Norex Rebrands as Code + Mortar

Norex, the Halifax web development company and innovation lab, is rebranding itself to become Code + Mortar, conveying a mission that goes way beyond web design.

Headquartered in a Victorian house on Gottingen Street, Code + Mortar aims to work with clients on innovation, helping them conceive new products, build them, and take them to market. One interesting quirk about the company is that it is actively targeting startups as clients, not just large-enterprise clients.

“Right now the portfolio is more than 60 per cent startups, but we do attract larger companies that are looking to innovate,” said managing partner Jenelle Sobey in an interview Thursday. “It’s companies that are looking to innovate or reach new markets by using technology.”

Norex got its start in 2010 and grew in the middle of the decade under the leadership of former Olympian Julia Rivard Dexter. One of Norex’s hallmarks was that it became an innovation lab, developing its own products as well as doing work for clients. One product grew into Squiggle Park, an educational technology company dedicated to teaching children to read. Two years ago, Rivard Dexter and her collaborator, Leah Skerry, became the full-time heads of what’s now Squiggle Park, and Sobey joined Norex as its new head.

Under her stewardship Norex has continued to grow, and the innovation side of the business has become more prevalent. Now called Code + Mortar, it has 18 people in Halifax and opened an office in Toronto, where three people work. An office in Boston is due to open in 2018. The recent growth has not been in staffing but in revenue, said Sobey. This profitable company that employs 21 people is now on track to increase revenue by more than 50 percent this year.

PEI's Tunedly To Pitch at Startupfest

Startups are a big growth area for Code + Mortar. That’s unusual because Rule No. 1 for building a consultancy is to go after organizations with money, which generally rules out startups. But Sobey said Code + Mortar can help young companies build their products less expensively than if they hired their own development team, then the consultancy can grow with the young company.

Code + Mortar’s sweet spot is social enterprises — or what Sobey calls “companies trying to solve the most complex social problems” — that need help with digital innovation. She cited two Toronto-based clients as examples.

One is Project Neutral, which assesses individuals’ energy consumption, helps them change their habits to reduce that consumption, and gathers data on a jurisdiction’s energy usage. It turned to Code + Mortar to build the online survey and interface that helps it to engage with individuals.

Another is Jaza Energy, which is providing solar energy for the world’s poorest communities. Code + Mortar is developing an online dashboard that can take the data produced by the energy generation hardware, and create a data visualization tool for Jaza clients.

Sobey said the company needed a new name and brand that suits its mission to help clients to innovate. Code + Mortar is a play on the terms brick and mortar and conveys the idea that businesses need to focus on both the digital and physical worlds to thrive.

Said Sobey: “We really believe that the future of business is going to be in digital businesses and that it’s more import to invest in digital spaces than in physical spaces.”

CarShare Atlantic Adds One-Way Trips

CarShare Atlantic announced Thursday that its clients in Halifax are getting an improved service with the addition of one-way car-sharing.

The company said in a statement that it would add the first group of 20 hybrid FLEX cars to its fleet in coming weeks. The new FLEX vehicles can be picked up and dropped off at any location within a set geographical area or in special parking locations downtown. Until now, cars have had to be returned to the spot where they were picked up.

CarShare Atlantic members will be able to locate FLEX cars on the smartphone app or on the website, block it for free for 30 minutes to give them time to reach the vehicle. Once they’ve used the car, they can leave it somewhere else, on street or in special parking depots in the operating zone.

“We are proud to offer the best of two worlds: a station-based car-sharing service, perfect for planned trips and FLEX Carsharing: ideal for spontaneous one-way trips around town,” said Pam Cooley, President of CarShare Atlantic.

The 6.3-square-kilometre “FLEX zone” takes up most of peninsular Halifax. Members will be able to travel in and out of the zone, as long the car is brought back and parked in the zone or at designated drop off parking locations downtown like at Scotia Square. The Flex zone includes the participating Waterfront Development parking lots.

Made with Local Enters Bulk Barn

All CarShare Atlantic members are automatically eligible to use this service. New members will be able to join the FLEX service without the need to pay for an annual or monthly membership (a one-time fee of $35 is payable at registration) and use FLEX cars at a price of 41 cents per minute or $12 an hour including 100 kilometres for free.

Halifax is joining the select club of cities worldwide that recognizes that the investment of station-based and one-way car-sharing contributes to them achieving their multi-modal mobility strategy and environmental goals.

CarShare Atlantic is a partner of Communauto, the network of car-sharing services in North America, which helped CarShare Atlantic to develop this project.

“We are proud to accompany CarShare Atlantic, first in the Maritimes, in the implementation of this new mobility service, said Communauto CEO Benoit Robert in a statement. “This service will make it even more compelling for residents to combine transit, active mobility, taxi and car-sharing for their mobility needs.”

PEI’s Tunedly To Pitch at Startupfest

Seven international startups will compete for the Best Onstage Pitch at Montreal’s Startup Festival next month, including an Atlantic Canadian entry that may be the most international startup you’ll ever find.

The company is Tunedly, which has developed an online music studio. And it is – deep breath – a Charlottetown-based music-tech company that was founded by a German man and French woman who were living in Ireland; they nurtured the company in the Canary Islands, took it to an accelerator in upstate New York and received financing from three jurisdictions, including Arkansas.

Founders Chris Erhardt (Germany) and Mylène Besançon (France) learned this week that Tunedly will present at the Best Onstage Pitch competition at the Startup Festival July 12 to 15 in Montreal. Erhardt said the selection is a sign the company is headed in the right direction.

“Not only does the opportunity give us tremendous visibility to potential users and business partners, but it also underlines the fact that we are building something that is desperately needed in the music industry, and people are excited about the solution we are building,” said Erhardt, who has a background in the music business.

Tunedly’s online solution lets musicians and singers record high quality music together regardless of where they are. No longer are musicians constrained by their location or the need to book expensive studio time. Using Tunedly, they can save time and money, avoid travel and still produce high-quality tracks.

Erhardt and Besançon conceived of the idea when they were living in Dublin. The Irish capital has a thriving music scene, but they found the city expensive, so they spent a lot of time in the Canary Islands as they developed the product. Then they found another problem: if they wanted to get funding for their startup, they would be best off in North America. So they hopped on a plane and flew to the western hemisphere in January, 2016.

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After CDL

Once they were in North America, they learned of Canada’s Startup Visa program, which allows foreigners with young companies to come to Canada and build their companies here. After talking to a few potential sponsors, they signed up with Launchpad PEI and settled in Charlottetown. (Last month, they were granted landed immigrant status for Canada.)

The founders gained a bit of traction with musicians, but they wanted to scale their company more quickly. So they applied to and were accepted into the StartFast Venture Accelerator in Syracuse, N.Y., which they attended last summer. It helped them make contacts with groups like the U.S. songwriters’ organization Ascap and the Songwriters Association of Canada. By the time it left the accelerator, Tunedly’s monthly revenues topped $10,000 and have never fallen below that level.

To continue scaling, the company sought to raise revenue. Tunedly received US$25,000 from StartFast on entering the program, and when it graduated the accelerator decided to top it up with an additional US$75,000 investment. The company gained investment from Island Capital Partners, the new $4 million investment fund established by private investors and the provincial government in P.E.I. And Erhardt, who used to live in northern Arkansas, also tapped an old contact Jeff Amerine from Fayetteville, who is familiar to Atlantic Canadians due to frequent visits to the region for MentorCamp and other events.

So far, the company has raised about US$200,000 and hopes to raise a further US$300,000 for its current funding round.

Erhardt said the strength of the company is its six-member team, with diversified skill sets, and that it is solving a timely problem.

“Everything in the music industry has changed in the past 20 years but the only thing that hasn’t changed is the way we record music,” he said. “We try to tackle this one problem where you can record live music from the comfort of your home. It can produce the same quality as if you were in a studio in Nashville, Tennessee.”

HomeEXCEPT Bags US Award

HomeEXCEPT, a Halifax company that uses thermal sensors to monitor frail elderly people, has won its category in an international competition for innovation for senior citizens.

Washington, D.C.-based AARP Inc. – formerly the American Association of Retired Persons – announced Wednesday that HomeEXCEPT had captured the US$10,000 first prize in Health and Safety Awareness category in its AARP Innovation Champion Awards. The American organization, which has 38 million members and represents the interests of people over 50, offered prizes in six categories.

HomeEXCEPT calls its product “Smart Sensors for EXCEPTional Peace of Mind”. It is a platform that allows family members to monitor loved ones by using thermal sensors used to track movement.

“The AARP Innovation Champion Awards was created to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of companies that are aligned with AARP’s core mission – to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Anne Marie Kilgallon, AARP’s Vice President of Enterprise Strategy and Innovation. “We received hundreds of submissions and the decision was not an easy one, but in the end our panel of judges agreed that HomeEXCEPT Inc. best exemplified this mission.”

Headed by businessman John Robertson, HomeEXCEPT set out help monitor seniors living in their own homes.

CogPro Develops Aids fro Dementia Sufferers

The solution is a series of sensors that are placed in each room in the house, and accompanying software that analyzes the senior’s movements and understands if something is amiss. It can tell if the individual is late getting out of bed, wandering at night, absent for a prolonged period, or has had a fall. It can distinguish between pets and humans, and it can tell if a stove is left on or a window’s left open. The longer the system runs, the more it understands the person it is monitoring and the more effective it is.

Robertson said in an interview Wednesday that winning competition more than anything tells the team that experts believe HomeEXCEPT is developing a product that will meet demand in the market.   

“The big thing for us is validation,” he said. “When we entered the contest, we went into it saying, Let’s get some industry experts to look over what we’re doing and see if we’re on the right track. And they came back and said hands down we are.”

He added that by winning the competition, HomeEXCEPT reps will be flown to Washington, D.C., to tour the AARP innovation lab and meet the organization’s Chief Innovation Officer.

HomeEXCEPT recently closed its first round of financing, raising a total of $365,000 in equity funding, comprising $260,000 in direct investment and $105,000 in convertible debt.  The company is now applying to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for a loan through the agency’s Business  Development Program and export credits from Export Development Canada.

Robertson said the company has completed tests of the first version of its product and is waiting to receive the sensors back from the manufacturers. He expects to be shipping the sensors in clients in Nova Scotia and the U.S in the next two to four weeks. 

Solace Lands $2.8M for Lab Expansion

Solace Power engineer Chris Newport makes adjustments on a UAV.

Solace Power engineer Chris Newport makes adjustments on a UAV.

Solace Power has received $2.8 million in government financing to expand its lab into one of the leading facilities of its kind in the country.

The company now has 30 employees (20 of them engineers) and will soon expand to 35, and it has outgrown its current office and lab in Mount Pearl, NL. It is now developing a larger $4.2 million lab to continue its research and development in wireless technologies.

The wireless energy company has received a $2.55 million conditional loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, and $245,000 from the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s Research & Development Corp.

Based in Mount Pearl, NL, Solace Power specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. It works on projects for specific customers and then licenses the technology to them. The company will be one of the companies presenting at the Atlantic Venture Forum next week.

“We are excited to accelerate the research and development of our wireless power technology, which has the potential to transform multiple industries with real-world applications,” said Solace CEO Kris McNeil in a statement. “This advanced testing facility will be one of very few of its kind in Canada and will enable us to accelerate and advance the testing of our innovative wireless technology."

Solace recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and it’s starting its second decade with some big announcements.

Lockheed, MTI Sign $5.6M Solar Deal

Last month, the company landed a US$2.3 million research contract from Lockheed Martin, secured through the federal government’s Industrial and Technological Benefits program. And now it has received funding for its new lab.

In an interview, McNeil said the company is developing an additional 3,000 square feet of lab space to accommodate its growth. This space has to be fitted with electro-static discharge flooring, which means special flooring that won’t interfere with the wireless charging process.

This project involves research and development to advance the company’s wireless charging capabilities of small electric unmanned aerial vehicles. The technology will be used for demonstration in a pilot project such as pipeline inspection with a commercial partner.  As a clean-tech initiative, it will reduce emissions by replacing other fuel-based monitoring technologies.

McNeil said Solace has been working with about 20 customers to develop special projects for them, and has signed four contracts with Boeing alone.

Solace is now moving into negotiations on using the Newfoundland company’s technology in specific products, which the customer will then sell to the broader market. McNeil expects to have the first of these contracts signed this summer, and that the first product using Solace’s recharging technology will be on the market in 2018.

The federal government also announced that Fugro Geosurveys, a division of Fugro Canada Corp., would receive a $2.98 million conditional loan from the AIF. Fugro Geosurveys will implement new sensor technology in autonomous underwater vehicles to advance their commercial potential in areas such as subsea mapping, ocean environment and habitat monitoring, inspection and surveillance in harsh environments. 

All Eyes on Dal in Next 12-18 Months

To learn where R&D spending is rising or falling, visit our Facebook page.

To learn where R&D spending is rising or falling, visit our Facebook page.

As we look ahead to the second half of 2017, there is one institution in the startup community to keep an eye on in the next 6-12 months, as it has the potential to change the landscape. That institution is Dalhousie University.

The region’s startup community is maturing and includes more companies than ever. At its core is a group of scaling companies that are gaining more and more international clients. Its biggest members book tens of millions in annual revenues.

The question now is how to keep it growing. That doesn’t just mean creating more companies. It means creating companies whose products can truly disrupt markets, and that often requires deep scientific research. It also means we need to create the ecosystem needed to nurture these scaling companies.

What happens at Dal in the next year or so will have more impact than anything else on developing that ecosystem. That’s so because (a) Dal is the region’s leading research institution, (b) the next stage of startup growth will need a greater emphasis on commercializing scientific research, and (c) Dal is at a crossroads with its innovation program.

Entrevestor’s research in 2014 and 2015 showed that startups affiliated with universities gain revenue at twice the pace of the overall startup population — a stat that highlights the importance of university research in developing products that disrupt markets. (Disclaimer: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor.)

More R&D is conducted at Dal than any other Atlantic Canadian university. According to Research Infosource, Dalhousie was the No. 16 research university in Canada in 2016, accounting for $141.9 million in R&D. (Memorial University of Newfoundland was No. 19 with $102.4 million and the University of New Brunswick No. 27 with $41 million.)

Launch Dal Member ADDtext Aims To Help Troubled Youth

With that wealth of scientific research, Dal is facing a few opportunities to up its game in innovation. The university is a partner in the Creative Destruction Lab’s new CDL-Atlantic node in Halifax. That program has been announced and will tie the university into a network of the country’s best mentors.

Meanwhile, there’s also an effort to make Dalhousie the first Canadian node of Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s program for commercializing scientific research. I-Corps specializes in teaching scientists how to commercialize their research, and in the past few years has worked with 1,500 of the leading scientists in the U.S.

So by the end of the year, our largest research institution could be affiliated with CDL and its network across Canada, as well as I-Corps and its links across the U.S. They could work with other startup groups in or around Dal, like Launch Dal, ShiftKey Labs and the IDEA Project. Through Springboard Atlantic, the group that co-ordinates the commercialization of Atlantic Canadian university research, other institutions in the region should also benefit from this advance. It could be an integrated ecosystem, bringing in new companies and helping maturing companies to grow.

There are still some hurdles to clear to make all this happen. Dalhousie needs to do a better job of spinning its research into companies — UNB, for example, has a more co-ordinated approach to developing research into companies. Dalhousie has been in the news recently because it is not renewing the contract of entrepreneurship professor Ed Leach. It has to get beyond the bad feelings created by that move.

And yet, Dalhousie has the opportunity to be the linchpin in something special — a layered ecosystem with scientific research and its core, and whose connections reach across the continent.

 

For the raw data from the chart above, including the percentage changes, please visit our Facebook page. Just click here

UNB Summer Institute Ramps Up

Now in its fourth year, the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship’s (TME) Summer Institute program at University of New Brunswick brings together young entrepreneurs for three months of turning their vision into a livelihood.

Now midway through the Fredericton-based program, this year’s participants include eight businesses and 10 participants. Program manager Melissa Erin O’Rourke says 113 businesses from 14 different countries applied for the program this year, the most applications they’ve ever had.

“One of the reasons I think this group is so unique is that there is such a mix of folks participating,” O’Rourke says. “Each entrepreneur has a very different background, passion and direction they want to take their business. It makes for an exciting and incredibly creative environment.”

O’Rourke says 60 per cent of their participants this year are female, an increase from the program’s track record of 40 per cent female participation, a number she says this is double the industry average for accelerators. . . . 

Read the Full Story on Huddle. 

Blue Spurs Wins AWS Competition

Fredericton-based Blue Spurs announced last week it was a winner in the 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge for its Blue Kit “Internet of Things starter kit”.

On Thursday at a ceremony in Washington D.C., Amazon Web Services recognized 19 organizations from around the world for its City on a Cloud competition. The event aims to recognize how local and regional governments are innovating on behalf of citizens around the globe using the AWS Cloud.

There were three categories– Best Practices, Dream Big, and Partners in Innovation – and Blue Spurs  was one of five winners in the Partners in Innovation Category.

Blue Spurs, a cloud computing consultancy that employs almost 100 people, entered Blue Kit in the competition, which it developed in collaboration with CyberNB and the New Brunswick government. Blue Kit is a low-code IoT educational starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand the fundamentals of IoT.

Using technology that complex IoT systems are built on today, including arduino boards, sensors, AWS IoT and Noodl, students build IoT projects to learn the fundamentals in an interactive, fun environment. Each project builds on the previous one, providing increasing challenges that are aligned with school curriculum objectives.

Students can create projects to control an LED light with voice commands through Amazon Lex voice services, for example. These are the same technologies powering state of the art IoT applications in many industries today. The Blue Kit made them easily accessible in a classroom lab environment by all students.

“The Partners in Innovation award recognizes a technology partner that has deployed an innovative solution to solve a government or teaching and learning challenge,” said a post on the Blue Spurs website last week by CEO Mike LeBlanc. “Given the fact that this year's challenge saw a record number of applications from over 15 countries, we are truly honoured to be among the selected winners.”

Propel ICT Unveils Demo Day Pitchers

For the first time ever, Propel ICT’s Demo Day in Halifax next week will feature companies from its three levels of accelerator – its Launch, Build and Growth Cohorts.

The regional accelerator on Friday announced the companies that will present at Demo Day, which will take place June 26 at the Marriott Harbourfront. Tickets for the event are available here.

Six companies from the Launch program, which took place this spring in Fredericton, Halifax and Sydney, will pitch at the event, as will all five companies that went through the more advanced Build program.

Following the pitches, Stephen Palmer, former Co-CEO of Remsoft, will lead a fireside chat with two companies from Propel’s first Growth Cohort – Eosense and Alongside.

The pitching companies are:

Launch Program

ADDText, Halifax - ADDtext provides 24/7 Text-Based Learning Strategies with Peer Coaches.

BidSquid, Sydney - BidSquid is an online marketplace for rural agricultural products where buyers and sellers post bids and offers organized by price.

Click2Order, Sydney - Click2Order saves restaurants money by providing with their own branded online ordering system.

GradsFinder, Moncton - Gradsfinder connects students and recent grads with employers.

Hit the Road App, Fredericton - Hit the Road App enables companies, governments, and municipalities to manage their infrastructures.

Side.Door, Halifax, NS - Side Door connects artists, hosts and audiences to make concert venues right in your living room.

Build Program:

Conceptualiz, Halifax - Conceptualiz provides doctors with easy-to-use, rapid, and accurate automated medical 3D printing software at a fraction of the cost.

Enkidu, Moncton - Enkidu allows organizations to continuously manage their Emotional and Diversity Intelligence™. The output is a healthy, engaged and innovative culture that positively impacts your bottom line.

Mimir Networks, Sydney - Mimir delivers highly complex network security solutions with a single click simple interface.

SnapAP, Moncton - SnapAP Accounts Payable Automation Software allows your organization to become electronic and paperless in your Purchase Order and Accounts Payable processes.

Swell Advantage, Halifax - Realtime docking and mooring for boaters. Swell Advantage provides deep analytics and automated operations tools for marinas that increase revenue, decrease operation costs and provide better customer service.

Jobs: Swept Seeks Quality Engineer

Swept, a Halifax company gaining attention across the continent, headlines our Job of the Week column with an opening for a Software Quality Engineer.

Founded by CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper, Swept has developed software that helps cleaning companies perform their duties with greater efficiency. The company realizes that janitors often work at night, and some tasks are difficult to explain. That means there are challenges getting messages between clients and the cleaners. So it provides a mobile solution that improves communication between cleaning companies, their cleaners, and their clients.

The company is now going through the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley.

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.

Halifax

Swept

Software Quality Engineer

Swept is looking for a talented Software Quality Engineer to implement and refine its quality assurance program to ensure optimum performance of the company’s mobile and web software. The company is looking for someone with a passion for learning and developing new skills, while working closely with production and client teams throughout the product life cycle. The successful client will work on defining acceptance criteria and refining the business rules that are used in the application. He or she will collaborate with development and design teams to plan and execute testing across a variety of world-class applications. The position requires an aptitude for software testing and a passion for shipping quality products, and experience-testing scalable cloud applications and/or enterprise-grade web applications. Swept is looking for someone with one to three years of experience in a similar position. 

Made with Local Enters Bulk Barn

Sheena Russell: 'The Bulk Barn contract is a big one.'

Sheena Russell: 'The Bulk Barn contract is a big one.'

After five years in business, social enterprise Made with Local is celebrating a major milestone — getting its Loaded Oats products into Bulk Barn stores across the country.

The Dartmouth-based venture prioritizes using locally grown ingredients in its Real Food bars and Loaded Oats foods. It also works with social enterprises that employ socially disadvantaged people.

The company now works with four such groups around the region, and MwL products are available at many outlets, including Sobey’s stores.

“We’re building a company that is rooted in cultivating a strong community between suppliers, production kitchens, customers, and everyone in between,” said MwL co-founder Sheena Russell.

Russell started MwL with Kathy MacDonald in 2012. They both worked for the Halifax Regional Municipality at the time and shared a love of healthy food.

“We started MwL after realizing that healthy snacking options were either not delicious, not healthy and full of all kinds of weird stuff, or both,” Russell said.

To get MwL going, Russell borrowed a small sum from her then boyfriend, now her husband, Andrew Russell.

She and MacDonald started by making their bars in the kitchen of Dartmouth’s Banook Canoe Club, a favourite spot for Andrew, who is a former Olympic paddler.

Their Real Food Bars were launched at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market in June 2012.

Early clients and supporters included Pete’s Frootique (now Pete’s Fine Foods), Coburg Coffee House and Uncommon Grounds.

ADDtext To Aid Youth With Learning Challenges

By spring of 2014, both Russell and MacDonald had become moms and business was good. They needed to keep growing, so they outsourced production to social enterprise The Flowercart Group of New Minas.

“Flowercart is a supported workplace program for folks with barriers to mainstream employment. It feels amazing to see their organization grow alongside ours,” Russell said.

In 2016, MwL began working with a second social enterprise — the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre in Dartmouth, where Loaded Oats are now made.

MwL is currently planning to co-invest with Flowercart to expand that group’s kitchens so both companies can keep growing.

“This will increase demand for our locally sourced ingredients and provide valuable training for clients of Flowercart’s vocational programs,” Russell said.

When funding is secured, the expansion will allow the kitchen to quadruple capacity. MwL has also worked on different projects with the Prescott Group and Bonny Lea Farm.

Russell said she studied environmental science at Dalhousie University and never expected to work in the food business. She relates her food passion to the fact her dad is a baker and she grew up on a farm on Prince Edward Island.

Right now, the future is looking exciting and even a little scary, Russell said.

“The Bulk Barn contract is a big one. Our Loaded Oats product is going into 230 stores nationally.”

She said that later this year, MwL intends to break into the independent natural health scene in Ontario. MwL bars are already carried at Toronto city’s Billy Bishop Airport and various other outlets.

Russell said the company’s growth has been assisted by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which helped the company hire business coach Dorothy Spence and director of sales and operations Kristine Elliott-Grace.

“It’s great we’ve been able to make all these connections in what is always described as a ‘have-not province’” Russell said.

She said that building a business has been a valuable education.

“You learn everything . . . If you’re building your business from a place of integrity in a purposeful way, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Dickie, Gillis To Discuss Exits at AVF

The Atlantic Venture Forum this year will feature a panel discussion on the hard-won lessons from two of the most prominent exits of the last year – the sales of Halifax-based companies Goalline and STI Technologies Ltd.

The AVF is a two-day conference that links investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. It will take place June 27 and 28 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

The conference kicks off with an Entrepreneur Bootcamp on June 26 – just 10 days away – and the Propel ITC Demo Day on Monday evening.  

One panel session this year will be a discussion with Tim Gillis, the CEO of STI, and Gord Dickie, the Founder and CEO of Goalline, about their exits.

“Get the inside scoop as these two entrepreneurs break down their respective journeys as they exited their companies,” said a promotion from Critical Path Group, the organizer of AVF. “Listen in and learn how to avoid some key problems, adapt during expansion, and prosper through hyper-growth as they forge their path towards a successful exit.”

Read About the 12 Atlantic Companies Presenting at AVF

STI Technologies started out in 2002 to solve a problem for the pharmaceutical industry by simplifying the way pharma companies distribute samples of new products. Rather than shipping out small samples to doctors and have them hand them out to patients, the STI platform allows drug companies to send physicians smart cards they can hand out to patients, who take them to a pharmacy along with a prescription to receive the drug.

In February of this year, the company was taken over by QuintilesIMS, which has dual headquarters in Connecticut and North Carolina. The deal was reportedly worth more than $200 million.

Goalline, which provided websites to youth sports leagues, was bought in May 2016 by Blue Star Sports for an undisclosed price. At the time of the sale, the parties said they planned to develop an integrated technology platform for minor sports.

Founded in 2002, Goalline is a leading provider of web software and mobile applications for youth sport organizations. It has more than 10 million users and is best known for its easy-to-use web pages for sports leagues.

Discussions with entrepreneurs who have gone through exits can be fascinating stuff. The first Startup Empire conference in 2014 featured a tremendous panel with Jeff Thompson, founder of Fredericton-based UserEvents, and Daniel Debow, Senior VP at Salesforce and founder of several startups, who frankly described what it’s really like to be taken over.

 

Disclaimer: Critical Path is a client of Entrevestor. 

ADDtext Aims to Help Troubled Youth

When Chase Valiant graduated from Nova Scotia Community College on Tuesday, one of the people attending was Keith Gelhorn, who had been mentoring him for years.

Gelhorn is an entrepreneur and social worker whose company, ADDvocacy, helps young people with attention deficit disorder develop methods to cope with their affliction. He began working with Valiant several years ago and beams with pride when talking about the young man’s progress — both academic and personal.

“Keith was always my mentor,” said Valiant, 22, in an interview last week. “When I dropped out and stopped going to class, he just kept calling me and calling me, getting me to pay attention to him.”

Gelhorn and his ADDvocacy program help 16-39-year-olds like Valiant adopt the life skills they need to thrive. Now he’s adapting the program to a digital service called ADDtext that lets ADD sufferers and others text back and forth with “peer coaches” at any time to instill the same sorts of lessons.

The product is no longer just for people with ADD or ADHD but is designed to help any young person learn “executive function skills” like time management, emotional management or goal-setting.

He’s now testing ADDtext with dozens of users. Once the product is fully launched in the late summer, users will pay $15 a month and be linked up with a peer coach — someone who has lived through the same difficulties and can guide them. The user can text his or her peer coach at any time and receive the needed support.

Indigo Foundation Supports Squiggle Park

Gelhorn’s medium-term plan is to develop a higher-margin business-to-business product that could be delivered to institutions like colleges and universities.

He has designed the service to emphasize the positive in young people who have often gone off the rails because of their intellectual and emotional challenges. “The idea is to build people up and not judge them on the things they’ve done,” said Gelhorn, who knows these challenges because he coped with them for years.

“With my background, I had no support and I was all over the place,” said Gelhorn. “People would just focus on what I wasn’t doing. . . . I was a ticking time bomb.”

He went through tough years. It took him six years to complete a two-year program in social work, and he spent three years on employment insurance. In 2008, he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and he began to turn his life around.

Lately, Gelhorn himself has been receiving no shortage of mentorship on the business front: He has taken ADDtext through both the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University and Propel ICT’s Launch cohort in Halifax. And this summer he will go through Launch Dal’s summer program.

He presented the company at the Propel Demo Day earlier this month, and invited along Valiant, who has become a member of the ADDtext team. In fact, Gelhorn announced that from now on ADDtext will award a $500 scholarship to a different user each quarter. Valiant will receive the first scholarship to help cover his tuition costs when he attends Cape Breton University to study arts and communication in the fall. Eventually, he hopes to study law.

“I’m quite interested in law and the human rights aspect of it,” said Valiant. “I want to change things in the field of education, but first I have to learn how things work.”

CDL-Atlantic Applications Now Open

Applications are open for the Creative Destruction Lab’s 2017-18 cohort, including the new CDL-Atlantic node in Halifax.

The CDL, which was launched at the University of Toronto five years ago, recently announced that it was expanding across the country. It is now offering three simultaneous programs in Toronto, and offering two programs in Montreal and one each in Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax.

The CDL offers separate programs in the sphere of artificial intelligence and data science in Central Canada, and the Halifax program will have special strengths in oceans and clean technology.

The applications for all the CDL cohorts are available here, and the application form for the Halifax group can be found here. Applications close Sept. 30, and the programs begin in November.

There will be 25 spots available in Halifax, which will be held in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business. Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers, who will oversee the program, said the cohort will include companies from a range of sectors.

“CDL tends to do best when you have a mash up of companies – founders across verticals are peers, at an early stage they share a lot of the same challenges,” he said in an email. “We will lean toward oceans and environment/cleantech but we won't turn away companies that don't know where they fit as long as [we] can help them.”

The nine-month CDL program is not for the faint of heart as many participating companies are asked to leave before completing it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a core of graduates.

Rodgers, who was the founding director of the CDL program in Toronto, came to Halifax last year to oversee Volta Labs. Now he will also head a group of CDL mentors that will include Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley and serial entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald, as well as mentors in Toronto, Boston and New York.

In an article on Medium, Rodgers outlined his belief that CDL’s expansion can help to enhance the entire ecosystem in the region and be more than just a shot in the arm for individual companies.

“By bringing a program with a national profile (and a proven track record of high standards) to the Halifax ecosystem, I believe it will greatly accelerate the growth in opportunities for founders based in Atlantic Canada,” he wrote.

1700 Ironflow Customers Get PurelyHR

Jason Gendron: 'At the end of the day, it's going to save them time and money.'

Jason Gendron: 'At the end of the day, it's going to save them time and money.'

Ironflow Technologies Inc., a Dieppe, NB-based human resources software company, has launched its PurelyHR platform to expand the range of products it offers small and medium-sized businesses.

In 2010, Ironflow launched Time-Off Manager, a SaaS product that helps companies simplify the task of letting employees book time off. It is now being used by more than 1,700 companies in more than 65 countries.

Those 1,700 customers have now been upgraded to the PurelyHR platform, which gives them the option of subscribing to as many as four additional services, or modules. As well as the vacation-booking system, PurelyHR lets SMEs add modules so they can: maintain records on their staff;  monitor who’s in or out of the office in real-time; schedule and track working hours of employees; and issue warnings to staff members who have broken rules. A week or two after the official launch, about 100 of the existing clients have upgraded to add new modules.

“It’s definitely going to organize things a lot more within the [client’s] company and at the end of the day it’s going to save them time and money,” said Founder and CEO Jason Gendron in an interview. “Your managers now are spending a lot of time administering the employers to track vacations and do other things. By using a system like ours, it will help you administer your employees better.”

Masitek's Sales Double in Past Year

Gendron has a background in programming and seven years ago developed Time-Off Manager as a simple way to help SMEs arrange vacation time for their staff. He never raised capital for the project, but grew through revenues so it now has 12 employees.

Over the years, clients asked Gendron to add new features to the product so they could use it for other HR-related tasks, like time management or maintaining records. So about two years ago, the team began to work on new features.

That work is going to continue. The company plans to add about three or four modules a year until PurelyHR has 14 or 15 modules, providing a full suite of human resources products from small businesses.

The Moncton-area company last year went through Propel ICT’s Build accelerator, which helps more advanced startups. This year, it joined the first cohort of Propel’s Growth program, the new service being offered to established companies that are growing in international markets.  

Gendron admitted he faces a lot of competition, as there is a vast range of SaaS products that help companies manage their staff. The key differentiator for Ironflow is that customers can pick and choose only the modules they need. That means they can save money because they don’t need to subscribe to a full portfolio of services, many of which they don’t use.

“We believe we are offering much more than HR software,” said Marketing Coordinator Rejean Martin. “We are giving our customers an opportunity to operate more efficiently so they can focus on what truly matters most, their employees. Essentially, we are the first step towards creating a beautiful and successful team.”

Over 50 Free Trips to Startupfest

Anyone out there want to take in the Startup Festival in Montreal next month – FOR FREE?

If so, you should apply for one of the spots on the East Coast Caravan, a road trip to Startupfest organized by the Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network, the Pond-Deshpande Centre and other organizations.

They are choosing more than 50 entrepreneurs from across the region to join the bus trip to Startupfest. The successful applicants will receive transportation to and from the event, a Startupfest ticket and lodging in Montreal.

All you have to do is click here, and tell the organizers why you deserve one of the spots. Applications, which are open to entrepreneurs across Atlantic Canada, close Monday.  

“The East Coast Caravan aims to be a professionally enriching opportunity that not only includes passes to the festival, but also encourages organic connections across sectors and our Atlantic provinces via a co-travelling and co-lodging experience,​" said Tahlia Ferlatte, Events Committee Chair for Taskforce Fredericton, which is part of Ignite Fredericton.

Startupfest is a global three-day gathering of the world's leading entrepreneurs, mentors, founders and venture capitalists, all in one city. Running from Jul 12 to 15, the event includes a Tent City filled with demo spaces and events, and a host of world-renowned keynote speakers.

As well as an opportunity to apply for the free spaces, the East Coast Caravan organizers are also offering several levels of sponsorship. Sponsors receive tickets to the Caravan package, which that can use themselves or give to someone else.

“The Pond-Deshpande Centre is a strong supporter of networking and shared learning experiences for aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs and students,” said Heather Boyd-Kinnie of Pond-Deshpande Centre. “Travelling together to an event such as Startupfest, where delegates have an opportunity to share best practices, meet investors, be inspired and build new relationships with others from around the globe and with each other, enriches those who attend, as well as our province.”

CogPro’s Aids for Dementia Sufferers

Peter Zimmer: 'Smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house'

Peter Zimmer: 'Smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house'

In a world awash with products to help the caregivers of people with dementia, Peter Zimmer set out to actually improve the quality of life for people with severe memory problems.

As a result, the serial entrepreneur has founded CogPro Cognitive Prosthetics, a Halifax company dedicated building intelligent products that intuitively improve the lives of dementia sufferers. The company’s first product is the Jeeves Thermostat, which helps the user set a comfortable temperature in his or her home and keep it at a comfortable level. CogPro now has a demonstration prototype of the product, and plans to bring it to market once it completes its current funding round.

“I got into this because I was taking care of my mother,” said Zimmer in an interview. “She was living in our downstairs flat and I observed her with the things she’s used all her life. . . . Could she keep on listening to the music she loved? Could she keep on phoning friends? Solving those problems for people with dementia takes a real load off the caregivers.”

One thing Zimmer noticed was that his mother was constantly fiddling with the thermostat. Feeling cold, she would set it higher. Minutes later she would feel cold again and, forgetting she had just adjusted it, she’d set it higher again. This would continue until the room would soon be too hot, and then she’d turn it way down. In the winter, that could lead to health dangers because the room would be too cold.

HomeEXCEPT: Helping the Aged with Home Sensors

Zimmer, the former general manager of CarShareHFX (now CarShare Altantic), said this fiddling with thermostats is common among dementia sufferers, so he set out to fix it. Designed by Matt d’Entrement, CogPro’s chief technical officer and director of the iDLab at Dalhousie University, the Jeeves Thermostat lets the occupant set the temperature at a comfortable level. It then ignores successive adjustments until the room temperature reaches the first setting. It can be set with a simple gesture, and can alert caregivers if there is a dramatic swing in temperature, which could mean a door has been left open.

“I observed that people with Alzheimer’s know what the thermostat is supposed to do, but the cognitive impairment makes it difficult to use it,” said Zimmer. He added the system “makes the quality of everyday life better for the actual person who’s using it. And I’d say that’s the big differentiator for us. Most of the focus (from CogPro’s competitors) seems to be, ‘We’ll guard you. We’ll make the caregiver’s life better by being a watchdog, ringing an alarm.’ But for Mom, does that make her life better?”

CogPro is now working on a $500,000 funding round, and has an investment commitment from one Atlantic Canadian investor. It hopes to have a commercial beta-test of the product in the next 6-9 months. The company has recently been accepted into Volta Labs and will be mentored by The Bureau, the mentorship group at the startup house.

The team hopes the Jeeves Thermostat will only be the first of its products for people with dementia — it is also planning radios, telephones and TV remote controls.

“We’re looking to make smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house,” said Zimmer. “I want to allow a son who lives in San Diego to look after his mother who lives in a 150-year-old house in Cheticamp and doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”

Corruven Exports Sustainable Vision

A company in Northern New Brunswick is making the world more sustainable through its value-added wood products it exports across the globe.

Edmundston-based Corruven manufactures high-performance composites, which includes its patented Corruven technology that optimizes the natural strength of wood. This technology is used in the company’s packaging, architecture, construction and furniture products.

“Corruven is all about building game-changing innovation to build a better world. That’s our vision. That’s why we get up in the morning. How we do that and how we bring that to life is we work with our customers to develop solutions. We don’t just develop components, we like to look at the global solution and develop the most effective way to achieve their objectives,” says Corruven COO Daniel Beauregard-Long.

“Whether you’re talking about how to make better packaging, whether you’re talking about how you can make a better night of sleep for consumers, we look at this from a very holistic approach and then we complete that.”

The company’s corrugated technology impregnates reject-veneer with resin to reinforce the strength of the fibre. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle. 

Startup Award Nominations Due Friday

There are just a few days left to nominate people for the Startup Canada Awards, which recognize founders and their support organizations in Atlantic Canada and across the country.

Startup Canada this year is awarding 17 awards in four categories, and nominations must be in by the end of the day Friday. You can find nomination forms here.

For the fourth year, Startup Canada will hand out awards to regional winners across the Canada, then later in the year hold a ceremony in central Canada to recognize the national winner. The Atlantic Canadian awards presentation will once again be held in Fredericton, on Sept. 7 at the Fredericton Convention Centre. The Fredericton event is being sponsored by Opportunities New Brunswick.

The national awards will be presented Oct. 19 in Ottawa.

Read our Coverage of the 2016 Atlantic Canadian Ceremony

This year, Startup Canada has added a Canada 150 Award, presented to “an iconic Canadian business that has propelled Canada’s brand on the global stage through its determination and leadership.”

The categories and awards are:

ADVANCING THE ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN CANADA

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award

Startup Canada Community of the Year Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Policy Prize (National Only)

ENTREPRENEUR-LED BUSINESSES DEMONSTRATING EXCELLENCE

Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award

Startup Canada Innovation Award

Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award

Startup Canada High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award

EXEMPLIFYING THE SPIRIT OF CANADIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award

Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur Award

Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Newcomer Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Resilient Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

OUTSTANDING IMPACT IN CANADIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award

Resson Gearing Up for 2018 Launch

Jeff Grammer: 'We're right on schedule' in paid beta tests.

Jeff Grammer: 'We're right on schedule' in paid beta tests.

A year after closing one of the biggest venture capital rounds the region has ever seen, Fredericton-based Resson is gearing up for the full commercial launch of its agtech product in 2018.

In a phone interview from his Silicon Valley office, Executive Chairman Jeff Grammer said the company is still working with its partners on its beta products for the coming growing season. With operations in the northern and southern hemispheres, Resson can beta-test its data analytics systems through two growing seasons before a full launch in 2018.

“We’re right on schedule in commercial paid beta testing,” said Grammer. “We’re still adding the features before the launch and adding to the number of acres [covered in the beta tests].”

Grammer is a partner in Rho Canada Ventures, which invested in four Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013-14. In 2014, Rho and Build Ventures led a $3 million round in Resson, which had developed data analytics software for agriculture, drawing data from sensors in fields or on tractors, and from drones. Still in beta mode, the company is developing predictive analytics tools that can improve crop yields.

Last spring, Resson raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors, and Grammer took the top executive position at the company. The investors included McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past three years, as well as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and members of East Valley Ventures.

Masitek's Sales Double in Past Year

Following the funding, Resson opened an office in San Jose, Calif., which has now grown to five people.  Grammer said the office, which will not add further staff, includes business development people and experts in some of the specialist and high-value crops the company is now targeting. California produces a lot of high-value crops and Resson wants to be in a position to work with farms and vinyards around the state.

The bulk of the operations is still in Fredericton, where Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin now have a staff of about 40 people. The Fredericton office includes the engineering department, which has special strength in computer vision and machine learning, and field crews that include everything from agronomists to drone operators. It is the Fredericton office, said Grammer, that stands to grow as the company gains traction.

He said the company is now working with “a few” clients, and other than Monsanto and McCain they generally prefer not to be named yet.

With a background as a tech entrepreneur, Grammer said he’s learning a lot about agriculture. “It’s very similar to the last company I ran 11 year ago … where it’s all a big data play that’s focused on tying it into a vertical,” said Grammer. “This time, that vertical happens to be agriculture. I’ve learned quite a bit in the last two years and continue to learn something new every day.”

The company now is gearing up for 2018, when it plans to be analyzing “multiple crops over multiple geographies.”  Asked if Resson might consider a C Round following the commercial launch, Grammer said it’s a possibility if more capital would help the company to scale but it feels no urgency to raise money.  

“We’re right on track now for where we want to be and it’s a very excite sector,” he said “Our goal is to be the world leader in the predictive analytics side of it.”

Spring Loaded Launches Levitation

Spring Loaded Technology on Friday announced the launch of its Levitation knee brace for consumer sales across North America, and is welcoming commercial partnerships with clinics, distributors, and brace retailers across Canada.

The Dartmouth company also said it received a $2.46 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Atlantic Innovation Fund. The fund is used to finance large research projects across the region.

Founded at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program in 2012, Spring Loaded has been developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but also adds power to it. The result was the Levitation knee brace, which the company refers to as the world’s first “bionic knee brace”.

"With the support of ACOA, combined with our research and development efforts and leading-edge product development, [the announcement is] a game changer,” said Spring Loaded COO Dawn Umlah in a statement. “We're proud to be able to put the world's first and only compact, bionic knee brace into the hands of consumers on a large scale."

The Chronicle-Herald reported that the company will spend almost $3.8 million to develop new products, boost its manufacturing capabilities and set up a human performance lab in Dartmouth to test its products.

Spring Loaded Technology CEO Chris Cowper-Smith described the announcement as "the next chapter in our journey to change and improve lives in a big way."

Levitation enhances knee strength, mobility, and endurance by storing energy as the leg bends and then returning that energy as the leg straightens. Current users range from performance athletes, to manual laborers, to people with osteoarthritis. Levitation has proven useful for most knee injuries and conditions.

The company last year raised $1.9 million in venture capital funding from Build Ventures, and has also received investment from Innovacorp and members of the First Angel Network.

Last year, the company secured US$208,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and delivered a $1 million contract for the Canadian forces. It fulfilled hundreds of consumer pre-orders, and is entering what it calls real-time production.

“With bolstered manufacturing capacity, product improvements, and increased demand, Spring Loaded Technology is positioned to deliver Levitation across North America, to help people do more of what they love,” said the company.

Jobs: iWave, Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson and iWave Information Systems have openings for customer-facing positions, and they headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Based in Charlottetown, iWave is looking for a Client Support Specialist. The company, which has been going for almost three decades, has developed software that helps researchers, fundraisers and other development professionals learn more about their prospects and donors.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is one of the fastest-growing companies in the region and is looking for an Account Executive. Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

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.

Charlottetown

iWave Information Systems

Client Support Specialist

The company is looking for an executive who can understand its clients’ use cases and provide the best solutions. The Customer Support Specialist is responsible for the relationship with the customer and for delivering superior customer satisfaction. The responsibilities include providing technical support for iWave products via tickets, phone and chat. This person must resolve customer questions promptly and apply analytical skills and technical knowledge to solve product problems. IWave is looking for someone with two to five years of application support and customer service, with a preference for someone with SaaS experience. The successful candidate must have excellent customer service skills and organizational, written and oral communication skills.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting  monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.

Rodriguez Plots Growth at Energia

Ed Rodriguez: 'We need to resolve the issue of seed capital.'

Ed Rodriguez: 'We need to resolve the issue of seed capital.'

As the first cohort of Energia Ventures concludes, Managing Director Ed Rodriguez is seeking seed capital to help the program attract quality participants from around the world.

The accelerator for companies in the energy/smartgrid, cleantech and cyber security fields kicked off at University of New Brunswick late last year, supported by private and public groups, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The first five participating companies all came from UNB’s Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program. But Rodriguez said follow-on cohorts will be recruited regionally, nationally and internationally

“We need to resolve the issue of seed capital,” he said.

“The leading accelerators internationally, especially in the U.S., offer US$100,000 to $150,000 in return for three to six per cent of equity…That’s a hurdle we are focused on resolving so we can recruit high-quality startups globally.”

Rodriguez said the first cohort of five lost one participant, but the other four companies will “finish strong” within the next few months.

“They are garnering significant follow-on investment, a key indicator of success,” he said.

Cohort No. 2 will begin late this year or early in 2018 and will run for six months.

A newcomer to Canada, Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and has extensive experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors in the U.S and worldwide.

Comparing the startup ecosystems in Atlantic Canada and the U.S., specifically Silicon Valley, he said the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem is much more founder-friendly.

“There are lots of unicorns and success stories in Silicon Valley, but also lots of roadkill,” he said.

UNB Opens Marine 3D Printing Centre

Atlantic Canada’s living lab is an advantage that has attracted Siemens Canada to join with UNB and NB Power in creating The Smart Grid Innovation Network to provide companies with a new testing platform.

“In New Brunswick, you have the full range of power generation sources and power generation modalities in a relatively compact geographic area, with a population representative of Canada as a whole,” Rodriguez said.

“It’s possible to pilot and test new technologies that can be applied to different parts of the world. That’s a competitive advantage that needs to be leveraged even more.”

Rodriguez said Atlantic Canada’s more abundant public sector supported funding programs, especially relative to the U.S., is another advantage; as is the rich legacy of Maritimer ingenuity.

“It’s just as good as Yankee ingenuity,” he said. “I’ve marvelled as I’ve researched the history of Atlantic Canada at some of the seminal inventions birthed here.

“For example: kerosene, key precursor to gasoline; the compound steam engine for shipping; the variable-pitch propeller; the stabilizer bar for cars; bionic prostheses; the combined hot and cold water faucet etc.”

Linking companies working in the areas of energy/smartgrid, cleantech and cyber security into one accelerator might seem odd, but Rodriguez said the grouping makes sense. 

“We are seeing growing clarity and focus at federal and provincial levels regarding creating traded industry clusters around energy/smart grid, clean tech and cyber security,” he said.

“Those are key reasons why we decided to focus on those verticals.”

As a new Maritimer himself, Rodriguez is on a learning curve that includes adapting to winter. His new life all came about because he married New Brunswicker Neallie Morrison.

He said the couple met on eharmony in 2012.  Back then, Morrison was working for Xplornet, but she has since started a catering venture called Nessie’s Pantry, named for her great grandmother.

“Before coming here, the farthest north I’d been was Cambridge, Massachusetts and I thought this is probably the coldest I will ever be, then I wound up here,” Rodriguez said.

“I’ve survived the worst winter in a generation, and I didn’t run away so I’m here to stay…Winter gets a little old and harrowing, but I’ve lived in many places and I truly feel this part of the world is one of the most beautiful.”

SaaS Pricing: Free, Cheap or Full?

With minimal funding, Proposify has grown its team through rapid revenue growth.

With minimal funding, Proposify has grown its team through rapid revenue growth.

[Kyle Racki, CEO of Halifax-based Proposify, published this fantastic blog on his website this week. You can see the original blog and Kyle's other blogs here.] 

If you‘re trying to grow a SaaS company, freemium and low cost plans will no doubt cross your mind at some point. Here’s my experience with it.

Discussion over freemium has been raging for a long time now. Is it a business model or a marketing channel? Will it drive long term customer growth or just encourage more freeloaders?

Heavy hitters like Hiten Shah say that they would never start another SaaS company without offering a $0 plan: “If I’m starting a new SaaS business today, I would highly consider having a free plan that you invest resources in and plan on keeping forever.”

His rationale is that a free plan drives leads — leads that don’t churn out after 14–30 days like they would in a typical free trial model. People start using your product because it’s free, as the theory goes, and if it’s great, they keep using it. In time they’ll be hooked and upgrade to a paid account.

No doubt, freemium has been the main driver of growth for many darlings in the SaaS world, like Dropbox and Slack. But is it the right decision for your startup?

It’s easy to look at big successes and assume their model is best. It’s why people study the daily habits of billionaires to try and discover trends in their daily habits. Hey, if Bill Gates wakes up at 4 a.m. to read three books before breakfast, and I do the same, naturally I’ll one day be a billionaire.

By the same rationale, people think since Dropbox used freemium to grow their business then all they need to do is copy the model and enjoy the same success. But outliers are just that — outliers. By the very definition they are rare and difficult to emulate.

With all this said, let me tell you about the time I tried freemium for Proposify.

Proposify Goes Freemium

In 2015 I got excited by the case for freemium and wanted to try it out.

My co-founder, investors and the rest of the team was doubtful it would work. They were afraid it would cannibalize our growing recurring revenue.

I pushed hard for it, reassuring them that if it looked like it was going to sink us within a month we’d take it down. By the way, I don’t regret the decision to test it because trying new things out is how you achieve greatness.

Still, they were right.

Within a few days we noticed our signups spiking. Within a week we had generated over 3,000 new accounts. At the rate we were going we would have tens of thousands of accounts in a couple of months.

Now that’s startup growth!

But something else started to happen — customers who were paying us saw the free plan and started downgrading. Customers in trials that were considering buying paid accounts signed up for the free plan instead.

By the end of the month, our MRR growth plummeted to 5.5 percent.

Now, 5.5 percent might sound like healthy MRR growth. But considering the month before it was 15 percent and the month after we stopped offering the free plan it jumped back up to 12 percent, this was a noticeable flattening.

From a psychological standpoint it makes complete sense. When you pay nothing for something you don’t feel any sort of attachment to it.

If I buy one of my sons a toy, he’ll play with it for a couple of hours. But once he’s bored with it, the toy will somehow find its way to the bottom of the couch, only to be found during a thorough cleanup. But if he has to do chores for the toy or save his money for a month, he’ll value the same toy much more highly. After all, it cost him something.

If you tell someone your product is worth nothing, they’ll treat it as such.

Considering where we were at as a startup, with no more investment capital in the bank, relying purely on revenue from customers to pay our bills and grow, we simply couldn’t afford to offer a free plan.

Granted, who knows what may have happened if we kept it running for another six months? Perhaps we would have skyrocketed and became the next Slack. But for a small team of fewer than ten people at the time we wouldn’t have survived the six months to find out.

On top of that, our dev team wouldn’t have been able to handle the sheer volume of users pounding our servers. Infrastructure needs to be scaled with new users, and growing by tens of thousands of users in a short time frame would have presented massive technical challenges to our team, and likely a lot of downtime for our paying customers.

There’s also no guarantee that freemium would have turned those free users into paid customers over time. It’s well documented that Evernote has had a notoriously difficult time growing their revenue despite strong adoption and unicorn valuation.

“Despite reaching 150 million registered users this year, Evernote has been slow to develop the revenue side of its business and is grappling with departures and cost-cutting, according to interviews…” said Business Insider.

If your goal is to build a venture-backed “unicorn” startup with the mentality of “growth now, revenue later” then freemium is probably the only path to take.

But if your goal is to grow a real business now, freemium can be distracting, costly and ultimately kill your startup.

What about cheap $5 or $10 plans?

If people don’t value free things will they still value cheap things?

We had a lot of our users signing up to paid plans when they had a proposal to write, but as soon as they didn’t need our product they cancelled. It was a nice-to-have product, not a part of their life.

And since they were small companies, usually freelancers, they would rather cancel and later sign up for a new account six months down the road and rebuild their proposal than pay for a monthly subscription they briefly weren’t using.

So we tried offering a $10/month plan to keep them. They would only see this option to downgrade if they were already in the act of cancelling.

Surely we could convert those people to $10 plans, keeping them as customers? Isn’t it better to have them as a customer paying something rather than nothing?

Once again, I was proved wrong with data. Take a look at our churn rate broken down by monthly plan:

Customer churn is the percentage of accounts that cancel. Net MRR churn is the percentage of MRR that is lost due to downgrades or cancellations, factoring in upgrades (hence negative churn if you’re lucky).

As you can see from this chart, the more a customer paid for their plan the less they churned.

If healthy churn rate for a SaaS business is in the neighbourhood of 3 percent or less, our $10 plans had net MRR churn that was eight times higher than healthy. We were bleeding these customers at a ridiculous rate.

What was the dollar value of those customers? Since churn impacts the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer take a look at what an average customer on each plan was worth:

LTV is a rough calculation based on ARPA and churn, estimating how long a customer will stick around and what they’ll be worth in their “lifetime” as a customer.

This shocked me when I saw it and it still does.

The value of an account is disproportionate to the amount they spend.

In other words, by paying 10 times the amount for a plan ($100 vs $10) a customer brings 46 times more value in their lifetime!

This taught me a lot.

Cheap plans attract people who don’t really value your product and will leave the moment they stop using it.

People willing to pay more are serious about your product and are looking to adopt it into their overall workflow. When your product becomes a part of their daily, weekly or monthly system, how they execute their business, they are unlikely to ever leave.

You may be thinking, “Sure the cheap plans churn more, but at least they are bring in some revenue, which is better than nothing, right?”

That only makes economic sense if your sales, marketing and support costs are zero though.

You can’t spend $100 to acquire a customer if they will only ever bring you $133 in their lifetime. But a customer spending $6,228 in their lifetime means you can easily spend that $100 on Facebook ads (or wherever you’re spending the marketing dollars).

I’d rather achieve high MRR and ARPA growth than the vanity metrics of “number of users”.

So often we think of growing a business as getting more customers. But keeping customers and being able to extract more revenue from them (by providing more value in return) is a much better strategy.

That applies to many businesses too, not just SaaS ones.

Check out this chart from Price Intelligently:

Monetization will grow your company faster than acquiring more of them.

Sometimes you just have to accept that not everyone is your ideal customer. Your product will be too expensive for them, and that’s okay. They don’t see the value, and/or they aren’t the kind of customer that CAN get value from it.

Accept it, move on and focus on acquiring and retaining your best customers – the ones willing to invest their time and money into your product.

Kyle Racki is the CEO of Proposify, whose SaaS product helps users create beautiful proposals with ease. Follow his blogs at kyleracki.com.

Masitek’s Sales Double in Past Year

Pablo Asiron and Tracy Clinch.

Pablo Asiron and Tracy Clinch.

Tracy Clinch usually hesitates before revealing numbers about her company. The president and CEO of Masitek Instruments Inc. is careful about revealing too much about the Moncton-based company that helps manufacturers reduce container damage on production lines.

But what she does reveal tells the story of dramatic growth.

For more than six years, Masitek has grown from a small outfit that prevented damage in potatoes during the harvesting process into a predominantly industrial concern. Its main product now is a pressure-sensitive decoy that goes through a production line with regular containers to warn of logjams and gather data on where problems occur. These decoys test for shock and pressure that can damage containers, and the vertical pressure to ensure the process of capping bottles is working well.

The big story is that sales are rising dramatically, aided by the hiring in early 2016 of Pablo Asiron as executive vice-president of global business development.

“We have recently sold into our 33rd country and we’re seeing very significant sales growth,” said Clinch in an interview in the company’s Moncton headquarters. “What we’re seeing is our customers are re-ordering and bringing us into new factories in other countries.”

Clinch, who was recently named to Atlantic Business Magazine’s 2017 Top 50 CEOs list, revealed a string of data and milestones that demonstrated how the company is progressing.

Most impressive, Masitek has doubled revenues in the past year, and sales are up 350 per cent in the past three years. The company’s roughly 250 customers include six of the top 10 beverage companies in the world, and it is talking with two more of these multinationals. A big reason for its expansion is that these companies have tried the Masitek products in one factory, and like them enough to install them in other factories in other countries.

The 13-employee company is continuing to expand and has just added a sales representative in China, hiring an employee from its distribution partner there. And it continues to bring out new products.

Research and development comprise about 10-15 per cent of Masitek’s operations, and the company has just brought on a new head of R&D in Moncton.

In September, Clinch and Asiron will attend the world’s largest conference for the beverage industry — the Drinktec conference in Munich, which is only held once every four years. At the conference they will launch a new platform (which plant managers can use to monitor the data gathered by the company’s sensors) and a new anti-scuff product.

Clinch explained that in some European markets, scuffing of bottles is a huge problem. Companies spend excessive amounts on lubricants and special coatings so bottles look pristine when they come off the production line. Masitek’s new product will help provide plant managers with the information they need to reduce scuffing.

Masitek was launched years ago with an investment from Moncton-based investment firm Technology Venture Corporation, and has since then grown on revenues. Clinch said the company has no plans to raise more money as it can finance its growth through its rapid revenue growth. Bringing on Asiron has helped those sales grow.

“Pablo has brought an executive level knowledge to the sale team and has really improved our sales,” said Clinch. “It’s great to have someone take on the product and really ramp up the sales.”

Inversa Inks $2.5 Million Deal with NB

Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Inversa Systems, whose technology assesses the soundness of physical structures, has signed a five-year contract worth as much as $2.5 million to inspect culverts in New Brunswick.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced the contract with the Fredericton engineering company, which will result in the inspection of corrugated metal pipes throughout the province without digging them up.

“Culverts are an essential part of our transportation network in New Brunswick,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser in a statement. “This technology allows us to inspect culverts in the ground, without the expense of digging them up, not to mention the inconvenience for motorists.”

The Fredericton company began in 2005, growing out of PhD research by founder Jake Arsenault. It got its initial push by winning a New Brunswick Innovation Foundation student entrepreneurship contest – a forerunner of the Breakthru competition.

Arsenault and Current CEO John Bowles developed a diagnostic imaging system that probes a structure while in-service to detect whether there has been erosion, corrosion or any other defect. The system uses backscattered radiation, which is similar to an x-ray, except the beams reflect back from the subject rather than pass through it. That means the Inversa system can be used from the surface of massive objects.

In the case of the contract with New Brunswick, the company can assess buried structures without digging them up for a visual inspection.

NBIF Invests in 500 Startups Canada

The provincial transportation and infrastructure department has been exploring the use of the company’s technology through a pilot assessment of 15 culverts. It has now formalized the relationship with a five-year contract for the assessment of 250 culverts at a maximum cost of $500,000 per year.

“This program will position the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure as a leader in asset management of buried infrastructure,” said Bowles in the statement. “We look forward to replicating this model across North America, which will create jobs and more economic growth right here in New Brunswick.”

Inversa has several verticals in its business offering, and the main two are civil infrastructure and oil and gas. Most of the company’s announcements in the past few years have been in the civil infrastructure category. In 2016, for example, Inversa announced partnerships with Lakeland, Fla.-based soil stabilization and infrastructure rehabilitation Ground Works Services, and Kansas City, Mo.-based McIntire Management Group, a manufacture rep.

Inversa has received venture capital investment from Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The most recent investments disclosed to the public were two NBIF rounds since April 2015 totaling $475,000.

Shoplaw Helps NB Find Lawyers

Shoplaw has launched its web portal that helps people find a lawyer that meets their needs and budget, saying New Brunswick consumers are now the only Canadians that have access to such a service.

The Fredericton company was formed by law school grad Randy Campbell to add transparency and choice to the process of selecting a lawyer. The site now offers up-front, fixed-fee prices for 21 lawyers in southern New Brunswick.

Shoplaw was one of the 12 semi-finalists in the recent Breakthru competition in New Brunswick. In an exceptionally strong field of competitors, it didn’t make the final five, but Campbell is now proceeding with the project and has brought its product to market.

“Price transparency is a community service,” said Campbell in a statement. “Lawyers on Shoplaw have, on average, 17-years’ experience and are community-minded. Many volunteer, run free legal advice clinics and do pro bono work too. Providing price transparency is just another way for them to serve our community.”

Shoplaw offers consumers two ways to find a lawyer. First, for such common services as home purchases, wills, incorporations and co-habitation agreements, consumers can instantly compare prices, experience and reputations. Standardized service packages describe exactly what’s included in the lawyers’ price, and there are hundreds of verifiable reviews.

For consumers who need a custom solution, Shoplaw offers a free-personal-shopping-service. Consumers fill out a form describing the situation. Then, Shoplaw submits the issue to all the relevant local lawyers. Lawyers who do not have a conflict are invited to contact the consumer directly.

In researching its market, Shoplaw surveyed more than 800 legal service consumers, and learned that 83 percent find it frustrating, annoying, or scary to shop for a lawyer. These results were mirrored by a recent government research effort exploring the legal services market in the United Kingdom. Regulators in the U.K. are now reviewing proposals for mandatory price-transparency for certain services.

NBIF Invests in 500 Startups Canada

After conducting its market analysis in late 2015, Shoplaw contacted about 600 private practice lawyers in southern New Brunswick and identified 11 access-to-justice advocates willing to provide price transparency to consumers.  It beta-tested the product in the summer of 2016. The company followed this up with further market research, calling more than 9,000 New Brunswickers to collect 827 verifiable lawyer reviews.

In the past winter, its customer discovery has continued as it contacted about 600 lawyers again and identified an additional 10 willing to provide price transparency to consumers.

 “Some people see access to justice as just an affordability issue,” said Campbell. “It’s more complicated than that. There are many barriers to accessing legal services, and the lack of transparent marketplace information is one. Consumers know they are at a disadvantage when they try to shop for legal services.”

He credits lawyers in New Brunswick for participating with Shoplaw to create a transparent marketplace.

For example, he cited Jennifer Larson, a lawyer in Saint John. She believes that “especially in family law, at a time when lives are in flux, we hope to provide some certainty by being transparent with a set-fee for certain legal services.”

AVF Showcases Health Technology

The Atlantic Venture Forum is introducing a health technology session into its program this year, featuring experts and investors in the field, and presentations by leading Atlantic Canadian health-related startups.

The AVF is a two-day conference that links investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. It will take place June 27 and 28 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

The half-day health technology session features a keynote address by Peter van der Velden, Managing General Partner of the leading Life Sciences Venture Capital firm, Lumira Capital. In a talk titled “Industry Outlook for Canadian Health Technologies”, van der Velden will discuss the near- and medium-term opportunity landscape. He will lend insight into the change forces likely to shape the health technology industry both domestically and internationally.

A panel titled “Market Access for Emerging Technologies" will explore the challenging dynamics of market access for Canadian health tech entrepreneurs. The speakers on the panel are: Glenn Lanteigne, Chief Executive Officer of Tectonic Advisory Services; Scott Moffitt, Managing Director of BioNova; and Amine Benmoussa, Principal of BDC Capital’s Healthcare Fund.

“Given the uncertain policy environment in the United States and parts of Europe, regulatory change, and shifting forces at play, our guests will explore market entry path-finding, alternative and emerging markets, and the opportunities that await those who do so successfully,” said a statement from AFV organizer Critical Path Group.

Three companies from the Halifax area will make nine-minute pitches at the event – part of the 12 Atlantic Canadian companies to present this year at AVF. The health-related companies are Spring Loaded Technology, Covina Biomedical, and Densitas Inc.

The health tech session also features a panel discussion on "Partnering with Industry Leaders". This panel of experts will explore the critical role played by big business, which is instrumental, if not essential, to validating and accelerating adoption of new technologies.

The participants are: Rebecca Yu, Head of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS@Toronto;  Brian Bloom, Co-Founder & CEO of Bloom Burton & Co.;Kelly Reinsborough, Director of Telus Health; and Glenn Monteith, Vice President of Innovation and Health Sustainability at Innovative Medicines Canada.

 

[Disclaimer: Critical Path is a client of Entrevestor .] 

NBIF Invests In 500 Startups Canada

Calvin Milbury: An emphasis on scaling companies.

Calvin Milbury: An emphasis on scaling companies.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has invested in 500 Startups Canada’s $30 million first fund, and has become a partner with the venture capital fund.

Last year, the Silicon Valley VC fund 500 Startups announced it would set up a Canadian fund to find pre-seed investments in Canada. The parent organization started in 2010 with the goal of making small investments in companies around the world, and since then it has opened several regional funds, including the Canadian fund launched last year.

NBIF made its investment in the Canadian fund earlier this year and is helping 500 Startups find candidates for funding, not just from New Brunswick but also from across the region.

“Atlantic Canada has more great startup activity happening than anyone outside the region knows,” said Sanjay Singhal, a University of New Brunswick engineering grad who now heads 500 Startups Canada. “And nowhere is that more evident than in New Brunswick and the ecosystem developed there by NBIF and many others. With all this activity, there is no way we could do the region justice in terms of investment coverage without NBIF as partners in the strategy and execution of finding, funding, and growing the next generation of great Canadian companies.”

NBIF became a limited partner in 500 Startups Canada earlier this year. Foundation president and CEO Calvin Milbury declined in an interview to say how much the group invested in 500 Startups, but said it was modest and will hopefully make a bit of money over time.

“It’s a reasonable position we’re taking,” he said. “It’s nothing over the top.”

Swept Accepted into 500 Startups Accelerator

WellTrack Hits $400,000 in ARR

What he did say was that NBIF hopes to use its relationship with 500 Startups not only to increase funding in the region but also to broaden its network across North America.

“It’s becoming increasingly important for us to build networks across the country and into the U.S.,” said Milbury.

The NBIF team in the past couple of years has been stressing that the most important thing about the startup movement is that promising companies can “scale up” into global corporations. The real economic gains happen when these companies undergo double- or even triple-digit revenue growth for a period of years and build up their staffs.

Milbury said 500 Startups Canada shares the vision of scaling up innovation companies and has already begun working with Atlantic Canadian startups. About 40 per cent of the Canadian companies that receive funding from 500 Startups Canada are also accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Fredericton-based WellTrack, which has developed online therapy for students with mental health issues, recently graduated from the 20th cohort of 500 Startups in Silicon Valley. And Halifax’s Swept, which makes software for janitorial customers, just entered the 21st cohort. In 2015, Moncton-based recruiting software maker Alongside went through the accelerator in 2015 and received funding from the parent organization.

All these companies received US$150,000 for a six per cent stake in their business.

Emily Dagneau, who heads investor and portfolio relations for 500 Startups Canada, said the Canadian fund has already made about 40 investments. Canada is figuring more prominently in the organization’s work in Silicon Valley, she said. Seven of the 31 companies that went through the 20th cohort were Canadian, and seven of the 41 companies in the current cohort hail from Canada.

 

Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

3 Winners of DNS Diversity Awards

REDspace, the Bedford website development and interactive experience agency, has claimed the Diversity Champion of the Year award at Digital Nova Scotia’s second annual Digital Diversity Awards.

The organization, which announced the winners last week at the Centre for Women in Business’ Spring Finale, also presented its Next Generation Leadership award to tech entrepreneur Lianne Perry. Nur Zincir-Heywood, a professor at the Computer Science faculty at Dalhousie University, was awarded the prize for Women Leaders in the Digital Economy.

The awards were established in 2016 to acknowledge and applaud female leaders and diversity champions in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector, while encouraging the province’s next generation of women leaders.

“The Digital Diversity Awards are bringing attention to the importance of increasing the number of women employed in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector,” Daphne North, REDspace’s Marketing and Communications Manager, said in a statement. “We’re truly honoured to be recognized by champions like Digital Nova Scotia and the Centre for Women in Business as an organization who is leading the way in change.”

REDspace is an active champion for diversity, with women making up half of the company’s senior executive team and management positions. As a company that has doubled in size over the last three years, REDspace has maintained a focus on diversity and inclusion – providing all employees flexible work arrangements, making it easier for parents to accommodate sick children and school closures. The company actively challenges the gender pay gap by ensuring salaries align with industry averages for each individual and every role.

Indigo Foundation Partners with Squiggle Park

A co-founder of PinPoint Virtual Solutions and Karmabuy, Lianne Perry is a student of St Mary University’s Master’s of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, a Senior Manager at the Sobey School of Business Development, a mother, and an entrepreneur. She is a faculty advisor for the Enactus Saint Mary's team (currently ranked in the Top 5 in Canada), and a member of Techsploration’s Advisory Board. “I’m thrilled to be selected as the recipient for the Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership award,” said Perry. “I’ve made it my personal and professional mission to help advance women in the local technology sector. I believe it is important to be a positive influence on our younger generation and I will continue to mentor young women to become more purposeful and impactful in their professional goals.”

Nur Zincir-Heywood is a senior faculty member in Computer Science at Dal, and she plays an essential role in preparing our future IT workforce. She is a founding member and chair of the Culture of Respect in Computer Science committee, and the founder and advisor to the student group: Women in Technology Society.

“In accepting this award, I hope to inspire more women from diverse backgrounds to believe in themselves and just do it,” she said.

 “Our awards are about actively promoting, celebrating and acknowledging leadership and diversity within Nova Scotia’s fastest growing industry,” says

Through Digital Nova Scotia’s partnership with the Women in Communications and Technology, all award recipients will also be automatically vetted and nominated for WCT’s own national annual awards program. This year, 2016 Digital Diversity Award winner Jenelle Sobey, the CEO of Norex, was recognized nationally and awarded the WCT Emerging Leader Award.

DNS President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia said the awards highlight the increasing visibility of women leaders in ICT.

“Whilst it still may be male-dominated, we are working diligently toward gender parity on many levels, as we know that a more diverse sector and community, makes for more a productive and prosperous nation overall,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

Mindset Project on Founders’ Control

The latest report resulting from The Mindset Project survey looks at the third of the major issues shown in the mental health data: the impact of business stress on an entrepreneur’s sense of control. 

 Survey organizer Michael DeVenney said that an entrepreneur can begin to doubt their own ability to influence results. This can make it harder to maintain a positive mindset.

Halifax-based DeVenney began his survey on how entrepreneurship impacts mental health in May 2016. He believes the survey may be the largest on the subject in the world. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada.

You can link to the report here

Propel Seeks CEO, Assesses Future

Anita Punamiya: 'I am leaving the organization stronger than it was.'

Anita Punamiya: 'I am leaving the organization stronger than it was.'

As it assesses its strategy for the coming years, Propel ICT is launching a search for a new chief executive following the announcement that current CEO Anita Punamiya is stepping down.

The regional tech accelerator announced on Friday that Punamiya, who took over the position last year, had only planned on a short tenure and would leave the executive position. A long-standing member  of the Propel community, she will retain a seat on the Propel board. Until her replacement is found, former Propel Executive Director Trevor MacAusland will be the Interim CEO.

“Propel ICT has a strong history and I am proud to have been a part of it both as a Board member and as the CEO,” said Punamiya in a statement. “From the perspective of a newcomer to Canada, I received tremendous value from being on the Board, and the CEO role gave me an opportunity to give back to the organization. I am happy to say that I am leaving the organization stronger than it was when I took on the role.”

The announcement comes as the Propel board and executive will meet June 8 to hold a long-term strategy session, at which they will plot out where the organization is heading in a rapidly changing landscape.

“We have a great team that’s in place now and we’re meeting on the 8th of June to have discussions on where we’re headed,” said Board Chair Steven Burns in an interview Friday. “We’re always trying to improve it. The executive will be present and we’ll look at the strategy and we’ll fine-tune it.”

What won’t change is that Propel will be dedicated to mentoring ICT startups in all four Atlantic Provinces. The accelerator is now holding an advanced Build cohort in Moncton and its more rudimentary Launch cohorts in Halifax, Fredericton and Sydney. It has also offered Launch programs in Charlottetown and St. John’s, and its Grow program for mature companies is taking place in Fredericton.

3 Charts the Kill the No Funding Myth

Several startups have gone through Propel programs more than once, and overall the participants speak highly of the mentorship offered by Propel.

“Propel has been fantastic for us,” said Jim DeLeskie, the CEO of Mimir Networks, a Sydney cybersecurity company that is in the Build cohort. “It had highlighted some things we’ve been doing well and showed us some things we should be doing better.”

While Propel has built its capacity in the past few years, nurturing scores of companies each year, the landscape has been changing. Volta Labs in Halifax has brought in veteran entrepreneur and accelerator head Jesse Rodgers as CEO, and his duties will soon include heading up the Atlantic Canadian pod of the Creative Destruction Lab. And Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach at Dalhousie University are spearheading the effort to establish Canada’s first I-Corps node in Halifax. Both CDL-Atlantic and I-Corps are expected to launch in the autumn.

Propel itself has changed. Two board members recently left – Jeff Grammer, a principal with Rho Canada Ventures, departed to spend more time on portfolio company (and Propel alumnus) Resson; and Steve Nicolle of Prince Edward Island left because he will be spending most of his time out of the country. And Propel is now looking for its third CEO in three years.

Burns said Propel will soon contact a recruiter in an attempt to find just the right person to replace Punamiya. The Board also has a list of names it would like to talk to and will take the proper amount of time in hiring someone.

“We want to make sure we get the right person,” said Burns. “They’ll have to have a really strong connection to the startup community in Atlantic Canada. They have to have a dynamic personality and have to be a relationship-builder. We have a lot of organizations now. What need to do is to make sure that we are all working together.”

Jobs: McInnes Cooper, Alongside

Our jobs column this week showcases a couple of openings in New Brunswick – a Business Development Officer at the law firm McInnes Cooper, and a Web Developer at the recruiting software maker Alongside.

McInnes Cooper is among the 20 largest business law firms in Canada. With nearly 200 lawyers and 300 professional resources, it provides legal and business services to industry-leading clients from six offices – Halifax, St. John’s, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, and Charlottetown.

Alongside (formerly Qimple) is an HR tech company working to improve the way people and companies discover each other. It gets that sourcing great talent can be extremely difficult and a huge time commitment, and its online solutions strive to simplify the process. Alongside is Entrevestor’s partner in the Entrevestor Job Board.  

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.

New Brunswick

McInnes Cooper

Business Development Officer

At McInnes Cooper, the Business Development Manager’s primary objective will be to develop new business within New Brunswick by executing tactics within the firm’s revenue growth strategy. The successful candidate will do this by using industry-specific knowledge and research to develop and connect with prospective clients. He or she will respond to requests for proposals, represent the firm at industry and community events and facilitate client events. The position calls for supporting individual lawyers as they establish new clients and gain new work from existing clients.

The ideal candidate will have a minimum of seven years of proven success in B2B business development, preferably from a corporate environment. The candidate will require solid verbal and written communications, interpersonal and business research skills. The firm requires a natural relationship-builder – a person with the ability to forge strong connections with clients and lawyers. The candidate will have a degree in business with a marketing related concentration, above average technical proficiency, and comfort with travel.

Moncton

Alongside

Web Developer

Alongside is looking for an intermediate-level web developer with a thirst for professional and personal growth. Working in the company’s newly renovated office at Botsford Station, the successful candidate will work on a solution to hiring processes that are increasingly impersonal, competitive, time-consuming and expensive. The company is building the world's most intuitive end-to-end recruitment solution. Alongside optimizes and distributes job opportunities based on a business' budget, geography, and industry - maximizing the number of applicants they get. The web developer will work closely with the company’s other devs, designer, and product manager. Alongside is looking for someone with five years’ experience in a similar role. You can find the list of technical qualifications in the job posting. 

A Criterion for Founders: Story-Telling

Steve Blank wrapped up his fireside chat at Dalhousie University last Tuesday with words that really resonated with me. 

The famed entreprenurial educator was in Halifax to receive an honorary degree from Dal, and brought his abundant wit and charm to various events around the campus. His final point in a wide-ranging fireside chat was to urge his listeners to learn how to communicate better. 

"In Silicon Valley, if you don't know how to communicate, you shouldn't start a company because you will be competing against people who know how to tell a story," Blank told his audience of about 400.

Think about that for a second. SIlicon Valley is the global hotbed for technical talent and digital innovation. It's probably bigger than the next three or four communities combined in terms of development talent and ICT entrepreneurship. But Steve Blank, the father of lean methodology, believes there is a criterion that should disqualify founders, and it has nothing to do with vision or technical expertise. 

It's communication. 

It's ability to use language to explain to people what your technology does, why people will buy it, and why you are the person to bring it to market. 

Blank Pushes for I-Corps Node at Dal

This wasn't the most inspirational quote to pass Blank's lips on Tuesday -- I mean, the guy's a quote machine, as you can see from my coverage last week. I attended a few of his events and interviewed him for about 10 minutes. The point that he kept returning to was that he was "blown away" by the science he witnessed in Atlantic Canada. That's important because Blank was the driving force behind the Innovation Corps in the U.S., which President Obama and both houses of Congress set up to improve the commercialization of academic research. I pressed Blank on the point, saying he must see great science everywhere he travels. He insisted he was being sincere about the quality of work being carried out here. 

But the quote that caught my attention was the one about communication. The ability to explain what you're doing is generally considered a soft skill by founders. They generally see it as a good thing to have, but by no way essential. They may be right, as there are plenty of CEOs of great companies whose verbiage baffles every listener within earshot. It was heartening to hear Steve Blank not only say that communications are important, but that they are especially important in Silicon Valley. 

I regularly give seminars on communication, and the thing that I stress more than anything is clarity. You have to make sure your audience understands what you're doing and how you can make money doing it. This especially important in the early stages of a company's development, because you have to get the backing of friends, family, angel investors and bureacrats -- often peopel without technical expertise. They have to understand your technology and its commercial potential. If you fail to make them understand it, they won't say they don't understand it. They don't want to look stupid. They'll just find an excuse for not backing you. 

I deliver the same line early in all my seminars. "Good communications will not guarantee that your startup will succeed. But bad communications will greatly increase the chances of failure."

What I like about Blank's quote is that he rachets it up a notch. He says that in the big leagues, you're competing against great story tellers. So it's not just the ability to explain your company. It's the ability to captivate people whose support you will need.

***

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3 Charts That Kill the No-Funding Myth

An investor contacted me recently to take issue with a perpetual bee in the Atlantic Canadian bonnet — the perma-complaint that there’s no funding available to startups in the region.

I’ve heard it for years. So has this investor. As a result, he dove into the data in CrunchBase, the American databank affiliated with TechCrunch that has information on startup investments from around the world. The investor, who asked not to be named, wanted to find data that would determine what proportion of our startups received funding compared to (a) the global startup community, and (b) the Top 20 global startup communities (such as Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, etc.) as listed by the Startup Genome.

What he found was that in the six years from 2010 to 2015, Atlantic Canadian startups were more likely to raise pre-seed financing, which for the sake of this article we’ll describe as a round of less than $1 million. And in such rounds, Atlantic Canadian startups produced a higher median raise than in other centres, when considering both dilutive and non-dilutive financing.

“The data shows that Atlantic Canada is seeing high-levels of investment activity at the pre-seed level, supported by both equity investments and government programs,” said the investor. “This overall is a big win for the ecosystem. The important next step is for these companies to hit the milestones required to raise seed rounds and then Series A rounds.”

The first question the investor asked was what proportion of startups receive less than $1 million in funding. He tabulated both equity investment and money drawn from government programs, like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program or NRC Irap. He calculated the percentage of startups in each year that had raised funding, then took an average of the percentages.

What he found was that 36.6 per cent of startups in Atlantic Canada were able to raise seed capital. That’s more than in the global market’s mark of 23.3 per cent. He also found that Atlantic Canada proportionally logged in more pre-seed rounds than the Top 20 communities.

There’s one caveat we should add here: The total base of companies are only those included in CrunchBase. That likely excludes a lot of smaller and newer companies, both from Atlantic Canada and other locations.

What’s more, even when he looked into funding rounds worth $1 million to $3 million, Atlantic Canada held its own. The proportion of East Coast companies receiving funding (15.4 per cent) in this bracket wasn’t as strong as the Top 20 (16.4 per cent). But we exceeded the global level of nine per cent.

Finally, our investor wanted to check out what the median pre-seed round was in Atlantic Canada and how it compared to other places. Again, he found that the Atlantic Canadian companies that did raise capital received more money than their peers in other jurisdictions. The Atlantic Canadian mark of $267,000 exceeded the global median by 36 per cent.

These findings should not be surprising. In fact, the performance of Canada’s East Coast might have been even stronger if 2016 had been included. Recent data from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association has shown that Atlantic Canada last year was the top market in the country for pre-seed deals. We didn’t land any of the large deals that captured headlines, but Atlantic Canada accounted for about 11 per cent of the VC deals in Canada last year, though we have only six per cent of the population.

There’s funding available here, and companies are putting it to use.

Lockheed, MTI Sign $5.6M Solar Deal

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Halifax has signed a $5.6 million agreement with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to develop materials that enhance solar power and can be used on aircraft.

MTI issued a statement on Thursday saying that the partners will work on the development of metaSOLAR, which incorporates advanced, lightweight materials, suitable for flights.

MTI is dedicated to producing metamaterials – materials whose compounds are not found in nature – that have an impact on light. The company, which announced an $8.3 million funding round earlier this year, is already working with Airbus to produce metaAIR, a transparent screen that filters out laser beams. Now the company is moving into its second product line, solar power, and again working with one of the world’s leading aerospace companies.

“We are honored to be supported by Lockheed Martin,” said MTI Founder and CEO George Palikaras in the statement. “This agreement will allow us to accelerate the development of metaSOLAR as we aim to enter the solar market by providing advance photovoltaic technology to the aerospace and defence industry. MetaSOLAR will be ideal for harvesting energy in the transportation industry beyond aviation.”

MTI uses the latest achievements in optical science, metamaterials, semiconductors and nanofabrication to make commercial quantities of revolutionary materials. Its patented solar technology has been engineered to collect, trap and absorb solar light from all directions at wide angles, significantly improving efficiency, removing the need to track the sun.

MetaSOLAR incorporates NanoWeb, a highly conductive metal mesh printed on to any surface using MTI’s proprietary Rolling Mask Lithography manufacturing tool. RML is used to manufacture functional materials in a variety of shapes and designs, allowing MTI to create a new class of smart materials for a wide range of applications.

It’s understood that metaSOLAR will be a lightweight material that can be shaped to fit on to any surface. For example, it could eventually be used to line an airplane wing and generate electricity while the plane is in flight.

Dal Eyes First I-Corps Node in Canada

The new partnership marks Lockheed Martin’s first solar investment in Canada. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company already has interests in Atlantic Canada and is a key funder and customer for Halifax-based QRA Corp. which helps manufacturers eliminate design flaws early in the development process. Lockheed Martin is working with MTI through the Industrial and Technological Benefit Policy, under which foreign companies must make investments in Canada in order to bid on Canadian government contracts. Lockheed Martin is making these investments as part of its ITB obligations for the in-service support of the C-130J Super Hercules, a transport aircraft.

“We are pleased to see our ITB investment going to a great Canadian global innovator such as Metamaterial Technologies Inc,” said Charles Bouchard, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Canada. “Their work in the field of smart materials and in developing a disruptive solar application suitable for flight is an example of what Canadian technology offers the world.”

The Lockheed Martin announcement is the third major piece of news from MTI this year. In April, MTI unveiled its $8.3 million round of funding, led by Toronto-based venture capital fund Radar Capital Inc. The other backers were Innovacorp and angel investors, including members of the First Angel Network.

In February, MTI and European aircraft maker Airbus announced they would proceed with the commercial production of MetaAir, manufacturing it in Halifax. Palikaras has said the company has three main goals – to produce commercial materials that filter light (metaAIR), enhance the absorption of light (metaSOLAR) and reflect light (a product yet to be revealed).

“Metamaterials are in essence the materials of the future”, said Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology. “MTI is pioneering large scale affordable nanofabrication technology that can push the boundaries for crystalline silicon solar efficiency and create very thin form factors for solar cells.”

McCain Institute Names 28 to ELP

After an intense two-day process called "The Choosing," the Wallace McCain Institute, at the University of New Brunswick, has named the 10th cohort of its Entrepreneurial Leaders Program, ELP.

The institute said in a statement this group of 28 entrepreneurs has a collective economic footprint of $63 million in revenue and 550 employees across the Greater Atlantic Area. With 419 nominations this year, the 28 cohorts faced stiff competition in the selection process.

These business leaders in ELP10 will meet for two days each month over the next year in all four Atlantic provinces in an elite program with speakers and peer interaction.

After the first year, alumni pledge to continue to meet quarterly, which is a testament to the value of the program in the lives of these CEOs.

Here are this cohort’s participants:

John McNair – Outdoor Elements

 Daniel Smith – Postech

 Matthew Joyce – JTR Dumpster Services

 John Dunphy – Target Tours

 Bob Mills – Accomplice Content Supply Co.

 Blair Hyslop – Mrs. Dunster’s

 Jordan Kyriakidis – QRA Corp.

 Ginette Ahier – Adorable Chocolat Inc.

 Robert Gale – Rothesay Capital Partners

 Dallas Mercer – Dallas Mercer Consulting Inc.

 Dave Rafuse – Blended Athletics

 Heidi Eaton – Argus Hearing Centre

 Adam Clawson – Red Rover Brewing Company Ltd.

 Andrew Bedford – Ginger Design Inc.

 Serge Arsenault – Goguen Monuments

 Mark Wood – Ocean Sonics

 Clement Nadeau – Evasion Air

 Brian Vallis – Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca

 Jamie Seamans – Garage Kings

 Scott Kennedy – Kennedy Metal Products

 Andrew Lovell – River View Orchards

 Mitch Cobb – Upstreet Craft Brewing

 Matthew Stockford – Stockford Reefer Services

 Joel Albert – NorthTaste Flavourings Inc.

 Brian Schryer – Kent & White Insurance

 Darren Cousins – Twin Shores Camping Area

 John Kimmel – RevlQ

 Marc Albert – DPL

The Wallace McCain Institute at the University of New Brunswick supports the next generation of senior business leaders in the Greater Atlantic Area (GAA). The Institute is a catalyst for shifting the business culture of the region and advancing the values of entrepreneurship. 

Dal Eyes Canada’s First I-Corps Node

Steve Blank: `A criminal waste that there isn’t already an I-Corps here in Canada.'

Steve Blank: `A criminal waste that there isn’t already an I-Corps here in Canada.'

Atlantic Canada’s I-Corps program is expected to launch in the autumn, having been given a boost this week by famed startup educator Steve Blank.

Mary Kilfoil, who teaches entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University, said the pieces are now in place to establish the first Canadian node for Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, the National Science Foundation’s program for commercializing scientific research. One person familiar with the situation said that “the funding for I-Corp has not been finalized yet” and there has yet to be an official announcement.

Blank, who teaches entrepreneurship at several universities including Stanford and UC Berkley, was one of the architects of the program. He received an honorary degree from Dalhousie this week and attended a lunch meeting with university and government officials Tuesday to discuss bringing I-Corps to Atlantic Canada.

“I’ve been a little bit blown away by how much good science there is here,” said Blank in an interview after the lunch. “It’s almost a criminal waste that there isn’t already an I-Corps here in Canada.”

Blank is best known as one of the pioneers of the lean startup methodology, in which startups canvas a wide range of potential clients to make sure they are producing something the market wants. The National Science Foundation in 2011 asked Blank to translate these processes into a program for academics. The result was the I-Corps, which is now offered at 10 nodes to help discoveries from fundamental research become new companies. Blank said “1,500 of the best U.S. scientists” have gone through the program in six years.

The program at Dalhousie will be open to academics across Atlantic Canada, said Kilfoil. Dalhousie has partnered with Washington, D.C.-based George Washington University to help train the staff and get the pilot program off the ground.

“The plan is to work with George Washington University over the next two years because they are certified NSF I-Corp trainers,” said Kilfoil.

CDL-Atlantic To Launch in the Autumn

The goal of I-Corps is to expose scientists to the thinking and processes that can transform their discoveries into commercial products. Each scientist teams up with an entrepreneur and a graduate student to manage the team’s lab, and together they learn what it would take to bring a product to market.

“It doesn’t guarantee success but we can reduce the infant mortality in startups a lot,” said Blank. “It can improve science and scientists. Once they are exposed to these ideas it changes everyone in their team for the next 20 years.”

He added that it would be best to situate the I-Corps in the engineering school rather than the business school, so the program is close to those who work with applied science.

Blank’s teachings were the basis of the work carried out by Launch Dal, the entrepreneurship group founded by Kilfoil and her husband Ed Leach. During his visit, Blank met current participants and graduates of the Launch Dal programs, and spoke to an audience of about 400 at a fireside chat.

He wrapped up his talk by urging the attendees to design an ecosystem in Atlantic Canada that adheres to the region’s specific circumstances.

“Every region needs its own playbook,” said Blank. “What does the Halifax ecosystem look like? I think that what’s been happening here for the past five years is fantastic, but what needs to be done to make it an Atlantic Canadian model?”

After a moment’s pause, he added, “But I’ve been blown away by what I’ve seen here.”

Kinduct Adds Zebra to Sports Platform

Halifax-based Kinduct Technologies has formed a partnership with Zebra Technologies Corporation that will help coaches and their staffs track player movement and performance more easily.

The two parties announced the partnership Wednesday, and said their joint product will be available to all NFL and NCAA teams that use the Zebra Sports practice system.

This expanded tracking solution gives coaches, trainers and sports science staff a suite of tools for individual and team preparation, injury prevention and enhanced performance.

“With our collaboration with Zebra, we will provide teams in the NFL and NCAA the right data and the right tools at the right time to help inform the decision-making process, promote constant improvement and provide teams with a competitive advantage,” said Kinduct Founder and CEO Travis McDonough in a statement.

Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Zebra specializes in tracking solutions, and its Zebra Sports division helps to track players’ movement during practice or games. For the third consecutive full season, Zebra’s Sports Solution will be used in NFL games this year by embedding RFID tags in players’ shoulder pads. This tracks movement, providing metrics such as player speed and proximity, distance traveled, acceleration and deceleration.

WellTrack Hits $400,000 in ARR

This data will now be available on the Kinduct Athlete Management System, which will provide the team staffs with a holistic view of their athletes’ wellness and performance. The Athlete Management System is a single digital platform that lets athletes and coaches view health and performance data on specific athletes, and compare it to baseline data. Kinduct’s secure, cloud-based system allows teams to spend less time managing their data and more time using it.

Teams can optimize the data for their own purposes with a privacy layer that gives them a competitive advantage in preparing for game day.

“As the official on-field player tracking provider of the NFL, Zebra is thrilled to be working with Kinduct,  … to take our cutting-edge, real-time player tracking solution to the next level,” said Jill Stelfox, Zebra’s Vice President and General Manager of Location Solutions. “A growing number of teams are using our practice system as they are aggressively moving to newer technology with higher accuracy to gain better visibility.”

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

Lazaridis Program Seeks 2nd Cohort

The Lazaridis Scale-Up Program, a pan-Canadian program that helps growth-stage companies expand globally, will hold an information session on Tuesday in Halifax about its second cohort.

The program gives 10 companies the opportunity to fast-track their growth by working with experienced mentors and experts from around the world. It focuses on meeting the need for more globally competitive technology companies in Canada, and the jobs and economic benefits that come with them.

The information session on the second cohort, which will begin in October, will be held at the Innovacorp headquarters at 8:30 am on Tuesday. Registration is available here. Anyone interested in applying for the program must do so by June 30.

“Our first cohort of companies was incredible, and we learned a lot together,” said Kim Morouney, executive director of the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises at Wilfrid Laurier University. “Everything we do is built around the specific companies in the cohort, but the mission remains the same: we want to identify the top scale-up firms in the country and give them access to the resources they need to grow their businesses and create value in Canada.”

The companies that participated in the first year of the program benefited from one-to-one mentorship from executives with scaling experience who were specifically chosen for each participant based on their industry and current challenges.

“After just six months, we're a different company than when we started,” said program participant Jordan Kyriakidis, president and CEO of Halifax's QRA Corp. “We have more of a direction and a focus on where we want to go. And we feel like we have the tools to actually get there.”

The program opens up market opportunities and prepares companies for their next round of financing. The upcoming 2017-2018 program includes one weekend module each month between October 2017 and February 2018. A final weeklong session will take place in March 2018.

The Lazaridis Institute is using Hockeystick for its applicant management process, as part of the first phase of the national scale-up data platform announced last month.

Best Showing Yet in Branham300

In the region’s best showing ever, eight Atlantic Canadian companies have been named to the prestigious Branham300 – four in the Top 250, and four in the Up and Coming classification.

Ottawa-based Branham Group today released its Branham300 for 2017. It comprises the top 250 ICT companies in the country, the top 25 international companies operating in Canada, and 25 up and coming companies.

Four of the Branham Top 25 Canadian Up and Coming ICT Companies are from Atlantic Canada – recruiting software company Alongside of Moncton; blockchain technology group Blockcrushr Labs of Halifax; social media monitoring company LifeRaft of Halifax; and cybersecurity company Mimir Networks of Sydney.

Last year, the only Atlantic Canadian company on the up-and-coming list was Halifax-based Zora, which made software for landlords.

Mimir Founder and CEO Jim DeLeskie said in an interview that making the list “gives us some national exposure, recognition and external validation that we’re on to something really important. Cybersecurity is something critical to all of us and it’s starting to be recognized more at the national level.”

Added Scott Burke, the CEO of Blockcrushr Labs:  “We’re honoured to be carrying the torch for Canadian innovation. And we’re doing our best to use this momentum to move forward.”

PQA's Unit Plato Hopes to Hire 1,000 Native People 

The Branham Top 250, which is based on annual revenue, has four Atlantic Canadian companies for the first time ever. Saint John-based Mariner moved up slightly to the 128th position from No. 131 a year earlier. MOBIA Technology Innovations of Dartmouth fell to No. 140, having been No. 127 in 2016. These were the only two East Coast companies in the Top 250 in the 2016 list.

There were two newcomers on the list this year: Bluedrop Performance Learning of St. John’s placed No. 133, and PQA Testing of Fredericton entered the list at No. 181.

The Branham report shows the reality of the tech community in Atlantic Canada. The region still does not have a representative in the top 100 ICT companies in Canada. In fact, its representatives in the list aren’t moving any closer to the top as the other companies aren’t standing still.

Branham noted that the growth in ICT revenues was exceptional across the country in 2016. The total revenue for the Top 250 was $105.3 billion, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier.

“So we have a new revenue record for Canada's Top 250 technology companies, and a growth rate almost double the previous year,” said Branham on its website.

The report showed that for the most part, the Atlantic Canadian companies on the list are growing strongly. The revenue of PQA Testing, which tests software, rose 33 percent to $11.2 million, while that of Mariner, whose main product is video software, increased 28 percent to $28.2 million. A producer of training systems, Bluedrop recorded a revenue increase of 17 percent to $28.4 million in 2016.

HeyOrca Unveils $2M Funding Round

The HeyOrca team will soon be 30 strong.

The HeyOrca team will soon be 30 strong.

HeyOrca has landed $2 million in equity funding, allowing it to ramp up its fast-growing content-planning business.

The St. John’s company that makes collaborative software for marketing agencies announced this morning that it received $2 million in funding from previous investors  Killick Capital and Pelorus Venture Capital. This takes the company’s total equity funding to $2.65 million.

The company has been gaining a lot of buzz lately because its monthly recurring revenue has been increasing rapidly, so it was known to be attracting interest from investors. The statement today said its customer base has increased 800 percent in the past year, adding 160 new businesses. The customers listed on its website include Saatchi & Saatchi, Microsoft Studios, Hilton Head Island and TheSocialDiner.   

“At HeyOrca, we differ from other social media planning tools because we focus on the client communications aspect of content planning,” said Co-Founder and Chief Executive Joe Teo in the statement. “We allow agencies to be an extension of their client’s team. HeyOrca streamlines the client-approval process, making it dead simple for everyone to be on the same page.”

Co-founded by Teo and CTO Sahand Seifi in 2015, HeyOrca has developed software that helps agencies to work with their clients in the planning and approving social media content. 

The company previously raised $650,000 in a round led by Pelorus (which manages the Venture NL fund) and Killick. That round included a $150,000 contribution by BDC Capital. HeyOrca qualified for BDC funding because it had gone through Propel ICT’s Build program – the first Newfoundland and Labrador company to do so.

The funding is the largest by a Newfoundland company since Sequence Bio raised US$3 million in a round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective last August.

Seaformatics' Surprising Retail Play

With the new funding, Teo said HeyOrca will expand in the U.S. market and grow its product and sales teams. The company plans to double its headcount this year to 30 to support its growth.

There is no shortage of startups producing software for marketing agencies, but HeyOrca differentiates itself by focusing on the way small independent agencies communicate with their clients.

The company said a recent study conducted by RPA found that 88 percent of agency clients claim to speak their minds freely, but only 36 percent of agencies agree. What’s more, 90 percent of agencies say they truly understand their clients’ business, but only 65 percent of their clients agree.  HeyOrca describes it as “a situation revealing that the client-agency relationship can be (and often is) dysfunctional at best.”

HeyOrca allows agencies to generate visual mock-ups of social media content and centralize all client approvals and feedback in one place.

“Managing the client communication process without introducing micromanagement and scope creep is one of the biggest challenges facing marketing agencies,” said Teo. “The secret to keeping clients in the loop without losing control lies in drawing a clear line between what falls within the scope of client review and what doesn’t. HeyOrca gives agencies the freedom to choose what their clients need to review while providing them with the necessary context for their next campaign.”

HeyOrca was recently added to the Top 10 social tools to consider by app review site G2 Crowd, which the company said shows it is holding its own against industry veterans like Hootsuite and SproutSocial. 

Garrish Battling Against Depression

Bob Garrish's cheerful demeanor often masks his treatment-resistant depression.

Bob Garrish's cheerful demeanor often masks his treatment-resistant depression.

With his peaked hat and easygoing smile, it’s easy to forget that Bob Garrish has suffered for years from a form of depression so rare that the world’s leading experts are perplexed by it.

Garrish is a co-founder of Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that is manufacturing what it calls the world’s first bionic knee brace. The Levitation knee brace adds power to the joint as well as stabilizes it, and the main reason it works is Garrish’s design and engineering work. So it came as a surprise when the company said in January that Garrish would be stepping aside and replaced as chief technology officer by another engineer, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Garrish and Spring Loaded said at the time he was leaving because of health concerns but provided few other details. In a recent interview, Garrish spelled out that he has been suffering for years from treatment-resistant depression. His case is complicated by other afflictions. He’s a cancer survivor who has been diagnosed as high-functioning autistic, and there’s a condition in the white matter of his brain that has not yet been fully diagnosed. He stepped aside from Spring Loaded so he can go through further treatment with the hope of returning to start another company.

“If you’re depressed, you’re doing something you know you enjoy but you don’t enjoy doing it,” he said without a hint of self-pity in his voice. “It’s not sadness or other things. It’s that your brain is broken in a way so it can’t reward you in the way it should. It eats your personality.”

Talking with the 35-year-old native of Napan, near Miramichi in New Brunswick, it’s easy to forget that he has been tormented by his affliction for years. His bearded face frequently breaks into a grin and his speech is peppered with witty quips. He speaks optimistically about the future and his conviction that he will launch other companies that will do as well as Spring Loaded.

“I don’t want my parents to be wrong because they are my biggest advocates in the universe,” he said. “And they are absolutely convinced I am going to be a success at something.”

They’re not alone. Garrish entered Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program in 2012 armed with master’s degrees in engineering and mathematics and impressed people with his technical abilities.

“It was instantly apparent to me that Bob is a genius,” said Ed Leach, the professor who initiated Starting Lean with his wife, Mary Kilfoil. “He said, ‘You know, I’m more of a scientist type than a business type but this sort of stuff will allow me to bond with people to do something meaningful.’”

Mindset Project Focuses on Founders' Mental Health

As the course progressed, Garrish began to work on a team that became Spring Loaded Technology, which included the current CEO Chris Cowper-Smith. Leach said Garrish would sometimes bring to class his contacts from the fields of engineering and science, people of worldwide reputation, and that these technical whizzes regarded Garrish as their equal.

“It was absolutely obvious that this is a very rare and special person,” said Leach.

After Starting Lean, Cowper-Smith, Garrish and co-founder Shea Kewin (who has moved on to another company) formed Spring Loaded. They gained kudos for commercializing a knee brace that gains power as a person squats, then releases it when that person stands. The applications were obvious — for sports, the military, disabled people — but the design was tricky. Garrish and his engineering team reworked the mechanism 15 times before finally settling on a prototype inspired by aircraft landing gear.

Last year, Spring Loaded was going great guns. It had a successful crowdfunding campaign, signed a major deal with the Department of National Defence and brought in $1.8 million in funding from Build Ventures.

But what was unknown was that Garrish was absent for much of the autumn, seeking treatment in California.

Garrish had learned of the world’s leading specialist in treatment-resistant depression, a doctor at Stanford University in Palo Alto. He tried to get to see this specialist, without success. But a friend intervened. Rachael Craig, who had previously worked in the Halifax startup community, had moved to the West Coast and began contacting the doctor on Garrish’s behalf. The doctor relented and booked an appointment for Garrish on one condition — that Craig accompany him.

Garrish notes that he paid for that initial consultation and then the doctor saw him free.

“The team at Stanford expressed that Bob made a compelling patient because of his exceptional potential,” said Craig in an email from California. “As is often the case for unusually talented people, Bob struggled to get local doctors to take his suffering seriously because he performs at such a high level. We were very fortunate to find an ally at Stanford who would run the necessary tests to discover Bob’s very unique and severe white matter condition.”

What they gained at Stanford was clarity about just how complicated Garrish’s case is. It’s not just that his form of depression doesn’t respond to medication. It is also that Garrish’s white matter — the parts of the brain that link various areas of grey matter — shows symptoms that should leave him paralyzed. The readings simply don’t make sense.

“My brain is fucked up in a unique way,” said Garrish. “It’s gotten worse over the time span (since the founding of Spring Loaded) and that’s what made it critical to get it sorted now.”

Garrish knew by late autumn he needed more treatment, but it would take time and money and the only equity he had was tied up in Spring Loaded. So as the company negotiated to raise money from Build Ventures, they reached a special severance agreement. The only piece left to fall into place was finding his replacement — a CTO to run the engineering team.

“I had hired most of the people who worked there, so that meant I was responsible for them,” he said. “You need someone with a specific skill set. Stephen coming in filled that need.”

Stephen Fitzgerald Comes Full Circle 

Fitzgerald has the experience Cowper-Smith and Garrish were looking for. His engineering career included making the first carbon fibre hockey stick and developing an experiment that was deployed on a space shuttle. So in January, Garrish stepped aside from the day-to-day operations of Spring Loaded, though he retains a stake in the company.

While the time Garrish spent at Stanford provided him with clarity on his condition and treatment options, he is still looking for the right team in Canada to carry the treatment forward. The team at Stanford is on standby to advocate and advise.

“Given his exceptional potential and the allies who have rallied around him, finding the right Canadian doctor is the last piece that need fall into place,” said Craig. “Bob truly is looking for the right doctors in Toronto and Montreal at this time, and we’ve gathered enough information to know the paths forward.”

Garrish hopes to emerge cured next year and then re-enter the entrepreneurial racket.

“The value of the startup world is that . . . it’s a meritocracy,” said Garrish. “There’s the fact that I brought a product to market and raised millions. I had three people contact me about starting something again because of what I did there. I don’t have to worry about work, which means I can focus on getting my head fixed.”

Garrish is maintaining contact with potential partners and/or funders for his next venture. Having designed the Levitation knee brace, he is interested in the blend of robotics and the human body. But his innate curiosity extends to compound bows and other devices.

“I don’t think I’m done yet,” he said. “Human automation — I think that’s the sort of thing for me. I’ve wanted to build cyborgs since I was 10 years old. And I’ll be profoundly — profoundly! — disappointed if I don’t have a few robot parts on me when I die.”

Indigo Foundation Backs Squiggle Park

Squiggle Park has struck a partnership with the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, which will place the company’s edtech product in some of the most disadvantaged schools in Canada.

The Halifax company’s online games, which help children to learn to read, are now used in 3,000 schools, concentrated in North America but including such markets as Oman and China. And the company recently received approval from the Build in Canada Innovation Program, which will provide $500,000 to an educational body that adopts the technology.

Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Julia Rivard Dexter said in an interview the deal with the Indigo Foundation is important because it will get the Squiggle Park technology into schools that often can’t afford such resources.

“Sometimes it’s hard to reach the kids who need it the most,” said Rivard Dexter. “So this helps Squiggle Park to enter schools that lack the funds to buy supplemental tools. … and a lot of them do. School budgets these days are so tough.”

An offshoot of the Halifax web development company Norex, Squiggle Park has developed a series of games that help children from preschool to Grades 3 or 4 learn to read. The company says children using the games learn to read in one-fifth of the time of traditional lessons, and it is especially helpful in teaching children who lag their peers.

Teaching Tech to First Nations Children

The partnership with the Indigo Foundation began when Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music, approached Squiggle Park out of the blue to say how much she loved the product.

“We got a call from Heather Reisman to say that she tried Squiggle Park with her grandchildren and they really loved it,” said Rivard Dexter. “That was really her introduction to Squiggle Park. Then two weeks later she visited her grandchildren again and Squiggle Park was all they were playing. The last time we met, she decided it would be the perfect product to put into her schools.”

The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation is dedicated to putting books and educational resources into schools. This year it will help 30 Canadian schools in disadvantaged areas, five of them in Atlantic Canada. Since 2004, the foundation has committed more than $25 million in funding to more than 3,000 high-needs elementary school libraries, helping more than 900,000 students to learn to read.

Meanwhile, Rivard Dexter and her Co-Founder and CEO Leah Skerry are working on tapping the Build in Canada funding, which will amount to $500,000 for one year. Build in Canada is a federal program under which the government is an early adopter of Canadian technology. However, education is a provincial responsibility. So Skerry and Rivard Dexter are searching for a partner – most likely a provincial education department – that can use the funding to adopt Squiggle Park in their schools, then become a long-term customer.

Meanwhile, Squiggle Park is also encouraging parents to plan to keep their children reading through the summer holiday, as they tend to slip backwards when they’re not in school. The company has therefore launched its Buy-One-Give -One program. For every Squiggle Park program that is purchased for $60, the company will give one to a child in need. 

TruLeaf Plans Farms Across Canada

A Nova Scotian agritech company that first began at the Perennia Innovation Centre is now looking forward building farms across the country with their advanced crop growing systems.

TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture’s systems are now in use at their subsidiary company GoodLeaf Farms, an idea that first came about to address food security issues in Nova Scotia.

TruLeaf manager of business development Greg Veinott says the initial aim of the company was to grow nutrient-dense food for people who might not have access to it and that continues to be the aim today.

“The idea came from kind of a lightbulb moment when our CEO (Gregg Curwin) saw pictures of a similar setup in Japan in a magazine and decided he wanted to take that technology, build it out and adapt it for here,” Veinott says.

“We had some folks that came together at the Perennia Innovation Centre and really took that idea from a cocktail napkin and started building and prototyping technologies, developing different systems to control the environments, to change the temperature of the air, to douse nutrients into water, to distribute water.”

That technology is a collaboration of a number of different elements including off-the-shelf technologies like HVAC, LED lighting and water distribution. Veinott says TruLeaf brought all those elements together to create a system that allowed them to work together to grow plants. . . 

Read the full story in Huddle.

Read Entrevestor's article on TruLeaf's $8.5 million funding round. 

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is continuing to expand its staff, and today we’re highlighting an opening at the social media analytics company for an account executive.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company, which already has well over 20 employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami, has been expanding rapidly, and has already been featured in our Jobs of the Week column eight times this year alone.

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.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting  monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.

Teaching Tech to First Nations Children

Natalia Stakhanova

Natalia Stakhanova

All children need to learn computer science, but minority groups often have fewer opportunities to do so. A new five-week program in New Brunswick is helping boost knowledge among First Nations’ elementary and middle-school children.

The program, Computer Science to First Nations Schools, is being run by CyberLaunch Academy, which was founded last year to provide opportunities for children to learn coding, robotics, animation and other skills.

The current programming is being offered at Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School in Fredericton and at Natoaganeg School in Eel Ground First Nations Community on the Miramichi River.  

Computer science is a field that provides unique employment opportunities, said Dr. Natalia Stakhanova, course designer and CyberLaunch Academy co-founder.

In the U.S. alone, IT-related employment will increase by 22 per cent by the year 2020, she said. The global freelancing market for IT jobs is estimated to be dozens of billions of dollars.

“Imagine how many opportunities become available to youth with skills in computer science,” she said. “They can easily find an IT-related job and they don’t even have to leave their home…”

Earlier this year CyberLaunch Academy announced another program to broaden computer science knowledge and opportunities. Called Sponsor a child in IT Training, it enables philanthropists to sponsor students from socio-economic groups under-represented in science and technology.

Sponsors pay $250 to allow a child to attend the academy’s 10-week signature course Adventure World of Computing. This course is run year-round in Fredericton’s entrepreneurial hub Planet Hatch.

Stakhanova said that during last year’s fall semester, 11 children received sponsorship. The sponsorship program is run in collaboration with the Multicultural Association of Fredericton and JEDI, the Joint Economic Development Initiative that helps First Nations’ entrepreneurs.  

Lunney Nears Pilot in Fredericton with Doorable

“Teachers often say, ‘We have this wonderful child that’s interested in computer science, but sadly the child’s parents can’t afford additional training. This is a huge loss,” said Stakhanova.

“When that interest first arises is an important time. Later, children feel peer pressure to like certain things and behave a certain way. Then it’s hard to change behaviour. The earlier we catch them and provide role models the better.”

A mother of three, Stakhanova hones her programming on her own children. She says she’s learned that children need to start early in computer science.

“We need to engender a sense of possibility,” she said. “Parents often assume girls won’t be interested. We need to get rid of the stereotypes…If girls say, ‘This sounds interesting,’ bring them in rather than say, ‘No, dancing is for you.’

Stakhanova said the academy’s programming is growing in popularity.

“Parents are signing their kids up for the fall term already,” she said. “We have a few families who travel from Bangor in the U.S. to Fredericton every week so their kids can do the program.”

A native of Russia, Stakhanova was raised in Murmansk, a sea base and Arctic city in Russia’s north. She came to Fredericton to work at University of New Brunswick in 2012 and is currently UNB’s Innovation Research Chair in Cyber Security.

She wants to see CyberLaunch Academy across New Brunswick within five years. Eventually, she wants the group to become national.

“I want the academy to be a household name in Canada,” she said. “I want to get all kids exposed to computer science so they can acquire essential skills like computational thinking and take advantage of the many opportunities in computer science.”

UNB Opens Marine 3D Printing Centre

Mohsen Mohammadi

Mohsen Mohammadi

The University of New Brunswick on Thursday launched Canada’s first research centre for 3D metal printing for the marine and defence industries.

The Fredericton university said in a statement the new Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence is the first Canadian such organization to combine research, commercialization and workforce development and training.  The initiative is the result of a partnership with Custom Fabricators and Machinists (CFM), and community colleges in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  The multi-million-dollar centre is currently funded by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Mohsen Mohammadi, director of the Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UNB, will lead the research and development component of the centre, with CFM partnering on commercialization. The New Brunswick Community College, Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick and the Nova Scotia Community College, will lead workforce development and training.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ $2.7-million contribution is a part of its industrial and regional benefits obligation to the federal government pursuant to its contract for the CP-140 Aurora Structural Life Extension Project.

Irving Shipbuilding’s $750,000 investment is a part of its Value Proposition commitments under the National Shipbuilding Strategy – Canada’s 30-year plan to renew the fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. Irving Shipbuilding’s commitment led to additional public and private sector funding and in-kind support.

Region Eyes Oceans Supercluster

The nearly $5-million centre is expected to triple its funding in the coming year with other partners coming on board, said the statement.

The centre will be the first in Canada to use 3D metal printing as a method for manufacturing certified, custom parts for the marine sector, said the statement.  Its mission is to ensure the adoption of this leading-edge technology in the marine sector in Canada by developing new methods, procedures, and effective training programs. 

This unique initiative will enable New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada to develop a core expertise in this emerging technology and help create the foundation for the next generation of manufacturing.  By working closely together, the founding partners will ensure that this program has the best chance of succeeding long term in a globally competitive marketplace.

“Our technology is greener and more efficient than conventional methods and will create high-value jobs here in Atlantic Canada,” said Mohammadi. “I’m so grateful to our many commercialization, industry and training partners who have supported our work so far and I look forward to welcoming new participants in the future.”

Swept Accepted into 500 Startups

Michael Brown and Matt Cooper

Michael Brown and Matt Cooper

Swept, the Halifax company that makes janitorial software, has been accepted into 500 Startups, the second Atlantic Canadian startup to be accepted into the prestigious program this year.

The Silicon Valley-based program on Wednesday announced the 31 companies that will comprise its 21st cohort. The announcement in TechCrunch noted that 43 percent of the companies are from outside the U.S., as the accelerator develops a more international flavour.

The news of Swept’s acceptance into the program comes days after WellTrack, the Fredericton startup whose software helps people with mental health issues, graduated from the 20th cohort of the 500 Startups accelerator.

It seems links are growing between Atlantic Canada and 500 Startups. Moncton-based recruiting software company Alongside went through the program in 2015, and now two others have been accepted this year. Patrick Lor, the managing partner of 500 Startups Canada, will be a keynote speaker at the Atlantic Venture Forum next month, and 500 Startup member Eric Bahn spoke at Startup Grind Halifax in January.

Founded by CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper, Swept has developed software that helps cleaning companies perform their duties with greater efficiency. The company realizes that janitors often work at night, and some tasks are difficult to explain. That means there are challenges getting messages between clients and the cleaners. So it provides a mobile solution that improves communication between cleaning companies, their cleaners, and their clients.

The company began life as Clean Simple with the goal of providing a network of residential cleaners that people could book online. But as the company went through the Propel ICT Build program in 2015, its mentors convinced the company that its product should be its software, which it could license to Clean Simple’s competitors. Brown and Cooper changed the company’s name to Swept, and became a software company.

Early in 2016, Swept announced it had raised $575,000, and had become the first Atlantic Canadian portfolio company for the Toronto venture capital fund HighLine.  The other investors included: BDC Capital; Stewart MacDonald, former managing director of Expedia Canada Corp.; Innovacorp; members of Saint John-based East Valley Ventures; and Halifax angel Patrick Hankinson. Clean Simple qualified to be considered for the BDC and Innovacorp funding because it completed Propel ICT’s Build program.

Swept will also receive some investment as a participant in the 500 Startups cohort. 

WellTrack Hits $400,000 in ARR

WellTrack, the Fredericton company that provides mental health software for university students, has reached $400,000 in annual recurring revenues and sees a clear path to $1 million this summer.

Founder and CEO Darren Piercey revealed the company’s progress in generating sales during his two-minute pitch for the 500 Startups Demo Day, which took place last week. WellTrack was one of 41 companies to graduate recently from the Silicon Valley accelerator’s 20th cohort.

“We’re experiencing some great traction,” said Piercey in the presentation. “We’re currently at $400,000 in annual recurring revenue and we have a clear path to $1 million this summer by adding just 35 new customers.

“And the opportunity is huge. Two-hundred billion dollars a year is being spent on mental health. It’s the No. 1 healthcare cost in the U.S. today.”

As Piercey spoke, he stood before a slide that featured three of the company’s showcase clients – Pennsylvania State University, University of California at San Diego and Boston College.

Swept of Halifax Joins the Latest 500 Startup Cohort 

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

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

“At WellTrack, we replace therapists with online self-help therapy,” said Piercey. “We’re not just another app; this is real therapy based on my research and the research of others. And we’re currently helping counseling centres deal with these issues.”

Early on in its existence, the company brought on funding from East Valley Ventures, and it has tapped New Brunswick Innovation Foundation a couple of times for money – most recently a $50,000 investment in the 2015-16 fiscal year. As a member of the 500 Startups accelerator, the company received some funding. 

WellTrack last year raised money from First Angel Network, though the amount is not known.

“There’s a wave of interest in the mental health sector and we’re riding that wave,” said Piercey. “We’ve got the team, the timing and the traction to make it happen. We have the opportunity here to make a positive impact on the mental health of a whole generation.” 

12 Companies To Present at AVF

The Atlantic Venture Forum has announced the 12 companies that will present at the 2017 conference, which this year will include a special stream for life sciences and health technology companies.

As well as providing a range of speakers, the AVF works to link investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. Each year, there are presentations by both seed- and growth-stage companies. Last year, there were more than 20 funding groups from across Canada and in the U.S. that attended the Atlantic Venture Forum.

The AVF will take place June 27 and 28 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

Entrevestor has profiled almost all of the 12 presenting companies, so we’ve provided links to our most recent and/or most complete reports on the presenting companies.

There are two companies in the early stage group for which we don’t yet have up-to-date or complete articles: Vish Salon Tech, a St. John’s-based company whose product help hair salons; and Charlottetown-based Frontier Power Systems, which is an engineering company that offers consulting services and innovative products to the wind industry.

The presenting companies are:

Early-Stage Companies

Clockwork Fox Studios, St. John’s. Read our coverage.

Frontier Power Systems, Charlottetown.

Ubique, Sydney and Toronto. Read our coverage.

Vish Salon Tech, St. John’s.

Seaformatics, St. John’s. Read our coverage.

Growth-Stage Companies:

Solace Power, Mount Pearl, NL. Read our coverage.

Island Water Technologies, Charlottetown. Read our coverage.

QRA Corp., Halifax. Read our coverage.

SimpTek Technologies, Fredericton. Read our coverage.

Life Sciences and Health Technology Companies:

Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax. Read our coverage.

Covina Biomedical, Halifax. Read our coverage.

Densitas Inc., Halifax. Read our coverage.

 

[Disclaimer: The Atlantic Venture Forum is a client of Entrevestor.]

Labfundr Raises Money for Research

Labfundr, a Halifax startup that has developed a crowdfunding site for scientific research, has launched its first campaign, which will help develop a databank of blood samples for Canadian children and teens.

Founded by scientific researcher Eric Fisher, Labfundr is designed to help scientists raise funding by seeking support from a broad range of people who understand the value of the research. The platform not only garners financial donations from people but lets them follow the research and feel they’re part of the team performing important work.

The first campaign on the crowdfunding site will be conducted by CALIPER — the Canadian Laboratory Initiative on Paediatric Reference Intervals. The group is based at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and is developing a repository of data on healthy blood samples for children. This data will provide doctors with a baseline that will lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses of diseases in children.

“Every child deserves the best healthcare possible through accurate diagnosis and interpretation of medical test results,” CALIPER lead researcher Khosrow Adeli said in a statement. “This kind of database will assist pediatricians from across the country and around the world in making health-care decisions for our children.”

Fisher has a PhD in biochemistry and comes from a family of scientists. He’s deeply concerned about the difficulties Canadian scientists face in funding their research. He said in an interview the country is losing scientists, who are either going to other countries or changing professions. So he’s launching a crowdfunding site with the goal of channeling more money into scientific research.

DGI Executes Two-Pronged Strategy

What’s more, he hopes Labfundr will bring the science community closer to the general public and foster communications between them.

“Researchers can reach people who care about their research, and the greater public can find out about projects that matter to them and help out,” he said.

CALIPER exemplifies the type of research project Labfundr is targeting. With a goal of raising $10,000, CALIPER plans to use the funds to expand a database of healthy blood test values, also known as pediatric reference intervals, taken from healthy Canadian children. The campaign will be open-ended, so it will continue to raise money through Labfundr for an indefinite period of time.

“Doctors typically rely on reference intervals to determine if the patient is healthy or unhealthy,” said Adeli. “Reference intervals specific for children and teens have been severely lacking, which can lead to misinterpretation of blood test results and potential misdiagnosis.”

Having suffered from near-fatal breathing complications as a child, Fisher understands that people want to improve health for children and that scientific research can save young lives. Labfundr is now in talks with other researchers about launching campaigns, which must be conducted by researched at a recognized institution such as a hospital or university.

“Everyone can relate in one way or another on how science impacted their lives,” said Fisher. “It saved my life as an infant. And this initiative can save a lot of lives in Canada and elsewhere. So it’s very impactful.”

Region Eyes Oceans Supercluster

Seaformatics of St. John's is one of the oceans-related startups in the region.

Seaformatics of St. John's is one of the oceans-related startups in the region.

Atlantic Canada is making a push to establish a “pan-Atlantic oceans cluster” with the hope of tapping the $950-million supercluster program announced in the last federal budget.

There’s been some scuttlebutt in economic development circles lately about such an effort. Now a subcommittee of Liberal MPs from all four provinces has trumpeted the oceans cluster as one of five of its recommendations for economic development.

The Atlantic growth strategy subcommittee on innovation released its report on May 15, having sought the opinions of stakeholders in meetings across the region last winter.

Its recommendations include establishing a new pre-seed venture capital fund, supporting social entrepreneurship, improving intergovernmental communication and tinkering with a few federal programs. The push for an oceans cluster stood out because it meshes with the new supercluster program and with the way the four eastern provinces are coming together to lobby for the program.

“There is an opportunity to further support the maturation of Atlantic Canada’s oceans expertise,” said the 44-page report. “Stakeholders strongly support the notion of superclusters and (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s) approach to clusters in general, particularly to scale up and encourage more intimate collaboration across applicable entities.”

NB Unveils Innovation Funding

In his March budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the government will spend $950 million over five years to support “superclusters” of innovation across the country.

The definition of supercluster was left vague. Officials working on the Atlantic growth strategy, representing the four provinces and the federal government, have recently been developing a strategy to tap supercluster funding in ways that would benefit all four provinces.

That means the Atlantic Canadian oceans cluster will incorporate economic strengths from each province, including those not often associated with ocean industries, such as cybersecurity and smart grids.

“Rather than consolidation of decision-making, the strategy’s goal should be to strengthen relationships to create a national ocean’s brand for Canada so that we can leverage opportunities, including those specifically in emerging clusters such as biotechnology/bioscience, cybersecurity, smart grid/clean growth and agri-food,” said the report.

The subcommittee — comprised of Matt DeCourcey of New Brunswick, Sean Casey of P.E.I., Andy Fillmore of Nova Scotia, and Nick Whalen of Newfoundland and Labrador — said the funding programs should support companies regardless of what phase of growth they are in.

NS Released RFP for VC Fund in November

It supports the idea of a new venture capital fund in the region. The subcommittee also stressed that contributions to direct equity funding should not draw money away from existing programs, such as those offered by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency or the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The Nova Scotia government has received about seven applications to set up a new venture capital fund, and is expected to announce the winner by the end of June (though the results of the current election could delay any announcement).

“The subcommittee was pleased to learn that the government of N.S. is working on the creation of a seed fund in the amount of $25 million,” said the report. “It was suggested that the other three Atlantic Provinces join to make this a bigger fund.”

Rodgers To Head CDL-Atlantic

Jesse Rodgers, the head of Volta Labs, has been named the regional leader of the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic, the new Halifax-based accelerator that was officially announced Thursday.

CDL, which began at University of Toronto in 2012, is possibly Canada’s most demanding tech accelerator. It opened a Vancouver pod last year, and on Thursday it announced three other locations for its 2017-18 cohort – Calgary, Montreal and Halifax. The Halifax cohort will be offered in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business.

Rodgers, who was the founding director of the CDL program in Toronto, came to Halifax last year to oversee Volta Labs. Now he will also head a group of CDL mentors that will include Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley and serial entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald, as well as mentors in Toronto, Boston and New York.

"We are thrilled to join such a strong network of universities and business schools,” Sylvain Charlebois, dean of Dal’s Faculty of Management, said in a statement that appeared in Dal News. “Knowledge-sharing is so critical to an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our economy will reap significant benefits from this partnership.”

The nine-month CDL program is not for the faint of heart as many participating companies are asked to leave before completing it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a handful of graduates.

“We were able to get a group of mentors who could see patterns before we could and put us on the trajectory to make us more successful,”  said Mark Hobbs, the CEO of Halifax-based Fundmetric, which is now finishing up the program in Toronto. “We were able to find answer to certain questions, which has allowed us to put together some projections, and that has allowed us to approach venture capital firms and get some offers on the table.”

Retrievium Upbeat as it Completes CDL Program

The Dal announcement on Thursday gives a few more details on what CDL-Atlantic will look like. The program will feature a general stream, which will comprise startups from a range of sectors. It’s assumed most of these will be from Atlantic Canada. It will also have a specialty program for oceantech, cleantech and agri-food companies. It’s believed this stream will draw participants from across the country.

“By collaborating with Dal and other partners in the region such as the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, CDL-Atlantic will help leverage the unique strengths in the region and spur the commercialization of more ocean, clean technology and agriculture research,” said the statement.

CDL has proven effective in helping to strengthen and expand young companies through exposure to expert guidance and pivotal investment opportunities. CDL-Atlantic will also include provisions for Dal MBA students to participate in its programs. Rodgers said Dal is a natural partner for the program.

“It’s the top research school in Atlantic Canada, and throw in the massive investments into oceans research happening there and it makes so much sense,” he said. “It’s seems like the timing is right and the location is right.”

MacDonald has helped catalyze the startup ecosystem in the Atlantic region over the years, co-founding Volta Labs, investing in and mentoring local entrepreneurs and supporting key initiatives in schools.

“I’m passionate about building our startup community in Atlantic Canada, which is greatly out-performing on a per capita basis,” said MacDonald, whose latest company is Manifold. “This new partnership is an exciting step towards showing the world what we have to offer, namely, the talent and ambition to build global scale technology companies.”

DGI Executes Two-Pronged Strategy

Chère Chapman: 'Digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.'

Chère Chapman: 'Digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.'

Halifax-based DGI Clinical takes a two-pronged approach to boosting healthcare: the group gives patients a voice and allows pharmaceutical companies to better understand their clinical trial data. 

DGI Clinical has developed systems that allow patients to state and communicate their healthcare priorities. 

Established in 2001 by Dalhousie University-based Alzheimer’s expert Kenneth Rockwood, DGI has created patient-focused SymptomGuides. The Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide is available online. It allows sufferers to name the symptoms that most concern them. This information can be shared with family and health professionals. Both patients and caregivers can enter data and track symptoms.

It’s important that patients state the symptoms that trouble them, said Chère Chapman, the company’s CEO. 

“Gone are the days when patients say, ‘Tell me what to do and I’ll do it,’” Chapman said.

“The SymptomGuide allows patients to set goals for their treatment. … One patient with dementia, for example, may wish to increase their social activity. Another may wish to decrease repetition of asking the same questions.”

Chapman said between 4,000 and 5,000 people and their caregivers are using the Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide.  

Other Symptom Guides have been created for clinical trials and clinic settings, including a recently developed hemophilia Symptom Guide.

The company has also built bespoke Alzheimer’s and dementia tools for clinical trials and clinic use.

“A company may want to develop a compound to reduce agitation. SymptomGuide will reveal how many of our users are concerned about agitation,” Chapman said.

Seagrave Hails the Benefits of Bioscience

SymptomGuide can reveal details such as the disease stage or stages in which agitation bothers patients, whether respondents are already diagnosed, and what therapies they may be on.

DGI Clinical is now looking at working in the areas of HIV, cardiovascular disease and renal failure. 

“Our tools are applicable to chronic diseases, and our scientific team has already done a lot of research in these areas,” said Chapman. 

She said DGI Clinical’s tools allow pharmaceutical clients to fully understand their data.

“The typical phase two drug trial looks at primary and secondary outcomes, including quality of life measures, but these are typically analyzed as if they are unrelated,” she said.

“We allow pharmaceutical companies to see how the outcomes interact with each other to produce treatment effects.” 

She said that drug companies usually try to exclude frail people from drug trials, but people of different levels of frailty do get onto the trials.

DGI offers a Frailty Index, which was developed at Dalhousie by Rockwood and Arnold Mitnitski, both DGI scientists. It has been adapted for clinical trial data and provides pharmaceutical companies with greater information about the frailty of their clinical trial subjects.

“The Frailty Index reveals the impact of the drug on frail people, resulting in more clinically meaningful information,” Chapman said. 

She said that deep analysis of data is especially useful when drug trial results are unclear.

“It could be a $100 million decision to take a drug to the next level, so digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.”

Chapman, a New Brunswick native with a background in health research and business management, had worked around the world before joining DGI a year ago, becoming CEO in December.

She said the company is growing steadily, funding its own growth, and focusing on R&D and hiring staff.

Halifax is an excellent base as the city’s universities produce great scientists. She said she is not aware of any direct competitors.

“Our biggest issue is the education of potential clients,” she said. “We have to get people to change the ways they do things.”

So far, the company has no Canadian clients. All clients are US or European pharmaceutical companies or other groups with a health intervention to test.

“We are not in a huge rush to grow,” Chapman said. “Science is complicated. It takes time for staff to understand all the science behind what we do, however bright they are.”

EduCode’s Pilot in Coding Education

The French school system in New Brunswick is launching a pilot project that will teach computer coding to junior high school students, even when their teachers have no experience in computer science.

The initiative will use a new product from Moncton-based EduCode Canada Inc., which has developed a computer science educational platform that helps teachers with no background in coding. The pilot project is being offered to Grade 7 students in four French-language schools in Kedgwick, Bathurst, Tracadie and Fredericton, but EduCode also has curriculum in English.

The company is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Guyverson Vernous, a native of Haiti who several years ago launched Moncton-based iCubemedia, which developed digital products for small business. He said iCubemedia has been doing well and is financing the development of his new company.

“EduCode Canada Inc. was created to build a bridge for all students, to help them go from a consumer of technology to understanding and becoming the creator of that technology,” he said in a statement released by the New Brunswick government. “We are pleased to partner with these schools to offer students the opportunity to learn about coding.”

EduCode chief marketing officer Kerry Knee said in an interview the company provides an “ingenious” solution to a pressing global problem. There’s a dire need to teach young people how to code because the jobs of tomorrow will be in information technology. Even now in New Brunswick alone, there are 2,200 openings for programs. Too few students are going into computer science after high school because too few of them have been introduced to coding in grade school.

Governments can try to improve curriculum in elementary school or junior high school, but there are too few teachers able to teach coding. What EduCode does is teach coding in grades 6 to 8 and all the teacher needs to do is monitor the class.

Lunney Edges Toward Pilot with Doorable

The company’s split-screen platform has videos that teach the students basics of coding. Junior high students learn JavaScript, though there is also curriculum for more advanced languages, like Python and C++. The students can progress at their own pace, and if they run into problems they can jump on a chat function with a remote computer science teacher. That teacher, based in the EduCode office in Moncton, can see the student’s code and immediately help with any problems.

The brilliant aspect of the program is it actually introduces coding to teachers who have never been exposed to it before. The program encourages classroom teachers to take each one-hour lesson a day or two before the students. That means they can help the students in the classroom, and throughout the course they come to understand the rudiments of coding.

Knee _ who met Vernous when she was searching for a place for her seven-year-old son to learn coding _ said the company has been offering an after-school program in Moncton this year. Some 300 students went through the program, in which they built their own websites and then their own video games. They will come together for a computer science fair next month to showcase their work.

Vernous and Knee eventually hope EduCode will be used by schools across Canada and in the U.S., but for now they’re focusing on the pilot project in New Brunswick.

“We have a four-week pilot and then we’ll see what is working and what needs tweaking,” said Knee. “Then we would like to see it in schools for a full year.”

Lunney Nears Pilot in Fredericton

Melissa Lunney with fellow Jedi entrepreneur Melvin Nash

Melissa Lunney with fellow Jedi entrepreneur Melvin Nash

There’s nothing like finding a possible early adopter to stoke the entrepreneurial fires, and right now Melissa Lunney seems stoked.

Lunney is the Founder and CEO of AppDigenous Development Inc., a young company whose technology opens doors automatically for people with disabilities. The one-year-old company has been working with the Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program offered by the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, the Fredericton group that fosters economic growth for First Nations communities.

She was new to entrepreneurship when she joined the program in 2016, but now she is talking to the City of Fredericton about trying out Doorable (the name of AppDigenous’ product) in one or more of its buildings. It’s given fresh confidence to the entrepreneur, which was on display during an interview at the JEDI offices.

“At the beginning I had no idea what to expect and I relied on the guidance of others a lot,” said Lunney. “Working on this project, I’m learning more and more, and I feel like I’m absorbing lessons from people. I know more about the project than before and I know it’s what I want to do.”

As the name suggests, AppDigenous is developing an app, but the project is complicated by the fact that there’s hardware involved as well. 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 on a wall; but the location of the button often forces someone in a wheelchair or with crutches to reverse or maneuver in an awkward way to get through the doors. Doorable is a smartphone app that automatically opens the door when the user approaches. As long as the phone is on and the app activated, the door will open whenever they get near it.

New Brunswick Unveils Innovation Funding

Lunney now has all the working parts to the device and needs to do a pilot project with it installed in a building. She has been working with engineers at RPC, a New Brunswick-based research and technology organization, who have produced the hardware that can receive signals and open the doors. And an aboriginal software engineer has built the app for Android. They still need to do an iOS version. “It’s been great because I get to work with another Indigenous entrepreneur,” she said.

As well as learning about tech entrepreneurship, Lunney said she has learned a lot about the challenges that disabled people face every day.

“I’m learning more about people living with disabilities,” she said. “Like when they go to a university, they don’t necessarily look for the best one in terms of academics – they look for the one with the most accessible buildings.”

She’s learned that disabled people always have their route to class or work predetermined because they need to know the path with the fewest obstacles. One of the features of the Doorable app will be a route-planner to help disabled people find accessible paths to their destinations.

Lunney is now focusing on getting the first installation and building her network. One thing that increases her confidence is there are no competitors working on a similar project to help people with disabilities.

“At first I had a hard time coming up with a business plan because I had no example to go off of,” she said. “Now it’s, Hey, no one else is doing this so all there is is me.”

Seaformatics’ Surprising Retail Play

The Waterlily micro-turbine.

The Waterlily micro-turbine.

A funny thing happened when Seaformatics prepared to launch a power product for oceans research: it came up with a retail product that has already been pre-ordered by more than 300 outdoors enthusiasts.

The St. John’s company is now preparing to launch Waterlily, a micro-turbine that can use wind or water power to recharge any device with a USB port. The idea is that outdoor folks, backwoods camp owners, or remote workers can use Waterlily to recharge their phone or devices.

“The pre-orders have been going really well,” cofounder and CEO Andrew Cook said in a phone interview last Thursday. “In the first 30 days — well, it was really the last two weeks of April — we had 200 preorders and as of today we had 318 and we’re still going strong.”

Cook and his team are surprised by the response they’re getting from the marketplace, but what’s really interesting is the story of how Waterlily came to be.

Seaformatics was developed by scientists at Memorial University, who set out several years ago to produce a renewable power source for ocean-monitoring equipment.

Its Sealily product harvests power from ocean currents to provide constant electricity for the equipment. Researchers would no longer need to endure the time, cost and risk of going to sea to replace batteries in their monitoring gear.

The company is a tenant of the Genesis Centre, the startup organization on the MUN campus, which in March gave the company a bit of money to make a small prototype of the Sealily. It was going to be a demonstration model, a mini version of the product that they could display at trade shows.

Empowered Homes Lands $600K in Funding

Almost on a whim, they decided to video the small model and put it up on Facebook to see what people thought.

“We started it as a test, just to see if there was a market for this device,” said Cook. “The video got 22,000 views in the first two days we so decided to do preorders for it.”

The Seaformatics teams decided to generate preorders through its website and social media rather than on a standard crowdfunding site. Launching on a site like Kickstarter would have required a more structured campaign. And Seaformatics is not asking its customers to pay up front.

Even with the more casual plan, the company has received more than $45,000 in preorders in about a month.

“Our goal was to have 100 preorders by the beginning of May, and we basically doubled that without doing any marketing,” said Cook. The product was even featured in a one-minute profile on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, which is probably one reason the preorders have poured in from 14 countries.

The company is now planning to produce 2,500 Waterlily units this year.

They hope to deliver one shipment in August and another in October. They plan to do more direct sales, to hopefully offer the product on Amazon later this year and through retailers in 2018 and 2019.

Sealily is still in Seaformatics’ long-term plans, but client feedback is forcing the team to look at new versions of Waterlily. The current eight-inch product generates five volts of power, but some clients (especially boaters and RV owners) have asked for a 12-volt iteration.

Right now Cook is working on raising about $750,000 in financing to cover the production costs, and finding a manufacturer. The flood of interest in Waterlily has begun to calm down and he’s no longer overwhelmed by preorder inquiries.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” he said. “Today’s the first day in a month I’ve had fewer than 10 unread emails in my inbox.”

Hailing the Benefits of Bioscience

Meaghan Seagrave: Food security, better health and a cleaner environment.

Meaghan Seagrave: Food security, better health and a cleaner environment.

What if we told you that New Brunswick could revitalize its economy, retain young workers and help the environment to boot?

It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The bioeconomy can do all of those things and more. Some of those efforts are already happening right here, but there’s so much more that could be done if we had a focused effort around policy and programing.

Bioscience, or biotechnology as it’s sometimes known, uses living things to develop useful products and processes. Add in the business component and you have the bioeconomy, which is a rapidly growing sector across the world. Entrepreneurs are creating opportunities to ensure our food security, improve our health and create a cleaner environment.

What does this look like in real life? Think turning waste into biodiesel and using drones to maximize crop yield and reduce pesticide use. With 75 percent of New Brunswick’s land covered in forest and farmland, our province is ripe for this cutting-edge work to take place.

Some local companies have already started to dabble in the bioeconomy. Resson received $14 million in funding last year to pursue agricultural technology research, and LuminUltra Technologies is exporting microbiological measurement tools and test kits to more than 60 countries — just to name a few examples.

All of this funding creates demand for jobs and highly skilled workers to fill them. Companies in the bioeconomy are able to provide compensation packages that can entice new college graduates away from the bright lights and fast pace of a large city to the rural regions of New Brunswick.

These young workers benefit from a lower cost of living and can bring vital commerce to our region. This is exactly the model that cities and towns across the world have used to transform from withering communities to vibrant places that you see in magazine rankings of the best places to live.

Fredericton's Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

While the bioeconomy is creating new jobs in New Brunswick, it’s not abandoning our roots in the process. Bioscience is the perfect marriage of our traditional industries like forestry, farming, and fishing with the cutting-edge technology platforms that are helping to transform and innovate them.

Neither IT nor science can live in a vacuum, and investors are starting to see that the best bottom line comes when the two are married together.

Some of this funding could come from the government through programs like the Clean Growth Economy or our Atlantic Growth Strategy. Some could come from the U.S., where investments in clean tech and life science have outperformed those in IT several times over.

Either way, funding the bioeconomy doesn’t provide the adrenaline-like returns that IT start-ups do, but has proven to be much more stable in the long run. Communicating these differences is a challenge in moving the bioeconomy forward.

The key players in the bioscience community are gathering at the Atlantic Biorefinery Conference in Fredericton, June 7-9, to discuss the technologies and policies that will drive bioeconomic growth in the region.

With a focus on national and international perspectives, this conference is designed to illustrate the real opportunity in our back yard. Of particular interest is the keynote talk from Jussi Manninen of the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland. Finland and New Brunswick share many similarities when it comes to our resource-based economies. Finland is transitioning into a modern bioeconomy, and Manninen will discuss how their solution could serve as a model for New Brunswick.

New Brunswick has all of the building blocks necessary to grow the bioeconomy even more and attract world-class businesses to the area. We have the physical space and type of land needed for bioscience development, along with the research expertise to make it happen.

This area is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by investors and job seekers alike. The outlook is bright, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

Meaghan Seagrave is the Executive Director of BioNB, the bioscience association in New Brunswick.

Steve Blank Coming to NS May 30

Steve Blank, centre, at Communitech in Kitchener in 2015.

Steve Blank, centre, at Communitech in Kitchener in 2015.

Steve Blank is coming to Halifax.

The father of the lean startup movement will be giving a fireside chat at Dalhousie University on May 30. He will be hosted by Launch Dal, whose founders Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach adopted Blank’s methodology when they began their pioneering Starting Lean course four years ago.

Blank will be speaking at 4 pm in the Potter Auditorium, or Room 1028 of the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building. Tickets are free and available here.

Blank teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California Berkeley, Columbia University, New York University and Stanford University.

He pioneered the experimental, evidence-based lean startup movement with his 2003 book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which outlined what he had learned in than two decades as an early employee or founder of eight different high-tech startups.

The book, which began as notes for an entrepreneurship course and went on to become a global bestseller, said that startups are not just smaller versions of big companies — they need their own tools and processes to move from idea to execution to product.

The Harvard Business Review named Blank one of 12 Masters of Innovation and CNBC recognized him as one of the "11 Notable Entrepreneurs Teaching the Next Generation."

In 2011, Blank created the Lean LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship class that puts customer development and lean business model design principles together in a fast-paced, real-life environment. The model has been adopted at more than 75 universities around the world. It has become the standard for the commercialization of science in the U.S. and is driving defense innovation in the U.S. The methodology is embedded in Dalhousie’s Starting Lean course and Launch Dal’s entrepreneurial programming.

“A number of enterprises have sprung from this multidisciplinary initiative on campus — including biomedical, big data and innovative product design companies — and many of the program’s students have stayed in Nova Scotia and become part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem helping drive the province’s economy,” said Kilfoil in an email. 

Blank will have a full agenda when he's in Halifax. I had the pleasure -- and I mean that literally -- of seeing Blank judge a pitching competition in Ontario two years ago. What's striking is how he can burrow into the guts of a startup just by asking a few questions. He's definitely someone to listen to if you can make the event on the 30th. 

Lenarduzzi Joins AVF Speakers

Sunny Lenarduzzi: Monetize Your Message

Sunny Lenarduzzi: Monetize Your Message

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place June 27 and 28 in Halifax, has added digital content expert Sunny Lenarduzzi to its list of keynote speakers.

Lenarduzzi is an award-winning social media strategist and consultant. Working with such clients as Hootsuite and Applebees, her mission is to turn your purpose into profit. Her tagline is, “Monetize Your Message”.

As a broadcaster and online entrepreneur with a background in journalism, Lenarduzzi knows that the key to connecting with your audience is authentic communication. Lenarduzzi has a deep understanding of video strategy, and a track record of successful online business strategy working with authors, entrepreneurs, and brands. Her educational background is in broadcasting from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

So far, the AVF has also listed two other keynote speakers: Patrick Lor, the managing partner of 500 Startups Canada, who has previously worked as an entrepreneur, Investor and tech evangelist; and J. Kelly Hoey, the author of Build Your Own Dream Network, as well as an entrepreneur and connector.

As well as providing a range of speakers, the AVF works to link investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. Each year there are presentations by both seed- and growth-stage companies. Last year, there were more than 20 funding groups from across Canada and in the U.S. that attended the Atlantic Venture Forum.

The Atlantic Venture Forum will take place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

 

[Disclosure: The Atlantic Venture Forum is a client of Entrevestor.]

Sustane Eyes New Contracts in ‘17

Peter Vinall

Peter Vinall

Sustane Technologies, the Nova Scotia company that turns garbage into eco-fuel, has broken ground on its Chester plant and expects to have it operational in a year. The plant is expected to cost $16 million-$17 million.

The company came to prominence last year when it won Innovacorp’s I-3 Startup Competition, capturing $225,000 in prizes. Then in August it signed an agreement with the Municipality of Chester to build a plant where the local government could bring household refuse to be converted to fuels rather than tossed into a landfill.

What’s more, CFO and co-founder Robert Richardson said the company is now in talks to develop plants in other locations and hopes to have one or two signed this year.

“The most important thing is we’re in the ground in Chester and we’re building our plant,” said Richardson in an interview this week. “We’re going to have the footing for the building that will house the plant go in in about a week or so. We think we will deliver the plant by December of this year.”

Richardson, who is also the CFO and owner of Compass Commercial Realty Ltd., said the team led by CEO Peter Vinall expects to have the plant operational in the first quarter of 2018.

Fundy Monitoring Projects Funded

What that plant will do is to take 90 per cent of the stuff that goes into the landfill and cook it with steam. The landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths. Through this process a few marketable byproducts are produced, most notably biomass pellets and synthetic diesel.

The plant will employ about 25 people and will be large enough to handle refuse from other municipalities as well as Chester, said Richardson. He added the facility will not look like a place where you bring garbage — it will be clean, with stainless steel equipment, and the main residue from the manufacturing process will be steam released cleanly into the atmosphere.

The Nova Scotian-owned company has raised the money to finance the plant. Although Richardson declined to provide details on the funding, he did say it pretty well divided evenly between equity and debt, and that most of the investors are Canadian.

The company grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. Richardson said the Chester plant will actually improve on the technology used in Spain because it will, for example, remove plastics from the biomass pellets, allowing them to be burned safely and increasing their value.

Aside from a functioning plant, the Chester site will become a demonstration facility for the company, so it can fly in prospective clients and show them how the technology works. Sustane may even sign a deal or two before the new plant is commissioned.

“We’ve got paper going back and forth on a number of proposals,” said Richardson.

Sustane is talking to other jurisdictions in Nova Scotia and “looking at New Brunswick in a big way,” he said. It is also talking to municipalities on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., where “tipping fees” for landfill are high because land is so expensive.

“I think we should have excellent uptake for anyone who comes to see (the new plant),” said Richardson. “But maybe we will have someone signed before we have the plant finished. Maybe in the next 3-6 months we should have one or two signed.”

Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

Matt Daigle: 'We're more focused on revenue generation.'

Matt Daigle: 'We're more focused on revenue generation.'

Rise, a Fredericton-based company dedicated to encouraging the use of sustainable materials in home renovations, is planning to launch two new services to help generate cash flow.

The company was founded two years ago, and has grown its user base and raised some equity financing. Founder and CEO Matt Daigle said the company’s focus now is to launch a green certification for builders, and a platform that can help homeowners find rebates and incentives to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

“The business is doing really well, but the big question folks have always had for us is, ‘How do you guys make money?’” said Daigle in an interview last week. “We were always focusing more, when we started, on user acquisition. Now things have changed and we’re more focused on revenue generation.”

Rise has developed an online dashboard that helps homeowners, contractors and retailers work together to find materials and products that can benefit the environment and reduce costs. The company envisages a product that can inform users about the best products available and have a social component connecting the various parties.

EhEye, Bulletproof Shine at Kiras

Daigle said he hopes that next month the company will launch a new feature that will allow builders or other professionals to go through a sustainability assessment and receive badges showing they have passed. The program awards different “tiers” to the builders.

The company will probably launch the badge program within a month in Vancouver, which has announced its ambitions to become the world’s greenest city.

To generate interest in the new badge program, Rise has teamed up with 3D design software company Sketchup to hold a North America-wide competition for designing tiny homes (homes smaller than 400 square feet). The winning design will be built and donated to a homeless person or family.

Meanwhile, Rise has also collected the names of Canadian rebates offered by utilities and other organizations to encourage energy conservation. Daigle’s team has learned a lot about which programs work and which ones don’t, and they’ve learned that the most successful programs are those offered directly to consumers, at the checkout of a retail establishment.

Rise is now working with a major utility — Daigle declined to name which one — on a pilot project that would offer the utility’s rebate through the Rise site. The utility would ship the product to the buyer’s door at a huge discount, he said.

Daigle said Rise gets most of it online traffic through the list of rebates, which includes all the programs on offer in Canada. The company is now in the process of assembling a similar list of rebates on offer in the U.S.

Rise last year raised about $110,000 in equity financing from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and a few private investors. It then leveraged that to bring in more money in grants and loans, for a total of about $400,000. The company, which employs four full-time and three part-time staff, is now looking to raise about $150,000 in further equity investment before aiming for a larger round later.

Halifax’s PI Wins First Chinese Client

Joanne Ball-Gautschi: 'What we do is right in our name.'

Joanne Ball-Gautschi: 'What we do is right in our name.'

Halifax-based life sciences services provider Partner International has signed up one of the largest healthcare groups in China, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, as its first client in the Middle Kingdom.

The company known as PI announced the deal on Wednesday, adding to its global portfolio of clients in life sciences and advanced technology-based industries. The 17-year-old company provides business development services to clients in several countries.

“Our reputation in the international market helped secure the agreement,” said Partner International CEO and President Joanne Ball-Gautschi in a statement. “We have built a solid track record in the life sciences industry delivering results for our international clients – and we are delighted our Chinese partners have placed their confidence in us.”

Partner International specializes in business development for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector. This new contract includes supporting business development for two subsidiaries of Shanghai Fosun – one is developing biosimilar products and next generation antibody therapeutics, and the other is a small molecule-development company with a focus on diabetes and cancer. Partner International will assist these units with partnership and licensing outside China.

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“Partner International is a great Nova Scotia success story,” BioNova Managing Director Scott Moffitt said in the statement. “The company's achievements have been a well-kept secret locally, as these types of businesses are not often recognized nor touted for their significant export contributions. The fact they have clients in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific is proof of the global impact they are having, which ultimately benefits our province.”

In the 17 years Partner International has been in business, it has developed a presence in more than 26 countries, with main operations in Nova Scotia, Switzerland, the United States, and Australia.

“Our clients are leading scientists, researchers, doctors and executives from high tech companies,” said Ball-Gautschi. “We join their team and help bring their products and technologies to the people who will benefit from their work. Their passion is creating products and innovations that change lives; our passion is business development and accelerating international deals for our clients. What we do is right in our name.” 

NB Unveils Innovation Funding

With Innovation Week taking place in New Brunswick, the provincial government has announced new funding for two leading innovation agencies and new money for the Innovation Voucher Fund.

In the first of two innovation-related announcements, Premier Brian Gallant announced his government will provide $63.6 million to the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation over four years.

In the second announcement, Gallant announced funding of more than $1 million to increase research and development activities across New Brunswick through the Innovation Voucher Fund.

“The first announcement is not trivial as we were successful in renewing our funding for NBIF for another 4 years – $45.6 million,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in an email. “This provides us with a base from which we can grow and keep the momentum going in New Brunswick.”

The government has said it will spend $160 million in innovation over the next four years. This includes an $11.4 million annual expenditure for NBIF. The Health Research Foundation funding of $4.5 million per year is being renewed. Further enhancements to innovation funding will be considered going forward, said the statement.

Provincial governments in Atlantic Canada have made funding announcements for innovation in the last year or two with the goals of developing more startups and increasing research at institutions. Nova Scotia announced $40 million in investment funds for Innovacorp last October, and has committed $25 million for a new venture capital fund in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador initiated the Venture NL Fund two years ago, and Prince Edward Island is considering a fund.

David Alston's Vision for New Brunswick's E-Identification Intitiative

NBIF will invest the funds through its Venture Capital Fund, Startup Investment Fund, and Innovation Voucher Fund in support of business, and through its Research Innovation Fund, Graduate Scholarship Program, and Research Assistantships and Technicians Initiatives in support of publicly funded universities and colleges in the province.

The Health Research Foundation will use the funding to match and leverage federal agencies, national organizations and the private sector to support its three core programs: the health research program; health research initiatives; and strategic investment in health research innovation. 

“Investments in health research have been generating exponential returns on investment for the New Brunswick economy, attracting researchers and their families to the province, further attracting and training the next generation of young scientists, and attracting even more independent funding,” said Bruno Battistini, the foundation’s president, CEO and scientific director.

Gallant, who serves as the province’s innovation minister, and NBIF jointly announced the new funding for the Innovation Voucher Fund. Through the foundation’s Innovation Voucher Fund, 23 small and medium-sized businesses received funding and were provided access to scientific talent and research organizations to help them expand their businesses through innovation.

“The vouchers enable businesses from across the province to access specialized expertise and equipment available within our research institutions to help them turn their ideas into reality,” said Milbury.

The fund aims to accelerate innovation within small and medium-sized businesses using the talent, capacity and facilities of New Brunswick’s research organizations.

“We used the innovation voucher to identify unique and insightful visualizations for our first cloud application which we are releasing this year,” Andrea Feunekes, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Remsoft, said in the statement. “Taking on this high-value project with the foundation helped to de-risk our investment in some new areas for Remsoft, and the speed and simplicity of accessing the voucher was a pleasure.”

The goal is to apply innovation in a way that improves the profitability and competitiveness of those businesses.

[Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.]

What Canada’s First E-ID Will Mean

David Alston: A key proponent of NB's move toward digital identities.

David Alston: A key proponent of NB's move toward digital identities.

Three years ago, I saw the future when I witnessed Estonia’s digital government initiatives.  For me, the genie was out of the bottle and I couldn't shake the vision.  Since that day, I only see what's possible when it comes to New Brunswick.  The race is on to become the leader in putting citizens’ needs solidly at the centre of every developed solution. There has definitely been great progress behind the scenes in ramping up to a similar vision here, as well as in other provinces and states. 

It’s currently Innovation Week in New Brunswick, so I figured I would attempt to share this vision.  The digitalization of government is not an ‘if’, but a ‘when’.  So let’s look at what Digital New Brunswick might look like in, say, five years’ time – in 2022. I suspect some pieces will happen a little sooner, others a bit later. That’s the nature of a vision after all, especially when the approach should be staying dialed in during the journey and learning about what works and what needs more adjusting along the way.  Oh, and please take notice that I chose to use the word 'will' above.  If I've learned anything over the past few years, it is to be positive.  I've also learned that if you collectively paint the future, it’s possible to will it into existence using lots of creative thinking and action.

The First Step Is a Digital ID

In 2022, every New Brunswick citizen will have a secure e-Identity, or e-ID. The government is already at work on this initiative. Part of the magic of an e-ID is that you can securely verify who you are online.  This means you can do online the things you once had to go to a government office for, to prove who you were--think that chip-enabled bank card meets your driver's license. All your government-generated data will be attached to your e-ID, including health and education records, social development programs, licenses, permits, etc. Yes, basically you are at the centre of your data and you are now the one in control of it. The data is structured so there is no duplicate information such as, for instance, your home address. Do you want to change your address or your maiden name? You will do it once online and then you’re done. No more running around from department to department, no more filling out endless forms with information you’ve entered a million times before.  You will simply sign in with your e-ID, authorize the access to the necessary information, and add the extra bits of data related to what you want. Done. Oh, and once you no longer need that service, or specialist doctor, or permit, you can instantly revoke access to your information. 

Remember, you are the one in control.

The Digital ID Is the Basis of Helping Citizens to Help Themselves

An interesting thing happens when you get the keys to your own data – you start to feel more accountable for your own future.  You can take control of your destiny instead of expecting government to parent you. With the help of some artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, you will have the ability to put your data to work for you. You can request gentle nudges and recommendations that, in the past, would have been overly costly.  You can ask the platform to tell you about services and opportunities that suit your specific needs. Just think about how Amazon suggests books that you might like based on what you’ve ordered or are looking at. These capabilities have been around forever so why not get that same help for stuff that has a much greater impact on your life? Say so long to physically navigating reams of programs to figure out which ones suit you.  Now the programs will digitally line up for you!

Non-profits also have a huge impact on our communities. Imagine having the ability to authorize your data to work for you in determining which non-profits could help you improve your situation.  This will be through a social innovation labs, where citizens, non-profits and government will collaborate to analyze social problems, review programs, suggest and test solutions and craft policy changes.  That kind of collaboration is happening currently and I have no doubt it will be in full swing and standard practice by 2022, or even earlier. 

With the capabilities of such a platform, we will help every citizen reach their full potential, whatever that full potential is. The goal would not be to hold people permanently in a steady state that can unintentionally rob them of their motivation and aspirations. Citizens will be able to work with a trusted advisor for guidance based on an integrated view of their data.  This advisor – say a social worker, family member, friend, or non-profit counsellor – will be there to help set out objectives and desired outcomes. All citizens will literally have their own customized plan to help them improve and reach their potential. While some programs will be permanent (for example, programs to help someone with a permanent disability), most programs will be a temporary measure to help a citizen progress to the next step. This functionality is essential for people in vulnerable communities. They will no longer need to go physically from department to department trying to prove their case, while trying to juggle responsibilities for child care with no or limited access to transportation.  Any citizen would have difficulty trying to manage today's maze of programs, let alone someone with these additional challenges.

Citizens Take Greater Control over their Healthcare.

In the healthcare system of 2022, citizens will see most if not all of their health data. They will make appointments online, receive test results on their mobile phones, communicate with their doctors or specialists online as easily as they would on Facebook Messenger. Gone are the days of repeating X-rays because one hospital doesn't have access to images taken at another facility, and redialing your doctor's office to get appointments or results, and results being digitally entered, then printed and faxed to your doctor. In 2022, citizens will be much more aware of their health status.  Just think of the data you now get with wearable technologies.  Your health data will gently nudge you towards improving your well-being. Imagine also receiving instant potential drug reaction warnings or having your prescriptions instantly and securely going to your pharmacy as soon as your doctor prescribes them.  With all your health data connected, you will arrive at emergency and instantly alert staff of allergies and your medical history. That means faster care and lower chances for misdiagnoses.  We have amazing healthcare professionals.  Being able to empower them with a platform like this will not only allow them to spend more time delivering care, but it will also attract other professionals from around the world to work in a forward-thinking, patient-centric environment.

Education Becomes an Individualized, Life-Long Pursuit

In 2022, babies will receive a digital education record at birth, which will follow them throughout their lives. As parents, we sometimes don't know exactly how to maximize learning in the early years to give our children the best foundation. Parents will no longer need to guess as their children grow up.  These digital education records will not only hold the achievements of each child, but they will also lay out the outcomes they need to achieve. This platform will make it possible to deliver a truly personalized education – every child with their own path based on interests, skill levels and potential. Gone are the days of kids moving along in batches according to age. By knowing their outcomes, kids will take a much more active role in their education, collaborating with their teachers, and developing creative ways to achieve their required outcomes.  In fact, what I find so encouraging today is that I haven’t met a single person in our education system who doesn’t get excited about exploring these possibilities.

It Will Be Easier to Pay Taxes or Incorporate

Imagine doing your taxes in five minutes.  Since everything will be digital, there will be no need to receive printouts in the mail just to enter it all in forms. Collaborating with the Federal Government will be simplified because everything will be digitally linked to your e-ID. Doing taxes will require you to review the records and click submit!

With more people embracing entrepreneurship, setting up a business in 2022 will be a 20-minute process, completely online. After logging in with your e-ID, you will fill in a few new pieces of information, like business name and ownership structure, then hit submit. Now you will have your new business ID, linked to your e-ID to use going forward.

Too Good to Be True?

If this sounds way too good to be true, it’s not. This is all entirely possible. Estonia has already done much of this and more. If Estonia's progress proves anything, it’s that once a digital platform is in place it creates a foundation for more innovation.  Just think about how mobile data, GPS, touch screens, and the Internet have, as foundations, blended to create remarkable new capabilities.  And it’s all accessible right from our pockets.  As Estonia has also shown, the efficiencies of this new model will also lower the costs of delivering government services, leveraging leaps forward using innovation, rather than through linear cut backs.  Citizens will have more services and conveniences, all wrapped around them in a personally relevant way. 

Perhaps now you can see why, for the past three years, this vision has become firmly embedded in how I think about our future. Maybe, you too, will have a hard time shaking it. 

As well as having led marketing teams at several startups, David Alston is the Chief Entrepreneur in Residence for the Province of New Brunswick.

New Brunswick’s Airport Problem

Business people and entrepreneurs are told to go to where their potential investors and customers are. Often, they are in cities like Boston and New York.

Though hopping on a plane and flying right to these places seems easy enough, it’s not so simple when you live in New Brunswick.

Right now, none of the province’s three major airports offer any direct flights to the United States. If you want to fly south of the border, you need to have a layover in either Halifax, Toronto or Montreal, places often in the opposite direction of where you’re going.

“There’s just a lot head scratching,” says Yves Boudreau, CEO of Moncton-based Alongside. “Even going to Boston for something, there’s a bunch of times where it took longer to fly to Boston than it would have taken to drive based on the number of layovers and flight schedule options.” . . . 

Read the complete article on Huddle

Spritely’s App To Aid Newcomers

Akram Al-Otumi: 'We endeavor to improve people's lives when they are relocating.'

Akram Al-Otumi: 'We endeavor to improve people's lives when they are relocating.'

As it prepares for the soft launch of its product in the coming weeks, Spritely Technologies Inc. has been accepted into the summer 2017 Project Incubation Bootcamp in Halifax.

Founded by serial entrepreneur and hyper-networker Akram Al-Otumi, Spritely is developing an online platform that will help newcomers to a city find people who can help them get settled. The company has already assembled a network of what it calls “city experts” in Halifax. Spritely users (who are new arrivals in the city) can hire these experts to show them the best restaurants, help them find schools and medical facilities, and introduce them to the local customs.

“Spritely is a mobile app and a web platform that connects newcomers and tourists with local knowledge,” said Al-Otumi in an interview last week. “We endeavor to improve people’s lives when they are relocating.”

The Spritely team understands the ups and downs of settling into a new city. Al-Otumi is a native of Yemen who came to Halifax to study at Dalhousie University, and later received a Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at St. Mary’s University. Chief Technology Officer Suhaib Qaiser, who has worked for Blackberry and Salesforce, previously attended university in Pakistan and is now a PhD candidate at Dalhousie.

For the past few months, they have been working on a vision of using a model similar to Uber to help people settle in a new city. The problem they address is a common one for new students in a city, or people who are transferred for work. Even if they speak the language of their new home town, they need to learn about transportation networks, schools, medical facilities, social events and the local culture.

Creative Destruction Lab in Talks for Halifax Outpost

Using the Spritely app, they can now scroll through a range of city experts and find someone who matches their needs – similar age and family makeup, maybe their first language is the same. The newcomers can use Spritely to hire that newcomer to show them around and help them settle in.

Meanwhile, the local experts can make money and enjoy themselves by showing people around.

“The product has a lot of features, from a search engine to a chat engine, a lot of features that help people communicate better with the local experts,” said Al-Otumi. “It’s very user friendly.”

Spritely has been testing the platform with about 30 people from different backgrounds, and has a list of about 100 people who can be local experts. Al-Otumi has been talking to five to eight companies from around Nova Scotia about using the system to help settle people they’re bringing to the province.

The company, which is raising a small round of funding, is planning to launch in Halifax and then move on to larger cities like Toronto or New York. It’s planning a soft launch next month, and through the Project Incubation bootcamp will further test the platform through the summer.

Project Incubation is a 12-week program for as many as 40 students, offering them support with an existing project. Spritely has entered the program through Shiftkey Labs, one of the provincial government’s sandbox programs.

“We’re very excited to join the Project Incubation Bootcamp this summer,” said Al-Otumi. “It’s a great opportunity for us to develop the product further as we prepare for a full launch and going to market.”

Innovation Week Launched in NL

Newfoundland and Labrador launched its fourth annual Innovation Week on Monday with the theme of “innovative thinking”.

The week brings businesses, investors, inventors, youth and other stakeholders together to find ways to grow the province’s key sectors. It is a mix of conferences, start-up workshops, clean and ocean technology events, TEDxYouth, a “Girls Learning Code” workshop, and an R&D tour of some the province’s most innovative companies.

Throughout the week, attendees can collaborate and learn from global innovators about how to infuse innovation into their businesses and communities, said a statement from the organizers. The week features 20 events in venues across St. John’s, with a special healthcare technology session in Grand Falls-Windsor.

On Wednesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries will host its Knowledge Summit, followed by an introduction to the Atlantic Canadian nominees for the Manning Innovation Awards.

“Innovation Week is an opportunity to share ideas and learn from a diverse group of stakeholders through innovation-focused activities,” said NATI Chair Ajay Pande. “The events help foster collaboration and drive awareness that innovation is a critical component of a vibrant and sector-diverse economy.”

Empowered Homes Lands $600K in Funding

Participating experts include:

· Newfoundland and Labrador-born Catherine Courage, VP of Product Design and Experience for Google Ads & Commerce with Google.

· Manifold CEO Jevon MacDonald, who was 29 when he sold his Halifax-based start-up GoInstant to California tech giant, Salesforce.com for $70 million.

· John Risley and Brendan Paddick, who will chart their entrepreneurship paths, building a Caribbean telecommunications company that sold for $1.85 billion.

· Dr. Julielynn Wong, founder and CEO of Medical Makers and 3D4MD. Her drone and 3D printing technology has been used for delivering healthcare in remote communities, including outer space.

· Shelli Baltman, founder of the Idea Suite, a Toronto-based innovation agency, who has worked on over 100 innovation projects around the world.

· Ken Singer, Managing Director of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California, and Chair of the European Innovation Academy.

· Dr. Alice Landis-McGrath, who is with the IBM Watson Health Oncology and Genomics in San Francisco. (Grand Falls-Windsor event)

· Cambridge University’s Dr. Neil Stott and Paul Tracey, experts in creating businesses that drive social change.

· And Duncan Stewart, the Director of Research in Telecoms, Media and Technology at Deloitte Canada.

EhEye, Bulletproof Shine at Kiras

James Stewart finally took the stage at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Thursday night, winning not one but two Kira Awards.

Stewart is the Co-Founder and CEO of EhEye, a digital security company that enhances the use of video in security. EhEye this year was a finalist in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, but didn’t make the top three in a really strong field. It was the third time Stewart had entered Breakthru. 

Thursday night, at the 18th annual Kira Awards, was Stewart’s night as EhEye won Kira Awards for Most Promising Start-up and Innovation through Technology.

Saint John-based EhEye has been getting some buzz lately as it is finding interest for its product, which notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack. Stewart says the owners of facilities such as stadiums are interested because of growing concerns about safety and security.

“We’re in the right place at the right time with the right product,” Stewart said at a recent pitching event in Halifax.

EhEye Is Transforming Video Surveillance

Bulletproof Opens Cybersecurity Centre in Fredericton

The Kiras – or Knowledge Industry Recognition Awards – are presented annually to members of New Brunswick’s knowledge industry in recognition of excellence in developing a knowledge-based economy in the province.

Another security company, Fredericton-based Bulletproof, won the award for Economic Impact through Innovation, and took home the people’s choice award, as voted on by the 500 attendees at the event.

Bulletproof is an IT services company that recently opened a Security Operation Center in Fredericton.

In total, five organizations and one individual walked away with the coveted KIRA Award.

“Living in an environment with an entrepreneurial and innovative culture just doesn’t happen – it is fostered,” said Kira Co-Chair Heather MacLean in a statement. “It is encouraged and it is supported by an entire community. …We have tremendous talent located right here in the province and ensuring that we create the right environment is essential.  The KIRA Awards are a part of that environment.”

The other winners are:

ˑInnovation Champion: The Institute of Biomedical Engineering;

ˑMost Innovative Product or Service: Soricimed Biopharma Inc.;

ˑPremier’s Awards for Innovation - Private Sector: Northern Hardwoods Research Institute;

ˑAnd Premier’s Awards for Innovation - Public Sector: Integrated Service Delivery for Children and Youth.

“Each year approximately 500 industry professionals gather to not only recognize the great talents that we have in this province, but also to learn more about all the developments taking place,” said KIRA Co-Chair Lori MacMullen.  “Our industry is so vibrant and dynamic that the KIRA Awards play a significant role in making connections and fostering collaboration. When you look at the talent that we have right here in New Brunswick, it is not hard to understand why we are having the successes we are in the global marketplace.”

Brown Wins Governor General’s Award

David Brown, right, with Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dayagude and Emanuel Dinis.

David Brown, right, with Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dayagude and Emanuel Dinis.

David Brown, the Chief Operations Officer of Fredericton biotech company Chinova Bioworks, has been named one of six recipients of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.

Governor General David Johnston announced the recipients in Ottawa on Friday.  Two Haligonians, Patricia Lingley-Pottie and Patrick McGrath, also shared an award for creating the Strongest Families Institute.

The winners were chosen for these prestigious awards by the Governor General and a selection committee comprising people with expertise in Canada’s innovation ecosystem. They will receive the awards at a reception May 23 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The next day, the Public Policy Forum of Canada is hosting a panel discussion on innovation in Canada.

“David is a passionate and energetic scientist with a long list of innovations,” said a statement from Chinova. “His accomplishments include winning the iGEM championships at MIT in 2013, co-founding the biotechnology company Mycodev Group, co-founding the foodtech company Tudo, and recently co-founding the biotech company Chinova Bioworks. He has received patents for his inventions, authored scientific journal papers, and won multiple awards for innovation and startups.”

Brown’s most recent startup is Chinova Bioworks. Chinova is using chitosan — Mycodev’s main product —as the foundation for an anti-microbial agent, which it employs as a natural preservative in such foods as juices. Chitosan is a compound traditionally sourced from the shells of crustaceans with a range of uses, most often associated with pharmaceutical or biotech industries.

Chinova has been gaining attention beyond New Brunswick lately. Last month, the company was accepted into the first cohort of Terra, a Silicon Valley food and agtech accelerator, and last year it attended IndieBio, an accelerator for life sciences startups in Ireland.

The statement said Brown considered research and development of natural preservative ingredients to be important work, given the health implications of excessive synthetic preservatives in foods, beverages and cosmetics.

“David’s passion for innovation is driven by his aspirations of making an impact on society through biotechnology and entrepreneurship,” said the statement.

The Strongest Families Institute is a non-profit organization that delivers evidence-based programs to children, youth and families through a unique distance-delivery system. Using proprietary software technology, trained coaches are able to connect with users by phone or via the Internet, thus allowing families greater flexibility when accessing services. Programs address common mental health and other issues impacting health and wellbeing.

Job of the Week: Clockwork Fox

Our Job of the Week column this week highlights an opening for a front-end web 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’ 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 last 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.

St. John’s

Clockwork Fox

Front-End Web Developer

Clockwork Fox is seeking a talented individual to develop the front end of an intuitive and user-friendly web application. The successful candidate will work closely with the user experience and software design teams to constantly optimize the app as well as its associated sales website. This full-time position requires the developer to collaborate with other team members and stakeholders to develop UI/UX designs, application code and new user-facing features. He or she must build reusable code and libraries for future use. Clockwork Fox is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or the equivalent. A full list of the required skills is available in the job posting. 

Ng Moves Ahead with Triple Effect

Sally Ng: 'Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch, I now do for corporations.'

Sally Ng: 'Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch, I now do for corporations.'

Older people who struggle with technology are often figures of fun, at least in our house. But the frustration and sense of isolation felt by technologically-challenged seniors is genuine. It’s a problem Sally Ng plans to address with her technology programs for older people.

Ng is best known regionally as the founding executive director of Planet Hatch, Fredericton’s incubator for startups. She is currently taking her idea, which she’s calling Digilearn.ca, through Fredericton’s B4Change accelerator for social ventures at the Pond-Deshpande Centre.

It’s a busy time, as Ng is also growing her new company The Triple Effect.

“Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch I’m now doing for corporations,” she said. “Initiatives like developing startup communities, corporate innovation, helping develop technologies . . . That’s why I’ve called my new venture The Triple Effect.”

It’s been more than 18 months since the native of Malaysia left Planet Hatch. In that time, her work projects have included helping launch Charlottetown’s new entrepreneurship centre, Startup Zone, and assisting Atlantic Lottery with a Catalyst Program, which encourages employees to think like entrepreneurs.

Her inspiration for Digilearn.ca came from watching her parents, Richard and Grace Ng. Her father owns a paving company and still uses carbon paper for estimates. Two years ago, he bought cell phones in bulk because he was scared the technology would change and he wouldn’t be able to cope.

Her father was also 24 hours late learning about the birth of a recent grandchild because he doesn’t connect on social media with his geographically scattered family.

“Dad’s a little isolated from the world,” Ng said. “He lacks basic knowledge, although he wants to acquire it. I asked myself — why is there nothing like Kumon (the children’s math program) for seniors?”

Smith Fights for Neuro-Diversity

Ng said there are some government-sponsored programs that teach basic technology, but not many.

She plans to pilot Digilearn.ca with Fredericton community groups at the end of this month. She and her colleague Mark Loggie are currently testing topics for their workshops. Under consideration: online shopping; Facebook; avoiding danger online and password management.

Ng wants the teacher-to-learner ratio to be 1:5 or 1:6. Initially, teachers will volunteer and be paid an honorarium. A name for the course has not yet been decided on, although Ng says she hopes to avoid the word ‘seniors’.”

She said that, with her experience of entrepreneurship, not everything she is learning on the B4Change accelerator is new, but she is benefitting, especially from the peer support.

“I really wanted the peer support and the accountability,” she said. “I’ve been working alone for over a year and it’s pretty lonely. . . It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off.”

In mid-June, Ng will head to Berlin to take part in the summit held by the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance. Ng is accustomed to travelling in her long-standing role as a facilitator with Startup Weekend, (she also holds a commercial pilot’s license), but this time she is excited to be representing Canada.

“There’ll be 35 of us from Canada, 500 globally, all under 40. We’ll be working with deputy ministers on initiatives that we’ll translate to action back home, for example, by presenting to schools, economic development agencies.”

When she returns, she hopes to begin piloting her seniors’ technology classes in Fredericton.

It will then be piloted in Halifax.

“Halifax has so many initiatives. There is more attention focused on seniors and aging,” she said of the choice.

CDL In Talks For Halifax Outpost

The Creative Destruction Lab, one of the leading tech accelerators in the country, is in talks to set up a base in Halifax as part of its national expansion.

People familiar with the situation said CDL, which originated at the University of Toronto, has been in talks with Dalhousie University and Volta Labs about a Halifax location. As the Toronto-based organization expands, it’s considering placing sector-specific centres of excellence in each of its locations. The plans include making Halifax the “Green and Blue” accelerator — meaning it would focus on green technologies and ocean technologies.

“I’m really excited for CDL to be coming to Halifax,” said one person familiar with the discussions. “It’s a new model for accelerators.”

Representatives from the CDL and Dalhousie declined to comment for this article.

The Creative Destruction Lab is known as a demanding accelerator, and many companies that enter the program are asked to leave before completing the nine-month course. The CDL starts each cohort with a few-dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a handful of graduates.

Empowered Homes Lands $600M in Funding

Despite the rigours of the program, Atlantic Canadian companies have done well in CDL. Fredericton-based Eigen Innvoations, which creates Internet of Things solutions for manufacturers, graduated last year. Charlottetown-based Retrievium, which has devised a predictive analytics system for chemists, and Halifax-based FundMetric, which produces software for charities, are in the program in Toronto. WoodsCamp, a Mahone Bay company whose digital platform can be used for woodlot management, is going through the CDL West program, the first cohort offered outside Toronto.

In the past year, CDL has set up a CDL West cohort in collaboration with University of British Columbia, and is now planning on bases in several cities. It has held meetings in Toronto on the expansion, which have been attended by such Atlantic Canadian representatives as Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers (the founding director of CDL) and Jeff Larsen, the executive director of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Dal.

The advent of CDL in Halifax could have several ramifications. First, it would provide a base for advanced Atlantic Canadian companies to connect with mentors with global reach. The entrepreneurs who have been exposed to the program rave about the quality of mentors. It could also help to raise standards for innovation entrepreneurs in the region, because CDL is a national program and Atlantic Canadian founders would likely have to compete with startups from elsewhere to get in and stay in.

Second, it could provide another component for Dalhousie’s entrepreneurship capacity, which now features its Launch Dal entrepreneurship program, the Shiftkey Labs sandbox, and will soon include the IDEA project on the Sexton Campus.

And finally, it could have huge benefits for the efforts to establish Halifax and the region as a centre for ocean technology. One of the shortcomings of that plan is the shortage of ocean-related startups in Nova Scotia. If CDL East does focus on oceans technology, it could help to attract more oceans-related companies.

BDC Unveils $280M Lending Program

The Business Development Bank of Canada today announced a $280 million financing package to support small and mid-sized businesses in the Atlantic Provinces over the next two years.

Targeted industries for the lending program include ICT, agri-food, ocean technology and tourism.

The federal government’s development bank said the amount represents a $100 million increase in the bank’s normal lending volume for these industries. In particular, the bank is looking to back companies pursuing growth opportunities, including acquisitions, change of ownership transactions as well as investment in export strategies.

“To successfully grow a business in today’s economy requires innovation, determination and resiliency,” said BDC President and Chief Executive Michael Denham in a statement. “Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs have all of these qualities and more. … As Canada’s only bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs, we are eager to support entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada as they find new ways to scale up their businesses.”

A BDC study published this year reveals that Canadian SMEs intend to spend more on investment projects in the coming year, especially to scale activities and increase productivity. However, the study also reveals that 31% of SMEs are having difficulty obtaining financing.

“This new financing and assistance targets areas of opportunity for Atlantic Canadian businesses,” said Gina Gale, Senior Vice-President, Atlantic. “Today’s announcement is just one of the ways we are helping Atlantic Canada spur innovation and economic growth.”

BDC also recently signed letters of intent with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Business Inc. to help improve the competitiveness of businesses in the two provinces. The documents lay the foundation for a solid partnership that will explore a range of opportunities to help businesses in Atlantic Canada continue to succeed and grow.

Empowered Homes Lands $600K

The Empowered Homes Team

The Empowered Homes Team

Empowered Homes, the St. John’s startup developing smart thermostats for high-voltage heating systems, has received $600,000 in equity financing from Venture NL and Killick Capital.

The company has been taking pre-orders for its first Mysa smart thermostats, which are due to be shipped to clients in late October. Mysa uses artificial intelligence and mobile communications to ensure optimum heat settings in homes with high-voltage heating systems, such as electric baseboard. Most automated heating products like Nest don’t work on high-voltage systems.

The Empowered Homes financing is the latest deal completed in tandem by the two St. John’s-based funding entities. Venture NL is backed largely by the Newfoundland and Labrador government and managed by Pelorus Capital, and Killick Capital manages the funds of the Dobbin family. In the last two years, they have invested in at least five companies together, such as HeyOrca, Clockwork Fox and Sequence Bio.

In the Empowered Homes deal, the company also raised funds from some other angel investors. Given that the company is producing hardware, the funding will be especially useful in financing its first shipment of product.

“There’s a unique challenge that comes with manufacturing a product,” said Co-Founder and COO Zachary Green in an interview. “The biggest one is not physical – it’s, How can a startup manufacture a lot of product with no credit history?”

The story of Empowered Homes began when Joshua Green, now the company’s CEO, was performing energy audits and realized that state-of-the-art smart thermostats don’t work on high-voltage heating systems. The company, which is operating out of the Genesis Centre, last year went through the Propel ICT Launch cohort in St. John's.

“The big thing that Mysa does is it’s a smart thermostat that works with high-voltage heating systems,” said Empowered Homes Marketing Manager Andrew Murphy. “That’s one in 10 homes in the U.S. and one in three homes in Canada, and they can’t use Nest. One in three or one in 10 homes is a very large market, and we’re confident that we can build something that is cost-effective for the market.”

Mysa uses AI and mobile communications to make sure each room is set at the ideal heat. It learns when the homeowner comes in each evening, and set the heat accordingly. It lowers the heating if the house is empty and can switch power on if the homeowner is nearing home.

The company founders decided in December to launch the product through a pre-order campaign on their website. They did this rather than using a traditional crowdfunding platform so they’d have more control over the campaign, and wouldn’t risk a setback if they failed to reach a minimum level.

Halifax's Skyline Aims for Automated Shops

With the campaign continuing, the company has received 600 thermostats pre-ordered from 148 clients across Canada and in 15 states in the U.S. With the October shipment date approaching, the Empowered Homes team is now working on key decisions on the first order.

As well as deciding where to make the devices, in Canada or China, they have to decide how many units to manufacture in the first order. They could choose a shipment of 1,000, which they could finance with the current cash on hand. Or they could go as high as 10,000, which would lower per-unit costs but require additional funding.

The team is also working on the business development side and exploring opportunities with retailers.

Said Murphy: “The big change we face is to transition from a marketing culture into going directly into sales channels. We’re now working on an inbound marketing strategy but we want to transition it into a sales team.”

Skyline Aims for Automated Shops

Hu Hai, second from left,surrounded by his team members in 2015.

Hu Hai, second from left,surrounded by his team members in 2015.

To illustrate how his company, Skyline, is helping bricks-and-mortar retailers defend their market, CEO Hu Hai likes to use simple Lego building blocks as a metaphor.

Skyline won some attention last year when Innovacorp attracted the company to Halifax from China by sponsoring it in the federal government’s Startup Visa program. The company at the time was dedicated to building enterprise software systems inexpensively, but it has turned its attention to automating the shopping process in stores.

Hu likes to compare Skyline to the flat platform that serves as the base of a Lego model, and the Lego blocks are facial recognition software, a customer-relationship management system, and the retailer’s point-of-sale system. The blocks are all fastened to the Skyline platform, which becomes the hub of the operation.

“We are a smart retail solution where Skyline becomes the Lego base platform to help bricks-and-mortar retailers better understand their customers,” Hu said in a recent interview. “When they’re using the Skyline platform, I hope they are able to connect the Lego blocks and better understand their customers and (help the retailers) sell more.”

Skyline began in 2014 when Hu and five collaborators built an engine that would help enterprise clients build their own software quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. Over the years, the company went through the Alchemist accelerator in Silicon Valley and worked with mentors in China and Nova Scotia.

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After Creative Destruction Lab

In the past year, the team focused in on the retail sector, which is suffering massive disruption from e-commerce providers, especially Amazon.

Hu’s pitch deck is packed with data on the misery heaped on retailers these days and the chains that are closing stores: 175 outlets shuttered by Gap, 68 by Macy’s, 278 by Sears and Kmart, and on and on. Skyline built a digital platform to help retailers reverse the trend. The company, which takes pride in its development abilities, actually assigned three people to build the basic product, and they did so in three days.

What Skyline proposes is a solution similar to what Amazon is doing with its automated Amazon Go store in Seattle — a store with no cashiers. Using cameras, a customer relationship management and a payment system, Skyline is working on stores in which shoppers can pick things off the shelf and leave the store without going through a cashier. The facial recognition software identifies them and a payment system charges them. The system can also help with marketing and collect the data that is an utter necessity in modern retailing.

The company last October delivered a keynote address at a conference in Fujian province in China, which led to a relationship with Tingyi, the world’s largest maker of instant noodles. Together, they have set up a test centre in Shanghai to showcase how the system would work.

So far, it is demonstrating the potential of the system, with a few wrinkles to iron out. For example, the facial recognition software is now 75 per cent successful, and the camera system so far doesn’t work with liquids or metal products.

“It might not come to life soon because there are security concerns and stability problems, but it is the future,” Hu said.

For now, Skyline is raising money — the goal is a million-dollar round of financing, with $400,000 already committed. And it’s speaking with potential early adopters in Nova Scotia.

“We can use Halifax as our testing ground,” said Hu. “Once we validate the value of our product here, we can attack bigger markets.”

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After CDL

Jason Pearson: 'We have clients ready to pay us money.'

Jason Pearson: 'We have clients ready to pay us money.'

Jason Pearson is having a busy spring.

The CEO of Charlottetown-based Retrievium is now piloting the company’s product – which produces predictive analytics for drug companies producing new compounds. As he proceeds with this work with  a drug discovery company, he’s hoping to close a seed round of funding in June.

Meanwhile, he’s preparing to graduate from the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto, and to enter another high-profile Toronto mentoring group, Next Founders.

It’s a rather hectic time for a company that began as a collaborative effort between Pearson, a computational chemist at University of P.E.I., and Ray Poirier, a chemist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Working with another Charlottetown startup, discoverygarden, they came up with a platform that chemists could use to help find the best ways of combining chemicals to produce new compounds.

Targeting the pharmaceutical industry, Retrievium uses computational modelling to help find new drugs or materials, and to better understand the properties of chemical systems. It can tell researchers what happens when certain elements are combined, and suggests new combinations in seeking a desired result.

“It’s a young market right now – there’s not a lot of competitors in the space,” said Pearson in an interview last week. “We differentiate ourselves in a number of ways – our background, our target market. There’s a lot of room for growth as people have a lot to learn in using predictive analytics … especially in chemical structure.”

PEI's Forestry.io in Canada's First AngelList Syndicate

Among the achievements of this young company is being accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab, one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurial programs. What’s more impressive is that Retrievium is graduating from it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, which attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams that missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times until the cohort comes down to a core of strong teams – one of which, this year, is Retrievium.

“It’s hard,” said Pearson. “We’re really scientists, and we think Dragons’ Den has got nothing on this program.” He added that the program has really helped because Retrievium gained exposure to so many top flight mentors.

Pearson is coy about the current pilot program, but he said he’s had a strong response from pharma companies. “We have clients ready to pay us money,” he said.

He is also getting a good response from potential investors and hopes to close a “relatively significant seed round” in June – a round that would allow the company to operate for 12 to 18 months. And Pearson will hone his entrepreneurial know-how by going through Next Founders, a program for maturing entrepreneurs offered by the Next Canada group.

With the money and the mentorship, Pearson is optimistic about Retrievium’s prospects.

“I’m also realistic – my scientific background tells me that we have challenges,” he said. “There are some significant things we have to prove. But the people in the room at the CDL are some of the most influential and connected in the world, really. So they’re the right people to be taking your idea and transforming it into a high-growth startup.”

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is continuing to expand its staff, and today we’re highlighting an opening at the social media analytics company for a product marketing manager.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern. The company already has well over 20 employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami.

The company has been expanding rapidly, and has already been featured in our Jobs of the Week column seven times this year alone.

Read About Dash Hudson's Most Recent Job Postings

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.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Product Marketing Manager  

Dash Hudson is seeking a product marketing manager to work with its development, sales, and marketing teams to successfully launch and build out existing and new solutions. The successful candidate must want the challenge and opportunity to create a leading product in a rapidly growing global market. He or she will be responsible for such tasks as product positioning, competitive analysis, planning, product launches, lead generation and “influencing the influencers.” Dash Hudson is looking for someone with abilities in thought leadership, who can speak in public or produce blogs on industry issues. The skills required for the job include marketing, campaigns, sales, and management.

Gogii Games Opens Halifax Studio

Gogii's Fish Tycoon Game

Gogii's Fish Tycoon Game

Moncton-based Gogii Games announced today it is opening a new office to downtown Halifax, where it plans to hire more than 20 employees in the next 18 months.

The company, which has been developing online games since 2006, released a statement this morning headlined, Load the Wagons, We Go East!  The announcement outlined plans to set up an office in Halifax that will expand the video game design and development capabilities of the company.

“In the past 10 years, we have watched a strong game development community form in the Halifax area, and with our new expansion we knew it was the right place for us to grow,” said Gogii President George Donovan in a statement. “Looking at the talent pool already available in the region, the 38,000-plus undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Nova Scotia’s 10 universities and 13 community college campuses, and the commitment from the local and regional governments to support video game development, Halifax was an easy choice to expand Gogii’s operations.”

Gogii Games, which now has 10 employees in Moncton, is an independent mobile and casual game developer whose 90 games have been downloaded more than 160 million times worldwide. The company has released a long line of premium and free-to-play games developed in Unity and using Gogii’s own proprietary back-end game service platform.

Gogii, a maker of casual games whose titles include Pet Zoometery and Archie: Betty or Veronica, plans to launch three new mobile free-to-play games in 2017 in partnership with San Francisco-based Last Day of Work Software, or LDW. Gogii’s teams will develop and support the titles for players to give LDW’s massive player base more of the great experiences they’ve come to expect from the brands, said Donovan.

Gogii and LDW are looking to Halifax to support the growth needed to accelerate the development of additional titles, and to build out Gogii’s capabilities to support opportunities worldwide.

Donovan said Gogii, which is receiving support from Nova Scotia Business Inc., has lined up five employees to hire immediately and needs to bring on five more as soon as possible. He said the company has “more work than we can handle and with 13 new projects in our scope in Year 1 there is a lot in front of us.”

Mighty Pebble Unveils Miner Meltdown 

Gogii’s first title to launch in the second quarter of 2017 will be “Fish Tycoon 2: Virtual Aquarium”, a new title in the storied Fish Tycoon franchise that has already seen more than 100 million lifetime downloads across the brand. The company said early performance of Fish Tycoon 2 through a soft launch is showing better-than-expected results.

Beyond the opportunities created through the LDW partnership, Gogii is working with a U.S.-based game publisher to work as its Research and Development team for new styles and types of games. The long-term engagement will see Gogii developing unique twists on hit games to disrupt the monotony players experience playing more carbon copies of games they’ve already tried before.

Gogii’s studio in Halifax will focus on hiring both junior- and senior-level developers, artists, operations and production personnel to support an ongoing growth trajectory. 

Smith Fights for Neuro-Diversity

Shawn Smith: Most clients are entrepreneurs or parents of neuro-diverse youth.

Shawn Smith: Most clients are entrepreneurs or parents of neuro-diverse youth.

Waiting 30 years to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, did not help Shawn Smith get off to a strong start in life. But the counsellor and entrepreneur is now using his experience to help others.

Fredericton-based Smith is the founder and CEO of Don’t dis-my-ability Consultation Services, a company specializing in the emerging field of neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and life that believes that neurological conditions, such as ADHD and autism, are part of normal human diversity and should be respected as such.

“I am helping people who have been marginalized…I want to move society forward,” said Smith.

The Fredericton native started his company in 2014. Most of his clients so far have been entrepreneurs and parents of neuro-diverse youth.

“Parents are often overwhelmed by their children’s behavioral issues,” Smith said.

“I was diagnosed late in life so I have insight into what it’s like to be that kid that’s not able to do anything right.” 

It took Smith 32 attempts to earn the 18 credits required to graduate high school. His problems included failing Grade 10 math four times.

He said that when he was finally diagnosed and put on medication at age 30 it made a huge difference. He felt as if his brain had been “jump started”.

“As a child, I found it impossible to focus in class,” he said. “There were too many stimuli. I got good at looking busy. If I looked as if I was paying attention, teachers were less likely to question me. I was anxious and depressed because I was one question away from being caught out.”

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

In 2010, he was accepted onto the Master of Education in Counseling Psychology program at the University of New Brunswick on academic probation. He graduated in 2011 at the top of his class.

He has recently taken part in the B4Change accelerator for social ventures at the Pond-Deshpande Centre in Fredericton.

Social ventures are for-profit ventures that benefit society or the environment.

Smith said the Pond-Deshpande Centre helped him grow and feel part of the entrepreneurial community.

“I felt people there ‘got’ me and my confidence started to rise. I was able to tap into catalyst funding to create my new website. It was huge.”

Smith also gained exposure and encouragement from being nominated as the 2016 Startup Canada Atlantic Region Nominee for the Resilient Entrepreneur Award. The award goes to an entrepreneur with a visible or non-visible disability who has shown exemplary activity and leadership.

“I didn’t win, but being nominated was a huge compliment,” he said.

Smith now works out of Fredericton’s community education hub, the Ville Cooperative, where he also volunteers his time. His volunteer roles include being New Brunswick’s ambassador for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

He has become skilled at spreading the word about himself and his work, especially on social media.

“I wasn’t busy making money so I had to find ways to get my message out,” he said.

His videos on the subject of neurodiversity were noticed by training and consulting group Picasso Einstein. He spoke at the group’s conference about ways to create employment opportunities for neuro-diverse people.

“I was part of a panel on startups. After that, people started referencing me.”

He now has 2,600 Twitter followers. In September, he will be interviewed for a podcast on creating job opportunities for neuro-diverse people. Well-known autism advocate, innovator and author Dr. Temple Grandin, will also be interviewed.

Smith is currently writing two books: one for parents and the other for neuro-diverse entrepreneurs.

“I’m sharing my experience of failing and learning in order to help people expedite what they are doing so they don’t have to meander around as I did,” he said. “I was living in a haze for 30 years of my life.”

Dal Showcases Creator Series

Graduates of Dalhousie University’s new Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, showcased their work Wednesday evening. The new program is intended to give students the basic skills they need to create their own prototypes.

Audience members were entertained by projects that included a globe-like 360-degree camera, complete with all-seeing ‘eyes’, an automated floor-sander, and a headset that uses virtual reality to train firefighters by positioning them in a room full of flames.   

The prototypes were rudimentary, but the members of the student teams are now ready to improve upon their work and proceed with their business ideas.

Program creator Cat Adalay, head of Creator Initiatives at Launch Dal, said she devised the program to help non-engineers become technically literate and creative. 

“With automation taking at least half of human jobs over the next 20 years, we need to give ordinary people a basic technical education as well as getting them to be involved in entrepreneurial pursuits,” she said.

“If job security existed once, it definitely won't soon. By creating more entrepreneurs, we create jobs… Teaching people how to create basic physical prototypes gives them an understanding of their products and what is possible.”

The students, all from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses, learned skills such as 3D printing, CAD modeling, coding and circuitry design and assembly.

At the start of the program, most team members had little or no experience of these technologies. 

Adalay said the students were helped by the fact that so much open-source technology is now available free online. (‘Open-source’ refers to resources where the original material is made freely available, and can be modified by other users.) 

“Open-source materials are immense for the creation of both hardware and software,” Adalay said. “Students can find very similar projects online, which allows them to speed up the development of their own work.”

One team, for example, found an existing image-recognition project online, which assisted them in developing their own image-recognition system for use underwater. 

Adalay said students also benefitted from being able to use tiny and affordable Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers. 

The participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops over 30 hours. They also had access to Dalhousie’s state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2.

Mary Kilfoil, the Academic Lead for Starting Lean, said the university is working on forming partnerships that will hopefully make the program available across the country.

The participating teams included:

- AutoSand--a robot that sands wooden decks ad floors autonomously to save contractors time and money and safeguard their health.
- Camerly--a selfie-taking solution that consists of a 3D camera that can be attached to a drone, selfie-stick or tripod to take 360’ pictures.  
- ROVault--a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that educates users on ocean life and environments. 
- V-RAD--a virtual reality system designed specifically for training first-responder professions like police and firefighters with the aim of reducing injuries and deaths.  
- QuickTap--a mobile, touchscreen solution for restaurants so clients can order and pay for meals in a simple, streamlined way. 

 

[Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the leader of the Creator Series, is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.]

Velo Launches Messaging Service

A team of serial entrepreneurs backed by one of the region’s wealthiest investors has launched Velo, a new messaging service targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

Velo Industries Inc. is a Bedford- and Toronto-based company that until recently was called Eyeball and had developed an online network for amateur sports. The company raised $1.1 million in late 2015, led by CFFI Ventures, whose principal investor is Clearwater Fine Foods founder John Risley.

They have now pivoted, changed the name, and brought in a new CEO to provide a messaging service for SMEs.

The new CEO is Keith Bates, a Toronto-based business development specialist who worked with Eyeball founders Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen in their previous ventures. Last summer, the trio hooked up and began brainstorming on how the business might evolve to target a better market.

“We played with different ideas and messaging came up again and again,” Bates said in an interview last week. “Eventually, over the summer, it dawned on us that there’s no difference between a sports team and — ministry of the obvious — any group of people who have to stay in touch. . . . Eventually we said, ‘Let’s make a 21st century messaging system.’”

Velo operates on the principle that people don’t like emails because they’re cumbersome and inefficient. Going through a stream to find what people said is a bother, as is constantly adding names to groups.

“We’ve seen lots of instances in the political or business sphere of email’s senility showing through,” said Bates.

Q1 Labs Exit Still Paying Dividends

What Velo has done is create a messaging service in which a small business can communicate easily with its team, clients or other stakeholders. It allows a simple addition of names and lets the users determine their groups. Lawyers, designers, contractors or mentors can all slot into their own groups, and users can create Velo groups for special projects.

The service, which is now available on iOS, Android and Google Chrome, includes several “applets” that offer the users business features like event scheduling, checklists, rich text memos and countdowns.

The team has added document upload and download functions. Bates said the countdown function is especially useful as it reminds everyone involved in a project how long they have to complete it.

Bates said the company has now released Velo with friends and family members, and is testing it with a few small businesses. So far the feedback has been positive, he said, and the company’s investors have supported the team throughout the pivot.

The team certainly is experienced. Steele and Johansen have previously launched and sold two startups. During the original dot-com boom in the mid- to late-1990s, they teamed up to launch Plazmic, an early mobile venture that they ended up selling to Research in Motion. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.

Now they are pushing the product out and hoping to raise more money — Bates said the target will likely be “a few million bucks.” He foresees fast growth.

“The nature of our business is that we can scale very rapidly,” said Bates. “It can grow organically. We’ve had tremendous interest, and we have had a good experience with investors.”

Lor, Hoey To Be Keynotes at AVF 2017

J. Kelly Hoey: One of the 100 most influential people on Twitter.

J. Kelly Hoey: One of the 100 most influential people on Twitter.

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place June 27 and 28 in Halifax, has announced many of the speakers to be showcased at the event.

The keynote speakers will be: Patrick Lor, the managing partner of 500 Startups Canada, who has previously worked as an entrepreneur, Investor and tech evangelist; and J. Kelly Hoey, the author of Build Your Own Dream Network, as well as an entrepreneur and connector.

As well as providing a range of speakers, the AVF works to link investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. Each year there are presentations by both seed- and growth-stage companies. Last year, there were more than 20 funding groups from across Canada and in the U.S. that attended the Atlantic Venture Forum.

“The entrepreneurial landscape has changed significantly since the first Atlantic Venture Forum in 2013,” said a statement from Critical Path Group, which organizes the event. “As the ecosystem continues to gain momentum, the AVF is being transformed to meet the needs of this dynamic region. New ventures and growth stage companies need more than just financial capital to succeed. Innovation, partnerships, ingenuity, and expertise are just a few of the ingredients for an entrepreneur’s tech success story.”

Critical Path is looking for seed- and growth-stage companies to apply to present at the AVF. You can find an application form here

The group recently announced some of speakers at the event, including Lor, who for the past year has overseen the $30 million 500 Startups Canada fund. He has served as a director at iStockphoto.com, the President North America at fotolia and the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for iNovia Capital.

Hoey, an authority on building networks, has been named one of 100 most influential people on Twitter. She has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Financial Times, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

Other speakers include:

Andrea Drager; Vice President, Azure Capital;

Marc Gagne, Senior Technical Evangelist, Microsoft;

Nicole Le Blanc, Associate Director, BDC Capital;

Brian Kobus, Director, OMERS Ventures;

Rebecca Yu, Head of JLABS @ Toronto;

Peter van der Velden, Managing General Partner, Luminira Capital;

Pamela Fralick, President, Innovative Medicines Canada;

Brian Bloom, Co-Founder & CEO, Bloom Burton & Co.;

Stephen Guppy, Co-Founder and Former CEO, GNS3;

Steve Kurylo, Chief Financial Officer, Grand Banks Capital;

Sam Haffar, Principal, Principal, RealVentures;

Randy Thompson, Fund Manager and Partner, OKR Financial;

And Tim Gillis, CEO, STI Technologies.

The Atlantic Venture Forum will take place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

 

[Disclosue: The Atlantic Venture Forum is a client of Entrevestor.]

Big Data Congress Set for Nov. 6-8

The fifth annual Big Data Congress, one of North America’s premier conferences on data analytics, will be held in Halifax on November 6-8 and will focus on oceans and agriculture. The congress organizers have announced that the keynote address will be delivered by renowned American sociobiologist Rebecca Costa.

Since its inception in Saint John in 2013, the Big Data Congress has strived to help make Atlantic Canada a centre for analyzing data in all segments of the economy – from business to government to academia to healthcare. This year, the congress will meld that with Atlantic Canada’s ambitions to become a world leader ocean industries and sciences. And advances in data research are quickly reshaping the business of agriculture from blueberries to wine and potatoes.

“There is an incredible amount of oceans-related investment and work happening in the region and big data is playing a vital role,” said Michael Shepherd, the former dean of Computer Science at Dalhousie University and the chair of this year’s congress.  “For any business in the oceans and agriculture sector, this conference could be a game-changer.”

Panels, workshops and discussions on both oceans and agriculture will include energy, food and maritime security complemented with a technology track.

Costa, is an expert in adaptive management and technologies. Her book, The Watchman's Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was published in 26 countries and has remained in the top 1 percent of Amazon book sales for five straight years.

The 2017 congress is being organized by the Big Data Alliance of Nova Scotia, a non-profit group that promotes data analytics in industry and academia in Nova Scotia. The alliance achieves this through promotion and management of the Atlantic Big Data Congress and through education and awareness programs such as the Big Data Education day for junior and senior high-school students.

“With so much complexity around our oceans and agricultural sectors worldwide, Big Data can play the vital role of making it all work, from tracking fish to improving grape yields in vineyards,” said a statement from the alliance. “And that’s what the Big Data Congress is all about: sparking ideas to innovate using Big Data.”

Read Our Report from the 2016 Big Data Congress

Stress Can Hurt Founder Confidence

Michael Devenney

Michael Devenney

The fourth report resulting from The Mindset Project survey examines the impact of business stress on the confidence of entrepreneurs. 

Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, said the data showed that entrepreneurs’ self-confidence is often eroded by problems with issues such as meeting commitments and hitting expectations.

DeVenney began the survey on how entrepreneurship impacts mental health last May. He believes his survey may be the largest on the subject in the world. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada. The data is now being examined and broken down for greater clarity and understanding.

You can link to the report here.

Creators Showcase Today at Dal

The Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, will showcase its six teams and their products today at 4:30 pm at Dalhousie University.

The program has taught six student teams from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses 3D printing technologies, CAD modeling, circuitry design and assembly as well as coding for hardware applications.

With this new knowledge, students with little or no technical expertise were able to create their own physical, functional prototypes to demonstrate how their products work.

“With Launch Dal’s new advocacy towards product-based startups, The Creator Series is paving the way for this new promotion by getting aspiring entrepreneurs to understand that hardware companies are always an option, regardless of their personal background or interests,” said a statement from Launch Dal, the university’s entrepreneurship hub.

The Creator Series’ participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops – a total of 30 hours – and had access to a range of different tools and technologies to build their creations. These included open source programs and resources, components that are easy to acquire through online and physical retailers, as well as a state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2, which Launch Dal offers to Creator Series students.

Free tickets for the showcase, which will be held in Room 2068 of the Rowe Building, can be found here

[Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the leader of the Creator Series, is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.]

Q1 Labs Exit Still Paying Dividends

Sandy Bird: 'You've got to reinvent yourself in security every few years.'

Sandy Bird: 'You've got to reinvent yourself in security every few years.'

If any exit can demonstrate how the economy benefits when a young company is bought by a larger company, it was IBM’s purchase of Q1 Labs of Fredericton in early 2012.

That purchase, reportedly worth more than $600 million, did more than just reward investors and staff at the cybersecurity company. It has led to hundreds of jobs in cybersecurity R&D in the New Brunswick capital, and made New Brunswick a genuine leader in research in cybersecurity, one of hottest segments of the IT world.

When the deal was announced in October 2011, Q1 Labs was officially headquartered in Waltham, Mass. But its 200 employees included a massive development team in Fredericton, where the company had started a decade earlier. What has been under-appreciated in Atlantic Canada is that IBM has invested heavily in its cybersecurity team in Fredericton, doubling its staff there, and Sandy Bird, the Q1 Labs Chief Technology Officer, is now the CTO for IBM’s global cybersecurity unit. From his base in Fredericton, he oversees 20 major R&D labs around the world.

“Cybersecurity over the last 15 years has gone through several cycles,” Bird said in an interview last week. “At the time of the acquisition, we were just entering this era of the cybersecurity world having an impact in the physical world. . . . All of a sudden, the rest of the world woke up to the impact of these of financial crimes. Big organizations were becoming the target for criminals.”

Bird said that since then there have been several waves of new threats entering the cybersphere, and cybersecurity professionals coming up with solutions. IBM’s QRadar platform — the heir of the Q1 Labs’ product — is a platform that allows the user to integrate more than 200 cybersecurity tools on a single interface. Five years after IBM closed the Q1 deal, QRadar still rates among the best in the world in Gartner’s assessment of the security field.

“You always reinvent yourself in security every few years, and one of the things we were really good at at Q1 Labs was keeping abreast of what was happening,” Bird said.

Atlantic Canadian Speakers Shine at Amplify

IBM’s growth in the Fredericton area has underpinned the provincial government’s efforts to make New Brunswick a centre of excellence in cybersecurity. Big Blue became the first research partner at the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which opened earlier this year at University of New Brunswick with more than $4.5 million in funding. Fredericton-based Bulletproof opened a Security Operation Centre in February, immediately leading to the creation of 15 jobs. Other New Brunswick startups specializing in cybersecurity are coming along, such as Fredericton-based Sentrant Security Inc. and Saint John-based EhEye.

Not many people in the region realize there are Q1 Labs veterans who now sit on global cybersecurity standards boards, determining the standards for crime prevention around the world, Bird said.

He said the next phase of growth in the field will be to ensure the region can continue to train people to work in cybersecurity, starting with curricula at schools, colleges and universities. There are estimates there will be a global shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019, which presents a huge opportunity for New Brunswick. Bird said the skills should be multi-disciplinary, like bringing in psychologists who can understand the thinking of cyber-criminals.

“There’s a huge, massive shortfall in cybersecurity skills in the workforce today,” he said. “We just need to grow more cybersecurity skill. We should be driving our world-class leadership and doing research that is relevant in the rest of the world.”

Budget May Impact Some Startups

Eric Feunekes

Eric Feunekes

Startup founders should be aware of a subtle change coming to the Income Tax Act (Canada) based on wording revealed in the recent federal budget. It could impact their tax rate or ability to participate in programs like SR&ED.

The change centres around Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, or CCPCs, and it’s important because they have much lower tax rates (by as much as half) than non-CCPCs. Other benefits of CCPCs include eligibility for refundable tax credits for research and development (through the SR&ED program) and access to equity tax credits. Therefore, CCPC status is important for startups because it allows them to minimize taxes, recover investment costs, and more easily raise investment. However, the 2017 federal budget announced a measure that may put CCPC status at risk for some companies that have foreign shareholders.

As the name suggests, there are primarily two factors that qualify a company as a CCPC. First, it must be Canadian-controlled. This is a bit misleading – technically, it just cannot be controlled by non-Canadians. Second, it must be private in the sense that its shares are not publicly listed and it is not controlled by public companies. The Canada Revenue Agency determines CCPC status and as with most tax measures there are many intricacies, but this is the general overview.

The issue arising in the budget is the definition of “control.” As with many things lawyers are involved with, the definition of “control” has been hotly debated. The result is quite a few court cases that address the issue. Two definitions have arisen. First, there is legal control—when someone has sufficient shares to elect most of a company’s directors, they legally control the company. Second, there is factual control, which has been much more controversial. The most recent case on factual control decided that a shareholder factually controls a company when he or she has any “legally enforceable right” to elect most of the company’s directors.

Forestry.io Backed by Canada's First Angel Syndicate

As an example, let’s consider a fictional company called Wigs-n-Things, which is based in Nova Scotia. It gets an investment from an American investor, Victoria Cruz. Victoria takes 30 percent of the company’s shares and the right to elect two of five directors. Victoria does not legally control the company because she only has 30 percent of the vote. Further, although she has the right to elect two of the five directors on her own, Victoria has no legally enforceable right that lets her elect a third director on her own. The Canadian shareholders can still elect most of the board and therefore, Canadians factually control the company.

The “legally enforceable right” requirement in the definition of factual control is new, stemming from a 2016 case, and the CRA does not like it. Therefore, this year the government will legislate a definition of factual control that removes the requirement for a “legally enforceable right.” The proposed rule is not a new standard; in fact, the government’s proposal looks a lot like the way things were up until the 2016 case, so we have a good indication of how it will be interpreted. Most likely, factual control will exist when a shareholder has any power that may allow him or her to elect most the board.

Let’s go back to Wigs-n-Things. Although Victoria cannot legally choose most of the board, she owns a significant stake in the company. Furthermore, she may act as an adviser to the founders, who control operations and own most of the rest of the shares. If the founders tend to take Victoria’s advice on business matters, she may also be able to suggest whom they should elect to the board. In this case, Victoria has a soft power that allows her to fill the board. Under the new standard, this could be considered factual control, in which case Wigs-n-Things would lose its CCPC status.

So, why does this matter for startups?

The new definition of factual control means that companies with large or heavily involved foreign investors (for example, American VCs) may be at risk of losing their CCPC status if audited. Some factors to consider:

- How many directors can non-Canadian shareholders elect?
- How involved are non-Canadian shareholders in the company’s business?
- Does company management take advice from or rely on non-Canadian shareholders?
- Can non-Canadian shareholders affect operations (e.g. veto large transactions)?

None of these factors on their own or together is conclusive and it is by no means a closed list, but if many of them exist, you should consult with your advisers (ideally, a lawyer). For most companies, the change will have little effect, but for some, it may make a big difference and so should be considered by any company that currently has or is taking on substantial foreign investment.

 

Eric Feunekes is graduating from the University of New Brunswick this May with both law and MBA degrees. Eric has years of experience working in business with startups, which he will be bringing to McInnes Cooper, where he will be working as an articling student on his way to becoming a lawyer.

Venture for Canada Launches in NB

Venture for Canada, the program that matches leading Canadian graduates to jobs in the country’s startups, will announce its launch in New Brunswick on Tuesday.

The organization will hold a launch event, open to the public, at Planet Hatch in Fredericton at noon tomorrow. Tech evangelist David Alston and Chinova Bioworks CEO Natasha Dhayagude (a former Venture for Canada fellow) will be the special guests at the event.

Venture for Canada, or VFC, each year selects fellows from among the leading graduates at Canadian universities and matches them with startups that need talent. The application process for VFC is rigorous, consisting of essays, transcripts, resumes and interviews. The VFC website cites intelligence, character, founder potential, ability to contribute and grit as the characteristics required of VFC fellows.

Fellows attend a four-week training camp at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where they become versed in subjects such as management practices, social entrepreneurship, family business, communications, sales strategies and conflict resolution. In the 2016-2017 Fellowship cohort, just over 60 fellows were chosen from among nearly 2,200 applicants. More than one-third of the successful candidates will be placed at Atlantic Canadian start-ups.

Sabrina Poirier, the Program Director for Atlantic Canada, posted on Facebook last week that this will be the first year that the program will be in New Brunswick, “so we want to celebrate with the many wonderful people, organizations and startups who've supported us along the way.”

The event will offer a chance to meet Founder and Executive Director Scott Stirrett, Program Coordinator in New Brunswick Kassi Clifford, and the 2017 fellows who have just been chosen for New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick event comes as VFC learned last week that it would receive $202,959 in funding from the federal government. It provided the funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program (BDP).

"As a proud Nova Scotian, it has been wonderful to see the Venture for Canada program expand in Atlantic Canada,” said Stirrett in a statement. “It is fantastic to see the tremendous growth of entrepreneurship in the region and we are honored to work with amazing community partners and high growth start-ups.”

Fundy Monitoring Projects Funded

Two Nova Scotian projects have been selected and received funding to develop environmental monitoring technologies for tidal energy applications.

The Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia said last week that industry and academic researchers will join forces to collaborate on the two projects, which have a combined research value of almost $500,000.

The projects were selected for funding through a joint research competition sponsored by the OERA, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Innovacorp

Open Seas Instrumentation Inc., or OSI, of Musquodoboit Harbour was awarded $135,000 and JASCO Applied Sciences of Dartmouth is receiving $65,000 in funding, with the balance of research costs sourced from partner contributions. 

“The key to developing a sustainable and successful tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia is understanding how turbines interact with the environment in the Bay of Fundy,” OERA Executive Director Stephen Dempsey said in the statement. “These research projects will not only help us enhance how we monitor the environment near an operating turbine, but is expected to bring technology innovation to the sector, that is developed here and exported abroad.”

The statement said each project introduces an innovative approach to monitoring marine life near a tidal turbine.  The research results will lead to greater understanding of the complex relationships between tidal energy development and the biological and physical ocean environment.

The Open Seas project focuses on the redesign of a subsea platform for monitoring movement and behavior of marine life close to the turbine. The redesign integrates an adjustable structure into the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology platform so that sensors can collect data from a wide range of viewing perspectives including the face of the turbine.  Project partners are the Nova Scotia Community College, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, Acadia University, DSA, and Ocean Moor Technical Services.  Testing will take place in the Minas Passage and the project is expected to be finished in June.

The JASCO project will develop a long-term monitoring program to measure how sound propagates in turbulent waters so we can better understand how these conditions impact on the ability to acoustically detect marine life.  Researchers will also estimate for different marine organisms, their ability to audibly detect turbines in turbulent waters.  The proposed work will involve the novel integration of different hydrophones and sensor technologies, with testing to be conducted in the Bay of Fundy.  Project partners are Dalhousie University and Luna Ocean Consulting Ltd.  They’re expecting to wrap up in August 2018.

Spark Zone Hits Its Stride

One snowy evening last month, the Spark Zone finally got a chance to show what it had been up to in the past year or two.

The entrepreneurship group hosted its New Product Competition finals at Saint Mary’s University, showcasing three student-led companies it has been working with for the past few months. What was notable was the quality of the presenting companies. It wasn’t just that the pitches were good; it was that all the products were based on novel ideas and showed clear and credible plans to get to market.

“We are starting to hit our stride and we’re getting a better feel for what we can do for people,” Jason Turner, the manager of the Spark Zone, said in an interview. “We’ve been at it now for three years and . . . it’s taken us a few years to learn what it all looks like. Do we want the things here at SMU that they want at the Atlantic School of Theology? Does NSCC want the same thing as NSCAD?”

The Spark Zone is one of Nova Scotia’s “sandboxes,” which are groups funded by the provincial government in which various post-secondary institutions can work together to nurture entrepreneurs. The Spark Zone is a collaboration between SMU, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, NSCAD University and the Atlantic School of Theology. (The AST has been using its membership to learn how the institution and its students can use technology more effectively.)

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

The sandbox recently teamed up with the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services at SMU to host the New Product Competition — a contest for teams producing a product to help retailers.

The winner of the $10,000 first prize was Blue Shell, which has designed a sort of anti-theft device that also tells consumers about the product they’re thinking of buying. The product is a plastic object that clips onto a garment in a shop and sounds an alarm if someone tries to remove the clothing from the shop. What’s new about this product is that the shopper can also zap it with a smartphone to find out information or learn of a special sale. It helps retailers move more product, and it could provide data that would help sales.

The runner-up was a company called Dou It Fresh, which we reported on a few weeks ago. The third-place company was Smart Cart, which has big ambitions but suffered in the judging because it hasn’t built a prototype yet. The team has designed shopping cart handles that can take biometric readings from the hands of the person pushing the cart. That means that they can chart the emotions of a shopper as he or she pushes the cart through the supermarket, and that produces data on what the public likes or dislikes in the shop.

The Spark Zone is helping these companies to grow and is involved in a range of other related activities as well. It works closely with Sobey School Business Development Centre and with Saint Mary’s Enactus organization, part of an international group that encourages social entrepreneurship.

Turner said the Spark Zone has a lot of fuzzy borders, its work blending with a number of institutions and groups whose work overlaps with its own.

“That is the meat on the bone for us,” said Turner. “We don’t have a big number of startups but we’re doing a lot. We are less focused on startups than we are on idea generation.”

PocketPass Wins Collide Event

PocketPass, which plans to use blockchain technology to stop scalpers from jacking up ticket prices, won the $3000 first prize at Dalhousie University’s Collide pitching competition Thursday night.

Founded by Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner, PocketPass is using blockchain, the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency bitcoin, to make sure scalpers don’t raise the price of tickets above a certain level. Using blockchain, they can apply smart contracts to the issue of tickets, which can provide a permanent record of who bought the tickets and how much they paid.

The company was one of five teams competing on Thursday night for a total prize pot of $6000. The six teams have just completed the Collide program, which teaches lean methodology to entrepreneurs getting a company off the ground.

The second prize was awarded to Tranquility Online, which is setting up an online platform to help coaches treat people throughCognitive Behavioral Therapy. Founder Joel Muise aims to provide timely, affordable treatment for people plagued by anxiety attacks.

The third prize went to Velox, founded by 13-year-old Connor Kirby. He is proposing to replace the mouse on a personal computer with a device that tracks the users hands and eyes to move the cursor. Velox plans to do sell the device to people suffering from or worried about carpal tunnel syndrome.

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

Kognitiv Spark has plunged into the heady market for augmented realty training products, and is now using its traction to raise capital.

The Fredericton company offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training or instructing remote workers using complex equipment.

Yan Simard – a serial entrepreneur who founded another Fredericton startup, Zaptap – said the company now has clients and is working on about 10 contracts.

“What we’re focusing on is we’re providing holographic and remote training for industry and military operations,” said Simard. “If you’re an operator of heavy equipment who encounters an issue, you can put on a headset and talk it through with an expert.”

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark lets the trainee or remote worker use an augmented reality headset as a training aid or instructional guide.

For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment, but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, who is also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. He can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part he is talking about.

The company offers similar services for training, using holographic images to show people what to do with the real equipment.  

Canada's First AngelList Syndicate Funds Forestry.io

Kognitiv Spark started last summer when Groom, who has a strong technical background, began to work on the augmented reality product with McSporran, who has long experience in the military. They formed a partnership with Microsoft, which provides the HoloLens headsets that use software developed by Kognitiv Spark.

Early in the process, they brought in Simard, who has been working with them as an adviser. They’ve also been working with Orange Sprocket, a Fredericton digital design company that does a lot of work with tech clients.

They were soon getting traction with industrial and military heavy equipment operators. And that led to funding. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has invested in the company, and Simard said the founders are raising more capital. Simard said the company is drawing strong interest from investors, largely because the company is working in a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

He added the company has a lot of competition because the market offers so much potential, and he knows that the buzz in the marketplace will attract more competitors.

So Kognitiv Spark is now working on constantly improving the product. “The complex parts have all been figured out,” he said. “We’re looking at what are the features client like based on the feedback we’re receiving from them, and we’re work on them.” 

Canada’s First AngelList Syndicate

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

Charlottetown-based Forestry.io has become the first startup in Canada to close a round of funding that includes an AngelList syndicate — a development that opens a new avenue of financing for Canadian startups.

Forestry.io, which has developed a platform for posting content on static websites, closed its US$560,000 (C$747,000) seed round in February. The investors included an AngelList syndicate led by noted Silicon Valley investor Gil Penchina, who previously invested in LinkedIn, Cruise Automation and Dollar Shave Club.

AngelList syndicates are groups of investors who follow the lead of a well-known funder, betting that this individual’s background and knowledge offer a seal of approval in a high-potential investment. They have become a force for attracting capital to promising startups in the U.S. in the past couple of years, but regulators have only allowed them in Canada this year.

“We’re delighted to have this funding in place, and to be backed by Gil and other investors from this syndicate,” Forestry.io CEO Scott Gallant said in a statement.

“We hope we are the first of many AngelList Syndicates investing in Canada, and that they help develop great companies across the country.”

To dispel one misconception, Forestry.io has nothing to do with the harvesting of trees. It’s a five-employee tech company that has developed a content management system that simplifies the posting and updating of material on static websites.

MTI Lands $8.3M in Funding, Led by Radar

Founded by Gallant and Jordan Patterson, Forestry.io capitalized on the trend of developers using static site generators to build websites because they are cloud-based, simpler to use and more secure than dynamic systems like WordPress. But static sites have no content management system to let non-tech personnel post and manage content on these sites. Forestry.io fills that gap.

The company was accepted in the prestigious Techstars NYC last year, and Gallant tapped the accelerator’s network to speak to Penchina, who has more followers than any other investor on AngelList. He agreed to lead a funding syndicate, and the timing was perfect because until this year such syndicates have been prohibited in Canada. But the Ontario Securities Commission recently allowed AngelList syndicates, and the move was followed by securities regulators in other provinces.

The other investors in Foresty.io include East Valley Ventures, the Saint John-based investment group led by Gerry Pond.

Since it graduated from Techstars, the company has completed and launched its product, and is now looking at bringing in sales.

“We have thousands of users around the world using the platform,” said Gallant in an interview. “We’re going to start charging the users this month so we’re soon going to have revenue.”

He added the company is working on an enterprise deal — that is, a contract with a large corporation — which it also hopes to close this month. With capital in the bank and revenue in the offing, the company is now hiring about four people, both in sales and marketing and in development. And Gallant said, if anything, he feels more pressure than when Forestry.io was simply two friends with a vision.

“The money is in the place and we have people in place but now the pressure is on because we have to make this work,” he said. “So now I feel like the pressure is on but we’re in a really good position.”

Briefs: Deacon, Dal, Appili, CarbonCure

Colin Deacon

Colin Deacon

Startup Zone Names Deacon as Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Startup Zone, the startup hub in downtown Charlottetown, has announced that Colin Deacon will be joining the Startup Zone team as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Deacon brings years of experience and know-how from investment, venture capital, and business building, said the organization in a statement. Deacon is the Founder of BlueLight Analytics Inc., a dental technology company based in Halifax. It sells scientific equipment and data services to universities and dental manufacturers in more than 20 countries, as well as large international contracts that increase the success of dental sales teams. Previously, he helped build Canada’s largest health research venture capital fund, Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund Inc. He was part of the team that grew SpellRead Inc. from a single founder-run Charlottetown location to a fast-growing company with a scalable program delivering consistent results across 200 individual sites in North America.

Appili Lands Irap Funds

Appili Therapeutics Inc., an anti-infective drug development company, announced that it will receive an additional $400,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), bringing IRAP support for this project to a total of up to $759,000. This funding supports the development of ATI-1503, an antibiotic targeting drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobactor baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These superbugs cause potentially deadly infections, including pneumonia and blood infections. “Doctors are fast running out of treatment options and IRAP funding is an important part of our financial strategy for helping Appili develop a new antibiotic that can treat these deadly diseases,” said Kimberly Stephens, CFO of Appili Therapeutics. ATI-1503 is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring Negamycin antibiotic. Using IRAP funding, Appili’s expert drug development team will employ advanced X-ray crystallography to visualize the exact structure of ATI-1503 binding to the bacterial target.

Dalhousie Holds Pitching Event Tomorrow

Launch Dal, the entrepreneurial hub at Dalhousie University, is moving from its winter programming into the summer offering. On Thursday, the group will host the Collide Pitch Competition at 6pm in the Collider, on the second floor of the Killam Library. Since January, participants in the Collide program have been working on their pitches through workshops, pitch nights and networking events. The five teams will present their final pitches to a panel of judges for their chance to win prize money for their ventures. Launch Dal also announced that it has extended the deadline to its 100K Competition to Friday, April 28 at 5pm. Ten teams will have the opportunity to spend the summer in Launch Dal’s summer accelerator and receive $10,000 each in development funding. Applications are available here.  

CarbonCure Partner Wins Award

Ozinga and CarbonCure Technologies have announced that Ozinga is the winner of the 12th Annual Illinois Emerald Award for Green Building Innovation for its work with Halifax-based CarbonCure. The U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois (USGBC-Illinois) announced the winners of the Emerald Awards, which showcase the best and brightest contributors to a more sustainably built environment by recognizing outstanding individuals, organizations, projects and technologies. Ozinga is a fourth-generation family-owned American business providing ready mix concrete products to Chicago and the surrounding area since 1928. Ozinga installed CarbonCure's technology, which uses waste carbon dioxide to cure concrete, at its Chicago Chinatown plant in September 2016. Following extensive testing, Ozinga has been using the technology to optimize its carbon footprint.

A New BoomersPlus Enters Ontario

Rick Emberley: 'Demand is not going to be the problem.'

Rick Emberley: 'Demand is not going to be the problem.'

BoomersWork, the Halifax company that helps retired executives find part-time work, is rebranding itself as BoomersPlus and launching operations in Ontario.

The new branding is part of an expanded service that will offer its clients — largely people over the age of 50 —various lifestyle services, such as travel bookings and financial services.

Since it began in 2012, the goal of BoomersWork has been to provide contract work for retired executives who want to keep active with project-based or part-time jobs. It matches these individuals with companies or organizations that need some help from experienced personnel, especially for special projects.

Co-founder Rick Emberley said in an interview that this will continue to be a cornerstone of the company, but it will expand its offering as it enters the new central Canadian market.

“It’s always been part of our business model . . . to create what essentially is a lifestyle hub for the boomer generation,” said Emberley. “We started it on the employment area because there were a lot of boomers out there looking for the part-time work and there were . . . a lot of talent gaps existing on the employer side.”

Emberley said he and the other four or five co-founders of the company wanted to carry out the rebrand before they moved into the Ontario market, so they have been working on it for the past few months.

They spent some time raising money in Ontario, seeking funding from individuals who could help the enterprise with more than just capital. They wanted people who could help build networks in the province and provide leadership to the growing venture. Emberley said the group was successful, raising more than $500,000 from several individuals.

David Howe Plots the Growth of Cribcut

As BoomersPlus, Emberley said, the company plans to expand its services beyond its employment offering by providing baby boomers with an online lifestyle destination forum. The company is already in talks with potential partners about providing services on the website. Emberley expects to conclude one deal with a travel company in the coming weeks, and is in talks with a finance company.

“Reaction to our business concept has been great, and our growth is allowing us to expand into larger markets and also offer a wider range of services to those that register on our database,” he said. “Registration is free and our users remain anonymous in the site.”

The company has seven employees — including its development team — in Atlantic Canada and now has its first employee on the ground in Ontario. It plans to grow the team in Ontario in the future to include sales and marketing people. It has begun to encourage baby boomers across Ontario to register on the site, and says it is also receiving “very promising” indications that employers will find the product useful.

Emberley said that after five years, the team understands that there are lots of places on the internet with content for baby boomers. But what’s difficult to find is all the lifestyle content and offers in one place.

“Demand is not going to be the problem,” he said. “If we have a problem, it’s going to be building the product properly so it gets the greatest amount of appeal.”

Jobs: Manifold, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column today features a few recent postings in Halifax by IT companies Manifold and Dash Hudson.

Manifold is a young company dedicated to helping developers discover and use tools that can simplify and accelerate their work. The company offers two products – Torus, which lets developers store and share secrets across environments; and the Manifold Platform, which lets you offer cloud services to developers without having to work about things like billing, identity or credentials.

Dash Hudson, which has been hiring strongly in recent months, 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. The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern. The company already has 23 employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami.

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.

Halifax

Manifold

Senior Front-End Engineer

Manifold is hiring a senior front-end engineer to help to create intuitive and powerful interfaces that allow developers to buy, integrate, and manage cloud services. All of this will enable providers to sell services and operate their business on Manifold. Manifold has peer-to-peer based workflow in which all work is discussed in the open and reviewed often, and the team is always seeking improvement. The front-end engineer will be responsible for building user interface components that are intuitive, beautiful and reusable across Manifold’s entire platform using React, Redux, Styled Components, and Webpack. This person will have a voice in all the company’s design and implementation discussions across the entirety of its stack from the front-end to the back-end.

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.

Software Developer

Dash Hudson is searching for a developer who will work with its development team to build product used by some of the best companies in the world. The company is looking for talented and motivated engineers across all levels of experience who can thrive in an independent and high pressure environment. This person will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build/modify backend APIs, write front-end javascript code that consumes APIs, and be responsible for ongoing improvements once deployed. Dash Hudson’s current stack includes Python, Flask, Celery, Docker, Redis, MySQL, AWS (Aurora, ELB, ECS and lots more).

Howe Plots Cribcut’s Expansion

David Howe

David Howe

David Howe wants to do for haircuts what Uber did for transportation.

The CEO of Halifax-based Cribcut gets that it’s a bit of a cliché to say your startup can do what Uber did, but it conveys his message: he hopes that Cribcut can change the way that people crop their mops.

The year-old company offers an online platform where you can order a barber or hairstylist to come to your home or office and cut your hair their. It’s a convenient way for busy people to get a haircut, doing away with the inconvenience of traveling to a salon or barber shop, or waiting in line for a barber.

“We are the Uber of barbers,” said Howe at a recent pitching event in Halifax. “We’re a marketplace that connects barbers or stylists with customers for an in-house or in-office haircut.”

Howe is no stranger to online businesses. He formerly ran ToothbrushSubscriptions.com, which automatically mailed customers new toothbrushes every three months so people could change them as dentists recommend.

After selling that company, he spent some time in Silicon Valley, returning to Halifax last year. He teamed up with stylist Courtney Whynott to open Cribcut, and a huge market in which there are already several competitors.

North American pay a lot to have nice hair – like US$20 billion in the U.S. alone each year for haircuts or hairdos, and an additional US$13.4 billion in hair products. Some 400,000 barbers and stylists cut hair at 86,000 establishments.

MTI Raises $8.3M, Led by Radar Capital. 

There is a movement to get these people to make house calls, or office calls. Companies like Shortcut, which operates in New York and San Francisco, and Shairdoo in Los Angeles, are developing networks of stylists who will go to their clients.

So Whynott and Howe are experimenting to figure out the best way to build the business and make money at it.

“We’re definitely in learning mode,” said Howe in an interview. “We’re still figuring out who that first core client is and we’re also looking at the business model.”

The pair experimented with different plans last year and really began to focus on the market full-time in January. At the beginning, they thought that their core market would be the busy executive who didn’t have time to go to retail outlets, but lately they’ve noticed another interesting market – seniors.

“We had a bunch of seniors trickling in without even reaching out to them and that’s when we started paying attention to this market,” said Howe. “We started to interview them at their homes and places where they meet. It’s a market we’re looking at.”

The company is also examining various pricing models. It’s now bringing in about $1,000 a month, mainly by Whynott providing hairstyles for customers. The revenue numbers are doubling each month, said Howe.

The long-term goal is to take Cribcut across North America, but for now they are looking for ways to increase their penetration in the Halifax area.

“The next step would be going to a bigger city like a Toronto,” said Howe. “If we kick a lot of the kinks out in Halifax then the business would make more sense in an even bigger city like Toronto.”

Finalists Named for Kira Awards

The organizers of the 18th annual Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.

The awards committee said in a statement the winners will be named at a gala in Fredericton on May 4. Tickets are available here.

“The KIRA Awards celebrate excellence in technological, social and economic innovation across all sectors and industries in New Brunswick,” said Co-Chair Heather MacLean in the statement. “The awards recognize companies, organizations, and individuals in New Brunswick for their role in the development and/or application of innovative products, processes, services, technologies, or business models.”

The KIRA finalists are:

Economic Impact through Innovation:

Bulletproof Solutions

Construction Navale Atlantique

LuminUltra Technologies Ltd.

Innovation Champion:

Budworm Tracker (Canadian Forest Service)

Institute of Biomedical Engineering, UNB

Succession Connect/Fredericton Chamber of Commerce

Innovation through Technology:

ADI Systems

EhEye Inc.

SimpTek Technologies Inc.

Most Innovative Product or Service:

Amiko Electrical/PLC Control System & Consulting Inc.

Lizotte Machine Vision

Soricimed Biopharma Inc.

Most Innovative Start-up:

Chinova Bioworks

EhEye Inc.

Kognitiv Spark Inc.

Premier’s Award for Innovation – Private Sector (Organizations Supporting/Promoting Work in Private Sector):

CyberNB/International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA)

Northern Hardwoods Research Institute Inc.

Research & Productivity Council

Premier’s Award for Innovation – Public Sector (Public Sector Organizations Excelling in Government Service Innovation):

CyberNB

Integrated Service Delivery for Children and Youth

NBDTI Design Branch & UNB Civil Engineering Dept.

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