paving the way for how a data-driven approach to teaching can help kids all over the world do better in math.”

Research suggests that throughout Canada and the U.S., student’s math skills are lagging. Knowledgehook’s software identifies what concepts they’re struggling with and why and suggests how teachers can support them. The company’s platform is popular among teachers in more than 75% of Ontario school boards and in more than 300 school districts in the U.S.

In 2016, Knowledgehook software made more than 6,000 recommendations on how teachers could close gaps in their students’ learning.

Last May, Steve Case was one of three Google Demo Day judges to present the company with the annual, audience-selected Google’s Game Changer Award.

“Knowledgehook is a great example of what’s happening in Waterloo,” Case told Demo Day presenters. “The whole edtech space is focused on some real problems. Personalized, adaptive learning systems are clearly important for the next generation of learners.”

Blaze Studios Launches Zephyr

Moncton-based Blaze Studios has launched a new digital administrative product for the advertising industry, and is gearing up to release more products in 2017.

Headed by Jason Lavigne, Blaze Studios is one of Canada’s largest open-source development shops, and also serves as an incubator for online products for advertising and marketing  industry. The latest is Zephyr, founded by Lavigne and Andrew MacKinnon, which uses artificial intelligence to reduce the amount of time ad agencies devote to time sheets, invoicing and the like.

“We’ve been working on zephyr for two years or so,” MacKinnon, the Chief Marketing Technologist, said in an interview last week, when it launched Zephyr. “It’s one of our internal projects. There are probably three or four more that are in different stages of development.”

MacKinnon said ad agencies spend more than US$5.5 billion each year on time-tracking software that requires workers to submit timesheets documenting how much time they spent on each client's projects each day.  In fact, agency management software is one of the largest expenses these outfits have, usually costing more than rent. 

On top of this, the agencies’ have to spend time filling out the forms and doing administrative tasks. There are estimates that the time spent on time sheets adds up to 65 million hours a year in North America alone. It works out to about one hour per employee per day, and this is not billable time.

Moncton's Technology Venture Corp: Investing on the QT

Zephyr automatically carries out all these tasks, using artificial intelligence to track the employee’s time, enter it to a databank and prepare and send invoices when appropriate. Priced to disrupt existing software, Zephyr also helps the agencies to prepare more precise estimates for clients because the artificial intelligence system can assess similar projects, and work done for the client previously, and estimate how much a new project will cost. It also provides data on the efficiency of agency employees.

MacKinnon said his team has spent two years discussing Zephyr with potential clients around North America, and more than 100 of them have said they’re interested in participating in the roll out.

The 10-member team at Blaze Studios has considerable experience in launching products. In 2013, they launched Iceberg, a simple, fast platform for submitting and judging creativity. Iceberg is now North America's largest provider of software for managing advertising and creative competitions. More than 2,000 North American advertising agencies are paid customers of Iceberg.

Asked what’s in store for Blaze in 2017, MacKinnon said the big thing is ramping up sales of Zephyr. Onboarding artificial intelligence platforms is an intensive process, so the company will have to spend time working with each customer.

“What we’re doing is we’re making transitioning to new product as easy as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, the team will continue to work on other products, and MacKinnon’s expects a couple of launches in the next 12 months.

“What Blaze is is  … an incubator-slash-development house that will spin off products,” he said. “In addition to Zephyr, we expect to launch at least two products of similar size and scope [in 2017].”

Briefs: Ghorbani, Propel, WoodsCamp

Ali Ghorbani

Ali Ghorbani

Ghorbani Named Canada Research Chair

Ali Ghorbani, dean of computer science at the University of New Brunswick, has been named Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity. As well as his academic achievements, Ghorbani is a Co-Founder of the Fredericton-based startups Sentrant and EyesOver.

“I’m incredibly excited by the opportunity this Canada Research Chair presents, and grateful for the federal investment and recognition,”  Ghorbani said in a statement. “This will allow me to expand my research program, attract more graduate students and research associates, and increase R&D collaborations with the cybersecurity industry.”

Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs are world-leading researchers, recognized by their peers for their innovative work. UNB will receive $200,000 in annual funding for each of the seven years of Ghorbani’s term.

Ghorbani’s research focuses on cybersecurity solutions in a rapidly evolving, data-intensive world. He’s developing techniques and tools to identify cyberthreats and cybercriminal activity before they’re able to cause harm.

In his 35 years in academia, Ghorbani has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and supervised over 160 research associates, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. He is co-inventor of three awarded patents in the area of network security and web intelligence and he has obtained more than $6 million to fund five large multi-project research initiatives since 2010.

McCrae, Sturgeon No Longer With Propel

Gillian McCrae and Al Sturgeon are no longer with the regional accelerator Propel ICT.

The organization last week announced that it was bringing on two new entrepreneurs in residence – Charlotte Rydlund in Halifax and Richard Jones in Fredericton.

Since then, people familiar with the matter have confirmed a report in Allnovascotia.com that McCrae and Sturgeon are no longer with Propel.

Sturgeon, who was an entrepreneur-in-residence based in Fredericton, is leaving to launch his own startup.  He was part of the Radian6 crew that joined Salesforce when the tech giant bought the Fredericton company.

McCrae, who was a Vice-President based in Halifax, was the Founder of GetGifted, a P.E.I. startup that helped local merchants reward their customers.

Neither McCrae, Sturgeon or officials from Propel would comment on the matter.

ACOA Lends WoodsCamp $250,000

Mahone Bay-based WoodsCamp Technologies Inc. has borrowed $250,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency through the Business Development Program.

WoodsCamp is an online marketplace that helps private woodlot owners understand the value of the trees on their land to improve their profit from responsible forestry. The company is now building up its list of Nova Scotian woodlot owners who are interested in using the service.

Founders Alastair Jarvis and Will Martin have said they’ve been in talks with Innovcorp about a funding deal, and the company last year received a $50,000 grant from ACOA.

Jarvis and Martin aim to build WoodsCamp into the world’s leading manager of timber and believes that the management of woodlands is the most urgent and overlooked environmental issue of our time.

“The forests my children and grandchildren will walk in depend on our ability to build a healthy and sustainable ecosystem that increases the health and wealth of our forests and all who rely on them,” Jarvis said in a press release.

“With the government’s support, we’re integrating innovations from around the world, and, from our own comparative advantage, are building innovative new technology that will scale out to regions of the United States and Europe where the forest is also primarily in private ownership.”

Electric Bike Suru Launched in NS

The Suru bike

The Suru bike

Three years after his first attempt at a high-performance electric motorcycle faltered, Michael Uhlarik is back and has launched his latest bike, Suru.

Costing $3,499 , the Suru is priced for the urban consumer and is designed to be a high-performance, environmentally friendly vehicle that can allow city dwellers the ease and affordability to make local trips at a reasonable cost.

Manufactured in Amherst and Sydney, the Suru frame is lightweight and strong, and is covered by a lifetime guarantee. Most important, it requires no tooling (meaning the components can be made without special molds), which cuts costs. Uhlarik said the Suru bikes have a high margin, even if production is only 100 units. Above that figure, the company will be doing well, he said.

The market for electric bikes has been booming in the U.S. and Canada lately, rising about 15 per cent annually. But Uhlarik said the market is polarized between expensive designer models from Europe and cheap products that are unreliable. Suru is targeting the middle market, with a sleek design, strong frame and affordable price.

“We’ve launched,” said Uhlarik, sitting in a coffee shop with his daughters Sophie and Robin, whose initials are combined to give the product its name. “Suru is in the market and on sale.”

Uhlarik first tried to produce an electric bike in 2013 with Amarok. It gained attention when the Amarok P1A bike reached speeds of 100 miles per hour going up a gradient of 17 degrees at the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. It was faster than competing bikes from larger companies that had cost $30 million to develop.

Uhlarik was preparing for a commercial launch of the product, but it never happened and the company sank. Uhlarik describes it as a “gutting” experience, and he spent a long time recovering. He went back to teaching and focusing on his daughters.

But the explosion of electric bike sales kept reminding him of the potential of electric bikes, so he and cofounder Kevin O’Neil decided to try again.

“Amarok was a really big success from a technical point of view and a failure from a business point of view,” he said. “There’s just not a market for this type of high-end motorcycle in this niche. … But the frame of the Suru would not have been possible without Amarok and it’s the frame that makes it special.”

Uhlarik and O’Neil have now soft-launched Suru, and will have an official launch next month at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. Though it’s not true “interior” design, the bike is one of the new products to be featured at the show because it is an innovative product that enhances the urban lifestyle.

One point he stressed is that a lot of similar products are financed through crowdfunding campaigns, in which people are asked to provide money in advance to fund the development of a product. By contrast, Suru is developed and can be delivered to customers within 90 days.

“We’re not asking people to fund our research and development,” he said. “We’re there now.”

Axem Wins $3,000 at Dal’s Collide

The Collider at Dalhousie.

The Collider at Dalhousie.

Axem, a wearable technology that allows athletes to track their brain activity to enhance performance, has captured the $3,000 first prize at the latest Demo Day of the Collide Program at Dalhousie University.

Founded by Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen, Axem has already received initial commitments for tests from professional and elite sports teams, including the New England Patriots, Winnipeg Jets, the Canadian Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, and the Anaheim Ducks.

Dalhousie University’s Collide program wrapped up its fall cohort Monday night with the Starting Lean Showcase. A total of 11 teams presented their companies at the Demo Day last week and the showcase on Monday night.  

The second-place prize of $2,000 went to the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Club – a social community run by Avery Birch. Samuel Levac-Levey’s Aria, a platform aiming to gamify the professional counseling process to help professional counselors measure client progress, captured the third-place award of $1,000.

“Collide applicants were very pleased with their experience in the program, as it gave them more than the chance to win prize money: it gave them education, confidence, connections and experience,” said the program in a press release.

Organized by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach, the Collide program is the portion of the university’s curriculum that teaches lean entrepreneurship to students and members of the community. The program is open to students, researchers, and others, and is free of charge.

The organizers stressed that Collide offered these participants the opportunity to meet and listen to various alumni and experts. The Collide alumni included Cam McDonald, Co-Owner of Iconic Brewing, and Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO of Spring Loaded Technologies, while the other speakers featured Don Sedgwick, of University of Kings College and Brian Lowe, a Co-Founder of First Angel Network .

The organizers are now planning the winter program which is set to launch in January. 

Technology Venture: Investing on the QT

Susan Hicks and Jon Manship have to be considered the unsung heroes of the East Coast startup community, and unsung is the way they like it.

Manship and Hicks are the founders of Technology Venture Corp., a Moncton investment fund that over 11 years has built itself into one of the region’s most influential investment organizations.

The people they back speak of Manship and Hicks with reverence, though you really have to look hard to find public references to them.

“Jon and Susan are very, very private people but very determined to be part of what’s going on and make a difference,” said Doug Robertson, the President and CEO of the Moncton-based tech organization Venn Innovation, of which Manship was the founding chair. “They give a lot back to the community.”

The main way they have given back is through investment. Most notably, TVC is the largest private limited partner in Build Ventures, the regional VC investor, having contributed $5 million. It also has investments in at least four startups: Fredericton-based cybersecurity provider Sentrant Security; Fredericton-based Inversa Systems, whose technology can detect structural flaws; Halifax’s Medusa Medical Technologies, which makes hardware for paramedics and first responders; and Moncton-based Masitek, which helps beverage manufacturers improve production line efficiency.

There may be other companies in their portfolio. But we couldn’t nail down anything definite.

NBIF Invested $3.8M in VC in 2015-16

Since Entrevestor began, we have reached out several times through common contacts to request an interview with Hicks. The closest we’ve got is the accompanying quotes, which were sent to us by email through an intermediary. The quotes speak of the duo’s commitment to the region and the importance of innovation, but we know little more about the nuts and bolts of Technology Venture Corp.

Here’s what we do know: The roots of TVC stretch back to 2004 when Manship sold his company Spielo Manufacturing, which makes video lottery terminals, to GTECH Holdings Corporation of West Greenwich, R.I., for as much as US$185 million. The sale gained notice because two former employees sued the company, but Manship won the court battle.

Robertson said the Spielo sale was the original New Brunswick tech success story, predating Radian6 and Q1 Labs, and that the GTECH unit still employs almost 500 people in Moncton.

A year after the sale, Manship started his own VC fund and placed in charge Spielo’s Chief Financial Officer, Susan Hicks.

They have made several seed-stage investments, and the people they back speak glowingly about their contributions. “Susan is an awesome investor,” said John Bowles, the President of Inversa, speaking in an interview in 2012. He added that far beyond providing capital, Hicks was an essential team player for her insights and leadership.

Masitek in particular credits Hicks with helping to found the company. It began when TVC decided to build a company out of patented intellectual property it held. Hicks brought in Tracy Clinch, who had experience with Moosehead and McCain Foods, to serve as the company’s CEO.

And of course, she did so quietly. 

How Manship and Hicks View the Region

“Atlantic Canada has always been home to innovative companies and entrepreneurs that have succeeded in global markets. With a rapidly changing global economy and highly competitive market for talent, we need to double down on innovation-based growth, develop the best possible supporting ecosystem, and promote a culture that supports risk-taking, tolerates failures and celebrates success. ‘We have the talent and the resources to be one of the most innovative regions in the world, but it won’t happen unless all the key stakeholders – industry, government, investors, entrepreneurs and academia – are invested in a common vision. Meaningful collaboration is essential, especially in a small region like Atlantic Canada.’

– Jon Manship

Chairman of Technology Venture Corp.

‘Over the years, Technology Venture Corporation has been privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with talented entrepreneurs who are dedicated to growing their respective companies. We want to acknowledge the important role of our education providers at the grade school and high school levels and at the college and university levels, for the great job educators have done in developing our human resources. Without them, this would not be possible. ‘People throughout this region are very resourceful, hardworking and creative. There is no lack of great ideas to start and grow companies. We have worked with companies in all four Atlantic Provinces and can attest to the fact that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit in Atlantic Canada. ‘Whether we are talking about software development, sensing technologies, or many other types of technologies, our companies can compete and win with the best in class on a global scale.’

– Susan Hicks

CEO of Technology Venture Corp.

Fierce Founders Seek Applications

Communitech, the Kitchener-Waterloo startup hub, is calling for applications for its Fierce Founder Bootcamp – a mentorship program for 25 companies led by female founders.

The organization has held the Fierce Founder program for several years, and it is open to companies in and outside Waterloo region.

The next bootcamp, to take place in the winter for the first time, will be held in two phases, from Jan.  24 to 26 and Feb. 21 to 23. Applications can be found here and are open until Dec. 23.

“This fast-paced program is open to passionate entrepreneurs with a tech or tech-based idea at a MVP or pre-MVP stage,” said a statement from Communitech. “Twenty-five participants will receive hands-on mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and experts as they build out their business models and work toward refining their product offerings."

The sessions end with a pitching competition, at which the top three finishers divide $100,000 in cash and prizes. The past winners include Borealis Wind of Kitchener and Sentinel Alert of St. John’s.

The Fierce Founder program has grown to also include an accelerator, which is open to founders residing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. It's now accepting applications for the next cohort, which begins in March. 

Sayles Take Aim at Workplace Safety

Stephen and Byran Sayle

Stephen and Byran Sayle

Having traveled the world in their respective professions, the Sayle brothers are back in Atlantic Canada developing a company they hope will revolutionize safety in the workplace.

Bryan and Stephen Sayle are natives of Prince Edward Island and their Halifax-based company, SayleGroup Inc., has developed three products that work together to digitize and improve workplace safety. Two of these products are on the market and being used by 27 paying customers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses. SayleGroup is also a finalist for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards, which will be presented Jan. 26.

“We are raising the awareness around safety culture,” Stephen Sayle said in an interview. “The general safety culture movement is years behind, say, the environmental movement . . . Or to compare it to something that grew locally, compare it with the anti-bullying movement.”

Stephen has spent his career in workplace safety, mainly in the oil and gas industry, working in the Middle East, the Far East and Latin America. Bryan is a software developer, who has spent the bulk of his career in the U.K with stints in other markets including Silicon Valley. As they flew back and forth, they would meet up in airports around the world and discuss plans to work together one day.

GoBumpFree Takes Flight

Now they’ve moved to Halifax to raise their families and launch a business that capitalizes on their areas of expertise. (Interesting point: Both brothers married Nova Scotians called Heidi. One Heidi is a lawyer and the other Heidi is a chartered accountant, so SayleGroup’s professional services are all handled within the family.)

The company has three product lines:

• An online course that teaches companies how to implement safety culture, the most basic step in improving safety in the workplace. Comprised of four five-minute modules, the course is priced so businesses of any size can afford it.

• A supply chain readiness product helps companies raise their safety practices so they can participate in megaprojects. Virtually all megaprojects demand that each company in the supply chain has a minimum level of safety standards, and this product helps all companies reach that level.

• SayleGroup plans in 2017 to release its third product, a mobile application that ensures work teams maintain safety standards and check the things that must be done. It lets workers all have a safety device on their cellphones. “By putting a virtual safety officer into a tool that everyone has and tying it to other (people within the organization) it puts a system of checks and balances in place,” said Bryan.

The brothers said there are now no international standards for workplace safety, but the International Standards Organization next year will release a set of regulations that jurisdictions and companies must meet to be considered safety-compliant. The SayleGroup products all meet these standards, and the pricing of their products mean that companies of any size can be sure to meet international requirements.

They believe Nova Scotia is the “ideal place” to launch this business. The brothers have received support from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency and Nova Scotia Business Inc. And Nova Scotia is a jurisdiction that needs to improve its safety record.

“We have higher-than-average injury rates here,” said Stephen Sayle. “We believe that everybody wants to go to work, do their job and get home safely.”

Jones, Rydlund Join Propel Team

Charlotte Rydlynd and her PACTA team in the spring.

Charlotte Rydlynd and her PACTA team in the spring.

Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s regional startup accelerator, has named veteran entrepreneurs Richard Jones and Charlotte Rydlund to its team as entrepreneurs-in-residence.

These entrepreneurs have experience in business-to-business enterprises and will strengthen the mentorship in the field at a time when the startup world appears to be focusing more to industrial applications than consumer products. Between the two of them, they have more than 40 years of experience in the business world.

The move comes days after the accelerator held its latest Demo Day in Halifax, and opened applications for its next cohort. The applications, which can be found here, will be open until Jan. 13.

“With more than 200 people in attendance and 11 companies pitching, there is strong evidence of the vibrancy of the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem,” Propel CEO Anita Punamiya said in a statement, referring to Demo Day. 

Based in Fredericton, Jones will bring extensive experience in the Industrial Internet of Things to the Propel organization. He has served as CEO of both Eigen Innovations and Shift Energy, two of the most promising IIoT outfits in the region.

Rydlund, who lives in Halifax, is the CEO of PACTA, which automates the management of contract for big companies. In May, it was one of 11 Canadian companies invited to pitch at the Google Demo Day at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

“We couldn't be happier to bring their experience and talent to the team,” said Punamiya.  

SomaDetect Plans 2017 Pilot Project

When David Alston was asked recently what startups in his native Fredericton had caught his attention, one of the first he mentioned was a young company called SomaDetect. The New Brunswick government’s chief entrepreneur-in-residence said he’d even visited a dairy farm with SomaDetect’s founders to witness their product at work.

Sounded intriguing.

SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly, accurately and precisely while testing the quality of their milk. The company has been launched by CEO Bethany Deshpande and COO Nicholas Clermont, who have been in touch with farmers across New Brunswick, a few of whom have signed up for the pilot project in 2017.

“SomaDetect is aiming to be New Brunswick’s next big agro-tech success story,” Deshpande said in an interview. “We are excited about what the future brings, and about the interest we have from dairy farmers here.”

The story of SomaDetect began when Bethany’s father Satish Deshpande, an Ontario government worker and part-time inventor, learned of a problem common in dairy farming. One of the most pervasive diseases in the industry is mastitis, which can diminish the quality of milk and even prove lethal to the cow if not detected in time.

Farmers now screen for the disease by sampling their total intake of milk, sending the sample to a lab, and waiting for about a week for the results. The tests can determine whether mastitis is present in the herd, though it cannot say which specific animal is afflicted.

Digital Life Sciences: The Hottest Sector in #Startupeast

Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day.

By catching the disease early enough, SomaDetect can prevent the disease from moving through the herd, save the lives of some cows, and reduce the amount of antibiotics used by dairy farmers. The product also captures each farm’s data in the cloud, which can produce reports in real time for the farmer.

After completing her PhD in microbiology in June, Bethany Deshpande moved to Fredericton, where her husband had taken a job. She was impressed with the local entrepreneurial community and decided to build a business based on her father’s product.

She teamed up with Clermont, an engineer, designer and business strategist and launched the business.

Their goal is to have five farms in the pilot project early next year, and eventually be used by one-quarter of the dairy farms in New Brunswick. There are 55,000 dairy farms in Canada and the U.S., so their market is substantial.

Deshpande and Clermont are also taking their company through Breakthru, New Brunswick’s biennial competition for startups. They have also been working with the Pond-Deshpande Centre (whose co-founder Gururaj Deshpande is no relation) at the University of New Brunswick and accessed funding through the PDC’s B4Change program.

Now the company is rolling the product out in farms with the goal of improving agricultural production. Said Bethany Deshpande: “One of our aims for SomaDetect is to help New Brunswick produce the highest quality milk in the country.”

NBIF Invested $3.8M in VC in 2015-16

Calvin Milbury: 'We are the bridge between research and enterprise.'

Calvin Milbury: 'We are the bridge between research and enterprise.'

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation said Wednesday it made equity investments totaling $3.8 million in 22 companies in the 12 months to March 31, 2016.

The province’s innovation agency released its annual report for last fiscal year, which shows it was active throughout the year, though many of the contribution totals were slightly below the record year in 2014-2015. The organization had greatly increased its funding in the previously two years, and now is showing relatively stable funding levels.

The organization is best known for its venture capital investments, but it also finances research that can be commercialized and helps to attract researchers to the province.

“Taking on risk is what we do at NBIF,” President and CEO Calvin Milbury said in the report. “We are the bridge between research and enterprise in New Brunswick. In doing so, we help to bring innovation from lab to marketplace where it impacts our economy.”

Almost half of NBIF’s expenditures or investments went to startups and growth companies, which received $5.2 million, unchanged from the year before. NBIF also contributed $3.2 million to applied research, down 16 percent from a year earlier, and $2.8 million to talent and recruitment, down 17 percent from the previous year.

Read our Report on Propel ICT's Demo Day

NBIF was an active VC investor in the 2016 fiscal year, completing 24 investments in 22 companies. In fact, in January to March of 2016, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association ranked NBIF the most active provincially backed venture capital fund in the country, with deals totaling $9 million, including outside investors.

The report noted that NBIF has now invested $73 million since its inception in 2003, and has 41 active portfolio companies.

NBIF made the following investments in 2015-2016 from its Venture Capital Fund:

Populus Global -- National level Health Information Management System                      $500,000

Fiddlehead Technology -- Advanced cost predicting software                                        $400,000

Alongside -- Advanced online HR recruitment software                                                 $400,000

Inversa Systems -- Diagnostic imaging tech for industry                                               $350,000

Envenio -- Advanced computational fluid dynamics software                                         $300,000

Eigen Innovations -- Advanced optic sensors for manufacturing                                     $250,000

Knowcharge -- Electro static discharge protection via paper products                            $175,000

Hotspot Merchants --Parking payment app and marketing tool                                      $150,000

Xiplinx -- Production worker productivity monitoring                                                      $150,000

Simptek Technologies -- Smart meter energy control system for homes                        $150,000

TotalPave -- Mobile app for road surface roughness analysis                                        $150,000

Mycodev -- Human grade chitosan production for wound sealants                                 $100,000

CyberPsyc -- VR software for treating mental illness                                                      $50,000

Spinzo Dynamic -- pricing technology for online sales                                                    $50,000

Food Tender -- Food cost management platform for restaurant                                        $50,000

Timbre Cases -- Humidity controlled guitar cases                                                          $50,000

The VC fund is for companies in or entering their growth stage, but NBIF in recent years has also begun a Startup Investment Fund to back newer companies. It said six of the 16 companies that have received SIF funding have already moved into the VC fund.

In 2015-2016, the following companies received $100,000 each from the SIF:

Force 3 -- Innovations Ergonomic seat for commercial vehicles

Full Pint Software Development -- Scheduling and monitoring software for restaurant industry

Porpoise -- Project management tool for corporate social responsibility

Loft1 -- Editable whiteboard handwriting recognition software

Ella -- Clothing resale app

Castaway Golf -- Golfball retrieval and recycling company

The report also stresses that NBIF is now working on helping its portfolio companies to scale by providing leadership in three key areas – governance, funding and human resources.

Early Companies Shine at Demo Day

Isaac Adejuwon, Founder and CEO of Metricsflow

Isaac Adejuwon, Founder and CEO of Metricsflow

Propel ICT held its second Demo Day of 2016 in Halifax last night, in a show that featured strong performances from the early stage presenters.

Seven of the 11 presenting companies at the packed event were from the Launch Program, which guides new companies from concept to developing a minimum viable product. These companies – ranging from e-health platforms to an app for mink farmers – displayed a depth of market expertise and strong technical proficiency.

The 11 presenters were chosen from the 37 startups that went through the latest cohort of the regional accelerator, and the organization’s chairman Steven Burns noted that they represent the companies that are changing the Canadian economy.

“You can build all the bridges you want and they won’t do what these companies are doing,” he said. “That’s what Propel is all about.”

Propel CEO Anita Punamiya said the organization is now looking at such initiatives as a mentorship program, that will further develop the network of entrepreneurs. Also, Propel is planning to hold its first cohort in Sydney in the spring of 2017. Applications for the next cohort are open until Jan. 13.

Here’s a look at the presenting companies from the Launch program:

GreyLitMatters, Halifax – Academic journals chronicle only 10 percent of the $500 billion of research conducted around the world each year. GreyLitMatters plans to offer a chance for the other 90 percent to be disseminated to and reviewed by peers, so the research can be put to use. The company is lining up early adopters and may have a Halifax research organization to serve as its first.

Orchard, Halifax – Orchard offers supermarkets an in-store, data-based marketing platform to help them increase sales. Using sensors throughout a store, the platform can assess what items are in a shopper’s cart and customize an ad on a video monitor to suit that consumer’s tastes. About 20 percent of shoppers’ purchases are chosen on the spot, and Orchard wants to raise the level to 32 percent. The company is now working on its proof of concept.

Ad Blocking Aware, Charlottetown – This company’s software offers all businesses – not just large corporations – the chance to recover the marketing opportunity lost because of ad blockers. When the software detects ad blockers, it engages the reader, using machine learning to ensure the messaging is tailored to the reader.

EChart Health Care, Moncton –Spun off from a family-owned seniors home, eChart is developing a platform that lets homes for the elderly communicate better with their patients’ families. Other apps for this industry deal in health records or communication within the homes, but eChart focuses on providing better service to families. The company now has an early adopter and is targeting the 1.6 million long-term care facilities in Canada and the U.S.

RayZen, Fredericton - RayZen is an online platform that help nonprofit organization raise more money through games. Charitable organizations often struggle to retain donors or increase revenues, and RayZen helps them to engage donors and bring in more money through fun games. It is already talking to 25 such organizations.

Metricsflow, St. John's – Metricsflow has developed a system to help marketers effectively measure the impact of their content marketing. The problem it addresses is that content marketers push out vast amounts of material but little of it results in client conversions. Using no cookies, Metricsflow mines the data on the content and lets the users take action that results in conversions.

Mink Manager, St. John's – Mink Manager is an advanced fur farm management system that helps farmers to improve breeding programs and overall workflow. Mink farmers often have tens of thousands of animals to track, and now do so on paper. The company is now working with three farms, and is feeling market pull from other farmers. There are about 10,000 mink farms in the world.

Four companies from the more advanced Build Program pitched at Demo Day. We featured GoBumpFree on the site yesterday and will provide more detailed articles on some of the others in the coming weeks. They are:

Ironflow, Dieppe, NB – The company’s product, PurelyHR, lets companies create a tailored solution to satisfy their HR needs.

One simpler, Fredericton – The company has created a solution to automating production equipment, studios, and more.

And Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown – Stay Golden is an online clothing company that helps groups display their identity through custom-sourced and crested clothing.

Briefs: Launch Dal, Volta, Fredericton

Launch Dal Pitching Event on Thursday

Launch Dal will hold the final pitch competition for the 12 teams in its Starting Lean program Thursday starting at 4:30 pm.

After more than two months of workshops, coaching and networking events, the participants will present their final pitches for the chance to win development money for their ventures. The winners will receive $3,000, while second- and third-place finishers will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.

The event will take place at the Collide Room in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University. Tickets are available here.

Volta Names Three Board Members

Volta Labs has named three new board members – Janet Bannister, Leah Skerry and Ross Simmonds – bringing the total number of directors at the Startup House to eight.

The organization said in a statement three new additions add a diverse range of business acumen. Bannister, the General Partner with Real Ventures, is a venture partner and brought Kijiji to Canada. Skerry founded Pursu.it to help athletes successfully fund their dreams and founded Squiggle Park to help young children learn to read. After a digital marketing career helping startups and Fortune 500 companies succeed, Simmonds founded Crate to automate the digital marketing content curation process.

“Our new board members bring even more global connections to Atlantic Canada,” said Jevon MacDonald, chair of the board. “Ross and Leah are both active entrepreneurs, and Janet is currently a venture partner with an extensive history of entrepreneurship, so these new additions add more of both finance and operational experience to the board. They all want to help put Halifax on the map as a place for founders to start new companies and grow existing ones.”

Volta said it has grown its governing scope to include leaders from across the country. The other board members are: Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta; Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech; Patrick Keefe, Partner with Build Ventures; and Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Dash Hudson and former early-stage venture capitalist.

Startup Canada Names Fredericton Startup Community of the Year

Fredericton has been named the national ‘2016 Startup Community of the Year’ by Startup Canada. The award was co-accepted by Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network and the City of Fredericton.

“Fredericton has been on a set course since the development of our 2013 economic development strategy,” said Mayor Michael O’Brien in a statement.  “This is a proud moment for Fredericton.”

As the steward of Vision 2020, Ignite Fredericton initiated Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network, comprising over twenty strategically aligned entrepreneurial organizations.  The task force was formed to create connectivity, collaboration and communication among the local startup ecosystem. 

Aurea Wins Planting Seed$ Competition

Cat Adalay

Cat Adalay

Aurea, a new cleantech company founded by Cat Adalay, won the second annual 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$ competition in Halifax on Monday, capturing the first prize of $10,000.

The company is dedicated to producing modular, low-maintenance wind turbines that can be integrated into buildings. Aurea aims to implement clean energy solutions in an urban environment, while helping high-rise developments and their tenants avoid carbon taxes and reduce energy costs.

“This is Aurea,” said Adalay in wrapping up her eight-minute presentation. “Its mission is to not just change the world but to save it."

Full disclosure: Cat Adalay is our daughter.

Founded by Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England, Planting Seed$ allows established entrepreneurs and businesses to support entrepreneurs aged 24 and under. There were 100 tickets for the event, and each cost $100. All the prize money went to the winner, who will use the funding to help get her project off the ground.

The event is designed to introduce youth to the concept of pitching ideas and developing networks earlier, MacDonald said.

As well as researching the market and opportunity, Adalay has so far designed two wind turbines. Her Flare Turbines are small-scale, modular turbines containing direct-drive imbedded generators. The two systems -- one vertical-axis and the other horizontal-axis -- can be integrated into structures such as high-rise buildings, towers and residential homes.

Adalay, who works with the Launch Dal initiative at Dalhousie University, has spoken with a few high-rise developers. They responded positively to the idea because there is so much consumer and regulatory pressure to implement green solutions in new projects. She said she will use the prize money as the first step in leveraging financing from government programs. She hopes to take Aurea into an accelerator soon.

The two other finalists in the event were:

- Halifax-based Sloth Coffee, which sources high-quality green coffee beans and sells its coffee through retail outlets, online and in offices.  Founder Tyler Sellars said he started the company with the memory of happy times spent with his mother, who supported him in his semi-pro soccer career by taking coffee to his early-morning practices.

- And Halifax-based Under the Bridge Digital Media, a group that hires millennials to create quality digital content.  Co-Founder and CEO Alfred Burgesson said the network of 12 young people has already done work for clients such as the City of Halifax and Volta Labs startup house.    

The audience gathered at Halifax Central Library also heard from Site 2020, a venture that made the top three in last year’s contest. Site 2020 aims to reduce accidents on construction sites by using technology to control traffic flow.

Founders Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan said they had received a lot of support from the community in the last 12 months, and they have learned that young entrepreneurs must be prepared to hustle.

“Don’t take a day off,” they advised the other young entrepreneurs in the audience.

England stressed the importance of entrepreneurship to the growth of Nova Scotia.

She said that research cited in Ray Ivany’s Now or Never Report revealed that many Nova Scotia youth want to work in traditional professions or be public servants. Only 12 per cent want to be entrepreneurs.  Planting Seed$ aims to help boost that percentage. 

GoBumpFree Takes Flight

Donna Lavallee

Donna Lavallee

An ambitious Halifax startup that aims to make it easier for the world’s 1.7 million airline employees to take vacations, will be one of the pitchers at the Propel ICT Demo Day on tonight.

Danna Lavallee, an airline industry veteran, will present GoBumpFree, which allows airline employees and their families to book last-minute hotel rooms and, if needed, cancel them at a moment’s notice. The product was developed by Airline Employee Travel Inc, the company she owns with her husband Colin Lavallee.

The company has already signed up three airlines to market the product to their employees and a range of hotels and resorts around the world, and the list is growing.

“We just rolled out to Air Canada Jazz and Southwest Airlines in the States, and a smaller airline,” she said in an interview last week. “Even if the airline doesn’t have a relationship with us, employees can still sign on and use the site.”

Lavallee loves the “amazing benefits” she enjoys as an airline employee, especially the low-cost fights around the world. (She once flew the New York for lunch, and paid more for lunch than her flight.) But the problem is that airline employees have to fly standby. If they are bumped from their flights, they still have to pay for the hotel room they booked.

During a trip to Virginia Beach, Lavallee realized there are thousands of hotel rooms lying empty in most resorts at any given time. She thought there would be a business case for offering these rooms last minute to airline employees, and let them cancel without penalty.

Propel Names 11 Startups for Demo Day

GoBumpFree is the result. The app looks like most hotel reservation sites, but with one major difference. The system only lets users book their first night three days in advance. It means hotels and resorts that know they will have vacancies can put the rooms into the GoBumpFree system and appeal to airline employees, who tend to book holidays last minute.

Lavallee has been making steady progress with the company in the last few years. She was a finalist in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition, which netted the company more than $100,000. Then she began raising private capital and was accepted into the Propel ICT accelerator.

The financing and guidance she has received helped her to attend two international trade shows this year, where she made contacts with key players in her two key markets – hotel owners and airlines.

The company, whose team includes people in Nova Scotia, the U.S., Mexico and India, now has a pipeline that includes 50,000 to 60,000 hotels and resorts in 60 countries, and 45 airlines. The job now is to convert more and more of these sales leads into actual users of the site.

Airline Employee Travel has so far raised $580,000 in private equity investment, and Lavallee said it will be looking to raise another round of capital soon.

“We want to focus on execution and within six months start another round,” she said. In particular, she want to convert more of the properties in her pipeline, and add a few new features to the GoBumpFree pipeline.

 

The Propel ICT Demo Day begins at 5:30 tonight at Pier 21 in Halifax. You can get your free tickets here. If you can’t make the event in person, Startup Kitchen will be livestreaming it here

Briefs: Propel, Ulrike, Island Advance

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: DNS has grown strongly under her leadership.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: DNS has grown strongly under her leadership.

Startup Kitchen to Livestream Propel Demo Day

Anyone who can’t attend the Propel ICT Demo Day in Halifax on Tuesday will be able to see it live online.

Our friends at Startup Kitchen will be livestreaming the event here.

Propel last week named the 11 companies that will present at its Demo Day, which will be held Tuesday, starting at 5:30 pm at Pier 21. It will feature the four graduates from the advanced Build Program, as well as seven companies that have gone through the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies.

Propel ICT alumnus Adrian Bentley will also deliver a short talk on the journey of his company AnalyzeRe, which was recently purchased by Verisk Analytics.

MOVES To Be Held at Collider Tonight

A new community engagement project called MOVES will take place in HaIifax tonight at 8 pm. This program connects visionary entrepreneurs and thought leaders with the youth and young professionals aspiring to be their own bosses.

This talk features successful entrepreneur Dion Walcott, who will share his experience. MOVES will be hosted by Ceasefire Halifax, in partnership with Atlantic Fashion Week and the Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society.

The event will take place at the Killam Library Collider at Dalhousie University at 8 pm. To register, send an email to info@meshmedianetwork.com

Bahr-Gedalia Named to Most Powerful Women List

Digital Nova Scotia announced last week President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia has been named to the Women’s Executive Network 2016 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award list. It is the second year in a row that she’s won the prestigious national award.

Launched in 2003, the Top 100 Awards celebrate the incredible accomplishments of Canada’s top female executive talent as well as their organizations and networks. Ulrike, who will receive the RBC Champions award which recognizes women who are currently making a distinct and describable difference to the advancement of women in the Canadian workplace, will be honoured during a gala celebration at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Nov. 24.

Bahr-Gedalia joined DNS as its President and CEO in 2013 and aided the sustainability and growth of the industry association for Nova Scotia’s digital technologies sector. Under her leadership, DNS has grown in funding, high-level, industry-focused programming, increased membership, and has added significant value and credibility to the organization.

Third Annual Advancing Island Connections Held in Charlottetown

More than 550 immigrants, business owners, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and professional services companies converged last week at Advancing Island Connections 2016, eager to build connections and grow P.E.I.’s economy.

“Island Advance is focused on growing PEI’s economy through immigration, entrepreneurship and access to private capital,” said Island Advance Advisory Board Chair Ron Keefe, “Advancing Island Connections 2016 connected these three goals in one space. The sense of excitement and optimism in the room was palpable.”

Advancing Island Connections, presented by Island Advance, PEI Connectors and the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce, was held Thursday. The networking event included an on-stage business showcase featuring businesses for sale and start-ups seeking investors. There was also a tradeshow area where almost 50 exhibitors promoted their professional services and businesses for sale, or met with potential buyers and investors.

Jobs: Adams Green, Sentinel Alert

Openings for sales people and customer engagement reps across the region highlight our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson of Halifax is looking for a sales development representative and a customer success representative. Dash Hudson helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

Meanwhile, Saint John accounting firm Adams Green is looking for an accounting manager. The firm differentiates itself from competitors by helping entrepreneurs (and their communities) thrive by changing the way their financial management needs are met.

In St. John’s, Sentinel Alert needs a vice-president of sales. Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. From the outset two years ago, the idea has been that a smartphone can detect when someone has fallen and hit the ground, and the phone should be able to alert the company that an accident has taken place.

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

The customer success representative will help customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the customers’ lifetime value. The responsibilities include trials and onboarding, or working closely with the sales team to support, train, and engaging with potential customers during trial periods. This person must also work with the Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times. Dash Hudson is looking for someone adept at problem-solving, communicating, organization, sales and with a knack for details.

Sales Development Representative

The sales development representative is a critical piece in the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. He or she will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals ranging from fashion to travel food to consumer electronics. The responsibilities include managing lead generation, such as finding and sourcing new leads for companies to go through the outreach process. This person must also manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process. Finally, the representative will have to track the performance of daily outreach. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with a desire to learn and improve processes, strong written and verbal communication skills and a self-motivating attitude.

Saint John

Adams Green

Accounting Manager

For the first time in its history, Adams Green is adding an experienced accountant because of its growing customer base. The successful candidate will be the primary contact for a small group of clients, and help to ensure the quality of our work across all of the firm’s clients. This person must assist in expansion of service offerings and help to encourage more growth. The work load will feature a balance of recurring accounting responsibilities and ad hoc projects. Adams Green is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and/or commerce.

St. John’s

Sentinel Alert

Vice-President of Sales

Sentinel Alert is looking for a passionate and entrepreneurial individual who has a desire to be part of an early-stage company. The VP of sales will drive targeted strategies to establish Sentinel Alert as a strong presence in North America and lead a sales team to execute and exceed company targets. The successful candidate will be in charge of generating revenue. This would include growing the sales team, running and closing B2B software deals, as well as other responsibilities. Sentinel Alert is looking for someone with B2B sales experience in industrial sectors like manufacturing, forestry or construction, and experience in developing a B2B sales process.

CarbonCure Aims To Triple Clients

Robert Niven: A meaningful impact for people around the world

Robert Niven: A meaningful impact for people around the world

So much is happening at CarbonCure Technologies these days that the best way to illustrate the Dartmouth cleantech company’s progress is to zero in on its customer and revenue growth.

We could highlight that CEO Robert Niven was one of four winners of the recent Manning Awards for Innovation. Or that Team CarbonCure is a semifinalist in the global US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon Xprize.

But what stood out in a recent interview with vice-president of sustainability Jennifer Wagner was the company’s fundamental growth. Wagner said the company aims to have its technology in 100 plants by September 2017, up from 37. It’s achievable because so many clients are multinational and plan to extend the technology to other plants around the world.

So if the number of clients triples, I asked, would revenues also triple?

No, she said. Many clients are adopting the most recent product for ready-mix concrete, which has higher margins than the original masonry product. So if CarbonCure hits its customer growth targets, revenue growth should more than triple.

“The stars are just aligning for us right now and everything is coming together to move us in the right direction,” said Wagner.

BDC Capital Launches New $135M Industrial Fund

CarbonCure, which has raised almost $10 million in equity investment, has developed technology that injects carbon into concrete to strengthen it and reduce costs. Traditional concrete production produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide, but the CarbonCure method actually reduces CO2. The company began with a process for concrete blocks and last year launched a process to inject carbon into ready-mix concrete.

“It hits a whole bunch of different value points,” said Tony Van Bommel, head of the BDC Capital Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund, which invested in CarbonCure. He noted concrete is the most common construction material in the world and CarbonCure makes it environmentally friendly while cutting costs.

“If you can green that business, you are doing a substantial benefit to the environment.”

CarbonCure has recently produced a steady stream of news releases on new clients, and Niven has said the company would be profitable in this fiscal year. The company is spreading its wings by assembling a group of companies to compete for the Carbon Xprize. The four-and-a-half-year competition will find the best technology that creates a new product using carbon.

CarbonCure is leading the team, which includes Sustainable Energy Solutions, Praxair, Inc., Argos, BURNCO Rock Products, and several leading engineering and architectural firms. The team members all contribute to the process, from CO2 providers to concrete manufacturers to designers. Team CarbonCure is one of 27 semi-finalists. The finalists will be named in December 2017.

Xprizes are designed to offer large awards for world-changing innovation, so that even teams that don’t win end up producing something that benefits humanity. Team CarbonCure believes it is on the right track because concrete is such a pervasive material, and the company already has its product in the market.

“If you make a good science case and a good business case, you can make a meaningful impact for people all around the world,” said Niven in a video for the prestigious Manning Award.

“Concrete being the most abundant man-made material on Earth, if you can change that, you really have a solution that can scale and help a lot of people.”

Celebrating Digital Life Sciences

Resson Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Resson Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

There’s an industrial segment in which Atlantic Canada excels. The companies in this space have raised more than $30 million in 2016 alone. They are establishing offices in Silicon Valley. They’re gaining worldwide clientele.

The segment is the intersection between digital technologies and life sciences. I’m not sure that even is a segment, but maybe we should make it one and start to play it up a bit.

Why am I discussing such an ill-defined sector? Several influential players in the startup community believe the region has to choose a segment or two to excel in and develop the ecosystem to make those sectors even better. (Not surprisingly, it’s usually a sector that these individuals are working in.) There’s talk of ocean technology, cybersecurity, drone technology and other areas.

But the place where Atlantic Canada is really making waves is digital technologies that work with biology.

Consider what a few exemplars have been up to this year:

- Resson, the Fredericton company that analyzes data from farms, raised US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.
- Kinduct Technologies of Halifax, whose platform accesses 500 sources of data on the human body to aid sports medicine practitioners, raised US$9 million in a round led by Intel Capital. That money will help the company increase its global network and increase its staff in Halifax.
- St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which is building a databank on the genetic data of 100,000 Newfoundlanders, received a US$3 million funding round led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective. The lead investor called Sequence’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”
- Halifax-based sports genetics company Athletigen Technologies raised US$1.55 million in a round led by Exponential Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based venture capital fund that specializes in health and human performance innovations. The money helped to fund the growth of its flagship product, the Athletigen Performance Platform.

Add ‘em up and you’ve got the equivalent of more than C$32 million in direct venture capital investment coming into Atlantic Canadian companies, companies that are growing revenue and staff at a furious rate. There probably isn’t a more dynamic segment in the regional startup community.

Read our full Entrevestor Intelligence Report

The problem with championing such a group is identifying it, not to mention naming it. These are all digital companies, developing software and/or hardware. But they are making advances in applying technology to biology, whether it’s human medicine or in other disciplines like agriculture or environmental sciences. It’s not easy to name such a group, but let’s go with “digital life sciences.”

What’s special about this group is that these companies have established global networks and funding sources independent of each other and independent of government strategy. Certainly, each has benefited from government programs, but there is no overarching government strategy to promote and nurture digital life sciences in the region.

Each of the four Atlantic Provinces are represented in this segment, but none dominates the space. Though there are no P.E.I. companies mentioned above, the Island does boast companies like Vitrak Systems, which is commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile system for medical research and rehabilitation. The company has said it is raising a significant funding round.

So this is a segment that spans all provinces and lies between the IT and life sciences segment. That means there is both an opportunity and a problem. The problem is that most of the organizations that promote innovation represent specific provinces, especially in biosciences. And there is too little overlap in organizations promoting IT and life sciences. It’s difficult to think of a single entity that could champion digital life sciences across the region.

Here’s one idea: These companies themselves should form an association. They are now big enough that they could all contribute to it financially. And they could probably attract financing and other resources from the organizations that are at the periphery of what they do – like the provincial life sciences organizations or Propel ICT. Maybe it could just be a division of an existing organization.

What would such an organization do? First it could promote that this segment in and outside Atlantic Canada.

Then it should assess the resources available across the region that could benefit these companies. The financial resources are fairly obvious. The more important resources are human and physical. There are lab facilities, specialists, researchers and mentors scattered across the region, and entrepreneurs in Province A don’t always understand what’s available in Province B. And this organization would broaden the network of mentors greatly. Each of these companies is highly specialized, requiring both IT and biological expertise, and they would benefit from a broader network of local champions.

Finally, with an association they could market themselves together in Silicon Valley. Several of these companies now have offices in the Bay Area. Resson and Kinduct are both represented there, and Halifax’s 4deep Inwater Imaging, which makes electronic, underwater microscopes, shares an R&D facility with its Chinese partner Guangzhou Bosma Corp. These companies should be working with each other in the Bay area as well as at home.

The first problem with this group is defining it. But the fact that just four companies in the space raised $32 million of venture capital, mainly from Silicon Valley, with little government contribution, should make us sit up and take notice. There’s an opportunity here and it’s worth a discussion, if nothing else. 

Gardner Named Sequence’s Acting CEO

Chris Gardner has been named the acting CEO of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, taking over from the company’s first CEO, Tyler Wish.

The company released a statement Wednesday saying that Gardner had assumed the position, and spokeswoman Karen Moores said that Wish is still an employee of the company. The two co-founders formed the company in 2013, carrying on the next step of genetic research that Wish had been working on for years.

Sequence and its partners analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and use the information to improve the development of drugs. Newfoundland has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank. The company recently announced a US$3 million venture capital round led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective.

“Sequence Bio is emerging as a rapidly growing biotechnology company that is going to transform the Newfoundland and Labrador economy and innovate healthcare,” said Killick Capital President Mark Dobbin, an investor and director in the company. “I welcome Chris to this role and wish him every success as he provides leadership in this new stage of growth for the company. Myself, the Board of Directors, and all investors have full confidence in Chris Gardner and the Sequence Bio team and that they will fulfill their commitment to prioritizing the benefits to the people of this province.”

Though the company is referring to Gardner as “acting” CEO, Moores said it has yet to determine if there will be a seach for someone to lead the company in the future. The press release noted that Gardner has played an essential role in growing the staff from two to 18 people, and in securing the recent venture capital funding.

Wish has a PhD in genetic research and previously ran a company called Research Avenue, which was also involved in using genetic data in medical treatment. He recently spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, arguing convincingly that the new best practice in drug discovery is the application of genetic data to develop the best compounds possible.  

In response to emailed questions, Moores said Wish has been instrumental in bringing the company to its present position.

“This was a business decision and a change that our Board felt was necessary to position the company for success and evolve from startup to a key player in the Newfoundland and Labrador economy,” she said We continue to have full Board and Investor confidence in our team, our company and our ability to execute on our mission.”

She stressed that Sequence Bio “has always been bigger than any one person” and noted the strength of the team the company has recruited.

Said Gardner in the press release:  “I am excited to lead Sequence Bio through this next stage as we strive to meet our goal of improving drug discovery and delivering benefits back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Our Latest Quarterly Report Is Out

Today we’re launching our fourth Entrevestor Intelligence report of 2016.

The cover story is something that I’ve been talking about lot lately in conversation: the intersection of information technology and life sciences. It’s an ill-defined segment, but it’s the hottest portion of the startup community right now.

Jesse Rodgers, the recently appointed CEO of Volta Labs, weighs in with his vision of an innovation district in Halifax.

The report also features our look at the performance of startups affiliated with post-secondary institutions, the movement to implement data-based analytics in Saint John, and the proposed BioAccelerator in Charlottetown.

We’ll be posting all these articles on line in the next few weeks, but you can read the whole report here. We’ll also have printed copies next week. 

BDC Launches $135M Industrial Fund

BDC Capital today unveiled a new $135 million venture capital fund to support Canadian energy, industrial and cleantech start-ups with global potential.

The BDC Capital Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund II will follow on the first fund of the same name, which has invested in 18 Canadian companies, including CarbonCure Technologies of Dartmouth.

These funds are not exactly cleantech funds because they are designed to back new industrial technologies that are improving the efficiency of large enterprises. However, Tony Van Bommel, senior managing partner of ICE Funds I and II, stressed in an interview that all these new technologies reduce the resources needed by industry, and therefore benefit the environment.

“We’ve tried to position it as an industrial, clean and energy technology fund because we think cleantech is slightly limiting in describing what we’re doing,” said Van Bommel. “But every investment we make is aimed at [creating] a better way of doing something. Resource efficiency is one of the over-riding principles”

The first ICE fund was launched in 2011 with $152 million, and has had some exits. Earlier this month, its Vancouver-based portfolio company Bit Stew, which developed an advanced data integration platform for utilities, was purchased by GE for US$153 million.

BDC Capital’s first ICE fund also invested in such companies as quantum computing pioneer D-Wave Systems, data center power management provider Ranovus, and power conversion innovator GaN Systems.

Van Bommel, a Dalhousie University grad, said the new funding means his team will now have a total of $287 million under management. He added that he plans to expand the team to enhance its expertise to keep pace with new technologies that are coming into the marketplace.

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The second fund will invest in 15 to 20 new high-impact Canadian startups that demonstrate efficiency and strong scalability, said BDC Capital in a statement.

“Our goal is to intensify our support for innovative Canadian entrepreneurs who are leading the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President of BDC Capital. “Our first ICE fund demonstrated strong performance against international peers in a market that is a key target industry for the government of Canada.”

Fund II will invest in late seed and Series A companies, with some Series B companies also considered. The fund envisages an initial five-year investment period followed by a five-year harvest period during which exits are anticipated.

Added Van Bommel: “We seek to bring Canadian technologies to the world and accelerate resource efficiency, while targeting significant investment returns. Our existing fund has invested in all regions of the country and includes some of Canada’s most successful venture-backed companies.” 

Briefs: Eyesover, EDN, SimplyCast

Peter Moorhouse: 'Businesses need all the help they can get to help them grow.'

Peter Moorhouse: 'Businesses need all the help they can get to help them grow.'

Eyesover Releases Issue Discovery Module

Fredericton-based Eyesover Technologies Inc. has released its new Issue Discovery module as the latest addition to its online media monitoring system.

Using Eyesover’s proprietary artificial intelligence, Issue Discovery provides customers with a predictive tool that identifies online discussions or mentions of new issues that are relevant to the end-user.

“The limitation of most social media monitoring tools is selection bias – a system will only report on what you tell it to monitor,” said Co-Founder Ali Ghorbani, who is also the Dean of Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick. “Eyesover’s new Issue Discovery module can extrapolate from existing data to see the potential development of issues a customer may not be aware of.”

The Eyesover system now provides customers with online media monitoring and analysis, real-time lead generation, and the new issue discovery functionality to enhance the depth of information customers are obtaining from online media.

“We’re looking to take social media monitoring into the next stage where we’re not just listening, we’re predicting what is going to occur,” said CEO Craig Leonard. “The Issue Discovery module is a big step in that direction that will benefits to a wide range of private, public and non-profit entities.”

Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network Holds Holiday Market

The Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network will hold the Entrepreneurs’ Market in Halifax next week, where people can buy holiday gifts that help to make a difference in the community.

This showcase will feature an exciting and eclectic mix of local art from across Nova Scotia, including clothing, jewelry, books and ornaments.  There will also be original poetry, paintings and photography, as well as a variety of specialty services. 

The market takes place Nov. 30 from 8 am to 5 pm at the Halifax World Trade Convention Centre.  Sales will be cash only, but there is an ATM in the building.

“You will be able to purchase tremendous items from over 30 active entrepreneurs with disabilities, all in one room!” said Brian Aird, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network. “Your purchases make such a difference. It confirms for our members that entrepreneurship is a viable and meaningful career option for persons with disabilities.”

The market is being held in conjunction with the Ninth Annual Symposium on Inclusive Employment and Education. Each year, in conjunction with the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission and the Collaborative Partnership Network join forces to present the Symposium which includes keynote speakers, workshops and networking. 

SimplyCast Launches Initiative with BBB

Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing provider SimplyCast has announced a new initiative with Atlantic Canada’s BBB to offer its award-winning marketing automation platform.

Dubbed AccrediCast, the program will be available to all Accredited Businesses of this BBB. AccrediCast is composed of a suite of marketing automation tools including a Contact Relationship Manager, email marketing, social media scheduling, and a live web chat tool.

The initiative seeks to help Atlantic region businesses simplify and improve their digital marketing strategies through the use of a regionally developed platform.

“We’re very excited to launch AccrediCast in partnership with SimplyCast,” said Peter Moorhouse, CEO of BBB Serving the Atlantic Provinces. “In today’s environment, businesses need all the help they can get to help them grow. We are confident that the innovation of AccrediCast will help our Accredited Businesses get the boost they need and perhaps even supply a further boost to the Atlantic region in general.”

The Better Business Bureau acts as a model example of the regional business community so this partnership allows it to offer additional tools to help member businesses succeed, especially as consumer behaviors leverage digital tools.

“We’re very pleased to forge a partnership between BBB and SimplyCast,” said Ariel Hopper, VP Partnerships at SimplyCast. “I’m very glad to be working with Peter, his team, and the BBB to role this initiative out locally and work on expanding its reach.”

Propel Names 11 Startups for Demo Day

Propel ICT, the regional accelerator, has announced the 11 companies that will present at its latest Demo Day, to be held Tuesday, Nov. 29, in Halifax.

Demo Day, to start at 5:30 pm at Pier 21, will feature the four graduates from the advanced Build Program, as well as seven companies that have gone through the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies.

Propel ICT alumnus Adrian Bentley will also deliver a short talk on the journey of his company AnalyzeRe, which was recently purchased by Verisk Analytics.

Trevor MacAusland, Propel's Entrepreneur-in-Residence, said the thing he noticed about his group in this cohort was their focus on their core businesses and sales strategies.

“What people see is the shift away from raising capital to building sustainable, revenue-based companies,” said MacAusland. “Only one is raising capital and the rest are focused entirely on generating revenue.”

He added that the company raising capital is Halifax-based GoBumpFree, which helps airline employees book last minute hotel rooms without the risk of cancellation fees.

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The other companies presenting on Tuesday are:

Build Program:

Ironflow, Dieppe, NB – The company’s product, PurelyHR, lets companies create a tailored solution to satisfy their HR needs.

One simpler, Fredericton – The company has created a solution to automating production equipment, studios, and more.

Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown – Stay Golden is an online clothing company that helps groups display their identity through custom-sourced and crested clothing.

Launch Program:

Ad Blocking Aware, Charlottetown – Ad Blocking Aware helps websites regain revenue and analytics lost by the use of adblockers. The software allows websites to engage with ad block users through an appeal platform.

EChart Health Care, Moncton – eChart joins families and care facilities together in real-time regardless of location.

GreyLitMatters, Halifax – GreyLitMatters offers unlimited and instant global publication opportunities without format or content restrictions and provides “true-peer” review analytics, telling the authors who read their work and what they thought of it.

Metricsflow, St. John's – Metrics Flow makes it easy to measure content marketing effectiveness, personalize and use content to drive revenue.

Mink Manager, St. John's – Mink Manager is an advanced fur farm management system that allows farmers to increase their revenue by making better breeding programs and improving their overall workflow.

Orchard, Halifax – Orchard enables supermarkets to use dynamic content marketing to increase unplanned purchases and average basket size in their stores. Orchard’s data lets supermarkets engage and up-sell shoppers in real-time through personalized content.

RayZen, Fredericton - rayZen is an online fundraising community that connects donors to nonprofits through fun and exciting games.

Earlier in the day, all Propel ICT alumni are invited to participate in the organization’s first Speaker Series event, titled “Customer Success and Pirate Love” with Kathy-Lynne Johnson and Yves Boudreau from Alongside (formerly Qimple). At this event, participants will learn how Alongside’s customer success strategy has been critical to driving their customer acquisition growth.

Tickets to Demo Day are available here.

NB Names Entrepreneur-in-Residence

David Alston: 'I've seen far more openness to this type of thinking.'

David Alston: 'I've seen far more openness to this type of thinking.'

In an attempt to change thinking and practices throughout the civil service, the New Brunswick government has named veteran tech entrepreneur David Alston as its first chief entrepreneur-in-residence.

In taking on the volunteer job, the Fredericton resident will be responsible for working with all government departments to bring in entrepreneurial thinking to help the departments solve problems.

Alston, a serial entrepreneur whose latest job is an advisory position as chief innovation officer with the Washington- and Fredericton-based startup Introhive, has been moving toward this government role for several years. He has been working with the government on several projects and says he has found a surprising enthusiasm among government executives for new ways of doing things.

“I wouldn’t accept this role if I knew there wasn’t an open door to accept it at every level,” Alston said in a phone interview on Sunday. “I literally sometimes think, ‘Wow, I’m sitting down chatting with people about ideas and they’re getting it.’ I’ve seen far more openness to this type of thinking than I’ve found people being closed-minded to it.”

In a statement Sunday, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said Alston will operate within the cabinet office to provide leadership to drive innovative practices across government departments, resulting in greater efficiency and economic growth. The goal eventually will be to have entrepreneurs-in-residence in each department.

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“Making government more innovative and efficient is essential to advancing New Brunswickers’ priorities of economic growth, education and health care,” said Gallant, who is also minister responsible for innovation. “By appointing David as chief entrepreneur-in-residence, we are harnessing his experience and know-how to foster innovation, inside and outside of government.”

The goal isn’t about developing businesses within government. Rather, the goal is to bring “entrepreneurial thinking” to government processes. In other words, when government has a problem, it looks at all means of solving it, from new technology to market-based solutions, and then tests it before implementing it.

Gallant said Alston will work with all departments to solve social issues, drive economic development, improve access to services and reduce the cost of delivering services.

Alston is uniquely qualified for the position. He was previously the chief marketing officer of Radian6, then joined Salesforce.com when the tech giant bought Radian6 for $326 million in 2011. In recent years, he has campaigned for a modernization of New Brunswick’s society and economy. He believes the exodus of young people could be reversed by digitizing government services and nurturing startups, especially ethical businesses.

He was the driving force behind Brilliant Labs, the program that encourages coding lessons in public schools in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In October 2015, the government announced it would work with the IT association TechImpact to develop North America’s first digital government. Alston said it takes years to transform a government, and he believes the change in attitude is changing across the New Brunswick.

“Any time you introduce something new, you have to take some time and peel back the layers of the onion,” he said. “We’re early on . . . but we’re on the path to do it.” 

Developing a Sales Culture

Emily Boucher: 'We’re trying to help fill the gaps.'

Emily Boucher: 'We’re trying to help fill the gaps.'

As revenue growth accelerates at Atlantic Canada’s startups, something is permeating the community that hasn’t been there before – a sales culture.

More and more frequently, the discussion in the startup community is concentrating on the need to teach young companies and young people how to sell things. There are new programs focusing on sales. There’s mounting pressure on colleges and universities to devise new curriculum. There is an ever louder debate on how sales should be taught and how to change the image of sales as a profession.

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

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

Digital Nova Scotia recently began piloting a sales development program in Halifax for SMEs. The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.

Boucher said the pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development. These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?

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

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Sales curricula are also entering business programs like the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at St. Mary’s University. In July, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John added its first sales course in its MBA program. A pilot project, the program includes a special course called Sales. If students rate it highly, it will probably be offered again. The nine-week course draws heavily on mentorship from the private sector, inviting people with sales experience to discuss the components of sales like negotiation, problem-solving, communications and emotional intelligence. It also delves into sales ethics.

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

Courses like this are needed to prepare students for the modern work force and help them understand the rewards of a career in sales.

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

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

“It’s a mental game, every day there’s head trash. The phone can feel like it weighs 20 pounds and you have to pick it up and make the call. To be a good sales person, you need drive, passion and understanding of what sales is.”

What sales is, is solving someone’s problem.

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

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

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

Job of the Week: BlueLight Analytics

BlueLight Analytics of Halifax is searching for an Inside Sales Representative to help the company build its customer base.

BlueLight Analytics is a growth-stage tech company whose technology measures the curing light that dentists use to harden fillings. The company’s suite of technology supports practitioners, educators and researchers with laboratory-accurate analytics that improve the quality of light-cured resins in dental restorations.

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

Halifax

BlueLight Analytics

Inside Sales Representative

The Inside Sales Representative will be tasked with acquiring leads and driving customer acquisition. The successful candidate will find leads to enter into the company’s sales funnel, cold call leads and continually update his or her product knowledge. The company is looking for someone who is competitive and a go-getter by nature. The position offers a competitive compensation package, flexible work environment and four weeks of vacation. The ideal candidate will be a highly motivated recent university graduate with an entrepreneurial spirit who wants to have a real influence on a growing business in a flat organizational structure.

Midgard Sells 48% Stake to Dane Creek

A day after winning $45,000 in the Spark West competition, Midgard Insect Farm Inc. has sold a large stake in its business to a merchant bank from Ontario to help fund its expansion.

Headed by veterinary researcher Joy Hillier, Windsor, NS-based Midgard Insect Farm produces protein from crickets and converts it into its Dockside brand of pet treats.

On Thursday, Dane Creek Capital Corp. of Mississauga, Ont., said it has bought 48 percent of the company’s equity for an undisclosed price.  The statement said Dane Creek, which focuses on investments in the pet care industry, will help the young company with research and development. The goal is to help Midgard become a leading supplier to pet industry companies looking to incorporate insect protein into their products.

“Their support for my vision coupled with their pet industry and business management expertise will allow me to focus my time and energy on the developing science of cricket production and creating a high-quality product for the pet food industry,” said Hillier in the statement announcing the deal. “They will also be a valuable asset as we look to increase production and start hiring and training new personnel over the next year.”

Earlier this week, Midgard was listed as one of the six winners of Innovacorp’s Spark West competition, receiving $45,000 in development costs.

Midgard is one of a growing number of companies raising insects as an alternative and sustainable source of protein for both human and animal consumption. The company plans to produce whole ground cricket meal to meet growing demand for alternative proteins for pet food. Over the next 18 months, the company expects to expand its operations and increase staff by as many as 15 people.

Hillier, a registered veterinary technician and graduate of Dalhousie University’s Agricultural College, is dedicated to food security and sustainability, which led to her to work on edible insects.

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Crickets are considered an environmentally friendly source of protein because they are twice as efficient as chicken and six times more efficient than cattle at converting feed to protein. They also consume far less water than traditional protein sources.

Midgard will establish a 1,500-square-foot research facility in association with Perennia, a non-profit corporation in Bible Hill, NS, dedicated to food innovation. Hillier will work closely with Perennia’s food research scientists and nutritionists, focussing initially on consistency, an issue that has challenged the industry.

Midgard already has a relationship with Perennia, which worked with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Nova Scotia Business Inc. to help with negotiations with Dane Creek.

“We recognised early on it would be important for us to vertically integrate our sources of sustainable ingredients for the Dockside brand of pet products,” said Dane Creek Chairman and CEO Mark Warren in the statement. “Additionally, as sustainability becomes a leading concern among pet owners, we believe there will be opportunities to expand the business to provide cricket protein to the pet industry as a whole. We were very impressed with Joy and her unique blend of scientific curiosity and entrepreneurial savvy and are excited to be given this opportunity to help her grow her business.”

BioScript’s Journey to EY Award

Andrew Steeves

Andrew Steeves

The development of specialty drugs, tailored to patients’ biology, is aiding the growth of Moncton-based specialist group BioScript Pharmacy.

A specialty pharmacy focuses on providing and administering drugs to patients with complex or rare conditions, such as immunological deficiencies and auto-immune diseases.

Speciality drugs are often expensive and complex. They may require special handling and be in short supply. Patients often need help dealing with insurers to obtain coverage.

Pharmacists and Bioscript founders David Ford and Andrew Steeves were recently named regional Entrepreneur of The Year by global accounting firm EY.

"A specialized pharmacy navigates a patient through a very segmented and complex journey,” said Steeves.

“One of our main goals as a company is to ensure that our patients pay as little as possible out of pocket…Paying out of pocket works against their taking the medications as prescribed, which affects their getting better.”

The company’s story began in 2001 when Ford, a third-generation pharmacist, was asked to help drug maker Schering-Plough (the company has since merged) complete a trial of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade.

To do so, he opened an infusion clinic, where drugs are delivered via a needle or catheter, next to his pharmacy in Riverview, New Brunswick.

It was one of the first private infusion clinics in Canada and the arrangement was supposed to be temporary, “but the hospital told us we were doing a good job and to keep the patients,” Ford said.  

Ford now operates 78 Coverdale Clinics across Canada, although infusion drugs currently account for less than one-third of the BioScript Pharmacy business as more medications are taken orally or via easy-to-use auto injectors.

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The infusion clinics are funded by manufacturers, and patients are referred to the clinics by patient services programs, or by their physicians.

The Bioscript founders met when Steeves was studying pharmacy at Dalhousie University and did an internship with Ford.

Steeves graduated in 2006 and returned to Riverview in 2008 where he and Ford co-founded BioScript Pharmacy and A&D Wholesale, which ensures drug supply to BioScript, and other pharmacies across Canada.

Their first pharmacy opened in Halifax in 2009. They now have one pharmacy in each province, except for two in Ontario. They plan to move into other regions in Canada in the future.  

“We are not a traditional type of pharmacy. We are focused on fewer products so one location can offer the expertise needed for an entire province,” Steeves said.

“Most of our consultations are done by phone. People aren't waiting for a pharmacist at the counter.”   

Bioscript is now the second largest specialty pharmacy in Canada, accounting for about 25 per cent of market share. Their competitors include some multinational organizations, which originated in the United States.

“Our model is that we’re an independent, pharmacist-led company,” Steeves said.

The company trains its pharmacists internally. Full training for specialty practice adds another year of training for pharmacists, over and above their formal university schooling.

Atlantic Canada has long been a part of the country where drug coverage is less comprehensive than elsewhere. But fewer uninsured and under-insured Atlantic Canadians are being devastated by out-of-pocket drug costs, Steeves said.

“Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to introduce catastrophic Pharmacare.  New Brunswick has a new catastrophic drug program, and Prince Edward Island has updated its catastrophic drug program,” he said.

The Bioscript founders think they began their company at the right time. Many drugs under development are specialty medications, some even tailored to patients’ genetic makeup. This development augurs well for specialty pharmacies, Steeves said.

Sortable Leads KW Winners in Fast 50

Fourteen percent of the 50 fastest-growing tech companies in Canada are found in Waterloo Region, according to the global accounting firm Deloitte.

Deloitte this week released its 2016 Tech Fast 50, which ranks the fastest-growing tech companies in the country over the past five years. Seven companies based in the Kitchener-Waterloo area made the list.

Leading the Waterloo Region continent was Kitchener-based Sortable, whose software uses machine learning to improve the performance of advertising. Its revenues have grown 1,705 percent over five years – good enough to secure it ninth spot.

The other companies from the region, and their five-year revenue growth, are:

10 Axonify, Waterloo -- 1,520 percent;

17 Clearpath, Kitchener -- 662 percent;

19 Magnet Forensics Inc., Waterloo -- 587 percent;

24 Aeryon Labs, Waterloo -- 494 percent;

35 eSentire, Cambridge -- 361 percent;

37 Dejero Labs, Waterloo -- 332 percent.

In the 2015 list, there were five companies from Kitchener-Waterloo, including Magnet, Aeryon and eSentire.

The top-performing company in the latest list was Urthecast of Vancouver, which provides advanced geospacial analysis. Its five-year growth rates was 72,938 percent.

Six Winners Named In Spark West

Six startups from Western Nova Scotia will be dividing a total of $200,000 in prize money from the first Spark West competition, held by Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Modeled on the Spark Cape Breton competition, Spark West awards a handful of companies development capital with the goal of helping them get their project started.  Innovacorp and ACOA have held four Spark Cape Breton competitions.

The winners of Spark West are:

Midgard Insect Farm Inc. – Joy Hillier – Windsor

Amount: $45,000

Midgard Insect Farm breeds and processes crickets to create insect-based protein powder for use in various industries.

Integrated HACCP Solutions Inc. – Douglas Armour, Mitchell Kane, Matthew Winchester – Wolfville

Amount: $45,000

Integrated HACCP Solutions’ software helps food processors meet changing regulatory requirements more efficiently and affordably.

Annapolis Orchards – Craig Nichols, Alan Fisher – Lawrencetown

Amount: $45,000

Annapolis Orchards applies proprietary techniques to Honey Crisp apple nursery trees, significantly reducing the time required for the trees to mature and yield fruit.

Neck Tronics Inc. – Bill Smith, Peter Haase – Conquerall Mills

Amount: $25,000

Neck Tronics is developing medical device technology that precisely measures neck range and strength, to improve assessment, diagnosis and treatment of neck injuries such as whiplash.

Tenderithm – Dave Thomson – Mahone Bay

Amount: $25,000

Tenderithm’s software helps companies win new business more efficiently and affordably through its tender alert service.

Medivirtual Consultation – Ken Buchholz, Jennifer Murdoch – Annapolis Royal

Amount: $15,000

Medivirtual offers a suite of tools for healthcare providers and virtual teams to build capacity and improve accessibility of healthcare services.

Innovacorp and ACOA each contributed $100,000 to the awards. This money must be used to complete prototypes or prepare to take a product or service to market. In addition to the funding, winners will receive guidance from seasoned business people.

The competition attracted 32 submissions, and 10 companies were invited to pitch to judges last week. The shortlisted companies also participated in several business acceleration workshops.

"We introduced Spark West after four rounds of a similar competition in Cape Breton. We wanted to energize innovative entrepreneurs in western Nova Scotia," said Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff in a statement. "We were absolutely thrilled with the overall buzz in the community about the opportunity and the submissions we received."

Briefs: SimpTek, Mindset, Startup Grind

SimpTek Named to Deloitte Companies to Watch List

Fredericton’s SimpTek Technologies, a maker of energy monitoring software, has been named to Deloitte Canada’s 2016 Companies to Watch list, part of its Technology Fast 50 Awards.

Simptek was the only Atlantic Canadian company named by Deloitte on Thursday when it released the Fast 50, which is a list of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country. No East Coast tech company made the Fast 50 list, and only one was mentioned in the Companies to Watch.

SimpTek has developed a product that can assess the energy usage throughout a home. It gives the homeowner detailed, real-time information about what appliances or components of the house are using how much energy; and it provides a utility with detailed aggregated information about energy usage in its customer base. SimpTek’s platform helps utility companies to better engage, understand and communicate with their customers.  

Last month, the company said it had raised more than $700,000 in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and several angel investors.

The Fast 50 is open to Canadian companies with at least five years of revenue history, which means there are few Atlantic Canadian tech companies that would qualify. Last year, Halifax-based STI Technologies made the Fast 50, the first Atlantic Canadian company to do so since Verafin of St. John’s made the list in 2012.

Master Mindset Moncton Set for Nov. 25

Master Mindset Moncton, a session that features local entrepreneurs who are tackling the global market, will be held Friday, Nov. 25, in Moncton.

The event, to take place in the afternoon at the Dieppe Arts and Culture Centre, is an opportunity to listen to the stories of some of the city’s most inspiring entrepreneurs. Tickets are available here.

“Master Mindset Moncton is a celebration of the incredible minds, talents, and accomplishments present in our community,” said a statement from organizer Marcel Petitpas. “We’ve gathered some of the most successful, influential and forward-thinking local entrepreneurs and influencers from right here in Greater Moncton to share their Insights, inspirations, and secrets to success.”

The speakers are: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity and other companies; Derek Martin, social innovator and creator of Tuba; Petitpas, entrepreneur, speaker, coach and motivator; Natalie Davison, director at Kitestring, marketer, connector and mother of twins; Mark Black, international speaker, author, coach, double lung and heart transplant survivor, and three time marathon runner; and Yves Doucet, president of Dovico, yogi, workplace culture guru and mentor.

Halifax Mayor Savage To Speak at Startup Grind Tonight

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage will speak tonight at Startup Grind Halifax. More than 100 people have signed up for the event, which starts at 6:30 at City Hall. Tickets are available here.

Startup Grind brings in speakers for the startup community in the city. The last speaker was OurCrowd Founder  Jonathan Medved, whose talk can be seen here.

Led by entrepreneur Oleg Yefymov, Startup Grind Halifax has announced that the next speaker will be Eric Bahn of 500 Startups on Jan. 26. You can sign up for the event here.

Bahn is a Co-founder of Hustle Con Media, which promotes events and content to help non-technical entrepreneurs launch startups. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Beat The GMAT, the largest MBA applicant social network on the internet, serving 3 million people each year.

Samsung Buys NewNet Canada

Samsung Electronics has bought Bedford-based NewNet Communication Technologies (Canada), Inc., meaning the world’s largest electronics producer by revenue will establish a base in Nova Scotia.

It is the second time in three years that the Bedford operation, which makes advanced messaging systems for cell phone, has changed hands.

The company was originally known as NewPace. In June 2014 its CEO Brent Newsome and Chief Technology Officer Gavin Murphy sold it to NewNet Communications, an Amsterdam-based company owned by Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital. Now NewNet has sold the operation on to Samsung.

Samsung said in a statement it plans to retain the operation in Bedford, which now consists of about 20 people, and to leave the leadership team of Newsome and Murphy in place.

NewNet Canada has developed a suite of rich communications service, or RCS, mobile phone products. These products increase the flexibility that mobile phone 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.

“This acquisition is a critical milestone not just for Samsung but also for the communications industry,” said Samsung in a statement released Tuesday. “It will accelerate the deployment of RCS-enabled networks, providing consumers with a ubiquitous standards-based messaging and communications platform. The acquisition will also enable Samsung to offer interoperable server solutions for mobile operators that do not already have their own RCS infrastructure.”

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NewPace had been one of the more advanced tech companies in the region when it was purchased by NewNet in June 2014. The company had said at the time its revenue was well into seven figures in 2013, and that it had its technology was being used by 80 mobile phone operators around the world.

Newsome and Murphy chose to sell to NewNet because they needed either more capital or to be part of a larger organization to continue to grow. The price of neither the 2014 purchase nor the more recent deal was disclosed.

The eight-year-old Bedford operation will now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Canada Inc. The ultimate Samsung parent is South Korea’s largest conglomerate, and the Samsung Electronics unit was the largest electronics company in the world by revenues in 2014, according to Wikipedia.

Samsung said the acquisition reinforces its commitment to RCS as mobile networks transform to internet protocol-based networks and services. By driving significant value for operators and consumers, the mobile communications market can benefit from the broader communications ecosystem, said the South Korean company.

“Consumers will benefit from an advanced messaging experience with features such as enhanced calling, group chat, and the ability to easily share and transfer large files including multimedia and high-resolution photos,” said the Samsung statement. “Unlike other messaging apps in the market, users will be able to communicate on any network, with an RCS-enabled device as well as SMS-only devices.”

Are Startups Ready for a Recession?

A few weeks ago, J. P. Morgan & Co. put out a research note downplaying the impact that either presidential candidate would have on the investment world. For one thing, said the report, the winner of the election would probably have to cope with a global recession in his or her first term.

A recession within four years. The thought of it sparked a single question for me: What would a recession mean for the fledgling startups in Atlantic Canada?

The prospect seemed a bit jarring, as most of the economic discussion these days focuses on the challenges of a slow-growth economy. But there has been a downturn in the middle or later years of each decade since the 1970s in the U.S. (It escaped recession in the late 1990s but there were the Asian and Russian crises, and the dotcom crash.) And there are less than three years and two months left in this decade.

It’s impossible to say what a global recession would mean for the Atlantic Canadian companies that are commercializing innovation. If a recession does happen, there’s no telling how severe it would be, the duration, what sectors would be pounded the hardest. But we can make a few suppositions and one harsh observation.

The observation is that no one — certainly no one I’ve spoken to — is factoring a recession into their planning. The East Coast startup community is a hotbed of optimism and bold ambition, much of it justified given its performance in recent years. The number of startups, according to our surveys, increased 29 per cent in 2015. Revenues rose 66 per cent, led by the galloping gains among the larger companies, those with more than $2 million in revenue.

But the fact that Atlantic Canada is now home to more than 30 of these larger companies makes the sector all the more vulnerable to the impact of a recession.

First of all, many of these companies are raising capital, rounds of $5 million or more from investors in Toronto or the U.S. If the economy hits a turbulent patch, venture capital will be one of the first segments to shut down. That could mean some of the region’s most successful companies will suffer a cash crunch and have to sell out prematurely or scale back.

Even those that have already raised capital outside the region will receive strong pressure from investors to cut costs immediately to preserve their money. If companies decide to cut back on development teams rather than their sales force, we could run the risk of talented programmers being forced to leave the region.

And in many cases, the revenue growth will come crashing to a halt and sales could fall. A lot of companies would probably fail.

I promised myself last Tuesday (election night) to never make predictions again because I was dead wrong about the U.S. election. So this is not a prediction of impending doom. It’s simply a note that companies should factor an economic crisis into their planning. And I say companies rather than government agencies because many of these companies are getting too large to use existing government programs to avoid a crisis.

Palmer Pushes Growth Program Ahead

Steve Palmer: 'We need to get our arms around these companies.'

Steve Palmer: 'We need to get our arms around these companies.'

Some of Atlantic Canada’s fastest-growing companies may soon be getting an unexpected call from Steve Palmer, as he seeks to build Propel ICT’s Growth program.

The regional accelerator’s new Growth initiative is aimed at fast-growing tech companies with more than $1 million in annual revenue. The aim is to help participating companies grow into larger global corporations.

It’s a first for Propel, which offers programming for startups around the region in collaboration with other organizations.

Palmer has spent a few months researching the region’s companies in order to ascertain if there are enough high-flyers to start the Growth program.

He thinks there are. His research has uncovered about 25 high-growth ventures, 15 of them prime candidates. He didn’t know of some of them beforehand. 

“There is a group of companies that are way beyond the startup stage,” he said. “I will continue to reach out to these companies, and assess their interest in participating.”

Palmer doesn’t necessarily expect all his targets to sign up.

“They’re very busy and there’s no silver bullet for growth. This is one more thing coming at them. We need to get our arms around these companies and have conversations with them.”

He said if five to 10 companies agree to participate, the Growth program will go ahead. 

Palmer already knows many of the people behind the high-flying companies and is confident of getting a hearing with the others.

“Atlantic Canada is a pretty open community. You can usually get a first conversation. We’ll be saying, ‘You’re a strong company, are you interested in working together?’ If not, we won’t force them to dance.”

QRA Named to Lazaridis Program

Like many in the innovation sector, Palmer, a New Brunswicker, is an enthusiastic proponent of the region.

He is the former co-CEO of land-use planning software company Remsoft, and COO of software company Whitehill Technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA from Dalhousie University. He also spent 20 years with NBTel in varied roles.

He thinks Growth participants could benefit from his own learning and experience and the goodwill that is plentiful within the ecosystem.

“Regarding example areas for focus--we need a more global attitude to sales,” he said. “We often sell ourselves short. There are many reasons. We do well but we could do better.”

The father and grandfather said barriers to entrepreneurship are lower than they have ever been.

“Someone like myself can help a child start a business and be relevant anywhere. You can make your luck. I’m optimistic about today’s world. The barriers to success are lower, but the barriers to high degrees of success are not trivial.”

As well as having more than $1 million in annual revenue, the qualifying companies should meet most of the following criteria:

- They should be an Atlantic Canada-based ICT company, either in the product or service category;

- They should have average annual revenue growth of 15 percent;

- They should have an existing business plan and demonstrated ability to execute on the plan;

- They should have an addressable market of at least $250 million;

- And they should be export-focused with more than 50 percent revenue from outside Canada.

Job Openings: Jameson, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column today is highlighting two jobs in Halifax – one with the Jameson Group and the other with Dash Hudson.

The Jameson Group, which is looking for an entrepreneurial project coordinator, organizes a range of events and projects across the region, such as Invest Atlantic, the Smart Energy conference and the Pitch 101 competitions. Recently, the company posted an opening for a Marketing Coordinator for Smart Energy.

Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

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

Halifax

Jameson Group

Entrepreneurial Project Coordinator

Jameson is looking for an entrepreneur at heart with a passion for coordinating projects. This person, who can work at home, will be responsible for most aspects of coordinating projects, whether it be an energy conference or an initiative to attract investors into the region. That means working with team members to meet sales goals through targeted social media, marketing and one-on-one meetings. The successful candidate will be required to increase revenues by reaching out to existing and new partners (sponsors) and attendees, and refresh the communication and social media plans. The applicants should have one to three years’ experience in a similar role.

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Dash Hudson is looking for an account executive to work with its sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It wants someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.  The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.

The White Cross, by H.P. MacKeen

My grandfather, artillery officer H.P. MacKeen, shown on the left, wrote this poem in Ypres in September 1917, two months before the Battle of Passchendaele.

 

The White Cross

It isn’t a medal or order,

It carries no ribbon or braid

But a token still

As on Calvary Hill

Of the greater sacrifice made.

 

It stands as a lonely sentinel

O’er the place where the hero sleeps

‘Neath a lowly mound

In the shell-swept ground

Near the battered walls of Ypres.

 

It bears a simple legend,

Yet a tale of lasting glory:

“Here lies a British Soldier

Pro patria mori.” 

SabrTech Finds Clients in Thailand

Mather Carscallen

Mather Carscallen

After winning two international competitions in the past 14 months, Halifax clean-tech company SabrTech is focusing on plans to deploy its main product, The RiverBox, in Thailand.

SabrTech describes The RiverBox as “the world’s first modular, scalable and rapidly deployable biofilm platform for the production of algal biomass.” What that means is the company has devised a system of growing trays that fit in a shipping container and can produce huge amounts of algae. The algae remove animal waste from water to produce animal feed, improving the ecological and economic performance of aquaculture and livestock farming.

Founder and CEO Mather Carscallen said in an interview that food production can create a lot of water pollution due to animal waste. What The RiverBox does is produce algae that consumes that waste, allowing a run-off of clean water, and converts the waste into protein that can be used as animal feed.

“We’ve gone up to a full-scale system and we got to a point where we have a customer lined up in Southeast Asia who wants to test multiple systems on site,” said Carscallen.

Carscallen and SabrTech first drew notice in Nova Scotia in 2012 when it won Innovacorp’s CleanTech Open competition with a plan to develop large-scale algae facilities. After discussions with potential clients, the company hit on the The RiverBox, a small, modular concept that could be installed on site and enhance food production.

Fostering Life Sciences Companies in NS

After going through Cycle Capital’s EcoFuel Accelerator in Montreal, SabrTech began to gain international recognition. Last autumn, it won the Pre-Revenue Business category at the Fish 2.0 competition at Stanford University in California. Then, last month, it won the Food and Agriculture category at Eco SXSW, the environmental industries offshoot of the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

The prizes are great, but what Carscallen really valued about these events was that they led to tremendous relationships. It was at Fish 2.0 that he met Thai entrepreneurs, which led to a series of collaborations. Carscallen ended up spending more and more time this year in Thailand, where he found an ecosystem perfect for developing a clean-tech company.

“It’s arms wide open,” said Carscallen when asked about the reception he received. “Not only is there the desire for people to work together, but there’s the financing and . . . everything from the plant locations to the wet labs to on-site facilities.”

He said the Southeast Asian country has a series of science parks which can help with the development of The RiverBox and a range of customers eager to install products that reduce pollution. SabrTech is collaborating closely with DHI, an international not-for-profit dedicated to improving water conditions around the world.

In the future, Carscallen will be based in Thailand, to work on installations and grow the customer base in the region. The company will retain an operation in Halifax, largely a research and development team that is working with academic institutions including Dalhousie University.

The goal in the next few years is to scale up in the market where the company is finding market traction, and that is Southeast Asia.

And SabrTech’s growth will probably require more capital. Said Carscallen: “As we scale up, there will have to be some private investment come into play.”

Deadline Tuesday for NBIF’s Breakthru

The deadline is fast approaching to enter New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, which offers a total prize pot of $1 million and is open to startups across the country.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has set a deadline of 11:59 pm Nov. 15 to submit an entry.

The innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship.

NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.

The sixth edition of Breakthru, sponsored by Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, offers the largest prize package of any comparable competition in Canada. The result of the competition is that four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.

2015 Breakthru Finalist SimpTek Raises $700K

The national competition – which is not open to companies from Quebec, due to unique regulations for competitions in that province – is designed to attract companies to New Brunswick. The winners will receive a $200,000 venture capital investment from NBIF as well as $50,000 in in-kind services.

As well as the prizes, the Breakthru competition helps to educate novice entrepreneurs in developing a business. The process this year will include two bootcamps, one held on the weekend of Dec. 2 and 3, and the second on Jan. 28.

In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which develop an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers.  

Applicants can find the entry details here. The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017.

Briefs: Gilfoy Fund, InspireNB

Neville Gilfoy

Neville Gilfoy

Gilfoy Endowment for Entrepreneurship Students

Friends of Neville Gilfoy, the late publisher of Progress Media, have established The Neville J. Gilfoy Endowment in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Dalhousie University.

A gathering was held Monday night in Halifax in memory of Gilfoy, who passed away in July, and the new endowment was announced at the reception.

Don Mills, the Chairman and Co-founder of Corporate Research Associates Inc. and one of the organizers of the fund, said the goal is to raise at least $150,000. Before the event on Monday, the team had already raised about $80,000.

Through the Faculty of Management and the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, the fund will provide for engagement among entrepreneurs, students and the wider community. It will also fund an annual bursary for a Dalhousie business student pursuing studies in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can do so here. [Click on “Search for a specific funding area”, and enter the key words “Neville Gilfoy”.]

Venn to Oversee InspireNB

The New Brunswick government is providing $345,000 to Moncton’s Venn Innovation for the province-wide implementation of InspireNB, a career exploration and planning resource for young people.

Designed to raise awareness of available employment opportunities, InspireNB is a program to help employers connect with their future workers. With more than 80 participating companies, it helps raise awareness of opportunities and employers, creating a better engaged workforce for the province.

“Talent is the number one challenge for New Brunswick companies, and not just those in the tech sector,” said Doug Robertson, president and CEO of Venn Innovation. “Too many of our young career seekers are hearing that they have to look beyond New Brunswick for opportunities, while positions in New Brunswick companies go unfilled. InspireNB provides students with a practical resource to connect with companies, understand the opportunities that exist, and understand how best to prepare for them.”

PEI BioAccelerator to Foster Growth

Rory Francis: 'We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing.'

Rory Francis: 'We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing.'

Prince Edward Island’s life sciences segment has been doubling in size about every four years, and now the industry’s association has a singular mission: keep it going.

The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance recently released its latest strategy statement, which outlines targets that would effectively continue to double revenues among its private sector members by 2020. It also wants to continue strong growth in employment, investment and research and development spending.

“We’ve doubled revenues … from less than $100 million to more than $200 million in 2015,” executive director Rory Francis said in an interview in his Charlottetown office last week. “We expect to double it again by 2020, so we’ll be up to about $400 million.

The BioAlliance, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, is a private sector-led organization that brings together businesses, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to grow life sciences companies in P.E.I., whether they’re in biotech, agritech or other areas. The group now includes 46 private companies, 15 of which have joined the group since 2010.

The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1,400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.

Aiding this growth, the federal government has twice in the past two years awarded P.E.I. funding for major new initiatives: $3.6 million for the Emergence bioscience incubator; and $14 million to head the nationwide group, Natural Products Canada.

ViTRAK Develops its Pipeline and Eyes the U.S. Market

Now the group is preparing to carry on this growth. As well as the targets for revenue growth, the recent strategy report sets out several other milestones for four years from now:

Bio-sector employment of about 2,000, up from the 2015 level of about 1,400.

Research and development expenditures (led by the private sector) up to $100 million a year, from just more than $70 million in 2013.

Follow-on private investment of $100 million over a five-year period for BioAlliance companies.

There was about $14 million of such investment in 2015, and Francis said the annual level is at about $20 million in 2016.

To accommodate this growth, BioAlliance is spearheading an effort to develop a new $30 million to $35 million BioAccelerator complex.

The group hopes to build the 77,000-square- foot facility at the BioCommons Research Park in the Charlottetown area. It envisions a multi-faceted space that would include offices, co-working space, wet labs and manufacturing facilities that would be open by 2019.

The BioAlliance is now lobbying all levels of government to contribute to the new facility, and Francis said the response has been favorable, largely because the proponents can show bioscience investments have produced a return for P.E.I. Such a facility is needed, he said, to accommodate the galloping growth of the biotech sector on the island.

“We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing,” he said. “We think that by 2025 we’ll be over $600 million in sales, but we can’t do that unless we get some space to grow.”

3 Startup Weekends Set for Nov 18-20

Startup Weekends will be held in each of the Maritime Provinces on Nov. 18 to 20, coinciding with the Global Startup Weekend.

More than 200 of these events are taking place around the world in the next two weeks, bringing together a total of 15,000 entrepreneurs in such places as Utrecht, Santa Cruz and Bergen. Three of the locations are the Startup Zone in Charlottetown, the Venn Centre in Moncton and The Collider at Dalhousie University’s Killam Library in Halifax.

In previous years, these simultaneous Startup Weekend events have been the beginning of an international competition, with the winners moving on to the international event by submitting videos of their pitches. But the organizers have decided instead to provide resources for the winning teams, so the emphasis is on growing businesses rather than on a drawn-out competition.

“As our community around the world continues to grow and evolve, GSW will provide more value to organizers, attendees, and communities around the world and we believe this shift will do just that,” said the Global Startup Weekend website.

Overseen by a global organization, Startup Weekends bring together teams of budding entrepreneurs to propose business ideas and build companies over two-and-a-half days.

On the Friday night, participants assemble and pitch their ideas in 60 seconds. After a vote, participants form teams around the chosen ideas.

The newly created companies will then work to refine their ideas and design and build products like websites and apps from Friday to Sunday evening. Then, they will present their final pitches, mock ups and minimal viable products to a panel of judges.

One Startup Weekend will be held at the Venn Centre, 735 Main Street, Moncton. You can register here.

At the same time, another will be held at The Collider, Room 2600, Killam Library, Dalhousie University. People can sign up for the Halifax event here

And here is the registration tab for the event at the Startup Zone at 31 Queen Street, Charlottetown. 

Jobs of the Week: Spring Loaded Tech

Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that is making a knee brace that adds power to the joint, is looking for two key people as it builds up its team.

The company is advertising on the Entrevestor Job Board for a cost accountant and a logistics coordinator.

Spring Loaded has developed the Levitation knee brace, which gains energy when the knee bends and then releases it when the knee straightens, increasing the power in the joint. It has applications for athletes, soldiers and people with mobility problems.

Spring Loaded announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment from Build Ventures in March. It has also raised US$208,652 in an Indigogo campaign and signed a contract worth $1 million with the Canadian Department of National Defence.

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

Dartmouth

Spring Loaded

Logistics Coordinator

Spring Loaded is seeking someone who will make logistics an efficient and well managed part of the company’s operations. The successful candidate must coordinate the import and export of goods through international and domestic air, ocean, and ground shipments. He or she will be required to prepare all shipping documentation and make sure all the right packaging is used for shipping. Spring Loaded is looking for someone with a desire to learn how the industry and broker segments function around the world, and who recognizes the importance of customer expectations and company policies. Applicants should have a bachelor’s or college degree in business administration and two to four years of experience in a similar role.

Cost Accountant

Spring Loaded is seeking a multi-faceted cost accountant or senior accountant to help it evolve from a development-stage company into an efficient and well managed manufacturing operation. This will be a key role at the heart of the operation, reporting to the COO. The successful applicant will be required to plan and maintain key cost accounting procedures and work closely with the team to determine and monitor the cost of goods sold. He or she must also carry out various inventory transactions and accurate inventory reconciliations. This includes active participation in the planning and execution of the physical inventory counts. Spring Loaded would prefer candidates who have completed or are the process of attaining their CPA qualifications. The person must have a strong attention to detail and be outstandingly accurate and thorough. He or she should also be able to live with unknowns and can be comfortable in the land of grey. The successful candidate should have a bachelor degree in accounting and three to six years of experience in a similar role.

Fostering Life Science Companies in NS

Lidija Marusic: Life Sciences

Lidija Marusic: Life Sciences "companies often started as one bench in their laboratory."

Nova Scotia’s life sciences sector is one of the big winners of the announcement last week that Innovacorp has received fresh capital for its venture capital fund.

The province announced it will provide $40 million over the next eight years to the Nova Scotia First Fund, the main investment vehicle for the provincial innovation agency.

Innovacorp is one of the few investors in the province for such ventures as biotechnology, medical devices and other biology-related enterprises.

Innovacorp life sciences investment manager Dr. Lidija Marusic has been overseeing investments for almost a decade.

“Over 50 per cent of our early-stage awards that we’ve provided to commercialize university research in recent years have gone to life sciences technologies,” she said. “University researchers are able to leverage those funds to gain other funding.”

The sector is growing in importance. Recent research by Entrevestor has revealed that last year, 13 life sciences companies were formed in Atlantic Canada, compared with six in 2014.

MacKenzie Wins BioInnovation Challenge

This makes life sciences the second largest innovation sector in the region, after IT.

Developing new medical treatments and drugs is expensive and time-consuming, but life sciences companies in the region are being aided by the increasing ease of virtual working.

“People can be based elsewhere and work with you,” Marusic said.

“A lot of work after the initial discovery stage uses specialized companies that do pre-clinical and clinical studies to regulatory agencies’ specifications. That work can be outsourced . . . Twenty years ago, companies used to do almost everything in-house . . . Contracting out diminishes risk.”

Marusic feels the sector needs more experienced people to focus on commercializing technology. Finding them isn’t easy.

“The region is small. We don’t have a big number of mature biotech companies…It’s a challenge attracting people to come here and take on a business in a high-risk sector. In a larger community, people know that if a business fails they can find something else.

“But regional companies are finding people who have left, gained experience, and want to return.”

Born and raised in Croatia, Marusic holds a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Zagreb, a PhD in molecular genetics from the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy and an MBA from McMaster University in Ontario.

During her post-doctoral studies, she worked on the molecular biology of cancer in collaboration with California company Geron Corporation. The goal was to commercialize research based on the role of the enzyme telomerase, which lengthens cell life and helps cancer cells replicate.

It was the first time Marusic was exposed to the commercialization of research and she found it fascinating.

In the year 2000, she got a job with Toronto-based MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital) and its seed fund MedInnova Partners, and began working with Atlantic Canadian university researchers to commercialize their biomedical technologies.

“I would go to universities, especially Dalhousie and Memorial because they have medical schools and do a lot of medical research. For the university researchers, their companies often started as one bench in their laboratory. I felt my training and education as a scientist were essential for my role.”

In 2006 Marusic joined Innovacorp. She still finds the work exciting and challenging, especially research that relates to the brain.

“Neurological diseases are a particular challenge,” she said. “The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies and the hardest to unlock.”

Marusic said the region’s university research has strengthened in the last decade.

“Universities have improved infrastructure and employed new faculty oriented to the commercialization of research.

“Life sciences in the province is a maturing sector but we need to build more links outside the region to help with company funding and growth.”

She stresses the importance of research.

“We may not see the application of research right away, but pure research is important. If you don’t have a broad base of basic research and discovery you won’t have discoveries that are cutting edge and life-changing.”

 

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Briefs: Propel, Startup Weekend

Propel To Host DemoDay Nov. 29 in Halifax

Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator for the Atlantic Provinces, will host the Demo Day for its fall cohort Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. at Pier 21 in Halifax.

The organization said 10 companies will present their companies at the event. They include the companies that went through the Build program, which is for more advanced companies. There will also be a few companies that has progressed well in the Launch program, which is for early-stage companies.

Tickets for the event are available here.

Startup Weekends Set for Moncton, Halifax on Nov. 18-20.

Startup Weekends are set for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the weekend of Nov. 18 to 20.

Overseen by a global organization, Startup Weekends bring together teams of budding entrepreneurs to propose business ideas and build companies over two-and-a-half days.

On Friday night, participants assemble and pitch their ideas in 60 seconds. After a vote, participants form teams around the chosen ideas.

The newly created companies will then work to refine their ideas and design and build products like websites and apps from Friday to Sunday evening. Then, they will present their final pitches, mock ups and minimal viable products to a panel of judges.

One Startup Weekend will be held at the Venn Centre, 735 Main Street, Moncton.

At the same time, another will be held at The Collider, Room 2600, Killam Library, Dalhousie University. People can sign up for the Halifax event here.  

Ignite Fredericton’s Notices on Artrepreneur, Immigration

Ignite Fredericton, the city’s business promotion organization, has issued notices that it is looking for input on immigration policy and will soon be selecting its Artrepreneur-in-Residence.

The organization said in a statement that the Fredericton Region Immigration Settlement and Integration Strategy will be launched Nov. 14 at the Fredericton City Hall at 12:00 pm.

The strategy is initiated by the Local Immigration Partnership of Fredericton, which is a community-driven solution to address immigrant integration. It is being led by Ignite Fredericton and funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Meanwhile, Ignite Fredericton also said it is now accepting applications for the Artrepreneur-in-Residence program for 2017, which can be found here.

The Artrepreneur-in-Residence program was created by Ignite Fredericton and Planet Hatch in 2016 as part of their Culture Connect initiative. The program offers entrepreneurial support to members in the arts sector, accepting anyone from weavers to writers. To date, two Artrepreneurs have completed the program and two more are lined up.

Shift Conference Set for Halifax Monday to Wednesday

Simplicity Designs will host The Shift conference in Halifax next week, providing a forum for people who want to improve the prospects of the region.

The conference will be held from Monday evening until Wednesday at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel.

The speakers at the event include Steven Kay of the Orb Factory, Christian Hall of Hallmark Dental Laboratory and Shawn Hiscott of Micco Warehousing.

You can register for the event here.

Hamblin Targets Senior Entrepreneurs

John Hamblin

John Hamblin

John Hamblin is on a mission to develop entrepreneurship among Atlantic Canadians who don’t quite fit the typical profile of the young, tech-savvy startup types.

The founder of Startup Halifax is spending his time promoting entrepreneurship among the elderly and within Nova Scotia’s rural communities. He’s now scanning the province for community leaders who want to work at developing entrepreneurial communities in smaller locations, and he’s hoping to open an Atlantic Canadian chapter of Aging 2.0, the international organization for aging entrepreneurs.

Having just returned from the Aging 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Hamblin is more convinced than ever that there is a huge under-developed market among seniors. And Atlantic Canada, with its aging population, should be working with its greying citizenry to develop new businesses.

“You’ve got all these people who’ve got a life expectancy of 95-plus and they don’t want to spend 25 or 30 years cutting their flowers or going on tours,” said Hamblin, who will turn 70 in December. “Seniors who start a business are four times as likely as one started by someone younger to succeed.”

As Atlantic Canadian baby boomers move into retirement, Hamblin wants to see more and more of them start their own business. He’s a great representative for the Woodstock Generation, in part because he was actually at Woodstock. After the festival (which he mainly remembers for the car troubles he had) he spent a career in technology and retired as president of Clarke IT Solutions in 2013. He runs a consulting business and organized Startup Halifax, and in 2015 won a Startup Canada Award as Senior Entrepreneur for the Atlantic Region.

He then began to talk with New Brunswick investor Gerry Pond about the potential of the Silver Economy, and they have been pushing the concept ever since. Hamblin has also been collaborating with the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors.

He said retirees bring a world of experience to a new venture and usually have a deep understanding of their industry or profession. They also often have sources of income such as pensions, which reduce the need to draw income from a startup so the company’s cash goes further.

Hamblin joined Aging 2.0 and decided to attend the conference, which he said was astonishing in the number of senior-owned businesses, the number of businesses targeting seniors and the sophistication of their products.

There were companies offering digital health records that could be integrated across doctors, hospitals, social workers, rehabilitation centres and other support organizations and updated in real time, he said. There were new advances in home care, including teams of doctors who make house calls because it is the most cost-effective way of treating the elderly.

Hamblin attended a briefing of the Aging 2.0 chapters across North America and talked to people about starting one in Halifax. It’s a long-term project but he believes there should be a fourth Canadian chapter along with the existing groups in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

“Nova Scotia has a pretty high percentage of the population who will fall into the 65-plus age group soon, if they don’t already,” said Hamblin. “So it makes sense to get this sort of an organization here.”

ViTRAK Develops Pipeline; Eyes US

Now that ViTRAK Systems has a growing list of paying customers, Crystal Trevors has her eyes set on expanding into the rehabilitation market, especially in the U.S., and a new round of funding.

Trevors is the CEO of ViTRAK, a Charlottetown startup commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile systems. The company has developed Stepscan, a patented electronic floor tile system that can be used to analyze people’s gait when they walk across it. The system can analyze the mobility and balance in patients or research subjects by measuring such factors as under-foot pressure distribution, stride, sway, and speed. The target market is researchers, clinicians, even physiotherapists.

ViTRAK raised about $2 million in funding in a 2014 round led by the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund, and now the company is actively raising a Series A round, though Trevors revealed few details about the round.

What she did say is that Stepscan is now being used by about six clients, largely researchers, including one sale to a hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

“We’re commercial now – we launched in September 2015,” said Trevors in an interview in her Charlottetown office. “And our pipeline’s great. We’ve got a value of about $10 million in our pipeline.”

The company, which employs 10 people, has been quiet since it landed the funding but it has found demand for its tile systems with researchers since the launch a year ago. The bigger market is the clinical or rehabilitation market, in which the pressurized tiles are used to assess the condition of such people as those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

ViTRAK now has approval by Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. for clinical use, and Trevors plans to apply for approval in Europe soon. The Australian hospital will use the product for R&D while the company goes through the regulatory process in that country.

“That was a really great sale for us,” said Trevors, referring to the deal in Australia. “They issued an RFP [request for proposals] and when we read it it looked as if it was based on the specs for one of our competitors. But we bid on it and were approved.”

Trevors said the company’s existing clients include three Veterans Affairs facilities in Canada, which are using the systems for research and rehab. ViTRAK hopes to enter the VA market in a big way in the U.S.

Another aspect of the business that excites Trevors is the data that it is collecting and storing in the cloud. ViTRAK has established a baseline of data on the gait of healthy people with full use of their limbs, and data on 300 individuals have used the system as part of their treatment. Eventually, Stepscan could be used to assess instantly whether people are suffering from diseases like Parkinson’s, or whether their drugs are curing or slowing the advance of such conditions.

“My long-term vision is for this to be used in clinical drug trials,” said Trevors. “If you want to check the efficacy of a drug for Parkinson’s disease, for example, you can check the patient’s gait.”

She estimated that it would probably take three to five years to reach that point, adding that within five years the company could employ as many as 25 people.

Intellijoint Surgery Raises $11M Round

Intellijoint Surgical Inc., a Waterloo-based medical technology company, said Tuesday it has landed an $11 million Series A financing round, which will help it to expand in the U.S.

The company said in a statement the round was led by unnamed private investors in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, and that it was closed over several tranches.

Founded by CEO Armen Bakirtzian, CSO Richard Fanson and CTO Andre Hladio, Intellijoint has developed a small three-dimensional optical navigation solution for surgeons. Its main product is the intellijoint HIP, which assists orthopaedic surgeons in reaching preoperative surgical targets by providing real-time measurements for cup position, leg length, offset and hip center of rotation during a Total Hip Arthroplasty.

Intellijoint HIP has been used in more than 500 procedures in Canada and U.S. and is both Health Canada-licensed and FDA-approved.

“The U.S. launch of the next generation intellijoint HIP earlier this year is being extremely well received in the marketplace and is seeing significant growth,” said Bakirtzian in a statement.

“This Series A capital will allow Intellijoint to enhance its product offering with the Direct Anterior Approach Application and allow for expansion into new U.S. markets while enabling deeper penetration of Intellijoint’s presence in New York and Illinois.”

Intellijoint Surgical has plans to use its core technology to expand into other orthopaedic procedures. The six-year-old company is the recipient of the 2015 North American Frost & Sullivan Enabling Technology Leadership Award and the Futurpreneur Shopify True Grit Award of 2016.

“Intellijoint has addressed the shortcoming of traditional navigation,” said Wayne Paprosky, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and member of Intellijoint’s scientific medical advisory board. “The miniature optical camera provides accurate measurements while compensating for patient movement, which is routine during a total hip replacement. It provides me with valuable information and I choose to use it in every case.”

OurCrowd’s Medved Eyes NS Startups

Jonathan Medved flew into Halifax on Sunday afternoon, and by Sunday night he was talking about the Nova Scotian companies he’d like to invest in.

Medved, the founder of the Israeli-based equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, was in Halifax to address Startup Grind Halifax, which brings speakers into the city. And he told the 60 attendees at his talk that he’d already met two companies — one a data analytics company, the other an agricultural technology venture — that he is interested in backing.

He went on to say that the conditions in Canada in general and Atlantic Canada in particular are such that there are likely to be more investments.

He said the technology is incredibly advanced in this country, but there is a lack of capital to get new technological products to market.

“We will do deals here,” he said in a discussion with Startup Grind Halifax Founder Oleg Yefymov. “We will probably build a Canadian fund because the quality of the companies (in Canada) is so far ahead of the capital that’s being formed here that the opportunity is really attractive.”

QRA Named to Lazaridis Scaling Program

Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, had the goal of establishing a platform that allows investors to invest in startups on the same terms as major venture capital funds. So he launched OurCrowd, which lets accredited investors (roughly, those with more than $1 million in investable assets) to get in on these deals. The fund now has 15,000 investors who have invested in more than 100 companies (including two in Canada) and had 10 exits. The Washington Post called him “one of Israel’s leading high-tech venture capitalists.”

In 2008, the New York Times supplement Israel at 60 called Medved one of the 10 most influential Americans who have had an impact on Israel.

So it was heartening that he repeatedly said that he was so impressed with the companies he’d witnessed in his few hours in Halifax.

He said the next generation of successful startups will be dominated by deep technology — not mobile or social, but big data, robotics, artificial intelligence and the like. It will be comprised of complicated systems that have complex and far-reaching industrial applications.

“I think you guys (in Atlantic Canada) are well placed because when you think of all the big data stuff and the oceans stuff that you have here — that is the hard stuff to produce,” said Medved.

He mentioned that he had been told of as many as 10 companies that sounded interesting and he hoped to learn about more.

He said he hopes to follow up with the two companies he’d met with, after which one of OurCrowd’s fund managers would come to Halifax to investigate the company. Hopefully, he said, it would lead to an investment.

He added that he still wants something more “scalable,” such as a Canadian equity crowdfunding site that could channel wealthy people’s money into growing companies. There is a massive geographic problem in the venture capital industry, he said, because investment is concentrated in a few major cities and is lacking elsewhere.

“We’d like to figure out ways that we can do this on a more automated and scalable manner,” he said. “If we get together again in the next year or two, I’d like to be able to say we haven’t done two deals but we’ve done six or eight, because the opportunity is here.”

QRA Named to Lazaridis Program

Jordan Kyriakidis: ' The QRA team is at a critical point for growth.'

Jordan Kyriakidis: ' The QRA team is at a critical point for growth.'

Halifax-based QRA Corp. has been named to the first cohort of the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program, which will help promising Canadian startups to go through their growth stage.

Named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, the institute at Wilfrid Laurier University set up the program to help 10 companies from across the country to extend their sales to the global market. QRA is the only company from outside Ontario or Quebec selected for the program.

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

“The QRA team is at a critical point for growth; we need to scale now in order to operationally handle the many incoming clients, countries, and industries,” said QRA Co-Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “We’re really very happy, honoured, and excited to have been chosen to pilot the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program.”

The highly anticipated program will bring high-potential firms together with an elite group of experts, all of whom have experience in scaling globally competitive enterprises.

Verisk Buys Halifax's Analyze Re

A panel of experts consisting of venture capitalists and leading Canadian and American technology executives considered more than 100 applications and video submissions to assess each firm’s potential for growth. A short list of applicants was invited to take part in video interviews with the selection panel, from which the top 10 companies were chosen.

The 10 selected firms are each at a key turning point in their growth trajectory. They hail from Montreal, Halifax, Waterloo, Toronto, Chatham and Ottawa. They have innovative, made-in-Canada technologies that solve critical problems, from managing hospital operations and optimizing complex system development, to creating better customer experiences, cybersecurity, and sourcing heavy construction equipment on an on-demand basis – to name just a few.

A recent survey from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that only one in 1,000 Canadian small businesses grew beyond the 100-employee mark in 2013, a 40-per cent drop from 2001. Last year, only four Canadian technology companies went to IPO. These numbers do not bode well for the long-term development of the tech ecosystem in Canada. The Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program is part of a broader effort to create conditions in Canada that will enable tech startups to thrive and grow without being bought, winding down prematurely or moving elsewhere.

NS Injects $40M into Innovacorp Fund

The Nova Scotia First Fund, Innovacorp’s fund for early stage investments in Nova Scotia, is receiving $40 million in capital to ensure it can continue funding companies for the next few years.

The Nova Scotia government announced Thursday it would contribute $29 million in fresh capital to the fund, which was known to be running out of money. It also said it would transfer $11 million from an expired cleantech fund into the Nova Scotia First Fund.

The fund will invest in all sectors, including cleantech, said the government statement, and the funding is to last eight years.

"Over the past few days we've seen Analyze Re sold to a United States company and Kinduct attract $12 million in funding from highly strategic investors," said Business Minister Mark Furey in the statement. "Clearly, Nova Scotia's startup scene has impressive momentum, and we need to ensure these businesses have access to the right resources to launch, expand and grow our economy."

Kinduct's US$9M VC Round Led by Intel

Verisk Buys Halifax's Analyze Re

Earlier this year, Innovacorp said in its annual accountability report that as of March 31 it had $5.5 million left in the fund – less money than it invests in a typical year. Over the years, provincial governments have placed $49.6 million in the fund, and Innovacorp has invested an average of $5.6 million in startups in the last four years. The agency said it hopes to earn back money as the startups it has invested in are sold to larger companies or listed on stock exchanges.

The outlook for Innovacorp had been further muddied by the government’s plan to back a new private investment fund in Halifax. The government, which has asked for proposals from private fund managers, has committed $25 million to the fund and hopes private backers will contribute more to the fund. It hopes the new fund will be up and running next year.

It now appears that Innovacorp will continue to invest in early stage companies in all sectors, while the private fund will invest in companies across Atlantic Canada, predominantly in IT. Innovacorp will mainly be investing in the first $500,000 of funding while the new fund will invest at a slightly later stage.  

"Access to early stage capital is important to drive innovation and bring new companies and products to market," Analyze Re CEO Adrian Bentley said in the statement. "We benefitted first-hand from a capital investment from Innovacorp, which was instrumental in our ability to get our idea off the ground, and we also received a wealth of advice and support from the investment team as we learned to build our business."

Innovacorp had operated a separate cleantech fund, launched by the New Democratic government in about 2010. The goal had been to encourage more companies that would benefit the environment, but the agency could never find enough good investment opportunities in cleantech to use all the money. Now the remainder of that fund is being wrapped into the more broad-based Nov Scotia First Fund. 

 

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Planting Seed$ for Young Founders

Stefanie MacDonald, left, and Allyson England

Stefanie MacDonald, left, and Allyson England

A group of 100 businesspeople and entrepreneurs will soon come together in the 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$ event that aims to nurture Nova Scotia’s youth and provide one lucky young entrepreneur with $10,000 in investment.

It’s the second year for the Planting Seed$ event, which was created to give young entrepreneurs a chance to start and/or grow a viable business in Nova Scotia, said co-founder Stefanie MacDonald.

“This event serves both as a forum for micro-funding great ideas and as a way to educate and encourage young Nova Scotians to roll up their sleeves and try right here at home,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald is the owner and designer of Halifax Paper Hearts, a greeting card company that aims to “create fairy tales for everyone” through inclusive and diverse designs.

She began Planting Seed$ with her friend and colleague Allyson England after MacDonald attended a YES NS (Youth Entrepreneurship and Skills Nova Scotia) brainstorming event in the spring of 2015.

The two Atlantic Canadians met a few years ago in a professional setting. MacDonald later hired England to expand her export operations across Canada and into the U.S.

The colleagues have themselves achieved a great deal in the year since Halifax Paper Hearts began.

The company’s first card was produced to celebrate the wedding of two women close to them. After failing to find the right quirky and contemporary card in large department stores, MacDonald created a card that showed two sweet, aging female faces and the greeting, Let’s Grow Old Together.

Since then, Halifax Paper Hearts has sold more than 17,000 greeting cards and secured 50 retail partners. The partners have plans to attend trade shows in Toronto and New York next spring.

The partners want to share their experience with other young entrepreneurs. The 100 Seed$ event is also winning support from many others in the business, government and academic communities, who are prepared to show up and write cheques for $100 each. The event is designed to introduce youth to the concept of pitching ideas and developing networks earlier, MacDonald said.

Last year’s fledgling entrepreneurs pitched varied ideas and hailed from across the province. The three finalists, all aged under 24, were judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Their projects were rated on viability, impact on the province and scalability.

The winner of the $10,000 was Canada Cold Press Juices, a Nova Scotia-based venture that uses undersized fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.

This year’s applicants must also be Nova Scotians under 24 years old. Their pitch must include a description of their product or service, a list of targeted or current customers, a marketing plan, a list of competitors and a clear budget that explains how they would spend the winning $10,000.

Applicants can attend 100 Seed$ free of charge. Others who can attend without committing $100 include 20 student spectators and 15 representatives of youth organizations.

Many well-known groups such as Futurpreneur, Junior Achievement, CEED, Fusion Halifax and Techsploration, attended last year’s event.

“We believe this mix encourages outreach, education, mentorship and venture capital opportunities for all attendees,” MacDonald said.

England said youth entrepreneurship is important to the growth of Nova Scotia. “But people hear 100 reasons why starting a business is too hard . . .We want to take the fear out of trying.

“Research cited in Ray Ivany’s Now or Never Report revealed that many Nova Scotia youth want to work in traditional professions or be public servants. Only 12 per cent want to be entrepreneurs. We want to raise that percentage and demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a rewarding career path.”

Planting Seed$ will be held at Halifax Central Public Library on Spring Garden Road on November 28th from 4-6 p.m. Tickets are avaiolable here.

MacKenzie Wins BioInnovation Event

MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., won the BioInnovation Challenge on Wednesday for ParaGlide, a device that can help wheelchair users reposition themselves.

In winning the region’s main life sciences pitching competition, MHT will take home $15,000 in seed funding and an advisory services package worth more than $30,000, including legal, PR, accounting, sales and insurance services.

ParaGlide allows wheelchair users to move from a slouching to upright position by using a remote control that operates a motor-driven belt behind his or her back. This allows wheelchair users to avoid skin ulcers, and allows caregivers to avoid injury when trying to move people in wheelchair.

“Winning the BioInnovation [Challenge] has validated that we have a product that is meeting an unmet need in the market,” CEO Matthew MacKenzie said in a press release. “The prize package will be tremendous help in tying up loose ends and answering our unanswered questions in the next few months as we get ready for market in 2017.”

MHT’s remote control also stores data on how often wheelchair users reposition themselves. This way, caretakers can ensure their patients in wheelchairs are moving around enough.

The Mayo Clinic recently said wheelchair users should change their sitting position every 15 minutes. However, this is usually achieved via a large, lever-type belt attached to a ceiling that takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer, often requiring two caregivers. The ceiling belt often goes unused because of the time and effort required to use it, which means wheelchair users don’t move often enough.

Kinduct Unveils US$9M Round Led by Intel

MacKenzie revealed that treating ulcers costs Nova Scotia $40,000 each year and workplace injury costs the province $100 million.

“A caretaker’s first words were ‘Sweet Jesus,’” MacKenzie said about showing the ParaGlide technology to a caregiver in Dartmouth. He also told the audience about a mother who read a Chronicle-Herald article about MHT and said she was so happy that ParaGlide technology exists because she can now better help her wheelchair-confined son move around more easily.

The other finalists in the BioInnovation Challenge were NovaResp, which is developing software that allows sleep apnea patients to breathe more easily; and SomaDetect, which measures milk quality in real time and straight from the cow in order to produce the best possible milk.

Both the judging committee, called The Commercialization Council, and audience voted on their favourite of the three finalists. The evaluation criteria for The Commercialization Council included adaptability, market pull and consumer readiness.

MacKenzie has a history of building up a successful business using these three criteria, as he currently runs the manufacturing company, MacKenzie Atlantic. He plans to launch ParaGlide next year and estimates he’ll make a 54 per cent margin on each device by 2021, selling a unit for $2500 to individuals.

He wants to keep manufacturing in Nova Scotia so MacKenzie Atlantic can manufacture the device, though he does plan to sell into the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge was part of BioPort Atlantic, a forum run by BioNova to bring together ideas from the life sciences community to build a network within the region, as well as bring Nova Scotian ideas to Canada, the U.S. and beyond. 

Dadavan Beta-Tests Cultural Codex

Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill

Dadavan Systems, the Nova Scotian company that has developed educational software for First Nations schools, is now beta-testing its latest product, which helps communities share and preserve their heritage.

Waverley-based Davavan works with First Nations education by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans. Now the company has produced Cultural Codex, which “crowdsources” culture, language and heritage through a shared virtual museum platform.

The need to protect, preserve and share language and culture is a priority for Dadavan’s existing education clients, said the company.

“We listened to our clients,” said CEO Jenny Hill in a statement. “They want tools to preserve and share their culture and language, and they want those tools to be accessible and easy to use. Those conversations inspired the development of Cultural Codex. After speaking with educators, museums, municipalities, academics, and our own friends and families, we knew we needed to create a tool that people from differing cultures, industries, and communities could use.”

The statement said registered individuals, organizations and communities can use Cultural Codex’s templated system to build galleries of sound, video, images, and text that contribute to a shared, searchable repository of cultural knowledge. No design or coding skills are needed to produce beautiful, interactive galleries.

“Cultural Codex enables anyone to readily make a contribution to a pool of knowledge, but also provides tools that support stewardship of access, control and ownership,” said Hill. “It’s designed for communities, and is flexible enough to work well with different types of projects. Projects are only limited by imagination.”

Jedi: Nurturing First Nations Startups

Published galleries are searchable across communities, making it easy to explore galleries from multiple contributors in any given subject. The purpose for Cultural Codex is embedded in its name. Bound, handwritten codices (the plural for codex) were the first ancient books.

Cultural Codex is free while in beta mode. The full release is scheduled for early 2017 with additional features for community management and new templates.

Customers will be able to choose which membership level they choose to join, or request a customized platform.

Founded in the late 1990s, Dadavan set out with the goal of improving the high school graduation rates of First Nations students. The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 78 per cent in the general population, according to figures in a 2013 report by the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Dadavan’s student information system, Outcomes, has been informed through close collaboration with Indigenous communities across Canada. 

The company has B Corp certification, which means it is classified as an ethical business by the international B Corporation organization. 

A Digital Society Starts with Mindset

Taavi Kotka

Taavi Kotka

Taavi Kotka can describe a digital society in which 98 percent of government business is paperless, everyone is identified and connected on line, and people can contribute to the country even if they don’t live in it.

He can describe it because he lives in such a place.

Kotka is the Chief Information Officer of Estonia, a former Soviet republic that has been a pioneer in digitizing government operations and the working of society. He has developed links with New Brunswick through the work of such entrepreneurs as David Alston, CIO at IntroHive, and Greg Hemmings, the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John.

Last week, Kotka spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, outlining his country’s development of the digital society. And he said it begins with a mindset that is open to new ways of perceiving citizenship and the people who contribute to a society.

“Estonians are not just people who live in Estonia,” Kotka said in his speech to about 600 delegates. “It’s people who share the same values. Even if you take Estonia away, we will do whatever it takes to act as Estonians.”

The first pillar of Estonia’s digital citizenship is everyone has a digital name. This code is accepted in all government departments, and by private companies and academic institutions. It stays with someone throughout his or her life. But you don’t have to live in Estonia to have the digital name. They are retained by emigrants, and people who don’t live in the country but have businesses there also have them.

“The main idea is to focus on who is connected with your society,” Kotka said in an interview. “The old-fashioned way is to look at only who is living in your country. … If you don’t connect with the people who can contribute to your economy, you can lose them. But they can still be contributors.

“We have been developing our society with the goal that even if you are abroad you can still be part of the society.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union, he said It was clear to authorities that it was physically impossible to for the government to serve people in the country, especially in in the outlying areas. Therefore, the solution was to push people to use internet for government services.

Alston is in the vanguard of the movement to develop such a society in New Brunswick. But Kotka, trying to choose his words diplomatically, said many countries first have to change their mindset before they consider such a move. He noted that the first question from the Saint John audience was about privacy concerns. Privacy concerns are legitimate, he said, but they should be overshadowed by the opportunities of the digital revolution.

And he added that digital health records, for example, can be more secure than those printed on paper because there is a record of everyone who accesses digital documents.

“You share the same problem as other Anglo-Saxon countries,” he said, apologizing for referring to bilingual Canada as an English country. “You struggle with a legacy, and not a technological legacy but a mindset legacy.”

Kinduct’s US$9M Round Led By Intel

Travis McDonough: 'The biggest thing is scaling.'

Travis McDonough: 'The biggest thing is scaling.'

Halifax health-technology company Kinduct Technologies has announced a US$9 million ($12 million) round of funding led by Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of the world’s leading semiconductor chip maker.

Intel was to announce the funding Monday night at the Intel Global Summit in San Diego, where Kinduct Founder and CEO Travis McDonough was to appear on stage with other members of the Intel venture capital portfolio.

The investment group also includes previous investors Clearwater Seafoods Chairman John Risley, through his investment company CFFI Ventures Inc., and Elysian Park Ventures.

"Data is re-inventing the way people approach sports, health, and wellness," Wendell Brooks, senior vice president at Intel Corp. and president of Intel Capital, said in a statement. "The versatility of the Kinduct platform, coupled with Intel compute technology, creates further growth opportunities in these areas by producing deeper data-driven insights into human performance."

Kinduct has pioneered an athlete management system that helps more than 100 professional and elite sports organizations find information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data in one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from about 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation.

Kinduct and Intel now plan to combine Kinduct’s platform with Intel’s Saffron Technology and open-source Trusted Analytics Platform, or TAP, technology to create a new system. It will use machine learning and other technologies to make recommendations, like how athletes can avoid injury.

Verisk Buys Halifax's Analyze Re

In an interview, McDonough said the funding will allow his company, which has had great success with professional sports teams, to move strongly into other markets like college and high school sports, military, and law enforcement. It will also bolster the company’s recently opened office in Silicon Valley, which will contribute to faster growth of Kinduct’s Halifax operations.

“There’s a lot to this round of funding, but the biggest thing is scaling,” said McDonough. “Working with Intel enhances things. We’re going to be hiring aggressively and creating a U.S.-based infrastructure.”

McDonough moved to the Bay area this summer and plans to spend the next year in the new Palo Alto office.  But Kinduct will still be a Halifax company. It now employs 67 people in Halifax (up from 45 in the spring) and plans to hire 30 people in the next six to 12 months.

“It’s like my grandfather used to say, you let the money just pile up and it stinks, just like fertilizer,” McDonough said, referring to his grandfather Lloyd Shaw, the founder of Shaw Brick of Lantz, N.S. “But if you spread it around, it does great things.”

The deal means there is now a clear trend of young companies from Canada’s East Coast establishing links with and drawing investment from Silicon Valley.

Already this year, Fredericton agricultural technology company Resson has received US$12 million in funding from a group of investors led by the agricultural giant Monsanto. And St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which collects and analyzes genetic data, raised US$3 million in a round led by Silicon Valley venture capital fund Data Collective. With the Kinduct deal, that’s a total of C$32 million coming into high-growth Canadian companies in six months, and bringing relationships along with the money.

Meanwhile, John Risley appears to have found another winner. He was the founder of Ocean Nutrition Canada, which he sold to Royal DSM of the Netherlands for $540 million in 2012. McDonough said Risley has been involved in all the major decisions with Kinduct and is on the company’s board. “He’s been an unbelievable champion and he’s been omni-present,” said McDonough. “He’s been my go-to guy.”

Said Risley in an email: “Seldom do you get a combination of a great business plan and a great person. Kinduct is one such situation.”

Verisk Buys Halifax’s Analyze Re

The Analyze Re Team in 2012

The Analyze Re Team in 2012

Analyze Re, a Halifax company whose software-as-a-service product helps reinsurers assess risk, has exited by selling out to Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics company Verisk Analytics, Inc. for an undisclosed price.

People familiar with the deal said the price was in the $15 million to $20 million range. It meant that the investors in the company’s lone round of funding, in November 2012, doubled their money in a cash payout. Verisk is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange and has a market value of US$13.7 billion. 

Announcing the deal today in a press release, Verisk said Analyze Re will become part of its AIR Worldwide business. Analyze Re analyzes risk, pricing and other factors for the reinsurance market, which is like insurance for insurers. It will now provide AIR Worldwide clients with additional real-time pricing, exposure management, and enterprise portfolio roll-up capabilities.

“Clients are increasingly looking to track and reduce portfolio risk in real-time,” said Bill Churney, president of AIR Worldwide. “Analyze Re’s advanced analytics will complement our existing software solutions, enabling companies to manage their enterprise view of risk and perform multi-modeling and portfolio optimization, all within a single environment.”

Analyze Re came together when Oliver Baltzer, Adrian Bentley and Shivam Rajdev decided to launch a company after the reinsurance support company they had been working at downsized. They decided there would be huge demand for a risk assessment product among medium-sized companies in the reinsurance market, which is forecast to grow to $2 trillion by 2025.

The company’s first funding round was a doozy by Atlantic Canadian standards at the time – a $1.4 million round led by Innovacorp and including BDC Capital, Rho Canada Ventures and a range of angel investors.

After the funding, Analyze Re hired five employees, moved into an office on Quinpool Road in Halifax. The market they were targeting was known to have a slow sales cycle, but people familiar with the company said it has been gaining clients in the past year.

“We’re excited to join the Verisk Analytics family of businesses,” said Bentley in the statement. “Our team has been creating technology solutions for the insurance, reinsurance, and capital markets industries for more than a decade, turning huge volumes of data into meaningful insights in seconds. We look forward to continuing to offer these capabilities as part of AIR’s already robust product offerings.”

The exit is good news for a host of groups in the region. The Analyze Re team first workshopped its idea at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program, and this is the first exit by a company that came together in the course led by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach.

The team then went through the second cohort of Launch36 (now the Propel ICT accelerator), and again this should be considered the first bona fide exit by a Launch36 alum. It was one of the first tenants at the Volta startup house in Halifax, and is now the organization's second exit (The first was Compilr).

For Innovacorp, which invested $600,000 in Analyze Re, this is the first real exit for one of its portfolio companies since GoInstant sold out to Salesforce.com in 2012.

BDC Capital, which invested in home-run-companies New Brunswick companies Radian6 and Q1 Labs, has continued its run of finding Atlantic Canadian companies that exit promptly. And for Jeff Grammer of Rho Ventures, this exit offers some validation of his strategy of investing in Atlantic Canada. Rho has offices in Montreal, Boston and Silicon Valley, but he has targeted several companies in Atlantic Canada. 

Marcato Launches Latest Product

After its business grew by about two-thirds in the last year, Marcato Digital Solutions this month released its most recent new feature, which it calls Maracto Live.

Based in Sydney, Marcato provides organizational software to music festival organizers around the world. The Software-as-a-Service platform was used in 240 music festivals this past summer, up from 143 a year earlier.

Now Marcato Live is offering greater flexibility to the festivals that use the software, and this greater flexibility means the product can be used by a new range of customers, including sports events, film festivals and conferences.

“We’re launching the latest update for our platform and it’s a more flexible and scalable solution,” said Marcato Founder and CEO Darren Gallop in an interview last week. “In addition to the usual performance updates, we’ve allowed flexibility that can allow different types of events to use it.”

He added that the company at the moment is not aggressively courting markets like conferences. However, feedback from clients has told Maracato that clients want to use it for a range of events, and the new release allows them to do so.

With 19 employees, Marcato now accommodates more than 250 festivals and live event organizations worldwide, including Coachella, X Games, Bonnaroo, MAMA & Co., CMA Country Music Festival & Awards, New Orleans Jazz Festival, and Madison House Productions.

Gallop has been working on Marcato for about seven years and is now gaining interest in the Sydney tech community with his latest venture, Arista Data Solutions.

Founded by Gallop, Laird Wilton, and Darryl MacLeod, the company recently won $45,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton competition. Arista is a web-based software that provides clients with data security tools and resources.

Gallop was coy about the details of the new company, but said there will be announcements on it soon. 

Job of the Week: Smart Energy Event

Our Job of the Week column this week is showcasing an opportunity for a marketing coordinator with the Smart Energy conference.

Smart Energy is a greater Atlantic region conference for the smart, renewable and conventional energy sectors. Held each spring, it allows delegates to collaborate and discuss trends in smart energy options for today's energy consumer.

Smart Energy, formerly known as the Renewable Energy Conference, is presented by the Jameson Consulting Group, which also puts on Invest Atlantic.  This 12th annual Smart Energy conference will be held in the spring of 2017.

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

Halifax

Smart Energy

Marketing Coordinator

The marketing coordinator will be responsible for developing partners and attendee awareness for the 12th annual Smart Energy event. The successful applicant can work from home and interact with other team members to increase sales and sponsor participation through targeted one-on-one communications and marketing.The marketing coordinator’s main responsibility is to increase revenues by reaching out to existing and new partners or sponsors and attendees. He or she must also refresh communication plans, including social media for outreach to potential sponsors and attendees, and develop and manage contacts on web-based customer management database The organizers are looking for someone with a college degree in business development and a background in entrepreneurship, event management and/or sales. The applicants should have one to three years’ experience in a similar role. 

Eigen Unveils Product at Dell Event

Scott Everett: Filling the gap between data and machines.

Scott Everett: Filling the gap between data and machines.

Eigen innovations Inc., a Fredericton company specializing in the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIot, has unveiled its Eigen Quality Workbench, a software product that optimizes quality control in industrial manufacturing. 

The company, which has been working with large partners in and outside Atlantic Canada, issued a statement Thursday saying the Quality Workbench is designed to help manufacturers “achieve true defect avoidance.”

Eigen’s Intellexon platform helps manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. The system uses algorithms developed under the guidance of researcher and co-founder Rickey Dubay at the University of New Brunswick. Everett worked with Dubay and has been the technical expert developing the product for the past few years.

Intellexon selects data from sensors and other sources in a customer’s plant and sends the relevant data to the cloud, where it is analyzed. Finally, it sends information back to the plant, where action is taken. All of this happens in real time, so the actions are precise. With offices in Fredericton and Toronto, From an early stage, Eigen was working with such partners as Oregon’s FLIR Systems Inc., the world’s largest thermal camera and sensor maker, to develop Intellexon to suit these customers’ needs.

“As manufacturing becomes more complex, many companies are struggling to enable a workforce that uses factory floor data to drive efficiency and productivity on a daily basis, which is a constant threat to their ability to remain competitive,” says Scott Everett, the company’s CEO.  “The Quality Workbench fills a gap between this data and the machines, by working with operators to discover new insights for efficiency on a continuous basis.”

NB's Global Companies are Working With Startups

The Quality Workbench works on the Intellexon platform. It revolutionizes the way manufacturers improve quality by capturing and analyzing data with artificial intelligence to discover breakthroughs in operating efficiency.

Eigen saw the need for the new software while working with its their customers and other manufacturers.  The company is increasingly focused on providing solutions for automotive manufacturing and food processing, embedding its technology within Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers, and suppliers of industrial equipment throughout North America.

A graduate of the PropelICT tech accelerator, Eigen is making a habit of working with large partners. It made the announcement in Austin, Texas, where the company is featured at Dell EMC World 2016, the computer maker’s flagship event.  In April, Dell announced their Internet of Things Solutions Partner Program, including Eigen in the initial group of members.

“Dell believes [independent software vendors] are critical in building the bridge between the exciting industry potential of IoT and profitable market reality,” said Jason Shepherd, director, IoT Strategy and Partnerships at Dell. “We value our partnership with Eigen Innovations and look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Last week at the Big Data Congress, Nestor Gomez, Manager Global Information Services at McCain Foods, included Eigen in a slide showing the companies that the food giant is now working with. And late last year, Eigen won a US$25,000 cash prize by placing third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai. Because of the bronze showing, Eigen was given a long-term relationship with Cisco, the global maker of networking equipment and a huge proponent of the Internet of Things.

Eigen, which raised $1.4 million this year, is also the only Atlantic Canadian startup listed among the graduates of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, one of the most demanding accelerators in the country. 

Mimir Launches Product with 2 Clients

With a new CEO in place, Sydney-based Mimir Networks has launched its cybersecurity product this year and already has two small internet service providers as customers.

Mimir was founded by cybersecurity veteran Jim DeLeskie, who previously founded Heimdall Networks. That company won Innovacorp’s 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition, taking home $225,000 in prize money.  

DeLeskie has since created Mimir, which is also focused on cybersecurity. This year, he hired Tara Milburn, who has worked in a range of businesses across the country, to head its operations. With the new team in place, the company is now selling its product to small and medium-sized businesses that need to protect themselves from cyber-criminals. Though the product is priced to be affordable to SMEs, Milburn emphasized in an interview it also has the capacity to reach larger clients.

“The development was done with scaling in mind,” she said in an interview. “We have no problem with scaling to larger companies because that’s where our founder came from.”

DeLeskie has worked for some of the world’s largest digital security companies and is an expert in the detection and mitigation of distributed denial-of-service, or DDOS, attacks. These attacks swamp an organization’s website and/or network with unwanted traffic, disabling all its online functions.

In January, DeLeskie learned that Milburn would be leaving her post with Nova Scotia Business Inc. and persuaded her to join Mimir. Milburn was new to the tech sector but had a wide range of business experience. She had previously held senior positions with the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee, the Vancouver Canucks and other sports organizations.

She began at Mimir as the head of business development, but soon moved to CEO, allowing DeLeskie to move over to Chief Technical Officer.

The Mimir product is able to detect and mitigate the impact of a DDOS, and can also be used for anomaly detection, or someone using a service in an unusual way, which could mean a system has been hacked. These are services provided by larger competitors but Mimir is priced so smaller companies can afford it.

With a staff of six people, Mimir is now focusing on sales in Canada and the U.S. While it has sold to two ISPs – one in the U.S. and one in Canada – it is targeting other sectors as well, including data centres, aerospace and defence, first nations and governments.

“Right now we’re concentrating on Canada and the U.S., but we’re open to looking at other countries,” said Milburn. “There could be some opportunities in Europe or Israel. … We have the benefit of Jim’s network because he’s quite well connected and respected and that will open some doors for us.”

SimpTek Raises $700K-Plus

Keelin Gagnon, left, and Asif Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

Keelin Gagnon, left, and Asif Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

SimpTek Technologies, a Fredericton maker of energy monitoring software, has raised more than $700,000 in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and several angel investors.

The company said in a statement the funding will help SimpTek pursue new business opportunities and expand into new markets across Canada and into the U.S. It will also be used to expand the company’s technical, sales and marketing capacity.

Founded by Asif Hasan, Lionel Fernandes and Keelen Gagnon, SimpTek has developed a product that can assess the energy usage throughout a home. It gives the homeowner detailed, real-time information about what appliances or components of the house are using how much energy; and it provides a utility with detailed aggregated information about energy usage in its customer base. SimpTek’s platform helps utility companies to better engage, understand and communicate with their customers.

“Most people don’t realize that power utilities spend tremendous amounts of money to meet the peak demands of their customers and how working together to bring down peaks could have tremendous benefits for both customers and utilities in savings and using less fossil fuels,” said Innovation Foundation CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement. “SimpTek’s technology can help reduce the expenses utilities and consumers face at the same time, and that’s exactly the kind of innovation we invest in.”

NBIF Increases Breakthru Pot to $1M

Founded in 2014, SimpTek was the runner up in the 2015 Breakthru competition, NBIF’s biennial competition for new startups. The company won $222,250 in cash and in-kind services in the competition. The company also graduated from the Propel ICT Build Program. 

Simptek has now completed the first phase of its pilot program with NB Power. Next year, SimpTek will start pilots with various utility companies across North America.

“Today, utilities want to take energy efficiency and savings to the next level by providing customers with precise data about how and when they use electricity,” said NB Power CEO Gaetan Thomas. “Our hope is that [SimpTek] can provide the whole industry with an important tool for customers and utilities to better understand and change electricity behaviors for everyone’s benefit.”

Added SimpTek CEO and co-founder Asif Hasan: “We’ve been extremely pleased with the results of our pilot programs to date and the positive feedback from the consumers and the utilities. We are excited to build upon our success to date and to expand the team with the financial support from these investors.”

The company added it will be hiring new staff to accommodate the growth. 

Global Players Working with Startups

Fiddlehead Co-Founders Shawn Carver and David Baxter are working with with McCain Foods on a range of projects.

Fiddlehead Co-Founders Shawn Carver and David Baxter are working with with McCain Foods on a range of projects.

Two Atlantic Canadian resource giants on Monday outlined how they’ve been working with small locally owned innovation companies to bring their operations into the 21st century.

J.D. Irving Ltd. (the Irving family’s forestry company) and McCain Foods took to the stage at the Big Data Congress in Saint John to tell how they are working with innovators to improve efficiency and make better decisions. The Big Data Congress, now in its fourth year, is notable for the quality of thought leaders it brings to the region, but this session of home-grown technology experts showed how the East Coast tech community in the region has grown and is working with global businesses.

The relationship certainly benefits the smaller companies, which get paying clients with international reach. But the McCain and Irving executives stressed that access to new technology developed in the region has benefited their operations as well.

“We want to partner with startup companies in New Brunswick, and in Atlantic Canada, and eventually around the world,” said Nestor Gomez, Manager Global Information Services at McCains.

Gomez told how his company has partnered with Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, whose technology analyzes data to ensure a food producer puts out just the right amount of food demanded by the market. The tech community in New Brunswick frequently praises the McCain partnerships because they go beyond a sales deal; they involve “co-creation”, with the big and small company working together to perfect a product that could be sold around the world.

Gomez told of how McCain and Fiddlehead are now working with artificial intelligence so the technology can instantly respond in English to a range of supply chain queries from people throughout the organization.

Notable Quotes from #BDC2016

McCain similarly worked with Resson, the Fredericton agricultural data company that this year announced a $14 million funding round led by Monsanto. Yves Leclerc, McCain’s Director of Agronomy, detailed how the two companies worked together over several years to learn how to collect and analyze data from a field of crops, from drones, tractors, soil samples and other sources. The challenges were many, given that the data can be impacted on such things as the soil chemistry in different fields, the weather – even taking drone readings on cloudy days as opposed to sunny days.

“One of our biggest challenges is actually managing the data,” said Leclerc. “What we learned is that data can be good or it can be bad or it can be very bad. … We’re at the point now where we can actually start to analyze this data.”

J.D. Irving, meanwhile, has been using technology developed by Fredericton-based Remsoft to analyze its 6 million acres of trees and make long-term decisions on how to manage them. Jason Limongelli, J.D.Irving’s Vice-President Woodlands, said data analysis is critical because the country has to balance industry factors like long-term demand for product and growing conditions with broader worries like wildlife habitat, urbanization and climate change. And the matter is all the more complicated considering how long it takes to grow a tree.

“I will not work long enough to see the impact of my decisions,” he said. “We’re talking about an 80-year time horizon.

Andrea Feunekes, CEO and Co-Founder of Remsoft, told how her company has worked with J.D. Irving to analyze its 14 million trees. With clients around the world (its most recent expansion was its new office in Brazil), she said planning in the forestry is critical and the long time lines compound the risks involved in each decision.  

Quotes from the Big Data Congress

The Big Data Congress wrapped up on Tuesday, after bringing true thought-leaders on digital society to Saint John. Here are a few notable quotes from some of the speakers at the two-day conference:

On the impact of Big Data on society:

“Society soon will be data-driven, for better or worse. It’s our job to make it for the better.”

-- Sandy Pentland

Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program

On what Big Data means for business:

“The end goal is understanding your business and finding whatever opportunities there are to improve. What’s holding you back is really not the computational part. It’s the imagination to ask the right questions.”

-- Jason Limongelli

Vice President Woodlands, JD Irving Limited

“It isn’t just the technology but it’s the business model that’s transformative. Every company out there that’s, you know, in retail is out to figure out how they can be the next Amazon.”

-- Vivek Kundra

Former CIO of US Government; Executive Vice President, Industries, Salesforce

On social interaction:

“The more people interact with other people, the more they exchange ideas, the more money they make. High income people have a support network, but they also talk to a lot more people.”

-- Sandy Pentland

Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program

On how digital citizenship expands citizenship:

“Estonians are not just people who live in Estonia. It’s people who share the same values. Even if you take Estonia away, we will do whatever it takes to act as Estonians.”

-- Taavi Kotka

Chief Information Officer, Estonia

On using Big Data in healthcare:

“Big Pharma is now convinced that this [using genetic data] is one of the most exciting and efficient ways to do drug discovery. This is undoubtedly the new paradigm.”

-- Tyler Wish

Co-Founder and CEO of Sequence Bio.

“This is where Big Data can help but only in how it affects the patient. It’s not whether there was an infection during the back operation but, Did the operation make the patient better?”

-- Jamie Heywood

Co-Founder and Chairman, PatientsLikeMe

On replacing human workers:

“I’m sick of hiring humans. I will not hire any more humans. I will only hire robots.”

-- Alec Ross

Author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University

(Quoting a Taiwanese industrialist, who subsequently laid off 60,000 employees)

On cybersecurity:

“One area that will be a centibillion dollar industry – and this is important for New Brunswick because New Brunswick has made some smart investments in this space – is cybersecurity.”

-- Alec Ross

Author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University 

Trans-Atlantic Oceans Data Event Set

There’s an oceans industry symposium happening next month that’s so huge it’s being held on both sides of the Atlantic.

The German Canadian Concourse, or GCC, series of symposiums will hold its fifth edition on Nov. 17 and will focus on the use of data analytics pertaining to ocean-based industries. The goal of the day-long event, which will be held concurrently in Halifax and Berlin, will be to explore ways in which Canadians and Germans can work together in the field.

The title of the session, which will be held in English, is: "Across the Data Pond – Analyzing a Sea of Ocean Data: Germany's and Canada's deep dive into Ocean Analytics and its potential for spurring a new industry niche".

“We have reached the state where ocean data is being generated at a rate faster than it can be assessed and interpreted by humans,” said Jim Hanlon, Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise in Halifax, a collaborating partner in this year’s GCC.

The two groups in the trans-Atlantic symposium will be connected via video conference and the event offers broad networking opportunities. The conference will be opened on both sides of the Atlantic by the patrons of the GCC, Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, Canada’s Ambassador to Germany, and Werner Wnendt, Germany’s Ambassador to Canada.

A statement from the group said the program includes thought-leading speakers from various maritime fields. The organizers are hoping to draw participants from such fields as remote sensing and information technology, marine tourism, energy, fisheries and aquaculture, marine transportation and marine defence and security.

“German-Canadian joint projects play an important role in the development of analytical systems which provide maritime players enhanced decision-making tools on the basis of intelligent fusion of ocean data from different sources,” said GCC Chairman Matthias Mück. “With a view to the value-creation chain in ocean data, starting at earth and ocean observation down to the development of analytical tools, the GCC will demonstrate how the need to control a data flood generates a new field for enterprises and start-ups – also in a German-Canadian context.”

The GCC not only aims to showcase successful projects of German-Canadian cooperation in ocean analytics, but – as in previous years – wants to create a platform for launching further collaboration between the two countries.

You can register for the conference by Nov. 10 here.

The German Canadian Concourse 2016 is organized by the Canada Meets Germany Network, a not-for-profit association aimed at fostering German-Canadian relations.

Fredericton Firms Eye More Capacity

Employers in the Fredericton region expect the workforce to grow in the next five years, and therefore want the government to focus on attracting skilled workers and tailoring the education system to future job demands.

Those are the findings of a new survey conducted by Ignite Fredericton in collaboration with Opportunities NB. The survey was part of the business retention and expansion, or BRE,  project, which aims to proactively identify issues, challenges and opportunities related to business growth and expansion in the Fredericton region.

“This business intelligence will enable both Ignite Fredericton and Opportunities NB to be more nimble and adaptive with our programming and services based on the needs of the business community,” said Ignite Fredericton CEO Larry Shaw in a statement. “It will also provide us with some clear indicators and benchmark data year-over-year so that we can measure our progress.”

Said Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities NB: “ONB’s role is to support and encourage expansion within our business base that will inevitably lead to job growth. The BRE initiative provided a great framework to gain an inside view of the challenges facing local businesses, while providing a venue to help them craft solutions for sustainable growth.”

The survey results showed most companies in the region are in the startup and growth phases as one-third of online respondents reported sales of less than $250,000. Twenty-three percent have revenues of $250,000 to $1 million and 26 percent reported sales of $1 million to $5 million. 

Only one-third of respondents had an export development plan, with companies experiencing various issues such as a lack of knowledge about export markets and regulations, said the statement.  These results reinforce the need for Ignite’s new accelerator program, Export Igniter, and programming will be adapted based on industries’ needs, it added.  

The survey also confirmed efforts to enhance the region’s ability to attract talent, and ensure educational programs are geared towards current and future industry demand. “Only 25 percent of survey respondents reported being aware of resources to support hiring newcomers and foreign workers,” said Shaw. “This indicates that we need to focus more on this area going forward.”

The following are the complete 2016 BRE results:

The survey encompassed two phases: quantitative online survey of 118 companies (18% response rate of the 669 sample size); and qualitative in-depth/in-person interviews with 49 companies with the following highlights:

General:

•Broad industry representation with 23% in manufacturing, 19% information technology, 14% business/professional services, 9% engineering, and the remaining distributed among other industries.

•Online - 69% were incorporated companies and 14% sole proprietorships.

•Online - 65% of companies reported 10 employees or less.

•Online – 67% anticipated employee growth over next five years.

•In-person - 45% of businesses reported to be in growth stage, 35% startup phase, 18% mature, 2% in decline/succession planning.

HR issues - attracting employees:

•One-third of all businesses consulted reported difficulty in attracting new employees due to lack of required skills (73%), lack of experience (52%) and better opportunities elsewhere (27%).  In-depth interviews also cited competitive wages and workforce availability with one-third of businesses hiring foreign workers.

•One quarter of businesses were aware of community resources to support hiring newcomers and foreign workers (supports efforts of establishing Local Immigration Partnership of Fredericton).

Business growth, sales & trends:

•One-third of online respondents (31%) reported sales less than $250,000; 23% reported $250,000-$1 M; and 26% reported $1-5 M. Of these companies, 54% reported increasing revenues over the past five years.

•79 companies were exporting with top markets U.S. 80%, Europe 42%, Mexico 14% other 34%.  58% of these companies reported increasing export sales and 25% remained steady.

•One-third of all businesses reported having an export plan with top export barriers being: lack of knowledge about export markets (25%) and regulations (22%), financial issues (25%), market uncertainty (19%), border issues (17%) and lack of experience (17%).

•Only 14% of online respondents had benefitted from research related tax credits in the last five years.

NB/Fredericton business climate was rated online:

•Top marks (percentage of respondents rating 8 or higher on a 10 point scale, where 1=poor and 10=excellent) went to quality of life (68%), digital infrastructure (60%), educational opportunities (50%), and recreational/cultural amenities (47%).

•Lower rankings were attributed to municipal taxes (6%), U.S. air access for business (7%), provincial/federal taxes (each at 10%).

How Data Is Reshaping Society

When the Big Data Congress session on health wrapped up at 9:05 Monday night, there were still about 150 to 200 delegates in their seats listening to how data analysis could improve healthcare.

It’s the type of conference this is. The first day of the two-day event delved into what can be done to create a digital society, and what is being done in the region already to ensure data analysis is used to benefit society. About 600 people are attending, and they’re engaged in the sessions.

Now in its fourth year, the Big Data Congress has gained a reputation of bringing some of the world’s leading thinkers in technology into the region. What’s interesting this year is they are blending in with Atlantic Canadian business people who are not promising to develop data-based businesses but are actually doing it.  

“This is a world-class conference and everyone here should be proud of you for bringing us together,” Jamie Heywood told T4G President Geoff Flood, the founder of the congress at Monday night's session.

Heywood himself exemplifies the type of speaker we’re talking about. He is the chairman and founder of PatientsLikeMe.com, which is an online forum on which patients can interact with and learn from people afflicted with the same disease as them. About 400,000 people use the site, which has become a source of data on the experiences and attitudes among patients. It has become a leading source of information for the pharmaceutical industry.

Capping off the healthcare session, he called for the medical industry to make sure it’s focusing on the right data to make sure that patients actually benefit from advances in medicine.

He appeared in a panel with Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Erik Scheme, New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices at University of New Brunswick. Wish explained how his company is gathering genetic data from 100,000 Newfoundlanders to improve drug discovery, while Scheme reviewed how data can be used and the opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“If you’re a pure capitalist and want to make money, there’s an opportunity here,” Scheme said. “If you are more along the millennial line and you want to make a difference, there’s still an opportunity. There’s enough room for everyone to play.”

Wish was one of several Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to explain their data-based companies in Day 1. Andrea Feunekes, CEO and Co-Founder of Fredericton-based Remsoft, told how her company has worked with J.D. Irving to improve the larger company’s forestry operations. And representatives of McCain’s foods explained how their company was working with companies like Resson of Fredericton and Fiddlehead Technology of Moncton to increase efficiencies to various sections of its supply chain.

What’s interesting about these presentations is they are describing technologies now being used in Atlantic Canada to improve living standards. In past years, the startups that appeared at the BDC spoke more about what they were planning to do. This year’s presentations show how far the startup community has come.

In the next few days, we will write more about the discussions at the BDC, highlighting how data analysis is changing industry and society at large.

“The term big data -- I don’t like it,” said Sandy Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab, one of the speakers. “It’s not that it’s big or that it’s fast. The part that’s important is that it’s about people. … By understanding these things, we begin to understand society and social interaction in ways we never could before.”

Click2Order Expanding in Ontario

The recent storms in Cape Breton threw an unexpected wrinkle into the life of Matt Stewart. They cancelled a flight to Toronto, where he was heading to sign a deal that would transform his company, Click2Order.

Stewart and his cofounder Rob Myers launched the company as PizzaGo with the goal of making an app that would let people order pizza online. In the last year, they morphed into Sydney-based Click2Order, which broadens the base a bit and applies to takeout orders at any type of restaurant.

Already this year, the company has secured about 30 customers with a total of 35 outlets, mainly in Atlantic Canada.

The trip to the Toronto region is transformative because Stewart is now signing with a single delivery company whose clients have 1,000 restaurant outlets.

“This is huge for us,” Stewart said in a phone interview last week. “It allows us to scale beyond what we’re doing now where we have mainly one-offs.”

Docmaster Launches Flagship Product

Click2Order has quite a few competitors in that there are other tech companies that offer ordering systems for restaurants and fast food outlets.

The Click2Order product lets the customer view a menu, place an order and pay, all on a single site.

It integrates with the restaurant’s Facebook page, which is a huge source of traffic for many establishments.

What the Cape Breton company does different than its competitors is to offer a “white label” product. That means that the product integrates into the restaurant’s website or Facebook page without showing any branding of Click2Order.

The customer believes the whole system is the restaurant’s, and that helps with the eatery’s marketing and it means that they can retain a relationship with the client.

Stewart said the white label aspect of the product was really what caught the clients’ eyes and has helped to secure sales.

This week he is in Ontario signing the deal with the client and working on the first installations.

They will be rolling out installations with this client over the next several months.

“This is new to them as well and we’re not going to be implementing it in a 1,000 restaurants on Day 1,” he said. “We’re going to grow it at a pace we’re all comfortable with.”

One interesting note about this company is that Stewart, Myers and their two paid employees have brought their product to market without raising any equity capital. They won $10,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton program three years ago, and it has borrowed from New Dawn Enterprises, a Community Economic Development Investment Fund that supports Cape Breton enterprises. Click2Go has received other grants and loans, bringing the total capital raised to about $150,000.

Stewart said the founders are thinking about raising money, but it’s too soon to tell how much they may need. If the installations with its Ontario partner go well, it will mean the company will be bringing in more revenue. But it could also mean it will need a larger staff, especially in installation experts and support staff.

Meanwhile, the company is targeting other delivery companies as potential customers, with the hopes of growing the business further.

NS Releases RFP For VC Fund

The Nova Scotia government has released its long-awaited request for proposals for the manager of a venture capital fund to invest in early stage tech companies in the region.

Innovacorp, the government-owned innovation agency, released the RFP on Friday as part of its mission to oversee the creation of the new fund.  Private sector fund managers must get their submissions into Innovacorp by Dec. 14.

The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget. It said in the spring it would spend about a year finding a private-sector partner and establishing the new fund.

The RFP said the winning applicant will have to come up with at least $3 million in private contributions to the fund, bringing the minimum size of the fund to $28 million. However, given the competitive nature of the bidding, it would be logical to assume the fund will be end up being a good deal larger than that.

The wording of the RFP said that the fund will target “pre‐seed/seed technology companies based in Atlantic Canada”.

That would suggest that the new fund will only be looking at IT companies (with no cleantech, biotech or other such sectors). And it looks like it will be mainly targeting $100,000 to $500,000 investments, though the applicants are invited to spell out their plans for follow-on funding.

The winning applicant will be able to invest in companies throughout Atlantic Canada, though the RFP stipulates that at least half of the investment funds must be devoted to Nova Scotian companies.

The government said the applicants will be assessed by a panel consisting of:

- Charles Baxter, vice-president of investment with Innovacorp;

- Dominique Belanger, managing director of funds investment with Business Development Bank of Canada;

- Gilles Duruflé, independent consultant;

- Bernie Miller, senior executive advisor for the province of Nova Scotia;

- And Senia Rapisarda, principal with HarbourVest Canada of Toronto, who is replacing Rob Barbara, general partner with Build Ventures.

SkySquirrel Eyes Expansion After Loan

Richard van der Put, right, poses with Co-Founder Stephane Sogne in the early days of SkySquirrel.

Richard van der Put, right, poses with Co-Founder Stephane Sogne in the early days of SkySquirrel.

With a new low-interest loan in hand, SkySquirrel is setting its sights in being the market leader in preventing a disease that threatens some of Europe’s most revered wine regions.

The Halifax area company uses drones to gather data from agricultural fields, focusing on the highest-margin segment of agriculture, the wine industry. On Thursday, it announced it received a $500,000 loanfrom the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Though the company is working with clients around the world, it’s emphasis in the near term will be working on its technology to combat flavescence doree, a disease plaguing southern European vineyards. There is no cure for the disease, which prevents plants from producing grapes; once it occurs, the farmer has no choice but to destroy the vine before it spreads.

“The big news for us is probably how we’re going to roll it out in France,” said Co-Founder and CEO Richard van der Put in an interview to announce the loan. “If we can be first in this market, and so far we are, we can create a monopoly product in France.”

SkySquirrel’s Aqweo drones are mounted with multi-spectral cameras supplied by a commercial provider. The latest generation features a camera developed by SkySquirrel that is sensitive enough to detect changes in leaf colour when flavescence doree is in its early stages. That should help to prevent the spread of the disease.

The team spent a month in France this summer during the growing season to test the product and plans to deepen its work in the field next year.

The company said earlier in the year that it had raised $1 million, with equal contributions from Innovacorp and an unnamed Ontario investor. Van der Put said the company may announce more funding soon.

With this money, SkySquirrel has been able to target a big geographical expanse, helped by its partnership with Vineview, based in St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa Valley wine region. It has allowed SkySquirrel to have an office in Napa. And a former SkySquirrel founder is now living in Switzerland, meaning the company has representation in the European company.  The company now has clients in several countries around the world. It will soon add Australia and New Zealand.

Van der Put said the relationship with Vineview means the company has been able to benefit from technology used by NASA in the development of its product.

“What we also have as an advantage is that we have more than 15 years of aerial images because of our relationship with our partner,” said van der Put.

Gemba, Repable Named to CIX Top 20

Daniella Degrace

Daniella Degrace

Gemba Software Solutions and Repable Inc., two companies that originated in New Brunswick in the past couple of years, have been named to the prestigious Canadian Innovation Exchange Top 20 for 2016.

The CIX, a national organization that recognizes leaders in innovation, announced its latest winners last week. They will be honoured at a ceremony at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on Nov. 22.

“Companies were chosen based on a number of key factors including product/service offering, depth of management, market opportunity, and business model,” said the CIX in announcing the winners. “Our jury of investors and technology experts examined hundreds of applicants and have deemed [these] companies the 20 most innovative of 2016.”

Gemba Software is a Saint John-based startup that helps big business employees navigate their company’s operations. The company was spun out of tech company Innovatia and in September 2015 received $1.5 million in funding from Innovatia and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Led by CEO Daniella Degrace, Gemba has created a Software-as-a-Service product that addresses the problem of multinational corporations being so big that employees can’t find their way through all the divisions or understand what they do.

The company’s ProcedureFlow software provides visual process maps that offer new employees and others the ability to quickly navigate their way through the company’s operations. The product, which features small hyperlinked flowcharts, reduces training time, delivers a consistent message to employees, and lets team members update the content.

Operating out of Moncton and Toronto, Repable collects and analyzes data on eSports, or competitive gaming, a fast-growing international phenomenon. It’s estimated some 200 million people will watch competitive gaming this year.

Co-Founders Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power teamed up last year and knew they wanted to do a Big Data venture. Eventually settled on eSports. Earlier this year, they took the venture through the Propel ICT Build Program.

ESports is growing so quickly that major consumer product brands want to use it as a marketing vehicle, but they don’t know how. Major TV networks want to broadcast it. It’s an opportunity to reach a young audience that doesn’t usually watch television, let alone read newspapers. But these brands don’t have firm metrics on who or what to sponsor or how to approach this new craze.

Atlantic Canada has been well represented in the CIX the past two years. Three Atlantic Canadian companies – LeadSift and SkySquirrel Technologies of Halifax and RtTech Software of Moncton – made the Top 20 in 2015.

The other Atlantic Canadian companies that have made the list were ClearRisk of St. John’s in 2011; Celtx of St. Johns and LiveLenz of Halifax in 2012; and SmartSkin Technologies of Fredericton in 2013.

The other winners of the CIX 2016 Top 20 are: Blue J Legal, Toronto; CareGuide Inc., Toronto; Drop Loyalty Inc., Toronto; Exact Media, Toronto; Finn.ai, Vancouver; Instant Financial, Vancouver; LANDR, Montreal; LEAGUE Inc., Toronto; Medella Health, Kitchener; Overbond, Toronto; SweetIQ, Montreal; TritonWear Inc., Toronto; TrustPoint Innovation Technologies, Ltd., Waterloo; Unata Inc, Toronto; Wantoo, Vancouver; ZEITDICE INC., Toronto; Zensurance, Toronto; and Zoom.ai Inc., Toronto.

Job of the Week: Clockwork Fox

Our Job of the Week column this week highlights an opening for a full-stack developer with the Newfoundland and Labrador education technology company Clockwork Fox Studios.

St. John’s-based Clockwork Fox focuses on game-based learning. It makes video games that inspire and engage young kids to learn math. It analyzes data from these games to provide teachers and parents with information on the students’s progress. It adds up to a personalized gaming and learning experience.

These games, called Zorbit’s Math Adventure, allow children to proceed at their own pace, and teachers to track their progress and optimize lessons for a classroom of individuals.

The company earlier in the year announced a $1 million funding round led by Killick Capital and Venture Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

St. John’s

Clockwork Fox Studios

Full-Stack Developer

Clockwork Fox, an award-winning game production studio, is seeking a talented individual to develop a web interface with a solid backend and a superior user experience. This is a full-time position working with a successful business that values highly motivated individuals and a friendly atmosphere.

The company is looking for someone who can produce beautiful and intuitive user interfaces using HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, jQuery, or any other libraries, and can develop application code primarily in PHP. The successful candidate will have to administer various databases, including SQL and non-relational databases, addressing issues such as performance and clean design.

Clockwork Fox is looking for someone with one to five years' experience in a comparable role and a Bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or an equivalent discipline. 

Shaw Broadens the Startup Mandate

Larry Shaw: 'We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.'

Larry Shaw: 'We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.'

Fredericton is developing a system for streamlining the provision of entrepreneurial services that will also lead to the collection of valuable data, says Larry Shaw, leader of the Fredericton Startup Network Taskforce.

The task force, composed of nearly 20 of the city’s stakeholders, a year ago began debating how to make a smooth and efficient ‘subway’ model for service provision.

Task force members are collaborating to align services and programs around four key stages: ideation; validation; growth and maturity.

“We see the services and programs being delivered as an ecosystem,” said Shaw, who is also CEO of Ignite Fredericton, the city’s economic development agency, and Knowledge Park, New Brunswick’s research and technology park.

“We’re learning what types of programs work, how to modify them . . . Partnering with key stakeholders in the region we can share resources, provide flexibility in physical workspaces, and reach more startup entrepreneurs.”

Shaw said data on the startup community will be analyzed more easily when community partners come together under an agreed model.

“How many startups are there in Fredericton?” he asked. “No one knows the real number . . . Imagine if we knew there were 96 startups, 50 of them at the ideation stage. Then ask, how many of those 50 companies have used services provided by business incubator Planet Hatch, or other partners?

“Answer these questions and the data starts to provide insights as to the services we may need to add.” Shaw thinks developing programming in “tracks” will allow the “subway” model to be aligned across Atlantic Canada.

“At the moment, funding agencies will sometimes fund the same programs across the region. If our ecosystem shares programs we can reach more entrepreneurs and limited funding dollars will go dramatically further,” he said.

Benefits may include offering programming in smaller regions.

Shaw said Ignite Fredericton, Planet Hatch and Knowledge Park are already managed as one organization to provide services for entrepreneurs at the ideation, validation, growth, and mature stages.

Planet Hatch also hosts activities run by other groups. The local Chamber of Commerce runs its Business Immigrant Mentorship Program from the Hive, located in Planet Hatch, Shaw said.

Planet Hatch has partnered with the Business Faculty at the University of New Brunswick to build an experiential learning program that will allow senior business students to obtain work experience with Planet Hatch-based startups.

Shaw, a Fredericton native, returned to the city five years ago. He began his career with NBTel in sales, then worked around the world for various companies in diverse roles. He is currently president of the national network of Research and Technology Parks, a position which gives him insight into how the collaborative subway concept could be expanded.

“Building a network, we could use the same model across Canada. For example, Atlantic Canadian companies could use the MaRS innovation hub as their home base when in Toronto,” he said.

“The subway model will enrich and improve the journey of startup entrepreneurs. It will get companies to success more quickly and create more jobs . . .”

According to Shaw, about 13 startups went through accelerators in Fredericton during 2016. Another 40 companies didn’t get the chance to participate in accelerators, despite having the same needs.

“We can provide the necessary programs and services if we work collaboratively,” he said.

“About 200 jobs were created by those 40 companies. There will always be companies that have hockey-stick growth patterns (companies that grow spectacularly fast), but the other companies are also important to the overall economic development of the region.

“We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.”

RBC Donates $1M to UNB Program

Dhirendra Shukla: 'UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick.'

Dhirendra Shukla: 'UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick.'

The University of New Brunswick’s ambitious entrepreneurial program got a boost Thursday when the Royal Bank of Canada announced a $1 million donation.

Canada’s largest bank said in a statement it is making a leadership gift of $1 million to support innovation and entrepreneurship education at UNB’s Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, or TME.

The TME program has sparked or contributed to some fascinating startups, including the past two winners in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition – TotalPave and Castaway Golf.

“Canada’s largest financial institution is investing in youth entrepreneurship,” said Kayley Reed, a TME alumna and co-founder of conscious clothing company Wear Your Label. “How great is that? UNB’s TME program was integral to getting our company to where it is today. Now, the RBC Innovative Action Fund will create more opportunities for students at UNB to discover their potential as entrepreneurs and meet today’s challenges with innovation.”

The key to the program, led by Chair Dhirendra Shukla, is that the entrepreneurship program is embedded in the heart of the engineering school. It means that students with the ideas and technical abilities learn how to develop those ideas into businesses, often in partnership with business students.

The TME program also runs the Summer Institute, which helps to teach a range of entrepreneurs the values of design and human experience as they develop their products.

“RBC has a long and distinguished history of supporting innovation at UNB, and I am honoured to accept this gift,” UNB President Eddy Campbell said at a reception in Fredericton. “UNB has been rated best in the nation for teaching entrepreneurship. This investment will build on the success of our programs and create new opportunities for our students to turn their ideas into products and services.”

The statement said the RBC Innovative Action Fund will support a variety of experiential activities associated with the TME program, creating new opportunities for students as well as members of the community. These activities will include:

• RBC idea, student pitch and product design competitions;

• An RBC Lunch and Learn guest lecture series that brings business people with national and international experience into our classrooms;

• An RBC Technology Commercialization Program Fund, to help students move from the idea stage to working models of their products;

• An RBC Export Marketing Fund that will enable the proponents of well-developed start-up businesses to explore new markets outside of New Brunswick;

• An RBC Mentor-in-Residence program with national-class mentors;

• An annual leadership conference, focusing on business leadership in an era of global change; and

• The creation of the RBC Innovative Action Room, a new space for meetings, consultations and mentorship events.

“UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick for a generation of new entrepreneurs,” said Shukla. “This gift from RBC will ensure that our programs can continue to develop, expanding UNB’s role as a regional and national leader in entrepreneurship education.”

Docmaster Launches Flagship Product

After a long journey for its husband-and-wife team of founders, Docmaster has launched a product that helps small and medium-sized businesses store, sort and retrieve digital files.

Docmaster is a Sydney-based company founded by Mark and Danielle Patterson, a pair of businesspeople whose careers took them from St. John’s to the southern U.S. and many points in between. And in their work, they came to realize that a lot of companies need a cloud-based repository for their digital documents.

“We saw that there was a real gap in the Canadian market for an affordable program in document storage that is compliant with federal and provincial regulations,” said Danielle Patterson during an interview in Cape Breton, where she and her husband have settled. Docmaster adheres to the rules of a federal regulation commonly called PIPEDA and the provincial regulations that fall under it. These rules stipulate how documents can be stored on the cloud, and one service Docmaster provides is educating clients about the legalities of document storage.

The company’s servers are in Canada, which is important, as the U.S. Patriot Act gives the American government potential access to any document stored in U.S.-based servers.

Docmaster can take new digital documents and store them for clients. The company can also bring in a partner to scan existing paper-based documents and store them for clients.

Though there are higher-priced products on the market for large companies, Docmaster aims to court SMEs. The Pattersons said their pricing, which is offered on a per-employee-per-month basis, is far lower than larger competitors. Its target markets initially are healthcare, physiotherapy, lawyers, post-secondary institutions and not-for-profits.

While the initial focus is on Canadian customers, the Pattersons are talking to Nova Scotia Business Inc. about looking at export markets. They said one market that interests them is the European Union.

The company has beta-tested the product with five or six clients in the past few months and Mark Patterson said they believe all will adopt the product going forward. Danielle Patterson said the company has about 30 potential customers in its sales funnel.

Docmaster has raised about $70,000 in equity financing, which it supplemented with grants and loans to bring in a total of about $300,000.

But the team felt the need for more money as it developed the product. When the Pattersons brought their chief technical officer, James MacKinnon on board in the spring, they decided to make money by opening Devantec, a tech consultancy specializing in IT security. In the first three weeks, the new company made $100,000. In the past five months, Devantec has taken on 25 clients.

The Docmaster-Devantec team now employs seven people. They are working in the basement of the Sampson McPhee law firm, which has been providing Sydney startups with office space for several years. It was a base for several startups before the opening of the Navigate Startup House last year and now serves as the Docmaster base.

Big Data Congress Opens Monday

The fourth annual Big Data Congress opens in Saint John on Monday, once again bringing some of the world’s leading thinkers on technology to the region.

The tech consultancy T4G began the conference in Saint John in the winter of 2013, and last year the event was held in Halifax. It returns to Saint John next week, where it is likely to draw hundreds of participants.

The program will delve into data analytics and the Internet of Things, or IoT, especially as they relate to specific industries. There will be panel discussions on how these technological developments affect such economic and social segments as healthcare, resources and the ocean industries.

One keynote speaker this year will be Sandy Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program. Forbes has called Pentland, who will speak Monday afternoon, one of the seven most powerful data thinkers in the world.

“During his keynote discussion at BDC2016, Dr. Pentland will discuss a critical question to regional development in Atlantic Canada: How can we create organizations and governments that are cooperative, productive, and creative?” said the BDC organizers in a statement. “Dr. Pentland’s work, which he dubs “social physics”, brings together computer science, sociology and psychology to better understand human behavior. He believes, ‘the most important thing about big data is the people.’”

On Tuesday, author Alec Ross will examine the trends that will shape the global and local economy in the next decade. He believes that by embracing big data, Atlantic Canada’s fishing, agriculture, and forestry industries can continue to evolve.

“I think that every business needs to have a data strategy,” Ross, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement. “I don’t care if you’re a carpenter who makes chairs by hand. You should still have a data strategy for how you identify the people to whom you’re going to sell those chairs.”

The other speakers include Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the U.S. Government and Executive Vice President of Industries at Salesforce; and Kate Darling, Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Taavi Kotka, Chief Information Officer of Estonia.

On Wednesday, the Big Data Congress will throw the doors open to hundreds of high school students, who will work with some of the convention’s thought leaders to learn about how technology can change their lives.

Tickets for the Big Data Congress are available here

5 Startups in Cleantech Accelerator

Five Nova Scotia clean technology companies have been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, the Nova Scotia innovation agency has announced

Innovacorp exeucutives, including CEO Stephen Duff, for several years has been discussing ways to bring the mentoring available to IT companies, to other parts of the innovation community. Duff has noted that Propel ICT has strong programming from IT companies across the region, but little exists for startups in other sectors.

Innovacorp has also recently announced an early-adopter program for oceans technology companies.

In addition to the financial support, program participants in August joined thenextphase, a three-day business acceleration workshop, at no cost.

The cohort will receive training and mentor support through an Atlantic affiliate of Ecofuel, a Montreal-based clean technology accelerator. Programming will include a mix of videoconferencing and face-to-face sessions.

Innovacorp said it received 23 applications for CTAP from companies across Nova Scotia. A second cohort will be selected in December for a January to March 2017 session, with the deadline for that cohort to be announced in the fall.

The following companies were selected for the cohort and will each receive $20,000 cash to help them prepare to launch the project and move closer to investment readiness:

AgSeed Technologies (Canada) Inc., Sandra Newbold, Trevor Newbold, Bible Hill – AgSeed Technologies develops agriculturally based biochemical and biomaterial products. The company offers proprietary bio-based composite materials for the furniture and green building markets. The technology to make these renewable, sustainable products will be distributed through a licensing model.

Charged Engineering Inc., Lukas Swan, Chris White, Halifax – Charged Engineering develops technologies for lead-acid battery manufacturers. The company is commercializing new methods for measuring and reporting on battery state during production. The innovations enable manufacturers to save money and increase efficiency while making higher quality batteries.

Dingbot Ltd., Jonathan Underwood, Halifax – Dingbot uses emerging and established technologies to simplify the collection and mining of data in aquatic environments. The company designs and builds small robotic vessels that ease the execution of on-water data collection missions. Powered by electric motors, these vessels are emissions-free and safe for protected environments.

NeoThermal Energy Storage Inc., Louis Desgrosseilliers, Moe Kabbara, Jill Johnson, Halifax – NeoThermal Energy Storage, or NeoTES, has developed patent-pending chemical heat storage cells, improving the form and function of electric storage room heaters. The technology will help homeowners, renters and businesses take advantage of time-of-day electricity rates, saving customers up to 50 percent on their heating bills.

XTidal Inc., Craig Chandler, Sue Molloy, Rob Crutcher, Steve De Belie, Bedford – XTidal develops small-scale in-stream energy solutions. The XTidal Instream Platform, or XIP, technology uses tidal or river currents to generate renewable electricity for small applications. The product is ideal for communities, remote locations, or facilities that want electrical utilities to supplement grid power supply. The technology will be brought to market through direct and channeled sales and a licensing model.

 

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Lockheed Martin Supports Jedi

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

Lockheed Martin Canada said today it will expand its partnership with the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or Jedi, a not-for-profit organization that fosters economic development for First Nations in New Brunswick.

JEDI launched a targeted strategy in 2014 to help Aboriginal people to pursue businesses and careers in the aerospace and defence industry. The organization developed a unique training and mentorship program – the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator program. This program aims to help participating entrepreneurs turn their ideas into businesses focused on exporting and creating intellectual property that is attractive to the aerospace and defence industry. 

After completing the program, Aboriginal entrepreneurs are better equipped to become part of the supply chain for shipbuilding and related defence sector opportunities.

Lockheed Martin Canada has partnered with JEDI since its inception in 2015. The company first reviewed the training and mentorship curriculum, providing constructive feedback to further scale the program and participated in the first training modules.

JEDI Nurtures First Nations Entrepreneurs

The pilot program supported eight participants with companies in mobile software development, security, machining, consulting, cleantech and health sciences. The 10-week program focused on helping the entrepreneurs succeed by introducing them to key skills and resources ranging from financial management to research and development. Following the program, participants have received interest from investors, universities and large aerospace and defence companies.

“Lockheed Martin Canada has a significant focus on strengthening our community of small Canadian businesses,” said Rosemary Chapdelaine, Vice-President and General Manager, Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems. 

“JEDI’s program has an essential role to play in positioning Aboriginal entrepreneurs for future opportunities in shipbuilding and defence. Our industry needs these talented people to develop their businesses because we are always looking for new partners to meet the increasing demands of our programs.”

Lockheed Martin Canada will continue its partnership with JEDI, increasing its sponsorship support for the new cohort of ten participants in the 2016-17 program. This effort is part of the company’s overarching strategy to engage and support small and medium Canadian businesses for programs like the Canadian Surface Combatant and initiatives like the IMPACT Centre.

"JEDI is pleased to partner once again with Lockheed Martin Canada on the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator," says Alex Dedam, President of the Joint Economic Development Initiative. "The JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator is an exciting endeavour that will have a tremendous impact on its graduates, the communities they live in and the aerospace and defence industry. The support of Lockheed Martin Canada will be instrumental in helping many Aboriginal people turn their business ideas into successful companies."

The second Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program will take place beginning in November at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. It will include weekly instruction, office hours with experts and successful entrepreneurs, networking events, presentations as well as business-to-business meetings with key industry stakeholders.

ProductCamp To Be Held Oct. 22

The third annual ProductCamp Atlantic, a gathering for product managers, marketing professionals, agile technology innovators, and thought leaders from across the region, will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Using the “unconference” model, participants will exchange ideas with some of the top thought leaders in product management as they explore issues in product management and work to improve the way companies conceive, develop, and market products. Lunch and snacks are included, and a draw for prizes will wrap things up.

“How companies manage the business of products is key to successful ventures but in many cases poorly understood and executed,” said Matt Herdon, Product Manager at Nautel, one of the sponsors. “We all get to share ideas on how best to understand and nail market needs, resulting in satisfied customers and profitable businesses.”

This year’s ProductCamp is anchored by two internationally acclaimed product management experts. Steve Johnson of Under10 Consulting kicks off the morning with a talk titled, “When the Product is You.” Johnson is one of the leading experts in product management for software-based products and services.

ProductCamp Atlantic will also welcome Rich Mironov, a Silicon Valley-based veteran of six tech startups. Since 2006, he’s provided full-time and interim product management consulting and mentoring to more than 75 large and small technology companies. He wrote “The Art of Product Management,” and kicks off the afternoon off with “Four Laws of Software Economics”.

The organizers are also pleased to have local business consultants, Productivity Solutions, provide our third anchor presentation, “The Agile Method”.

The unconference approach lets participants take an active role in co-created learning by presenting, discussing, and sharing their experience with experts, colleagues, and those interested in learning more about product management. Typical topics include:

-          pricing strategy

-          agile product development

-          how to achieve better customer understanding

-          feature prioritization

-          tools and techniques

-          go-to-market approaches

The day will provide time to highlight product-related career openings, creating ample opportunity for job seekers and hiring companies to meet.

You can register here

What’s Next for Karma Gaming?

Paul LeBlanc, Co-Founder of Karma Gaming

Paul LeBlanc, Co-Founder of Karma Gaming

Karma Gaming has sold its portfolio of lottery and instant games to Scientific Games Corp. of Las Vegas for an undisclosed price.

Scientific Games, which is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, announced the deal last week, saying it had taken on the portfolio of games and several employees of the Halifax company.

The buyer has established a development team in Halifax and is continuing to grow its operations in the city. But Scientific did not take on all of Karma, meaning the founding team could theoretically carry on with another enterprise.

“By providing consumer analytics, creative interactive games and promotions, loyalty programs, mobile apps and secure technology for the sale of eInstants and other games online, Scientific Games remains committed to helping lotteries continue to evolve,” Jim Kennedy, Scientific Games’ executive vice-president and group chief executive of lottery, said in a statement after the sale.

What’s unknown is what Karma founders Paul LeBlanc and Jay Aird will do with the remainder of the company now that they have sold their core business.

LeBlanc and Aird have not made a public statement since the sale, and they declined to comment over the weekend.

Serial Entrepreneurs Back in the Saddle

The two founders set up Karma in 2012 to develop online games that they could license to regulated lotteries. The thinking was that these lotteries’ customers are getting old and the lotteries would benefit if they had online games that younger people could play for money.

The company gained momentum and brought in $5 million in venture capital funding in 2013. Half of it came from Rho Canada Ventures, the Canadian arm of Rho Capital Partners, which has offices in Palo Alto, CA, New York and Montreal.

Innovacorp invested $1.5 million and Vanedge Capital of Vancouver added $1 million. The company also raised some angel financing.

With that money, the Karma team produced games for a few lotteries and companies around the world, and its clients included Loto Quebec, The Georgia Lottery, IGT Global Solutions of London, and Intralot of Greece. Karma also had worked in partnership with Scientific Games for several years.

Yet it was known that selling to government-owned lottery corporations was proving a challenge. As with all enterprise tech sales, the Karma software had to be integrated with that of the clients, and there was the challenge of selling to public sector bodies. What’s more, introducing an innovative gambling product could require legislative changes.

Though the price that Karma received for its game portfolio has not been released, there’s no indication that it was a huge windfall. Scientific Games’ market capitalization (the total value of its stock) is US$1.1 billion, and it had US$101 million in cash on its balance sheet as of June 30. But if it had paid handsomely for the portfolio, regulators would have likely forced it to release the amount. Karma and its investors would also have been more eager to discuss the gains publicly.

It’s doubtful the Karma team burned through the more than $5 million in three years, and they must have received some compensation for the games portfolio. So there is probably capital left in the company, and there is a team of ambitious entrepreneurs at the helm.

LeBlanc is the founder of the marketing agency Extreme Group, and recently started the ethical clothing line Human Preservation Co. Aird is a talented developer, creative and efficient.

He and a colleague produced the company’s Dystillr business, which analyzes casual games data, in a single weekend; the development cost was less than $20 — the cost of their pizzas that weekend.

Innovacorp’s Oceans Adopter Program

Six Nova Scotia ocean technology companies have been selected to participate in Innovacorp’s Early Adopter Program, the provincial innovation agency said.

Each of the companies in the program will receive as much as $20,000 to help finance the first deployment and testing of a product with an early adopter customer.

The program participants’ customers include government entities, academic institutions, and private companies around the world, and they have agreed to provide test data and feedback.

The program funds can be used to build the product and operate it during testing, as well as for company travel and other costs related to product deployment.

The companies are:

Xeos Technologies Inc., Derek Inglis, Dartmouth – Xeos Technologies is developing a navigation device for ocean robotic vehicles that combines an on-board GPS for surface navigation with a strobe flasher to aid in deep water recovery. With a depth rating of 7,500 metres, the technology is suitable for all ocean robots and reduces costs by mitigating the need for two devices.

Turbulent Research Inc., Chris Loadman, Halifax – Turbulent Research is developing a miniature pipeline inspection gauge tracking tool using a combination of acoustic and magnetic technologies. The company is also developing a small, underwater, broadband acoustic sensor for monitoring sounds emitted by offshore construction. These products make offshore operations faster, easier and less expensive.

Swell Advantage Ltd., Iaian Archibald, Craig Sheppard, Halifax – Swell Advantage is developing a parking management platform for temporary mooring and docking at boat clubs, marinas and government wharves. The technology helps boaters discover new places to tie up, handles payment processing, offers parking guidance, provides check-in and check-out services, and delivers real-time updates to dock managers.

Blue C Designs Inc., Stephen Smyth, Halifax – Blue C Designs is developing a battery-powered underwater camera system with an LED lamp and a compact, portable electric winch to support the camera and other Blue C Designs products. Replacing large, power-intensive and piecemeal systems, the company’s technologies offer streamlined, easy-to-use solutions for commercial fishing companies, survey companies and research institutes, and are ideally suited for use on vessels of opportunity.

4Deep inwater imaging, Stephen Jones, Halifax – 4Deep inwater imaging is developing an underwater fluorescence microscope that will be capable of detecting harmful algae species at low concentrations. The company’s complementary software provides automatic detection, analysis and notification of in-water objects. Suitable for numerous industries, the technology will be able to provide a fingerprint of fluorescence signals by combining image-based analysis with fluorescence detection.

Maritime bioLoggers Inc., Franziska Broell, Andre Bezanson, Halifax – Maritime bioLoggers is developing a low-cost, customizable, multi-channel movement sensor tag for marine and terrestrial animals. The technology significantly improves data quality, enabling scientists, resource managers and aquaculture specialists to better monitor and record the motion of marine wildlife.

 

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor

Athletigen Releases Flagship Product

Athletigen Technologies, a Halifax company dedicated to genetics for athletes, on Monday released its flagship product Iris.

Iris produces human performance insights developed from partnerships with world-class athletes and performance experts. The first of its kind, Iris is a suite of apps that analyzes the athlete’s genetic information. The athletes key in daily monitoring data allowing them and their coaches insights into their personal performance that can result in optimum training regimes.

After analyzing an athlete’s DNA through a saliva sample, Athletigen reports on genetic markers related to nutrition, recovery and injury protection that can affect training adaptation and performance.

“Genetics is one very important piece of the human performance puzzle,” Jeremy Koenig, Founder and CEO of Athletigen, said in a statement. “We built Iris to empower athletes to understand how their performance training can be augmented through an understanding of their genetic foundation especially when considered in combination with variables that coaches have considered for more than half a century.”

Consisting of the Iris Athlete app and the Iris Coach app, the software suite was built working closely with Olympic athletes and coaches at the ALTIS training center in Phoenix, leading up to the Rio 2016 games. Starting this fall, ALTIS athletes and coaches will use Iris as Athletigen’s official partner and pioneer of human performance research.

“Athletigen have taken the hard science behind genetics and its role in athletic performance, meticulously sifted through the noise and wealth of research available to create a product that gives coaches and other practitioners accurate and valuable information about the individuals they work with,” said Mike Boykin, Program Manager and Sprints Coach at ALTIS. “Athletigen uniquely understands that their insight does not replace the information already available, but instead serves to paint a broader picture of each athlete’s gifts and opportunities.

In January, Athletigen said it raised more than $2 million in a round of funding led by Exponential Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based venture capital fund that specializes in health and human performance innovations. 

The company also said last week it has appointed John Pereira to its Board of Directors. Pereira previously led all Product, Marketing and Operational activities as the VP of AncestryDNA. He was ultimately responsible for taking the latest scientific advancements in human genomics and combining them with the world’s largest resource in family history to provide a new and simple online resource for discovering your past.

Wise: Best Time Ever for Startups

Sean Wise: 'They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography.'

Sean Wise: 'They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography.'

A familiar face on the East Coast startup circuit, Sean Wise had a limited time to answer a range of questions at Invest Atlantic and summed them up in a simple sentence: it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.

Wise is a professor of entrepreneurship and venture capital at Ryerson University, and served as a consultant to Dragons’ Den when the CBC program was getting off the ground. And he’s appeared frequently at events in Atlantic Canada – including the Propel ICT Demo Day in September 2015.

And he was one of the speakers at Invest Atlantic last Wednesday and Thursday in Moncton, where he was asked to answer five questions for entrepreneurs. They ranged from “Do I really need to raise money, and if so when and from where?” to “What can founders do today, to increase the probability of their success tomorrow?”

In answering these questions, Wise kept returning to his central theme that entrepreneurship in the last 20 years has called for less and less capital and greater and greater access to markets.

“The most import thing to realize is that now is the best time to be an entrepreneur,” said Wise in an interview last week. “When I started in entrepreneurship in the 1990s, you needed $1 million to get your startup out the door.  Over the decades that followed, I have seen the cost to test your concept drop to about $5,000.

“You rarely need outside investors. You just have to go prove your startups to customers.”

Cape Breton Startups On Display

Using lean methodology and surveying potential customers, Wise said it is now possible to test a product “before you write a single line of code.” He added that if there are 100 steps in launching a digital business, hiring a programmer doesn’t have to happen until about steps 50 through 60.

Wise also said that modern consumers are willing to pay for a good idea before it’s even produced, as is shown by the regular success that new products frequently have on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

A driving force behind Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, or DMZ, Wise said he’s made about five to 10 trips to Atlantic Canada in the last few years and has noticed the progress being made in the region.

“I see a lot of things happening here,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of diversification. Ten or 15 years ago, there were not a lot of tech founders. They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography. You can have the high quality of life that you enjoy here in the Maritimes and still have a global company.”

Bob Williamson, the founder of Invest Atlantic, applauded Wise’s speech before a packed room, and said the conference in Moncton was a great success. There were 275 registrants and every session was busy with lots of questions and answers.

 “Moncton proved to be a great host and we look forward to going back to New Brunswick,” he said in an email. “The Genesis Centre on behalf of St. John's has invited us to host Invest Atlantic in 2017 in St. John's and we have accepted the offer based on doing due diligence with logistics.”

Job of the Week: Resson Growing

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Our Jobs of the Week column this week features an opportunity for a developer interested in working for one of the hottest tech companies in the region.

The Fredericton agriculture technology company Resson, which this year announced it had raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors, is looking for a Senior User Interface/Front End Developer.

Founded three years ago by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl, Resson has created software to assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

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

Fredericton

Resson

Senior User Interface/Front End Developer

The successful candidate will contribute to a rapidly expanding project that is bringing computer vision to agriculture, and will be responsible for all aspects of front-end development. That ranges from rapid prototyping through to implementation, testing and integration. As a Senior UI Developer, he or she will be working with product management and a team of engineers to design products with rich user experience. In addition to being familiar with cross-platform mobile and Web front-end development technologies, the candidate is expected to show a high degree of creativity. That means being able to balance independent initiative with cohesively working in a larger team. The new hire must help to create a unique and elegant interaction between users and Resson’s applications across all platforms.The company is looking for someone with five or more years of experience in a similar role.

Cape Breton Startups on Display

Cape Breton startups had to compete with Donald Trump, Jeff Hutcheson and Jim Balsillie at the Cape Breton Partnership’s Investor Summit on Thursday, but the young companies more than held their own.

The summit is the annual conference of the organization responsible for economic development on the island. The morning discussions highlighted Balsillie’s purchase and restoration of the Keltic Lodge (where the summit was held) and the international attention the island received as a potential refuge if Trump becomes president. And Hutcheson, the former Canada AM broadcaster, delivered a keynote highlighting his love of Cape Breton.

But in the afternoon, the startups took the stage and demonstrated the vibrancy and potential of high-growth technology companies on Cape Breton. I briefly outlined the metrics of the startup community, but the stars with the startup founders and the groups that are developing the ecosystem on the island.

“Investments in the startup ecosystem are investments in the future of our community,” said Ardelle Reynolds, the co-founder of the Navigate Startup House. “It’s about looking not just to the companies in front of us but the companies that will be formed later down the road.”

The island’s startup community, which is concentrated in Sydney, is a young group, most of the companies are three years old or young. Many are pre-revenue. The thing that always strikes me about the tech community in the Sydney area is the energy of the group, and how much their founders can do with a little capital.

The husband-and-wife team of Mark and Danielle Patterson (who we’ll profile more fully next week) showed how they helped to fund their product-based company Docmaster with little capital: they began a tech consultancy, Devantec, which made more than $100,000 in its first month, and used that capital to build up their business.

The innovative spirit in Cape Breton extends beyond effort to build new products. Like the Pattersons, the community on the island looks for new ways to get things done.

A case in point: Louisbourg Seafoods is a traditional seafood company, but its staff wanted to work with the tech community to find better ways of doing things. So held the Sea++ competition, which awarded a cash prize to an innovator that could improve its operations.

“A lot of people see out industry as old and not very innovative, but we do do innovative things,” executive Adam Mugridge told the conference. “We recognize that there’s a tech sector and it’s young and it’s growing. We wanted to work with the sector and see if we could improve things.”

Another example of innovative thinking is the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at Cape Breton University, which was originally established to help with the remediation of closed coal mines and the Sydney Tar Ponds. When those programs finished, it needed other things to work on. CEO Andrew Swanson said it has since provided consulting work for environmental projects with 80 organizations around the world, and employing 146 people at different times in the past six years.

One message that resonated through the discussion is that the growth of the startup community is a long-term strategy that will help with economic growth in the coming decades.

“It’s really about planting seeds,” said D. Darren MacDonald, the head of the Island Sandbox, a startup nurturing facility operated by CBU and the Nova Scotia Community College. “We know the average age of a startup founder is about 40, so we’re working with students and building for something that’s coming down the road.”

Cape Breton native Annette Verschuren, the former head of Home Depot in Canada and Asia, added that the young entrepreneurs would determine Cape Breton’s direction in coming years. “The future of this island does not depend on government policy. It depends on the strength and the will of the people here.”

Sullivan Balances Appili’s Risks

Kevin Sullivan: 'We are looking at new drug products.'

Kevin Sullivan: 'We are looking at new drug products.'

Pathogens’ growing antibiotic resistance is a global concern. Halifax drug discovery firm Appili Therapeutics Inc. is developing its own solutions, and scouring the world for potential drugs with which to grow the company.

CEO Kevin Sullivan said since Appili formed last year, its strategy has been to balance risk by acquiring drug candidates at different stages of development.

“Our strategy is based on the idea that one [late stage] drug can get to market quickly. It could produce a steady income stream that would help finance another drug, which could become a blockbuster,” he said.

“We are looking at new drug products…There’s not a part of the world we haven’t looked…We like to look in Canada, because Canada is underserved. We’ve looked at Europe and Asia with some success and a few Australian technologies.

“We’re in negotiations with a few companies. Within the next 12 months, we aim to have at least one new asset in the pipeline.”

The first drug that Appili hopes to get through clinical trials is ATI-1501, which removes the nasty taste from an existing drug, Metronidazole, that treats stomach infection Clostridium difficile.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted ATI-1501 orphan drug designation, giving Appili an accelerated regulatory path and protection against competition for seven years. The company expects to get the drug to market by 2018.

FDA Grants Soricimed Orphan Drug Status

The second drug, which the first will support, is ATI-1503, which could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and other antibiotic-resistant infections.

The company’s growth strategy helped Appili attract $3.2 million in equity financing in a recent round -- $1.8 million from individuals brought together by investment firm Bloom Burton & Co. and $500,000 from Innovacorp. An additional $1 million was provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and NRC Irap.

Appili intends to close another funding round this fall. Sullivan said the company hopes to stay in Halifax as it grows.

Staying in Halifax would suit Sullivan, who was born and raised in the city, but worked elsewhere for 20 years, including 10 years with London-based Viron Therapeutics, which was developing a cardiovascular drug.

A chance meeting led him to return to Halifax in 2013 to take the helm at DeNovaMed, a company working on a cure for antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Sullivan did not intend to work in biotech as a youngster.

“I did my BSc in Immunology at Dalhousie University then suffered the angst you go through when deciding what to do with your undergrad degree,” he said.

He joined the navy, and became a Victoria-based diver with responsibility for harbour defence.

“I had the time of my life. Then I read The Billion Dollar Molecule, about pharmaceutical startup Vertex. The book describes the process of drug development. It shows how tough it can be.

“Six months later, I was at McGill doing a graduate program in biotechnology. The book provided the realization that you can love the science, but you don’t have to be at a bench doing science. It sent me in the business direction.” (He has an MBA from University of Western Ontario.)

Appili has many competitors, but Sullivan feels their ATI-1503 drug has an advantage.

“Most of the innovation in the antibiotic space involve modifications to existing classes of drugs. That’s a neat strategy, but bugs can evolve ways to overcome the changes made,” he said. “Our approach is a completely new class of drug that offers broad spectrum protection…”

Appili, which started with Sullivan and toxicologist Jamie Doran, now has a staff of 13, some of whom have been recruited from elsewhere.

The company this week appointed Kimberly Stephens as Chief Financial Officer. Stephens was most recently CFO of Halifax-based drug discovery company Immunovaccine.

Sullivan said staff may number 15 to 20 within a few years. He is on the look out for potential

staff with connections to Nova Scotia.

“People who moved away like me and would love to come home.” 

Squiggle Park Joins Fierce Founders

Leah Skerry

Leah Skerry

As it launches the pilot of its first product, Halifax-based Squiggle Park has been accepted into the Fierce Founders Accelerator, a new program in Kitchener-Waterloo for female tech entrepreneurs.

The Halifax educational technology company, formerly known as EyeRead, is one of nine startups from across the country to be accepted into the new program at Communitech, the ever-expanding innovation hub in downtown Kitchener, Ont.

During the six-month program, Squiggle Park will launch its online reading games for pre-kindergarten to Grade 1 teachers to use in the classroom.

The company had hoped to sign up 500 teachers for the pilot and it has ended up with 580, with strong take-up in such American states as New York, Texas, and California. It plans a full launch of the product in the new years at a price of $249 per class per year.

Once a range of students uses the product, Squiggle Park hopes to build up a library of data on how children learn to read and use it to help educators.

“We have heard from teachers that the data from Squiggle Park can be an extremely strong support for them in the delivery of differentiated learning in classrooms where one-on-one time is at a premium,” Squiggle Park CEO Leah Skerry said in an interview from Kitchener this week.

A spinoff from the Halifax web-development company Norex, Squiggle Park was started by Skerry and her co-founder Julia Rivard Dexter with the goal of developing an eye-tracking solution to help children to read. Using an infrared light on a computer or tablet, the system would track the child’s eye as he or she reads so the system can identify what part of the text gives the child problems.

Skerry said the company still has the long-term goal of bringing out an eye-tracking system. But the team realized the challenges in that goal, many of them involving the hardware available to students. So to get a product on the market quickly, it chose to proceed with the simpler product to bring in revenues and build up data.

Brownie Points Targets Small Cities

Squiggle Park, which has raised about $500,000 in financing from investors including East Valley Ventures of Saint John, will have a product in the market by the time it completes the Fierce Founder Accelerator in February.

The new accelerator has grown out of a series of summer bootcamps for female startup founders hosted by Communitech the last three years. The whole Fierce Founder initiative has strengthened the ties between Atlantic Canada and Communitech as the East Coast participants have shone in the programs. There has been an Atlantic Canadian team in each of the three bootcamps, and Sarah Murphy, CEO of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert, won the $35,000 first prize at the 2015 bootcamp. Now Squiggle Park is continuing the relationship by going through the accelerator.

“The Fierce Founder Accelerator is, from what we know, the first of its kind in Canada,” said Communitech spokeswoman Samantha Clark. “The premise is to diversify startups in Waterloo Region, then in Ontario, and now across Canada because we have accepted teams from across the country.”

Clearpath Raises US$30M in VC

Kitchener-based Clearpath Robotics Inc. said  Wednesday it has raised US$30 million (C$39.5 million) in a follow-on round led by iNovia Capital of Montreal.

The funding is on top of a $14 million round it closed early in 2015.

The other investors in the latest round are Caterpillar Ventures, GE Ventures, Eclipse Ventures, RRE Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Founded in 2009, Kitchener, Clearpath makes self-driving vehicles that do jobs that are too tedious for humans, like fetching materials in a warehouse, or too dangerous for humans, like some mining jobs. It supplies these products to more than 500 customers around the world.

It plans to use the funds to grow its OTTO Motors division, which makes vehicles that transport material inside manufacturing and warehouse operations.

“Factories operate like small indoor cities, complete with roads, traffic, intersections and pedestrians,” said CEO and Co-Founder Matt Rendall in a statement. “Unlike city streets, a factory floor is a controlled environment, which makes it an ideal place to introduce self-driving vehicles at scale. Companies like Google, Tesla and Uber are still testing, whereas our self-driving vehicles are commercially available today.”

Companies including GE and John Deere have deployed OTTO’s material handling equipment in their facilities.

“The market for self-driving passenger vehicles will be over $80 billion by 2030,” Rendall said. “We believe the market for self-driving materials handling vehicles will be equally significant. Clearpath has a big head start, and this new funding will allow us to further accelerate the development of the best self-driving software in the industry – and bring more OTTOs into the world faster.”

The company said manufacturers need flexible and efficient automation more than ever due to rapidly changing market demands. The U.S. alone anticipates a shortage of more than 2 million skilled manufacturing workers over the next decade. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly demanding ethically sourced, domestically made products.

OTTO Motors’ self-driving indoor vehicles help fill the labor gap while providing manufacturers an affordable way to keep or return operations onshore. Clearpath is helping create a new industry and category of domestic jobs developing, servicing and working with their self-driving vehicles.

“Software-differentiated hardware will disrupt every major sector over the next decade,” said Karam Nijjar, Partner at iNovia Capital. “Self-driving vehicles are already revolutionizing transportation. Clearpath has built a world-class team, technology and customer base to accelerate that vision. Clearpath isn’t just building the factory of the future; they are laying the foundation for entirely new business models enabled by artificial intelligence, autonomy and automation.”

Startups Help To Retain Young People

About four years ago, a trio of game developers came together to form a Bedford-based gaming studio called Alpha Dog Games, and quietly began to grow.

The team started with three founders – two of whom, Jeff Cameron and Shawn Woods, are still with the company – and it took on staff as its production increased. In fact, Alpha Dog recently added its 17th employee.

“We have a few big games that we’re working on, including a title called MonstroCity that’s now being beta tested in the Philippines,” said CEO Cameron in an interview. “We’re planning on a worldwide release for it hopefully later this year. We have other high-level ideas in the pipeline, but all 17 people are working on that game.”

The fact that this one company has almost sextupled its staff in three years tells you something about the startup community in Atlantic Canada. Some of these tiny young companies are turning into mid-sized ventures, and they’re hiring in increasingly large numbers. And most of the people they’re hiring are young -- Cameron said his youngest staff member is about 20.

They are attracting and retaining young people. Alpha Dog is a prime example for another reason – it is a scaling company rather than a brand spanking new startup. The group of companies that call themselves “startups” include many outfits that are several years old.

And the ones that are really adding jobs are the ones that are scaling – they are growing beyond 10 employees because they have a product in the market or soon will. Fredericton-based Resson, for example, plans to double its staff to about 45 by early 2017.

The company that collects and analyzes agricultural data raised about $14 million in new capital this spring, but it also is rapidly growing revenues. The day after its funding announcement, Resson posted four jobs on the Entrevestor Job Board – for two developers, an optical engineer and an agronomist.

The posting for an agronomist is interesting because it shows that startups are hiring people from a diverse range of disciplines.

In Halifax, the data analytics company Affinio had nine people in November 2015. That increased to 38 by the spring and it plans to increase its staff to 60 by year end. CEO Tim Burke said its rapid expansion will likely continue in 2017 and is generated by strong revenue growth.

Another Halifax startup, sports medicine technology company Kinduct Technologies had 48 employees in May and expects to increase the number to 65 by the end of the year.

We’re seeing this pattern across the startup community of medium-sized companies adding employees at ferocious pace.

When Entrevestor surveyed startups this year, 152 companies provided us with employment data. Collectively, these companies employed 792.5 people in Atlantic Canada as of Dec. 31, 2015 – up 160.5 positions or 25 percent from a year earlier. What was really interesting is that three-quarters of the hiring came at companies with more than 10 employees. These companies added 120.5 full-time-equivalent positions, representing a growth rate of 36 percent.

This trend will likely continue as the number of innovative companies hitting the 10-plus staff levels is increasing each year. And many current mid-sized companies are growing into bona fide corporations. They are providing challenging, well-paid jobs to young people. These employees get to live the East Coast lifestyle and have the thrill of working for growing companies.

Alpha Dogs, for example, has already produced the game Wraithborne and has partnered with a German partner to put out MonstroCity. And Cameron notes the reason the company is based in the Halifax area is the quality of life in the region – for the founders as well as the hires. Woods, 38, was working in Vancouver before co-founding Alpha Dog and Cameron, 41, was in New York.

“We take quality of life seriously and we’ve been taking on people who feel the same way,” he said. “We came back here to make sure we were able to raise our families and really enjoy life.” 

Eyesover Exceeds 2016 Sales Target

Ali Ghorbani has been working on the idea for about a decade.

Ali Ghorbani has been working on the idea for about a decade.

As a former cabinet minister in New Brunswick, Craig Leonard knows how quickly and decisively public opinion develops on social media. It helps him as the CEO of Eyesover, a new Fredericton-based social media monitoring company.

Eyesover is the brainchild of Ali Ghorbani, the dean of the computer science faculty at University of New Brunswick. Over the last decade, he has developed software that can not only analyze sentiment on social media but detect the direction that the public discussion is heading.

To launch the company, he teamed up with Leonard, who had served as a Fredericton-area member of the legislature and minister of energy from 2010 to 2014.

Spending time in politics taught Leonard a lot about the value of what people say on social media.

“What it showed me was the online community is really where things take place these days,” Leonard said in a phone interview on Monday. “We often use the term that a Facebook group is the new church basement. It’s where the discussions really take place. What I recognized is that to not listen to that discussion, it really would undercut the policy you’re trying to put forward. And if there are problems forming, you obviously can take steps to mitigate those.”

Ghorbani — who is also a co-founder of the Fredericton cybersecurity company Sentrant Security — set out to create a social media monitoring system that could identify the trends the user was not even aware of. Leonard said there are lots of systems that can highlight public sentiments about a project or policy.

Eyesover analyzes the data on social media to detect how the public is interpreting an issue regardless of what the user is looking for.

“It looks at the data in the areas you’re not looking for and picks out the issues that are now being discussed related to your sector or industry,” said Leonard. “We capture the things that aren’t on your radar yet.”

The team, which includes Abtin Zohrabi as head of research and Jesse English as head of system development, financed the development of the system through an industrial research assistance program grant. On April 1 of this year, they began selling the product and found a strong appetite for the product among large corporations, municipalities and even political parties.

Leonard declined to state the number or names of the clients, but he said they include some of the largest companies in Canada, including some with international operations. He added that he has already met his sales targets for 2016 with an entire quarter left in the year.

Leonard plans to continue selling the product through one-on-one sales meetings, and the product development in the coming months will focus on enhancing ease of use. Users now need the assistance of the Eyesover team to set it up and use all the proper key words. Leonard said the near-term goal is to launch a version that allows users to do these things on their own, that that should improve the scalability of the product.

“The company has been funded so far by the founders themselves, but we are working on a share offering,” he said. “We’re going to keep the target low, about $250,000, but if the demand is there we would be willing to go as high as $500,000.”

Propel Growth Seeks Candidates

Propel ICT is looking for a few good startups – with the potential of becoming a few great companies.

The regional Atlantic Canadian accelerator is hoping to identify successful startups that would be candidates for the Propel Growth program. This new initiative is designed to help scaling tech companies grow into global corporations.

Propel would like high-growth Atlantic Canadian tech companies with more than $1 million in annual revenue to contact the organization sometime this month. It will then invite the qualifying companies to an information session in early November to outline the new program.

Led by the former Remsoft co-CEO Steve Palmer, Growth’s mission is to help companies increase customer acquisition and revenue while helping companies scale organically. 

“The program will emphasize the development of good business fundamentals through measurable and sustainable growth metrics, real customers, revenue and cash,” said Propel in a statement released today.

As well as having more than $1 million in annual revenue, the qualifying companies must meet the following criteria:

- They must be an Atlantic Canada based ICT company, either in the product or service category;

- They must have average annual revenue growth of 15 percent;

- They must have an existing business plan and demonstrated ability to execute on the plan;

- They must have an addressable market of at least $250 million;

- And they must be export-focused with more than 50 percent revenue from outside Canada;

Anyone interested in the program can contact Propel ICT at info@propelict.com.  

FDA Grants Soricimed Orphan Status

Soricimed Biopharma Inc., the Moncton-based biotech company developing peptide-based cancer treatments, has announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to its flagship compound for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. 

The FDA granted a similar designation earlier this year to the compound SOR-C13 for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

“Receiving orphan drug status in both ovarian and pancreatic cancer highlights the unmet medical need and the potential of SOR-C13 to address these devastating cancers,” said Soricimed President and CEO Paul Gunn in a statement. “We look forward to meeting with the FDA to discuss our development plans for SOR-C13 and to initiating additional clinical trials in 2017.”

Orphan drug status qualifies Soricimed for various development incentives, including tax credits and reduced filing fees for clinical trials undertaken in the U.S.  If approved for commercialization by the FDA, SOR-C13 may qualify for seven years of marketing exclusivity in the U.S.

In granting orphan drug status, the regulatory body reviews the rarity and severity of the medical condition, as well as the potential benefit of the product treating this condition.

Earlier this year, Soricimed reported it had received positive initial readings from the Phase 1 trials of SOR-C13, including indications that it can stabilize some cancer tumours.

Sor-C13 is a peptide, or a naturally occurring biological molecule, that clings to the calcium in a cancer cell and deprives it of oxygen, thereby killing the tumour. Soricimed hopes to establish that it is an effective means of treating cancer with minimal suffering for the patient.

Soricimed began when Mount Allison professor Jack Stewart – now the Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer – discovered interesting medical properties in the saliva of the northern short-tailed shrew. After further research, Stewart’s team isolated the key compound in the saliva and learned that among other things it could be used to treat cancer.

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of eight percent, said Soricimed. According to the Cancer research Institute, each year more than 337,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 330,000 people die from the disease.

At the recent American Association of Cancer Researchers annual meeting, Soricimed released positive results indicating safety, tolerability and potential activity in a Phase I trial of SOR-C13 in subjects with advanced solid tumour cancers. 

Subjects were enrolled at Juravinski Cancer Centre, London Health Sciences Centre and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Job Openings: SimpTek, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column this week features opportunities for a data scientist in Fredericton and sales executive in Halifax.

SimpTek Technologies, a Fredericton startup that helps utilities and homeowners better understand and predict their energy usage, has an opening for a data scientist. SimpTek has developed two dashboards: one for the residential consumer that shows in real time how much energy each appliance in their home is using; and one for the utility companies that allows them to assess their customers’ energy usage and communicate with customers.

Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

Dash Hudson also has an opening for a full-stack developer.

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

Fredericton

SimpTek Technologies

Data Scientist

SimpTek is looking for a team member to help make the SimpTek analytics platform a world-class product. This person will work with the data to discover potential insights that can be used to improve the SimpTek platform. He or she will then work with the SimpTek team to implement analytics into its cloud architecture and devise features that that can incorporate the data and its insights. SimpTek is looking for a person with a bachelor’s degree and one to three years of experience in a similar role. The successful candidate must be able to work in a dynamic environment, with lots of deadlines. Working for a startup is very different than working in a regular, large corporation job. Six months of working at a startup is the equivalent of about 4 years of experience working anywhere else.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Dash Hudson is looking for an account executive to work with its sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It wants someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.  The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.

McLaughlin Calls for Urbanization

Atlantic Canada should foster urbanization in order to build the kind of capital-attracting, wealth-creating culture the region needs, says New Brunswick-based academic and writer, Prof. John McLaughlin.

Exciting urban centres would be especially appealing to youth and new immigrants and would make it easier for people to share ideas and expertise, said McLaughlin, shortly after receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from Startup Canada.

Canada’s population is aging rapidly. About five million Canadians are aged over 65, and the situation is acute in Atlantic Canada.  In 2014, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, all recorded more deaths than births, according to Statistics Canada.

Atlantic Canada is also largely rural, leading to scattered communities. But McLaughlin, who recently chaired the panel on the Seniors Agenda for New Brunswick’s Alward Government, said these issues can be addressed and aging is not all negative.  

“The boomers are the wealthiest and most engaged group ever to go into retirement. They are healthier than many younger people. They have much to contribute and are a resource to be used,” he said.

“Yes, some want to stay home with their boots on, but there’s a big group in the middle that would love to be part of a new urban movement.”

Vibrant downtowns create opportunities to bring young and old together, he said, a blending that could strengthen the culture of entrepreneurship.

McLaughlin has acquired many roles and awards over his long career. He is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He has an academic background in engineering and institutional economics and is currently President Emeritus at the University of New Brunswick.

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He said Canada’s economy is going through a period of deep change, with a need to prioritize new sectors and technologies, many of which focus on the environment, social entrepreneurship and arts and design.

Twenty years ago, when the nation was pushing for improvements in productivity, Atlantic Canada was trying to figure out its place in the country, he said.

“Now, thanks to globalization and new technology, we have as much opportunity to re-imagine the future as the rest of the country. We are all struggling to find our place in the new narrative.”  

Atlantic Canadians should be encouraged to see developing countries creating their own narratives, said McLaughlin, who has co-founded two companies and held academic appointments at a dozen universities, including Hong Kong Polytechnic where he is currently an Honorary Professor.

Emerging economies often surprise by not following the paths taken by developed countries.

“Many middle income economies, like China, India, Turkey, and Brazil are doing things in new and different ways,” he said. “They are leapfrogging with technology. For instance, they may go straight to using cellphones and bypass landlines.

“With China, the old assumption was that issues about the environment would have to be parked, that they were a luxury for advanced economies that have reached a certain minimum GDP…But China is moving aggressively and quickly on green energy because they have to. They’re re re-imaging their future, not taking our path.”

McLaughlin said Japan has been wrestling with issues created by its own aging society.

“They’ve been struggling to reboot their economy. They have tried to keep older people in work and offered part-time work. But they have a rigid social and economic system. It might help if they were more flexible.”

Being more flexible in Atlantic Canada means boosting urbanization and fostering growth.

“Fredericton is growing, but not enough development is happening downtown,” McLaughlin said. “It often seems that New Brunswick is a province in transition. We seem to always be having the same conversations…We need to become more open to the world and new ideas.” 

Invest Atlantic To Focus on Fundraising

Invest Atlantic, the pan-Atlantic conference for startups and investors, will open Wednesday in Moncton with a range of speakers from around the region and other startup centres.

The 2016 event – the first held outside Halifax – has assembled a group of speakers with the goal of helping all founders to understand the entire funding process. That is, companies regardless of their stage of development, can learn how to plan to raise capital, how to raise it, and what should be done after the deal closes.

“IA2016’s focus is two-fold: one to provide startups with the opportunity to hear directly from investors what today’s investors are looking for in companies,” said Bob Williamson, the President of the Jameson Group, which stages the event. “And secondly, it will help prepare them for early-, mid- and late-stage challenges by hearing from and meeting entrepreneurs who have been in the trenches and on the peaks."

Invest Atlantic will he held Wednesday and Thursday at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. You can register here.

The conference begins Wednesday with a series of seminars and Pitchcamp, a pitching event that has three tiers of competition, depending on the companies’ stage of development. The day will include a talk by Philippe LeBlanc, Co-Founder and CEO of Flixel.com, about his entrepreneurial journey.

The main conference on Thursday will be chaired by Francis McGuire, the founder of Major Drilling Group International Inc.

The other speakers at the event include: Sean Wise, Startup Mentor of the Year 2014 and Canada’s Startup Laureate for 2016-17; Sanjay Singal, the Canadian partner of 500 Startups; and Steven Abrams, Partner in the IT Venture Fund of BDC Capital.

The luncheon keynote will feature a discussion moderated by Jeff Harriman, Capital Market Specialist at Financial and Consumer Services Commission, on raising the second round of financing. The panelists are Abrams; Jeff White, Cofounder and COO of East Valley Ventures; and Ray Fitzpatrick, Investment Manager at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Dozr Closes $2.5M Round, Eyes US

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

Dozr Inc., which has developed an online heavy equipment marketplace, has closed a $2.5 million equity financing round from FairVentures Inc., the innovation initiative of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. 

As part of the deal, Toronto-based Fairfax subsidiary Federated Insurance Company of Canada has developed an insurance coverage plan built into Kitchener-based Dozr so equipment owners will be protected when people rent their machinery.

Dozr is now the first company in the heavy equipment market to provide insurance as part of the platform. Other companies in the space require contractors to provide their own insurance, and often those policies don’t cover another party renting the equipment, which leaves owners at risk.

Dozr is an online peer-to-peer marketplace in which a contractor needing a certain piece of equipment can rent it from another contractor, who’s not using it at the time. The two parties agree on the price and Dozr gets a commission.

As well as providing the platform, Dozr helps the parties by providing contracts that nail down the length and terms of the rental, and taking care of the payment process. There is also a rating system so customers can see evaluations of people on both sides of the transaction.

Founded by the family team of brothers Tim and Kevin Forestell and Erin Stephenson (Kevin’s wife), Dozr has grown quickly since its founding in June 2015. It has gone through the Google for Entrepreneurs and Communitech Rev programs. Earlier this year, it won the Rev Centre Stage competition. And now has more than 2,200 customers across Canada, representing over $200 million worth of equipment. With the investment from FairVentures, Forestell plans to expand operations into the United States.

“Now we can give equipment owners comfort that they are protected if something goes wrong while someone is using their equipment,” said Kevin Forestell. “Until now, they just had to keep their fingers crossed because no one else offered insurance, and it was nearly impossible to get through a broker.”

Not only does Dozr create revenue for equipment owners, rates on the contractor-to-contractor platform tend to be about 40 percent less than retail rental rates and the variety of equipment is greater. Dozr offers both construction and agricultural equipment and is free to join.

“We are very pleased for FairVentures to partner with Kevin and the entire entrepreneurial Dozr team to deliver their innovative new service in Canada and globally,” said Paul Rivett, President of Fairfax. “Dozr is a great new Canadian innovator that is transforming the heavy machinery industry, with an outstanding equipment sharing platform developed by Kevin’s team.”

Dozr is based in the Communitech startup hub in Kitchener, Ontario. Dozr recently took home the top prize at the demo day for Communitech Rev, the accelerator’s program for product-ready startups focused on sales and marketing. 

Nurturing First Nations Startups

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

To truly appreciate the uniqueness of the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program, it’s a good idea to spend time with Cameron Paul.

Paul is the Economic Development Officer at the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, which fosters economic growth for First Nations communities. In the spring, JEDI hosted the 10-week accelerator to teach business fundamentals to a group of aboriginal founders. And Paul, a Maliseet originally from the Tobique First Nation, stresses that the program was a key ingredient in helping the entrepreneurs flesh out their ideas and develop roadmaps to get to market.

But all accelerators fulfill such a role. In this case, there is a cultural gap between the aboriginal and business communities, and the accelerator brought them together to work at launching businesses.

But there’s even more to it than that. Paul, who has been with JEDI for four years, explained that people living on reserves do not legally own their homes. That means that native entrepreneurs who need capital can’t draw on equity built up in their homes – an option that is open to Canadians who don’t live on reserves. These types of impediments, he said, make the work of JEDI and the Aboriginal Business Accelerator essential in developing First Nations’ entrepreneurs – these organizations understand dynamics that aren’t familiar to run-of-the-mill accelerators. 

“I think that it’s definitely a revolutionary program,” said Paul. “We’ve definitely taken a risk in taking on this program, but we have established that there is a need for a high-level program like this.”

The Aboriginal Business Accelerator is the first accelerator of its kind in the country, and the story of how it all came together in January of this year is rather surprising. It is actually part of JEDI’s New Brunswick Aboriginal Shipbuilding Engagement Strategy, which was launched in 2014.

Governed by the four Aboriginal Tribal Councils in New Brunswick, JEDI is a not-for-profit that supports Aboriginal participation in the economy. It works with all levels of government and the New Brunswick Business Council. A few years ago, JEDI decided that something should be done to help Aboriginal businesses to participate in the multi-billion-dollar federal shipbuilding program awarded to Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax in 2011.

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So JEDI came up with a program that worked with various partners to help indigenous business people to gain work from the shipbuilding contracts. It mentored participants, for example, on how to gain the needed certification and respond to a request for proposals. But something was still missing. The group was generating some interesting ideas for innovative products, so the organizers decided they needed a vehicle to teach business fundamentals and product development. They launched the tech accelerator with the goal of teaching entrepreneurship for the defense and aerospace sector.

The surprising part comes when you meet some of the eight teams of entrepreneurs in the first cohort of the accelerator, which are not your typical defense and aerospace companies.

Consider Melissa Lunney, the founder of a startup called AppDiginous. As the name suggests, the company is developing apps. Specifically, Lunney is working on a cell phone app that would help disabled people to open doors. Many entries in public spaces have doors that open when someone pushes a button; but the location of the button often forces someone in a wheelchair to reverse or maneuver their wheelchair to get through the doors. AppDiginous is an app that automatically opens the door when someone approaches it with their cellphone.

Or consider Melvin Nash from Oromocto First Nation. Nash is the founder of WaterMoc One Power Corp, an Aboriginal-owned business that is developing a river turbine that can provide green energy. Nash has been working on the project for about eight years and has come up with a design for a device that floats on the water and produces an exponential gain in power the larger the turbine blade.

“We’re keeping it in line with the goal of preventing climate change, and it’s the most eco-friendly device there is because it doesn’t destroy any fish,” he said. “It is about as close to perfect as anything out there.”

WaterMoc One has been collaborating with the local researchers and post-secondary institutions to optimize its technology and create a prototype to demonstrate how its concept is a step ahead of any river turbine technology on the market today. The company will be concentrating on developing the technology so that it is scalable, green and economical.

JEDI Shipbuilding Strategy Manager Mark Taylor agreed these may not be typical “defense and aerospace” ventures. However, he said companies in the defense and aerospace field have a variety of needs. And the new government in Ottawa is demanding that there be a cleantech component to companies doing business with the federal government.

“If you talk to anyone in aerospace and defense these days, they’ll tell you that a huge area is technology with mobile platforms,” said Taylor. “And cleantech is heavily desired.”

Nash, Lunney and the other entrepreneurs entered the program with plans for what they wanted to do, but none was an experienced entrepreneur. Nash, for example, describes himself as an inventor who has a long career in putting his mechanical know-how to work solving such problems as how to clean commercial quantities of fiddleheads.

The eight teams met regularly at the National Research Council offices in Fredericton, going through a series of seminars.  Learnsphere, a New Brunswick-based training organization, facilitated the training and Dale Thibodeau of DJ Thibodeau and Associates was the lead instructor. The group also worked with community partners like the Pond-Deshpande Centre and business groups like Lockheed Martin Canada and the Saint John River Valley Tribal Council. Each entrepreneur was paired with a mentor with some experience in their business sector. Lunney, for instance, was paired with Trevor Bernard, an experienced programmer who has worked for three companies that have had successful exits.

Taylor said JEDI is now putting together a five-year plan, the amount of time needed to make sure the program evolves. It will include partnerships with other startup groups in the region like PropelICT, the regional accelerator. The next cohort is already being planned to take place in Planet Hatch, the entrepreneurship centre in Fredericton.

The entrepreneurs not only want to see their ventures succeed and generate profits. They also hope their success will put them in a position to give back to their communities. “We’re all trying to figure out ways to include First Nations in our businesses because they’re all in need of revenue,” said Nash. “And we can do it in ways that allow us to grow responsibly.”

Eventually, the JEDI organizers hope the program will include a fund to help provide seed financing for native startups. The long-term goal is to add the financing component on to the program that has helped entrepreneurs like Nash and Lunney to begin their entrepreneurial journeys.

“They offered this course to us and we learned so much,” said Lunney. “By the time it was over, I thought, I wish I could have taken it a long time ago.”

Natural Products Canada Staffs Up

Shelley King, second from right, with her staff.

Shelley King, second from right, with her staff.

Natural Products Canada, the Charlottetown-based organization that supports businesses that commercialize natural products, has fleshed out its staff and is ready to help build a vibrant, pan-Canadian ecosystem.

The organization announced this week that it has hired two new positions in Charlottetown, Karen Wight, Vice-President Investment and Finance, and Stephen Ball, Regional Director of NPC-Atlantic. That means NPC now has six full-time employees, including CEO Shelley King.

“There is a ton of scientific expertise and a growing interest in our natural product companies here in Atlantic Canada,” Russ Kerr, CEO of Nautilus Biosciences Canada and Chair of the PEI BioAlliance, said in a statement. “NPC’s evaluation, support and investment will make it faster and more efficient for companies like ours to turn that into valuable products.”

After years of work by the BioAlliance and others, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced in February that the federal government would contribute $14 million to NPC.

While the BioAlliance serves as the Atlantic Canadian hub for the centre, the partnership includes AgWest Bio in Saskatchewan, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization and the Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods in Quebec. The federal contribution will be matched by more than $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of more than $24 million over the next five years.

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King, who previously worked with Synapse (the tech transfer office at the University of P.E.I.) and Genome Atlantic, will eventually have staff of eight to work with companies that have products based on natural substances and need to bring them to market.

As the East Coast regional director, Ball will work closely with the BioAlliance to identify promising products, technologies, and companies for potential investment from across Atlantic Canada, said the statement. They will ensure these companies are linked to the national and international resources and partners they need.

Additional hires across the country include two regional directors: David Gauthier of NPC-West will work closely Ag-WestBio in Saskatoon; and Paul-Thomas Lacroix of NPC-Quebec will collaborate with Quebec’s regional node, the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, Université Laval. Sue Coueslan, Vice-President of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, has been hired in Charlottetown and other regional directors will be recruited in the near future, said the organization.

Key initiatives for the first year of operations include launching the NPC investment program and developing a database of the technologies, platforms, service providers, investors, and expertise essential to the successful commercialization of natural products.

“NPC is already creating connections and opportunities in the natural products sector in a way that’s great for Prince Edward Island and the rest of the country,” says Rory Francis, CEO of the PEI BioAlliance. “We look forward to continued collaboration that brings positive results for companies in the region.”

Serial Entrepreneurs Back in the Saddle

Gavin Uhma, right, formed Sidestory with Co-Founders Brian Jeffcock and Ben DeCoste

Gavin Uhma, right, formed Sidestory with Co-Founders Brian Jeffcock and Ben DeCoste

There was something interesting on display at DemoCamp Halifax on Thursday night: Four of the 10 presenters were serial entrepreneurs who are back in the arena with new ventures.

It’s a trend in the East Coast startup hub, and is especially pronounced in Halifax.

We’re seeing entrepreneurs who have put a notch in the win column with one venture, and a few years later get back at it with a completely new business.

This is more than just an interesting thing to mention. It’s an important development in the fastest-growing segment of the region’s economy.

Experienced entrepreneurs have proven they can succeed, have learned some pitfalls of entrepreneurship (no one knows all of them) and have international networks that can help them grow their companies.

They also have greater credibility than novices, which means they can often attract more capital, increasing their chances of success.

One of the speakers at DemoCamp, Sam Haffar, a principal at Real Ventures of Montreal, highlighted that when his investment board considers investments in companies, it places a high premium on having a team of founders who have previously succeeded.

“We look for that legendary team,” said Haffar. “Serial entrepreneurs take precedence over first-time entrepreneurs because they’ve been there and done that . . . They have the credibility to do what they say they’ll do.”

Harbr Brings Big Data to Construction

Two of the companies demonstrating new companies on Thursday night were founded by members of the team behind GoInstant, a Halifax startup that sold out to Salesforce.com in 2012 for more than $70 million.

Gavin Uhma is now the CEO of SideStory, a social network app that allows users to create a story with text, pictures and/or videos and share it with specific contacts. He said it offers more privacy and discretion than Facebook.

Another GoInstant veteran, Dave Kim, presented his new company, Harbr, which provides data analytics for big construction companies.

Alastair Jarvis, whose last startup was the game developer Orpheus Interactive, was also at DemoCamp to present his latest venture, WoodsCamp, which is an online broker for the timber industry. And David Howe, who formerly co-founded two startups, ToothbrushSubscriptions.com (now Boka.com) and Retailkit (now Tend.ag), appeared to present his new business, Cribcut.

The two GoInstant vets are worth noting because both are now resident in the Volta Startup house, which is home to a little hub of these serial entrepreneurs. Patrick Hankinson, who sold his previous company, Compilr, in 2014 for upward of $20 million, is also a tenant at Volta, where he’s working on his new company, Hello Focus.

The former CEO of GoInstant and founder of Volta, Jevon MacDonald, is also working away on a new venture, though he has yet to go public with it.

Away from Volta, Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson, who in 2010 won the I-3 Technology Startup Competition with Tether, are already gaining traction with their latest venture, Affinio, which went through the Microsoft Seattle Accelerator earlier this year.

Kim said working in Volta has been a great experience for these repeat entrepreneurs because they offer one another a range of experience and connections and can help each other.

“It’s been great working at Volta,” he said. “There is just so much support and encouragement among the whole group.”

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