Grammer on Investing in #Startupeast

A few years ago, my partners and I at Rho Canada Ventures began to notice the opportunities occurring in Atlantic Canada, and I started spending more time here.

Today, we feel really lucky I did.

We’ve found a rich vein of tech companies on the East Coast, and we were able to invest in them before many of our competitors had heard of them.

We set up Rho Canada in Montreal in 2006 with the vision of establishing a truly national fund. Though half our investor base was in Montreal, we wanted our coverage to extend from Vancouver to Halifax. So I began to make scouting missions to the East Coast and was pleased with what I found. By 2013 we invested in our first Atlantic Canadian company and there are now four in our portfolio.

When I first arrived in Atlantic Canada, I spent a lot of time understanding what was happening on the ground. I visited the universities and talked a lot with Gerry Pond, the chair of East Valley Ventures. I looked at the different accelerators, at investors like New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp.

What we saw was a lot of interest in pure technology, especially what was coming out of the universities. And it was supported by a strong ecosystem that features superb mentorship.

We wanted a presence, but we had learned that it was always easiest in venture capital if you have more than one investment in a geographic location. It means your visits to the area (and I now visit Atlantic Canada twice a month) are more productive because you’re meeting with more than one portfolio company. 

Our first investment in the region came in September 2013 when we were lead investor in the A Round for Halifax-based Karma Gaming, which develops video games for regulated lotteries. Our co-investors were Innovacorp and Vanedge Capital of Vancouver.

What I like about Karma is it was dealing in an international market place and its founders, Paul LeBlanc and Jay Aird, are experienced executives.

After we closed the Karma deal, I spent more time in New Brunswick. After about seven months, we joined Build Ventures, GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund and NBIF in a $3.9 million funding round for Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton. I was impressed with the technology, which can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or device. The management team’s been able to sell it into multiple verticals. The fact that Gerry Pond had been instrumental in developing the company didn’t hurt either.

Next, we invested in another Halifax company, Analyze Re, which was developing administrative and risk analysis software for the reinsurance industry. Innovacorp and BDC Venture Capital also invested in the company, which had just graduated from the Launch36  accelerator.

And, just in November, we invested in Resson Aerospace of Fredericton, a precision agriculture outfit that had also graduated from the Propel accelerator.

It’s worth noting that two of our investments came out of the Propel accelerator program, where they received great mentorship. It’s also notable that we were in the seed round or A round on each of these companies.

The fact that not a lot of venture capitalists operate in Atlantic Canada meant that we were able to find gems other VCs weren’t aware of. But it’s more significant than that. It also means that Atlantic Canadian startups are used to launching with little more than technology and determination. They’re used to solving a problem and getting going without a lot of backing.

So what we’re doing here is good old-fashioned venture capital.  I’m meeting regularly with these companies and helping them through the growth stage of their business. It’s what VCs should do, and I hope more venture capitalists discover what is happening here.

What the Atlantic Canada startup community needs now is longevity. You don’t wake up one day to discover you’ve got a thriving startup community. There will be highs and lows and we have to work through all of them.

We need to support the angel groups, accelerators and mentors that are supporting this community. We need to work with the universities to encourage more technology to get out in the entrepreneurship community. It’s an exciting time. I’m glad to be part of it.


Jeff Grammer is a Partner with Rho Ventures Canada, the Canadian arm of Rho Capital Partners, which has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., New York and Montreal. This column first appeared in the most recent Entrevestor Intelligence report.


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


Disruption Hosts QRA, Innovacorp

QRA, a Halifax startup that helps manufacturers detect design problems, has become the first Canadian company accepted into the headquarters of Disruption Corp., a support facility based in Washington, D.C.

Disruption, founded eight months ago by globetrotting startup backer Paul Singh, announced Monday night it has struck an agreement with Innovacorp to “set up shop” in the Disruption headquarters and help recruit Canadian tenants. QRA, which will still be based in Halifax, will be the first of these tenants.

“Disruption is not investing in us, but their deal with Innovacorp will have us treated essentially as one of their portfolio companies while we are down here,” said CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in an email Monday night.

QRA (which stands for Quantum Research Analytics) grew out of a research project at Dalhousie University commissioned by Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, which is based in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md.  Kyriakidis headed the project, which aimed to identify design flaws in complicated machines in the early stages of development – before the company had spent a lot of money building out the product.

QRA’s tools can analyze and validate how system components are put together and work together. It can detect any faults before the machine is actually built. These tools are based on rigorous mathematical approaches and can detect errors that conventional testing cannot, said Kyriakidis.

The announcement is obviously great news for QRA because it will position the company in one of the fastest-growing startup and investment communities in the U.S. What’s more, the District of Columbia is home to a massive aerospace industry, including companies like Lockheed-Martin, which would be perfect customers for QRA.

But the announcement also signals a leadership role that Innovacorp is assuming in corralling Canadian companies into the Disruption facility. The agency is acting as a conduit for startups from across Canada, not just Nova Scotia, that hope to access the Disruption facility. It will help in Innovacorp’s mission to increase its international network, with the end goal of heightening the exposure of Nova Scotian startups to international investors and customers. (Innovacorp sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor.) 

Singh developed an international reputation as an authority on tech development when he was a partner in the early stage venture capital firm 500 Startups. He traveled around the world looking for early stage investments, and visited Atlantic Canada several times, including stops at MentorCamp and the Atlantic Venture Forum.

Earlier this year, he formed Disruption Corp., which manages Crystal Tech Fund, to provide education, access and insight to maturing startups. On Monday, the group announced it would double the square footage of its headquarters and expand its partnerships. As well as Innovacorp, the Disruption headquarters will welcome the Iron Yard, a coding academy that already has outposts in Charleston, Atlanta, Austin, and other locations in the Southeast. 

“The original vision was to build a magnet for the best tech companies and the resources and investors who can help them grow,” said Singh in a statement.  “What we have is a place and people that are curated, aspirational and inspirational.”

QRA has been working on closing a $4 million funding round, and Kyriakidis said Monday that the deal hasn’t quite closed yet.



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


Eight Winners in Spark Cape Breton

A diverse group of entrepreneurs — from a 15-year-old to a group of nursing students to a pair of St. Francis Xavier University professors —have been named winners of the second annual Spark Cape Breton entrepreneurship competition.

Innovacorp, the provincial innovation agency, has announced eight winners will divide the total prize money of $200,000, up from six winners in the first competition last year.

Innovacorp, the Atlantic Provinces Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department — all clients of Entrevestor — organize the competition to encourage entrepreneurship in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area.

Bob Pelley, the Innovacorp director in Sydney, said he saw a huge difference in the pitches this year, with 28 entrants competing at a higher level than before.

 “The level of preparedness just seemed to skyrocket,” Pelley said in an interview.  “The pitches were fantastic and the willingness of the participants to accept mentoring and (change their business plan) on the spot was evident.”

The winners, and the amounts won, are:

Lokol.me, $50,000

Richard Lorway and Mathew Georghiou formed this company to develop a platform for local news and information websites for communities around the world.

• Sona Nanotech, $50,000

A regional finalist in last year’s I-3 competition, Sona was formed by St. F.X. profs Gerrard Marangoni and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which include health-care applications such as cancer treatment.

• Chatsubo Heavy Industries, $45,000

Founded by Kaleb DeLeskie, 15, the company is developing the Chatsubo Packet Monster, an Internet security device that will allow real-time collection and storage of Internet traffic.

• TACKK Mobile Health Solutions, $25,000

TACKK grew out of a project in a community nursing course at Cape Breton University. Christopher Walker, Athanasius Sylliboy and a team of classmates developed an app called FootChek, a real-time foot-monitoring device intended to reduce diabetic foot ulcers.

• Social Response Marketing, $10,000

The company founded by Joe Ward is developing an automated web tool that helps small businesses create, schedule and publish updates for Facebook and Twitter.

• Prevail Innovations, $10,000

The company established by Robert MacKenzie is developing an app for mobile devices that enhances the efficiency and accuracy of dictation.

• Rent Buddy, $5,000

Founded by Matthew McKay of Sydney Forks, Rent Buddy’s website helps property managers create profiles of their properties to speed up the listing process. It also makes it easier for prospective tenants to search for properties.

UpTime.Management, $5,000

D. Darren MacDonald’s UpTime.Management helps organizations enhance the health of their employees though real-time knowledge of work-absence trends, analytics, coaching and performance management.

The winners have to use the money to complete prototypes or prepare for taking their product to the market. The organizers will also continue to work with them by having veteran entrepreneurs mentor winners.

Pelley said mentorship played a larger role in this competition than in the first year.

“It actually felt like Spark was more of an accelerator than just a competition. That is what we will be moving toward next time around.”


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

Searching the Globe for Talent

When he was working as a chemist in Iran, Mostafa Aghaei developed a solution from natural polymers that successfully combatted the erosion and movement of sand dunes – a huge problem in the desert nation.

When he came to Canada three years ago, he became an entrepreneur and began looking for local applications for his unique nanocoil product; a natural solution that becomes a fixative when it hardens.

And now he’s on the right track. Aghaei’s company, Biopolynet of Fredericton, has recently struck a partnership with Iron Ore Company (IOC) of Canada, to use the nanocoils to prepare iron pellets(the form in which iron is shipped.)

Aghaei has discovered a way to create natural polymers (strings of molecules) that form into coils, so they lock together when they harden. That means that his solution can stabilize sand dunes in the Iranian desert or help to shape iron into pellets. In fact, as Aghaei explained during a pitch at the BioInnovation Challenge competition at BioPort Atlantic, tests with IOC have shown that it can reduce the production costs of forming iron into pellets by 70 percent.

The fact that Biopolynet is working with one of the world’s largest iron producers shows what immigration can mean to the Atlantic Canadian startup community and economy. Mostafa Aghaei came to Atlantic Canada as an academic and now his company is developing products that could find markets around the world. The fact is Atlantic Canada needs more people like him.

And the startup community in particular can benefit from more immigration. Some of the finest entrepreneurs in the region were born in other countries, and the federal government has introduced a program to encourage more immigrants to come to the region.

“We shouldn’t feel bad that we need talent,” said Rob Barbara, a partner at Build Ventures in Halifax. “Everyone needs talent. More than half the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies weren’t born in the United States.”

The plain fact is Atlantic Canada needs immigration to replace the baby-boomers who are leaving the workforce and the younger people who are leaving the region. Another truth – a somewhat inconvenient one -- is the region thus far has had difficulty attracting immigrants.

For example, in 2012, the four Atlantic Provinces welcomed a total of 6,434 immigrants; a number that didn’t even equal Nova Scotia’s self-proclaimed target of 7,200 immigrants a year. Nova Scotia’s total rose 11 percent to 2,370 in 2012. If that pace of growth continues, Nova Scotia won’t reach the 7,200 annual intake goal until 2023.

One program that could help attract immigrants to the region is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s new Startup Visa program, which has been rolled out this year. Under the program, Canada will issue as many as 2,700 visas annually to entrepreneurs, and efforts are already being made to ensure some come to Atlantic Canada.

The first successful Atlantic Canadian applicants are, like Aghaei, Iranians. Ehsan Mokhtari and Hadi Shiravi Khozani are co-founders of Ara Labs Security Solutions of Fredericton. They were sponsored by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The Startup Visa program allows entrepreneurial immigrants to get permanent residency status within six months. They must make their application with the collaboration of an investment or angel group or incubator.

So far, the federal government has approved five organizations to work with the program, including Halifax-based Innovacorp.  As of mid-November, Innovacorp had received 305 expressions of interest and 89 submissions from entrepreneurs in at least 30 countries. It has written four letters of support.

“The Startup Visa Program is exciting because it’s an opportunity to attract the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and their technologies to Nova Scotia,” said Stephen Duff, President and CEO of Innovacorp. “These entrepreneurs will create jobs and wealth, propel innovation, and entice more much-needed immigrants to our province.”

The hope is that more Atlantic Canadian organizations will also qualify to participate in the program. The goal is to expand and enrich the pool of entrepreneurs in the region. But Barbara of Build Ventures said Atlantic Canadians overall must still do more to welcome people to the region.

“We’re the friendliest people in the world,” he said. “But we’re a little skeptical of people from away and that’s not good for our economy.”


This article originally appeared in the December 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report.


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

Dinn Brings Propel New Perspective

After a career spent proving his adaptability, Gary Dinn is now focused on preparing Atlantic Canadian companies for the global market through his role at a regional mentoring group.

Dinn has recently taken over as CEO of Propel-ICT, the group that runs Launch36, the biggest business accelerator east of Montreal.

Under the banner Propel 2.0, Dinn and his team are aiming to launch 420 startups over the next five years. Some of these will come from outside Atlantic Canada.

They will be assisted by the federal government, which recently committed to contributing up to $2.9 million to Propel over five years.

Previously, Dinn worked on developing subsea acoustics and other marine technologies. He co-founded the St. John’s, N.L., defence and nautical equipment maker Rutter Technologies, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

His work around the world makes him confident that Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurs can compete globally.

 “This region’s companies can produce the quality and quantity to meet the world market,” said Dinn, now back at his home base in St. John’s.

 “But we need a greater concentration of the ideas that create businesses. Venture capitalists don’t think there is enough going on here. We need to create critical mass.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John, N.B., 10 years ago. The group works with partner groups such as Planet Hatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax to deliver programs that help startups access venture capital.

 “Propel programs make people talk about their businesses in a way venture capitalists want to hear,” Dinn said.

 “They are much more likely to land investment.”

His own career has taught him the importance of flexibility in business.

He began studying engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s. His electrical engineering professor started a company called Ice Engineering, where Dinn worked between 1982 and 1985, learning about managing the problems ice causes for the oil and gas industries.

In 1985, he was a co-founder of Consolidated Technologies. At the time, the Soviets were deploying nuclear submarines in the Arctic. It was decided to place sonar buoys in the Arctic to monitor them, but the ice cover was a problem. Consolidated Technologies partnered with Spartan Electronics of London, Ont., to find a solution, gaining the Office of Naval Research in the United States as an early client.

 “We came up with our solution in 1990 and produced the first 50 units, but the Gulf War broke out and took all the funding and the project was cancelled,” Dinn said.

He and his colleagues then tackled the problem of aircraft de-icing fluid at airports that was seeping into ground water. The company figured out a way to recycle the fluid by reconcentrating it.

In 1994, the Estonia ferry sank in the Baltic Sea, with the loss of 852 lives.

Dinn and his partners had already been working on introducing electronic charting systems to ships. So when the International Maritime Organization decided to create a nautical black box, they were well placed to assist. Dinn was one of those who helped write the specifications for the box.

 “The International Electrotechnical Commission wrote the technical details and we in St. John’s contributed the standard,” Dinn said.

 “We decided to create the product ourselves and were working on it while helping to write the specifications for the IEC.”

By the time the standard was issued, they were almost ready to go to market, founding Rutter Technologies in 1997. At one point, they had 20 per cent of the world market.

Dinn has also been a director of the World Ocean Council, the international business alliance for corporate ocean responsibility. He is a past chairman of OceansAdvance, Newfoundland’s OceanTech cluster.

He will be travelling around Atlantic Canada to help better integrate the startup ecosystem.

 “We need to work together, to be pan-Atlantic, in order to get enough venture capital to make entrepreneurship a driver of the economy.”


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

Breakthru Prizes Reach $750,000

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s current Breakthru competition will be dramatically bigger than the 2013 edition, both in terms of number of participants and total prizes.

The New Brunswick innovation agency announced this morning that it received applications for the biennial startup competition from 62 teams representing 108 entrepreneurs from all over New Brunswick. In the 2013 event, there were 47 entries.

The total prizes will almost double to $750,000 in cash and in-kind services. That’s up from $406,000 last time out.  

“This is the highest number of Breakthru entries we've received to date, telling us that innovation-based entrepreneurship is something New Brunswickers want to use to create a better future for themselves and their communities,” said NBIF Chair Robert Hatheway in a statement. “The success of Breakthru and its growth year-over-year tells me that, as a means for economic growth in the province, innovation and entrepreneurship is building itself on solid ground.”

NBIF – which sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor – holds its Breakthru competition every second year with the goals of drawing out latent entrepreneurs with good ideas and helping to launch the best candidates.  

While the grand prize for first place has risen from $192,000 in 2013 to $287,250 in the current competition, the biggest increase has been in the second- and third-place prizes. They are now both worth $222,250, up respectively from $137,000 and $77,000 last time. What that means is the competition should give sufficient resources to three companies to launch.

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

Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, NBIF’s corporate partners in the event, contributed a total of $323,000 in support. Of that support, $234,000 was contributed in the form of prizes with the remainder reserved for the administration, production and promotion of the competition.

The prizes include: IT services from Blue Spurs; executive coaching services from Vision Coaching; branding and digital design services from Orange Sprocket; web and video production from Outreach Productions; branding and design services from Ginger Design; and company launch event at a Cineplex.

The Department of Economic Development will provide NB Growth Cash incentives of up to $45,000 per Breakthru winner, subject to NB Growth program eligibility requirements.

NBIF said there may be more prizes announced.

The teams will gather for the Breakthru Bootcamp on January 17 and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Fredericton on March 19.



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



Expanding Bungalo Moves Into PEI

Bungalo may be the only company working out of the Volta startup hub in Halifax that can legitimately claim expansion into Prince Edward Island is part of an international growth strategy.

The online cottage rental platform did just that this week, and the “international” part is convincing because the company began life in Iceland.

The tech startup, which is in the process of raising $1 million, has dual headquarters in Reykjavik and Halifax and believes the Canadian market is perfect for its product, which connects cottage owners and vacationers.

Having signed up 500 cottage owners in Iceland, the company established a beachhead in Nova Scotia in the summer and is following through on founder and CEO Haukur Gudjonsson’s plan to spread across Canada. On Monday, it announced its expansion into P.E.I.

 “Right now, we have 12 listings from P.E.I. live on our site and 10 pending listings,” said spokeswoman Nina Nedic.  “We also have three properties in New Brunswick, four properties in Newfoundland and five properties in Ontario. Our next area of focus will be New Brunswick, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Nedic said the company hopes to focus extensively on New Brunswick by mid-February and Newfoundland and Labrador later.

Gudjonsson has said that the Canadian cottage market is about 100 times that of Iceland’s, and he is especially excited about the massive market in Ontario.

Bungalo was born in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to help Icelanders in financial straits earn income by renting their cottages to tourists from around the world. The enterprise was so successful it expanded into Sweden and then Canada.

After visiting Halifax last year, Gudjonsson set up shop in Volta and hired a sales staff comprising Nedic and Autumn Fiske.

Their office is dominated by a map of the Maritimes marking every cottage in their portfolio. The number of markers has increased rapidly in the last few months.

Fiske said the expansion into P.E.I. works well because the island has a vibrant tourism industry.

There is also a good stock of cottages, and consumers benefit from strong competition.

 “With fierce competition on the Island, cottage owners can gain a competitive edge by using Bungalo, a service with international partnerships and users,” she said.

It has placed one North Rustico property — a round, ocean-side cottage that rotates once every 45 minutes — among its featured listings.

To date, Bungalo boasts over 18,000 users and more than 600 cabins, cottages and summer homes that the company says are close to oceans, lakes, volcanoes, mountains and breathtaking skylines.

In September, Bungalo was accepted into the Launch36 accelerator. At the graduation presentation, Gudjonsson said the company has done $2.3 million in cottage rentals and has a growing revenue stream.

It is raising $1 million and is one of four recent Launch36 graduates eligible to receive a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC has not yet announced which companies are receiving the funding.


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


Our New Report on the Global Market

Though it was a holiday, Pablo Asiron felt distinctly un-festive.

It was -40 Celsius outside.  He was in a land where he didn’t understand the language, or even the lettering on the street signs. And his dinner that night consisted of a Snickers bar he found in his suitcase.

For the sake of a sale, the CEO of Riverview, N.B.-based RtTech Software had come to a small mining town in Kazakhstan in December 2012 to view the facility. After spending more than a day just catching the train to the site, he arrived to learn all restaurants were closed and the only thing he could eat the first night was the chocolate bar he’d brought with him.

But there was a silver lining: he made the sale.

“Yes, I made the sale,” he said, laughing about the experience a few months later. “And it was the largest sale we had ever had to date.”

See Our Tapping the Global Market Report

As much as any company in the region, RtTech embodies the international nature of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Today, we are releasing our fourth Entrevestor Intelligence supplement of 2014 -- an issue dedicated to the global ambitions of the region’s startup community. This report showcases and discusses how Atlantic Canadian startups are tapping the global market for three facets they can’t live without: talent, customers, and capital. It looks at a group of Memorial University students competing in Beijing, our links to Boston, and immigration. And we learn from one venture capitalist, Jeff Grammer of Rho Canada Ventures, what he likes about Atlantic Canada. We'd like to thank to our tremendous designer Roxanna Boers for the great work on the supplements' layout all year long.

For example, RtTech, which was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering, helps industrial companies reduce energy in major plants. Its main products are: RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy; and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The international sweep of RtTech begins with its CEO, for Asiron is a native of Pamplona, Spain, where his family runs a hotel next to the bull ring immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises.

The company has worked closely with its major international partners: San Leandro, Calif.-based OSIsoft and Austin, Texas-based Emerson Process Management.

Its clients are global, and Asiron’s sales calls in the past year have included not only Kazakhstan but also such places as Australia, the Philippines, the Middle East and various parts of Europe. The company has clients on five continents.

By their nature, startups are global beasts. By definition, they have to develop a product for the global market. They compete with other enterprises for global finance. And given the aging or declining population in much of Atlantic Canada, they often have to attract talent from around the world.

Though RtTech exemplifies the global outlook of startups, it is by no means alone in its worldview. Consider these other companies excelling in these three categories:


TopLog of Halifax is the product of immigrants gathering at one of the region’s great universities. Tokunbo Makanju, a native of Nigeria, wrote a doctoral thesis for his PhD in Computer Science at Dalhousie University on a method of helping network administrators to detect and correct system downtime. He teamed up with two other PhD candidates – Turkish immigrant Ozge Yeloglu and Canadian Patrick LaRoche— to develop the idea into a company, topLog. It has just released its first product.


Discoverygarden of Charlottetown oversees Islandora, one of the world’s leading digital repositories for libraries, museums and archives around the world. Developed at the University of Prince Edward Island, Islandora is an open-source databank that protects and stores digital assets permanently. It includes such features as a powerful search function and flexible installation. The Islandora website now lists 86 installations on four continents and the number is growing.


The Atlantic Canadian funding story of 2014 will be dominated by a single deal: Spectrum Equity’s $60 million private equity financing of St. John’s-based Verafin. Previously backed by Killick Capital of St, John’s and RBC Venture Partners, Verafin is a global leader in software that helps financial institutions prevent money laundering and fraud. With more than 1,000 corporate customers, the company looked for refinancing in the past year or two and eventually selected one backer: Spectrum, a private equity investor based in Boston and Silicon Valley. Spectrum has raised $4.7 billion for investment in IT and media companies.

This is a narrow selection of the Atlantic Canadian startups whose tentacles are stretching around the world. The plain truth is that no startup in the region or elsewhere is taken seriously unless they’re playing in the global sandbox. To be frank, it you’re not developing a company that is targeting the global market place it’s difficult – no, impossible -- to compete for serious attention given what other companies in the region are doing.

“Every entrepreneur should have a vision to conquer the globe from the start because in doing that you figure out what you need to do to be a successful company,” said Calvin Milbury, the CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. “In practice, of course, you have to start with bite-sized pieces, but you need that global vision.”

And companies are finding global customers. Leah Skerry, the CEO of Halifax-based EyeRead, traveled to the AdTech conference in Japan this year to present her technology, which follows young readers’ eyes as they read to discover where they are having difficulty. “By having customers around the world, we have been able to learn quickly and it’s opened our products up for new opportunities,” she said.

Atlantic Canada’s universities are also aiding this trend. First, they set an example because all the universities are looking overseas for customers given the demographic situation in their home market. And second, they bring in people from around the world who often become entrepreneurs. At the Dalhousie University Starting Lean course this semester, there are participants from at least seven countries. And of course the universities produce research and development that leads to products with an international appeal. It’s not a coincidence that topLog (Dalhousie), discoverygarden (UPEI) and Verafin (Memorial University of Newfoundland) all grew out of regional post-secondary institutions.

The excellence of Atlantic Canadian startups is leading to a surprising number of global awards. Just in the past month or two, Island Water Technologies of Montague, P.E.I., was named to the GEW 50, a list of 50 promising startups from around the world compiled by Global Entrepreneurship Week of Washington D.C. And Lamda Guard of Halifax was awarded the 2014 Product Leadership Award in the aerospace industry by Frost & Sullivan of San Antonio, Texas.

Finally, the global flavor of the startup community deepens each time an international company buys a local startup. San Francisco-based Salesforce, the world’s leader in cloud-based software, has an impressive presence in the region because of its purchases of Radian6 of Fredericton and GoInstant of Halifax.

And this year, the trend has continued. Another San Francisco company, LiveOps, has bought UserEvents of Fredericton, while Bedford-based NewPace Technology Development Inc. has been purchased by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill.  Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, was acquired by lynda.com, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based online education company.

RtTech certainly ranks with the best of them. And Asiron said there are three key reasons why his company has gone global. First, the company has designed products that will meet demand in the global market place. Second, as RtTech developed a network of clients, those customers introduced the company to others so word spread about the company’s products. And third, RtTech has formed strong international partnerships, whose sales teams complement the efforts of the Moncton company’s own sales force.



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

Press Release: Wagepoint Gets $2M

Wagepoint, which has developed a SaaS payroll product,  has issued the following press release. The company is a former Volta member, and still has a development team in Nova Scotia.

Wagepoint Announces $2 Million in Seed Funding to Expand US Small Business Market Presence and Product Lines

Led by Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA), and Canadian and US angel investors

Waterloo ON and New York, NY, December 09, 2014 – Wagepoint, an HR tech company specializing in online payroll, today announced $2 million USD in seed funding led by venture capital firm Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA) as well as Canadian and US angel investors. Wagepoint will use the funding to accelerate its penetration into the US market, and enhance its product portfolio to make the online payroll experience even better.

According to US Census Bureau, in 2011 there were 5.6 million employer firms, and 99.7 percent of those firms were operating with fewer than 500 employees. There are an additional 1.1 million small businesses operating in Canada.  Since launching in 2013, Wagepoint has been on a mission to help make payroll simple, fast and friendly for small business owners, specifically targeting companies with less than 100 employees.

“Very simply, we’re redefining payroll for small business, making it as easy for a small business owner to use as Facebook,” said Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint. “Over the last eighteen months, we have built an amazing product that dramatically simplifies life for small business owners, with a customer base of nearly 700 companies that we love and who love us back.  One of our core beliefs as a company is to surround ourselves with individuals who can help us achieve our business goals and who we genuinely like to be around. This group of investors was carefully handpicked as they meet these criteria perfectly. We are excited about 2015, as we roll out further products to automate workflows surrounding payroll and compensation as a whole.”

Wagepoint’s online payroll solution helps small business owners automate and simplify processing payroll with direct deposit; payroll calculations; federal, state and local taxes; 1099s, W2s and W3s; wage detail reports; new hire reporting; additional deductions; payments to contractors; additional incomes and online paystubs. The company today operates throughout Canada and all fifty US states and territories, serving nearly 700 customers in a wide range of industries from technology startups, to retailers, to consultants and service providers.

“The Human Capital Management (HCM) tech startup market has been an exciting space over the last couple of years, as employers seek to simplify and streamline aspects of workforce management,” said Sunil Sharma, Managing Partner, Extreme Venture Partners. “Within this HCM space, Wagepoint has carved out its niche, creating a simple, intuitive payroll solution that small business owners and HR managers actually want to use. This kind of disruptive thinking, aimed at a small business market that has literally millions of potential customers, presents huge potential for success. We look forward to helping the Wagepoint team realize their vision for small business payroll simplicity.”

“As a fellow technology entrepreneur, I was immediately attracted to Wagepoint’s vision to simplify and streamline small business payroll. Plus the team is so fun and friendly,” said Jerry Kestenbaum, founder of BuildingLink and a US Wagepoint angel investor.  “The US small business market represents a huge market opportunity, and I truly believe Wagepoint and its products can transform the way small business works.” 

About Wagepoint

Wagepoint is a simple, fast and friendly online payroll software for small businesses across North America. Payroll is mission critical to small and mid-sized businesses, and Wagepoint gets the job done quickly, easily and without the drama. Trusted by hundreds of businesses across North America, Wagepoint can handle direct deposits, government reporting and all year-end reporting for either salaried or hourly employees and contractors. For more information and a free 30-day trial, visit http://www.wagepoint.com


About Extreme Venture Partners

Extreme Venture Partners (EVP) is one of Canada’s most successful venture capital funds over the past decade. With its focus on mobile, EVP (launched in 2007) achieved superior investment returns while helping to launch and help grow more than 20 companies which ultimately lead to over 1000 well-paying technology jobs in Canada. Now having launched its second fund, EVP has broadened its focus to include many of the exciting software and hardware companies in the vibrant Toronto-Waterloo technology corridor.   http://www.evp.vc

Orpheus Debuts Sons of Anarchy Game

Halifax mobile game producer Orpheus Interactive will soon release the game version of the wildly popular Sons of Anarchy television series, having reached a deal with Fox Digital Entertainment last year.

Orpheus and Fox issued a statement Monday announcing the new game, Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect, which will be available on phones and tablets in 2015.

The announcement is essentially the debut of Orpheus, which has raised more than $1 million in equity financing and has already assembled a team of 16 veteran game producers in Nova Scotia. It has quickly and quietly become a major addition to the gaming community in the region.

“We’re building an experience for the rabid fans of Sons of Anarchy,” Alastair Jarvis, Executive Producer of the series, said in an interview. “The entertainment landscape is shifting, so people are unplugging cable [TV] and they’re looking for entertainment . . . from the tablet in the palm of their hand. There are a lot of people who have a hunger for it and not that many people who are scratching that itch.”

Orpheus Interactive is an interesting marriage of talent and capital that came together last year. Jarvis, a veteran of HB Studios in Lunenburg, N.S., connected with the Halifax venture capitalist James Drage. They learned of Fox Digital Entertainment’s plans for the Sons of Anarchy games. So they put a team together (which included Drage’s son Christian, who’d been working as a game developer in British Columbia), pitched Fox and landed the licence. 

“The things that’s different about this model is we’re not doing this as work for hire for Fox,” said Jarvis. “We own the IP. If we do well the profit, stays in Nova Scotia.”

Just finishing its seventh and final season, Sons of Anarchy is a drama with darkly comedic undertones about an outlaw motorcycle club in the sheltered fictional town of Charming, California. Jarvis said that the series of games produced by Orpheus will allow the fans of the show to get fresh content on the brand even though the TV show is ending.

About 20 people worked on the production of the first game, 16 of them in Nova Scotia. Jarvis said the project has included collaboration with Halifax-based Silverback Games, headed by gaming veteran Willie Stevenson. The voice-overs were done by VoiceWorks Productions, a Los Angeles-area studio headed by Nova Scotian Douglas Carrigan.

Orpheus has raised more than $1 million so far and its first funding round is still open. The current investors include a range of angel investors and Atlantic Venture Capital, the VC fund operated by James Drage.

The initial Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect game will come out next year, and will be followed by a succession of follow-on games in the SoA series.

“Our slate is pretty full with episodes of Sons of Anarchy,” said Jarvis. “But the value is not just in these games but in our capacity to build other games.”



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


What’s Next in Startup Education?

There have been a flood of reminders in the past week of how the region’s universities are developing entrepreneurship programs, each staking out a distinct turf.  

Dalhousie and St. Mary’s both held demo-days for student startup teams last week. The Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland held a graduation party for SubC Imaging, a tenant company that makes imaging products for underwater remotely operated vehicles.  There was a seminar on Big Data at Acadia and a business idea competition winner was announced at University of New Brunswick.

Most of the startup-related programs are only a few years old, and they will continue to evolve in coming years. How they evolve is a matter of huge importance for the whole startup community, because universities boast the most fertile soil for growing startups in the region.  (Disclaimer: several universities advertise in and/or sponsor Entrevestor.)

So here are three thoughts on how the academic side of entrepreneurship can, may or should develop in the next few years:

1. Quality will count in the future.

The Atlantic Canadian startup community is becoming divided into two tiers. Startups in the first tier are producing innovative products that are finding market demand; those in the second are receiving well-intentioned encouragement, but not the sales or funding they’re hoping for.

The universities that gain attention in the future will be those that produce the greatest number of startups in the top tier. They will undoubtedly be the institutions that do the best job of marrying the skills of researchers (in engineering, computer science, medicine, etc.) with entrepreneurship students. The thing that is distinguishing the A-teams these days is the originality and adaptability of their technology.

2. There’s a huge opportunity in technology sales.

Virtually every startup – especially IT companies, but others as well – needs computer programmers. Luckily, universities are producing them. But the need for sales talent is almost as acute, yet there are no dedicated programs for technology sales.

There are marketing courses, but a tech sales program would be more focused. It would teach students a fundamental understanding about modern technology, and the skill set needed to sell it. These would include developing sales leads, engaging clients, understanding client pain and learning how to close a deal. Such a course would also deal with sales strategy and business development.

Any university offering a tech sales program would draw immediate interest from Atlantic Canada and beyond. 

3. There’s a market for computer science for non-geeks.

Computer science enrollment is rising -- but not enough to meet the massive demand for developers. There’s a need for an institution – and it could be a community college – that can attract people into computer science, and nurture them through the steep learning curve at the outset.

In particular, some institution -- possibly a community college -- should do a marketing assessment of what female students interested in tech would like to see in a course, and structure a program accordingly. One of the difficulties in getting started in computer science is that rookies find themselves in a class with die-hard tech aficionados who have already taught themselves first-year university material in their spare time.

It’s difficult for someone new to technology to make the initial first steps. It’s doubly difficult for female students in a male-dominated world like IT.



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

Feds To Give up to $2.9M to Propel

The federal government on Friday placed the dollar amount on its contribution to Propel ICT at as much as $2.9 million over five years.

The government previously said the New Brunswick-based operator of the Launch36 accelerator would receive funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP. However, it had never said how much the accelerator would receive.

Under its government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, the government is aiming to strengthen Canada’s position in scientific research while promoting the commercialization of Canadian innovations.

“The financial support provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program will allow us to work toward our aggressive goal of helping launch 420 new companies over the next five years,” Trevor MacAusland, Propel’s Vice President of Business Development, said in a statement.

In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the PEI BioAlliance.

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

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 11 years ago to foster growth in the technology industry. In the winter of 2012, it launched its own accelerator, Launch36, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years. It ended up launching about 50.

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

Propel ICT offers two programming options: Start and Build. “Start” helps guide entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing and launching a startup. “Build” focuses on later stage startups, those who have progressed beyond the idea phase with initial market traction.



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


NBIF’s Breakthru Deadline Tomorrow

New Brunswickers at the earliest stages of forming a startup have a day left to get their entry into the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

The deadline to get your entry in for the biennial startup competition is 11:59 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The Breakthru contestants will be competing for a total pool of prizes worth more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. It’s a significant increase over the total prizes of $406,000 in the 2013 event.

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

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

You can find the details on entering the contest here

New Platform Boosts Leadsift

Building a new business is a multi-faceted challenge, something Tukan Das and Sreejata Chatterjee, co-founders of social media analytics company Leadsift, have learned the hard way.

During its first 18 months, Leadsift struggled to hit its milestones for gaining clients and revenue. But since repositioning itself in December 2013, the company is seeing revenue growth of about 70 per cent a year.

The Halifax-based founders have refined the software they created to scan social media posts and identify people who want to buy a certain product. The scanning allows businesses to reach those people and generate sales.

The team has recently created a new platform called Audience Intent Miner that can gather the buying intentions and insights of whole groups of consumers.

“Every day, we can use Twitter to identify 30,000 people in the U.S. who are talking about buying a new car,” said Das as he and Chatterjee sat in a Halifax coffee shop.

“Eleven per cent of them are mothers with young children and a job. You can assume they think safety is important. If a car company’s vehicle has won a top safety rating, the company can target that news at those working mothers.”

Das claimed Leadsift has an advantage over its competitors because it is the only company in the ecosystem of social listening that can group consumers based on where they are in the buying journey.

Leadsift can extract more than 100 attributes of each consumer, such as gender, age and occupation. Das said gathering the information is not intrusive as it is all in the public domain and does not include personal details, such as phone or email contacts.

The extra information is sought after, and Leadsift numbers eight Fortune 500 companies among its clients.

Although Twitter is and will remain the company’s main source of data, Leadsift also mines information from Instagram, a photo-sharing site popular among young adults. Next year, the company will start mining Facebook and public forums like reddit.com and edmunds.com.

Both Das and Chatterjee appear weary but relieved at the growth achieved by repositioning the company.

 “Running a startup is insanely stressful,” said Das.

 “There are emotional swings when you don’t hit your milestones. You feel the weight of expectation because investors have put their faith and their money in you.

“We’ve learned that it’s all about execution. You have to build a product clients want. You have to get the pricing right. You have to get the marketing strategy right. You have to line up all the steps and be as prepared as possible.”

Two years ago, the founders might have expected their path to success to be smoother after they received development money from investors and bodies such as the National Research Council and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Das also received $500,000 in investment from OMERS Ventures of Toronto when he used Leadsift to identify business leads for OMERS’ portfolio companies.

He said the founding team has stayed intact because they have learned to prioritize communication. The management team also includes co-founders Hatem Nassrat from Egypt and Daniel Allen from the Bahamas.

The four founders met after they all came to Nova Scotia to study computer science. They started their company in typical student style, with the server under Nassrat’s bed in his university dorm.

Das and Chatterjee, both in their early30s, first met while at kindergarten in Calcutta.

Chatterjee said working with someone she has known most of her life has benefits.

 “I know I can trust him,” she said of Das.

But having four founders can lead to lively discussions.

“We’re all alpha characters, but we’re also loyal and passionate,” she said.

“We know our roles now and work well together.”

Das said the biggest boost from turning the company around has been impressing Leadsift’s early supporters.

“Recently, a few investors have told us, ‘You’re making me proud.’ That means so much.”

Qimple Lures Dream Team of Backers

The big news about Qimple isn’t merely that it’s closing a $600,000 funding round when it’s barely a year old. It’s the dream team of investors and advisers that the online recruitment company has assembled.

Moncton’s Qimple, which graduated from the Launch36 accelerator in June, makes the hiring process easier for both recruiters and applicants due to its applicant tracking system and proprietary candidate-scoring tool. It spent the autumn beta-testing the system with more than 30 companies and 1,500 applicants, and has now launched the product to the public.

 “Ever since we gained our momentum by going through Launch36, people have been getting what we’re doing and we’re just seizing every opportunity,” co-founder and CEO Yves Boudreau said in an interview.

Boudreau formed the company about a year ago with lead developer Benoit Bourque, with the goal of helping employers find the best candidate for open positions among the roughly 1,000 job boards in the market. They brought on product manager Aaron Lewis early this year and set out to launch the product and raise equity financing.

The company has landed funding commitments of $150,000 from BDC Capital, the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. And there is an impressive roster of angel investors who have placed money into the funding round.

They include Dan Martell, founder of Clarity in Moncton and an internationally recognized expert in startup methodology; Patrick Hankinson, CEO of Compilr, a Halifax startup that exited last spring; and Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Toronto’s audiobooks.com, the world’s second-largest provider of audio books.

As if that’s not enough expertise, Ben Yoskovitz, the vice-president of product at the Toronto startup VarageSale and co-author of the book Lean Analytics, has joined Qimple’s board of advisers.

 “I’m really, really excited about the people we’ve brought in as investors because they’re really high calibre,” said Boudreau.  “They’re not just bringing money.”

Qimple now has $400,000 in committed investors and may close its $600,000 round soon. Boudreau added that the company is in discussions with a leading Canadian venture capital company.

The Canadian technology publication Techvibes recently named Qimple one of the 20 most promising startups in the country, and Boudreau just spent two weeks in San Francisco to try to gauge how his company stacks up against the best tech companies in the world.

It was a tall order because there are a lot of tech startups targeting the recruitment market, and it’s hard to get noticed.

But some of the leaders in Silicon Valley took the time to meet Boudreau.

He said he learned two things: people are impressed with the simplicity of Qimple’s user interface, and his three-member team has developed a product that can compete with much larger operations.

 “Every move has paid off for us for the most part,” said Boudreau, looking back at the last year.

 “The fact that we’re in a space that is considered crowded, it’s just (motivating us to) continue to turn cynics into believers.”



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

Robin Hood, Holla! Seek GSB Votes

A couple of Atlantic Canadian startups are looking for your vote in their quest for a global startup award.  

Robin Hood and Holla! are winners of recent Startup Weekend events and now they are competing in the Global Startup Battle, in which the public chooses the best SUW winner in the world. Voting closes today at 11:59 pm PST (which technically is tomorrow at about 4 am AST).

Startup Weekend is an international organization that sanctions local events around the world bringing together people to form a business in a single weekend. In the past couple of months, Startup Weekends have been held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.  Winners of local Startup Weekends have the right to go on to the Global Startup Battle, an annual event in which the general public chooses the best startup from Startup Weekends around the world.

Robin Hood is a New Brunswick company that produces web-based purchasing software that helps small businesses come together to bid as effectively as large organizations. The company, which won Startup Weekend Fredericton last month, helps them to get better deals from distributors and suppliers and compete more effectively.

“We are a small team of dedicated and passionate individuals with the right skill set to kick-start Robin Hood,” said team member Mahsa Kiani. “We're designers, developers, and business people with a "get it done" attitude.”

The Startup Weekend in St. John’s last month was won by Holla!, which is an anonymous social app that allows users to share and discover anonymous thoughts around them. “Think Twitter meets Snapchat with location and without the profiles,” said the company’s official description.

You can vote for Robin Hood here and Holla! here.

The winner at the event in Halifax in October was UNIfy, which helps university alumni connect with events are their alma maters. 

The Year of Modest Exits

Tom Gilgan laughed and shook his head. “Oh no,” said the co-founder and CEO of G2 Research of Dartmouth. “We’re not a Radian6. But what we’re happy about is we did this with a company we started from nothing.”

The “this” Gilgan referred to was his geo-location software company’s successful sale to Track Group of Salt Lake City for $4.6 million in November.

The G2 Research sale exemplified a trend that developed in 2014, which could be called the Year of the Modest Exit.

There was nothing like Radian6’s $326-million sale to Salesforce in 2011, or the $540-million sale of Ocean Nutrition Canada to Royal DSM of the Netherlands in 2012. But there was a steady stream of modest and profitable exits that are benefiting the region by companies that, for the most part, bootstrapped throughout their existence.

What it means is that these Atlantic Canadian startup teams have become divisions of larger companies, and the resources of the larger firms have allowed them to keep growing here. It means the region is linked to the global tech community through these companies and their investors.

Meanwhile, the founders of these exited companies have become resources for the community. They have various levels of visibility, but these are now entrepreneurs who have been through one or more exits and can help younger people.

Finally, it means capital is flowing quietly into the region. How much isn’t known because most of the deals didn’t reveal prices. However, the total is probably in the tens of millions of dollars and could approach $100 million. It means the people benefiting from this — including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation — have more money to reinvest in other startups.

G2 Research’s $4.6-million cash and stock deal certainly fits into this trend, but it is not alone.

In January, UserEvents, a Fredericton startup whose technology alerts corporations when customers are having trouble with online transactions, said it would be bought by LiveOps. The buyer is a Redwood City, Calif., provider of cloud contact centre and customer service solutions.

Neither buyer or seller or the foundation, an investor in the New Brunswick company, revealed the details of the deal.

UserEvent’s CEO Jeff Thompson has since taken the role as chairman of the regional accelerator group Propel ICT.

Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, said two months later that it had been acquired by lynda.com, a Carpinteria, Calif., online education company. Again, no details were revealed.

CEO Patrick Hankinson and his chief technology officer Tim Speed have continued to develop the product, but they’re also involved as funders and/or developers in other startups.

Bedford’s NewPace Technology Development Inc. was bought in June by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill., greatly expanding the sales power of the mobile technology developer.

NewPace, headed by founder and CEO Brent Newsome, became a subsidiary of the NewNet messaging division, based in Amsterdam, and changed its name to NewNet Canada. NewNet, which is a portfolio company of Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital, did not reveal financial details.

Finally, ClinicServer, a Saint John company that helps health clinics digitize their operations and records, was taken over by Biosign Technologies Inc., a publicly traded Toronto company with complementary businesses.

The buyer paid $1.96 million — all in stock, except for $75,000 in cash. The deal allowed ClinicServer to retain its brand and New Brunswick headquarters and to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Biosign.

It’s interesting that virtually none of the companies had taken on outside investors. The most notable investment was $250,000 in UserEvents from the New Brunswick foundation, less than a year before it sold out.


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

G2 Research Bought by Track Group

When the three founders of G2 Research began to look for funding this past summer, they had no idea it would lead to a $4.6 million sale of the company by late November.

Yet Salt Lake City-based Track Group announced today that it paid that amount last week to buy the five-year-old Dartmouth company and gain access to its geo-location software used by law enforcement agencies.

G2 will now lead development for the Track Group, and G2 CEO Tom Gilgan has been named the company’s CTO. One of his first jobs will be to find a larger office because he will have to add several more members to the 10-member team in Dartmouth.

See also: Details of the Track-G2 Deal

The acquisition will enable Track to deliver sophisticated analysis and detailed interpretation of data to improve performance to its customer base, which includes national security, law enforcement, corrections, and health research. It will also help the company to enter related markets more easily.

Track Group, a profitable company that had US$2.6 million in revenue last year, provides customizable tracking solutions to customers around the world. Its shares trade over the counter in the U.S., meaning there is a market for its stock though it is not listed on any stock exchange.

Gilgan said that he and co-founders Ron Stewart and Bruce Annand realized last summer they needed more capital to grow the company, so they decided to look for their first round of funding with a target of about $1.5 million. Working with Jim Lutes, Partner at the financial services consultancy EY, they began to get offers for the whole company and they realized a sale would be the best way to ensure growth.

“This is an opportunity for us to ensure the growth of our technology, our company and our employees, and we’re going to take it,” said Gilgan in an interview.

He was initially surprised that the search for capital produced one inquiry about a sale, and then another. While he was having dinner with one suitor in Denver, he received a call from a California company expressing interest in a purchase.

What the larger companies wanted to buy was G2 Research’s software that can help law enforcement agencies track suspects, convicts and parolees. By analyzing data from the Global Positioning System, a space-based satellite location system, G2 can tell suspects’ daily routines, notice when they stray from that routine, tell who they are meeting with and do predictive analytics on what they may be planning.

“Today, our customers are faced with substantial challenges as it relates to extracting meaningful information from the mass of data accumulated,” Track Group Chairman Guy Dubois said in a statement. “With G2 Research onboard, Track Group will address these challenges holistically by offering advanced capabilities in managing big data to improve decision-making and efficiency.”

G2 Research began by tracking vehicles and more recently added the ability to track high-risk offenders who are wearing ankle bracelets. Gilgan said potential users of the product tend to purchase from existing large companies, so the bracelet technology has not produced a lot of revenue yet.

What the new product has done is convince larger competitors that the G2 Research technology is something they have to have in the next few years, and that led to offers to buy the company.

G2 Research has never taken on outside investment, so the three founders, until this purchase, owned 100 percent of the company. Having grown the company through revenues, Gilgan now said the tight ownership structure (and the fact there were no institutions demanding a return of 10 times) helped G2 make speedy decisions through the exit process.  Gilgan emphasized repeatedly in an interview the company had received great support from J. Curry at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Halifax office.

The company never reveals its clients, but Gilgan did say it was profitable in 2013. This year there was a late delivery to one installation, which ate into profits so far this year. He said the company is expecting a really strong fourth quarter.

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

Details of Track’s Purchase of G2

The following chart shows the details of Track Group's purchase of G2 Research announced today:

Target Company

G2 Research


Dartmouth, N.S.


Track Group


Salt Lake City      

Deal Value

$4.6 million

G2’s Financial Adviser

Jim Lutes, EY

G2’s Legal Adviser

Jim Cruickshank, Stewart McKelvey

Details of G2 Research






Year Founded



Tom Gilgan, Ron Stewart, Ron Annand           


Location-based surveillance data analysis

Previous Investment


Support Programs

ACOA, MentorCamp

Previous Articles

G2 Research Enters New Segments


Springleap, LeadSift win MentorCamp


Propel’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence

Propel ICT is looking for a couple of experienced entrepreneurs to serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence in two centres in Atlantic Canada.

The organization that oversees the Launch36 accelerator hopes to have two entrepreneurs-in-residence in place in the near future to help work with startup founders on developing their businesses.

Propel began 11 years ago as a Saint John-based IT group, and has progressively spread across Atlantic Canada.  Startups from all four Atlantic Provinces have gone through the Launch36 programs. And with the hiring of St. John’s-based CEO Gary Dinn last month, the group now has full-time staff in Moncton and St. John’s. The group has not said where the EiRs will be based, but it hopes they will be able to help Propel support entrepreneurs regardless of where they’re based in the region.  

“The Entrepreneur-in-Residence is responsible for coaching start-up founders to build their idea into an innovative venture that has extensive growth potential,” said Propel in a job posting. It added that he or she “will effectively identify significant growth strategies for start-ups, teach and apply lean start-up principles, help develop the case for investment, define MVPs, help companies pivot/iterate to establish product/market fit, and move clients agilely toward commercialization.”

Dinn and Chair Jeff Thompson said they are looking for experienced entrepreneurs who have started companies and brought products to market. They should be driven by lean startup methodology.

The statement added the successful applicant s will be based in one of the four Atlantic Provinces but Propel is accepting applications from people outside the region.  

Interested parties can apply here

Press Release: Volta Adds Klugman

Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 27, 2014 - Volta is pleased to announce that Iain Klugman, the President & CEO of Communitech has joined their Board of Directors. As the Halifax startup house prepares to move into the old Library, expanding the Board of Directors is a key element of the strategic plan. Iain’s experience in growing Communitech and the Waterloo Region startup community will bring valuable benefits to Volta, as will his connections with startup communities across the country and internationally.

Iain joins Jevon MacDonald, GoInstant co-Founder, and Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures, on the board of the Halifax based startup house. Iain hopes to make Volta an anchor in Atlantic Canada tech community. “I’m pleased to become a part of Volta and to help the startup community grow, not only in Nova Scotia but nationwide.” said Iain about his new role. Iain will be working to build national and international relationships and developing strategies to make Volta a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Under Iain’s leadership Communitech has become one of North America’s leading tech enabling organizations, supporting the growth of more than 1,000 small, mid-sized and large technology companies in Waterloo Region. Adding this experience to the Board of Directors will help Volta to continue growing the startup community in Halifax and turn the new home in the old Library into an important landmark in the city. Iain will begin his new role as a member of the board in the New Year.


At Volta our vision is to create a place where entrepreneurship is celebrated and taking over the world is expected. We develop the best founders in the world, who in turn create world class companies. Volta is located in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia and is the residence for up to 13 high-potential technology companies who benefit from the Volta community of mentors, advisors and both angel and institutional investors.


Gauvin’s Mission to Teach Code

Fuelled by a desire to boost the number of people who can write computer code, Simon Gauvin has created Vizwik.com, a social platform that allows anyone to learn computer coding for free and to create and sell apps that work on any mobile phone browser.

Gauvin, 50, is CEO and co-founder of Moncton startup Agora Mobile. He said his cloud-based method of teaching coding uses graphical code, making it more accessible than competing products that use textual code.

Vizwik has already launched in New Brunswick, where Gauvin has signed up about 300 high school teachers to use his system, as well as 1,000 individuals. The North America launch will occur at the Florida EdTech Conference in Orlando in January.

Vizwik is ideal for high school students but can be used by anyone, Gauvin said. One early user created an app that allows clients to contact his plowing company via GPS when their driveways need work.

“The Vizwik social platform will also allow users to sell their apps and learn about entrepreneurship,” Gauvin said.

Both coding and entrepreneurship are vital to the future of this region, in his view.

“Coding is the language of the 21st century. It has become part of nearly every career path, but teachers don’t have the time to learn the complex programming tools to teach coding. We created Vizwik so teachers can fill this gap.”

Fewer than 10 per cent of high schools in North America teach coding, even though more than one million positions are expected to be left unfilled over the next five years due to the lack of qualified people, Gauvin said.

Only about 0.1 per cent of the human population can create software, he said.

“That means that 99.9 per cent of humans are dependent on the software made by this tiny minority. It’s similar to the Dark Ages, when priests were the only ones who could read the Bible in Latin.

“It’s a dangerous situation. We all need to be literate in the language of the 21st century.”

The company is working with Brilliant Labs, an initiative that aims to encourage teachers in the Maritimes to teach coding to students.

Gauvin has been involved in software development for 30 years, although he started out studying architecture at Concordia University in Montreal in the mid-1980s.

He founded Agora Mobile in 2009 while lecturing and working toward his PhD in computer science at Dalhousie University.

He still loves the challenge of creating software.

“The structures we build in computers are some of the most complex ever created by human beings,” he said.

“For example, the Linux operating system took 20 years and over 12 million lines of code to build.”

Gauvin created the coding language used in Vizwik after starting with a grant from the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

It took him five years of PhD graduate research and two years of development to create Vizwik. He partnered with Vodafone two years ago after beginning development work alongside a six-person team.

“This has been an exercise in commercializing academic research. It took a long time to build.”

Recently, Agora was invited to the annual Canadian Ed Tech Leadership Summit in Toronto and won the pitch competition by being voted Best Ed Tech Startup by more than 200 expert delegates.

To date, the company has raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors.

But raising capital has proven challenging, especially as the company progresses, and Gauvin is often on the road, seeking money in larger centres.

He is excited that his product is finally launched.

“Allowing people to express their creativity in the form of software is one of the most powerful things we can do.”

The Rounds Adds to Seed Funding

The Rounds, the Halifax startup that operates a social network for medical professionals, has added $565,000 in equity investment to its seed round, which it will use to accelerate its rapid growth.

Having launched its closed network for physicians in February, the company now says it is targeting having 26,000 doctors enrolled on the site by the end of 2014.

“This funding isn’t meant to extend our runway; it will be used to grow faster, right now,” said Co-Founder and CEO Blair Ryan in a statement. “The decision to raise a seed extension came down to our desire to capitalize on the early traction and momentum we were experiencing. Canadian healthcare needs us to grow faster.”

The Rounds – formerly known as Boondoc – said in April that its seed round had amounted to $1 million, including a $250,000 investment from Innovacorp and contributions from several angels. At that time, the network was being used by about 1,500 physicians from across the country.

The new funding comes from five investors based in Calgary and raised to total seed round to about $1.6 million. The company said it is preparing to raise a Series A funding round in the coming months.

“Contributing to The Rounds wasn’t something I could pass on,” said one of the new investors, Gordon Stewart, in a statement. “After hearing the company’s story and believing in their mission to improve healthcare globally, I was eager to come on board.”

Founded in 2012 by Ryan, Will Harris and Michael Clory, The Rounds aims to provide doctors with a private, secure network in which they can consult with one another and find advice on how to solve vexing medical problems. Ryan has found that The Round is especially valuable to rural doctors, who don’t have the benefit of consulting with nearby colleagues. 

The Rounds allows pharmaceutical companies, medical associations or other groups to pay to engage on the site in a non-intrusive manner. This means there are no pop-up ads, but the network does have sponsored pages in which doctors can seek out more information.

The Rounds now has 13 employees and intends to use the new money to double its staff, focusing on its engineering team.  And in the short term, it aims to have about 35 percent of the 75,000 doctors in Canada signed up to the site by year end.

“We have a number of partnerships coming together shortly that will help us realize this goal,” said Marketing and Communications Manager Becky Richter. “Right now, we have the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada using The Rounds to engage with their member bases.”

She added the company is bringing together other partnerships to help meet the goal.

The co-founders used to say they wanted to establish a Canadian network then look for expansion in other countries. The company is now more definitive that it wants to expand beyond Canada in the new year – not just by targeting other countries but also with disciplines other than physicians.

It is now running a medical student beta test, which will be launching from private beta early in 2015, and it is looking to other healthcare providers in Canada such as naturopaths.



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


A Difficult Year in SR&ED Claims

One subject that has cropped up increasingly in recent conversations about Atlantic Canada startups is the difficulty many have had this year with the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program.

Known as SR&ED and pronounced “sred,” the program administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency has long been used by small and large Canadian companies to finance research and development. However, several entrepreneurs said they have been denied funding — sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars — in 2014, even though their applications were successful in previous years.

See also: Should You Bother with SR&ED?

“According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the law for determining scientific eligibility is the same,” said a recent report from the accountancy BDO.

“What has changed is the CRA’s interpretation of this law, along with the introduction of new policies with respect to administering the SR&ED program.”

The program allows Canadian businesses — from startups to multinationals — to claim back money for their research and development spending when they file corporate income taxes. In other words, if a company spends a certain amount on scientific research, it can claim for that on tax returns with the hope to receive some money back from CRA. Companies can make claims even if they don’t yet have sales, and therefore don’t pay corporate taxes.

However, five Atlantic Canada startup entrepreneurs or their advisers said in interviews that their claims were rejected this year. The companies received payments in the past, and therefore included the funding in their annual budgets. When the money did not come, a few of these companies laid off employees.

One company interviewed said it had received its funding as it had in past years. All spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“This is a very serious and unnecessary burden that these startups have to deal with,” said Gerry Pond, chairman of East Valley Ventures in New Brunswick, when asked about the funding.

One startup veteran said the difficulties arise from CRA applying a stringent definition of scientific research. In its purest form, research begins with a hypothesis, proceeds with experimentation and clinical trials, and ends with a conclusion.

The problem with applying such rules to startups is that information technology developers, for example, tend to experiment loosely, coming up with ideas, trying them and pursuing things that work. It’s effective for developing businesses but doesn’t meet the precise definition of scientific research.

CRA spokeswoman Nathalie Poirier-Schofield said the rules haven’t changed, though they have been reviewed in the last two years. She said the agency has a responsibility to ensure awards are granted only when merited.

“Consequently, in order to qualify for SR&ED tax incentives, work must satisfy the eligibility criteria set out in the (Income Tax) Act,” she said.

Craig Mulcahy, a BDO specialist in the program, said he has seen a “stabilization” in funding under the initiative in recent months as entrepreneurs grow more accustomed to current filing procedures.

“In the first three to six months of the year, we were going into audits with our clients, and what we had handed CRA was prepared on the old understanding,” said Mulcahy.

“We didn’t always have crystal clear documentation. Industry in general had a few rough months, but we’re probably back now at historic acceptance levels.”


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

Should You Bother with SR&ED?

Several startups this year have had trouble with the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, walking away empty-handed from reviews with the Canada Revenue Agency.

So should startup founders even try to tap the program?

Yes, most definitely, say accountants and experts in financing startups.

But they quickly add two provisos. Founders should only apply if they’re in a business conducting bona fide research. And they have to take a few steps to make avoid the problems that have plagued many startups this year.

“Startups should investigate SR&ED because it is a good Year 2 cash flow tool for them,” said Craig Mulcahy, a Partner at BDO. “But they need to go in with their eyes open – especially in software. Just because you make an app, it doesn’t mean you have SR&ED eligibility. You really have to be able to look at the technology.”

So here is what experts advise founders do to avoid problems:

1.       Plan Ahead. The first step is not to waste time applying for SR&ED if you obviously don’t deserve it. First of all, go through the CRA assessment tool and talk to CRA to get a quick assessment of whether you should apply. Finally, ask an accountant or SR&ED specialist for a free consultation to see if it’s worth proceeding.

2.       Be Realistic. Even if you’re clearly conducting scientific research in your startup, don’t budget for hundreds of thousands of SR&ED dollars with no fall-back plan. Be modest in your expectations and have a solid Plan B. If your budget requires SR&ED funding to pay full-time staff, you may have problems.

3.       Remember Your Documentation. Learn about the documentation CRA requires and make sure you produce it throughout the year.  Find out NOW what CRA will require and keep the documents current throughout the year.

That third point may be the most important. For a software development venture especially, documenting research may seem like a tedious exercise. But Deloitte Partner Steven Carr said it could pay huge dividends beyond the SR&ED claim.

“Documentation also creates corporate knowledge,” said Carr. If a key developer leaves the company, the documentation should allow others to pick up where the former employee left off and continue with the project. It also can increase the value of the company in an exit because there is a record of developing the intellectual property. “It’s transformative knowledge once it’s written down,” said Carr. 


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

Pond-Deshpande Lands $500K Funding

The Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick has received $500,000 in funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, which will help to finance UNB’s new diploma in social entrepreneurship.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre is one of six Canadian institutions to receive “transformation” funding from the Montreal-based foundation to develop a social venture ecosystem as part of its national RECODE initiative. Eight other institutions will receive the smaller $250,000 funding packages to begin to develop social entrepreneurship courses. The only other RECODE recipient in Atlantic Canada is Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“For us it’s huge,” said PDC Executive Director Karina LeBlanc this morning. “It’s great to get the recognition and it will help us to get our deal flow up.”

The funding will help the university to launch the first social entrepreneurship diploma program in Atlantic Canada. LeBlanc said she hopes the program will be available in September, and failing that will launch in January 2016.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre was launched two years ago by entrepreneurs and UNB grads Gerry Pond and Gururaj Deshpande with a dual mission – to develop entrepreneurship and encourage social entrepreneurship.

The centre said in a statement the grant will also expand the PDC’s existing social innovation programming, allowing UNB’s social innovators to address issues ranging from poverty and homelessness to accessing effective community health care.

The PDC plans to expand its Student Ambassador Program and Youth Entrepreneurship Summit to engage more students across the region.

The money should also help to develop UNB’s social venture accelerator, B 4 Change, and expand the funding of UNB’s Social Innovation Fund.

“The Pond-Deshpande Centre has created several strong partnerships in the past 24 months at UNB and across the Atlantic Provinces,” said Karina Leblanc, executive director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre. “This funding through RECODE will allow us to catalyze and launch the critical components of a thriving social entrepreneurial ecosystem, to the benefit of our students and the community.”

The Pond-Deshpande Centre’s Student Ambassador Program has brought together 50 students to provide mentorship, while the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit has engaged more than 200 students across Atlantic Canada.

Its Social Innovation Fund has distributed almost $200,000 in seed capital to 18 social ventures.

UNB is one of 18 colleges and universities across Canada receiving RECODE grants.


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


Nova Sun Designated a BCorp

Nova Sun Power, a renewable energy company based in Pictou, N.S., has become the first Canadian solar company to secure BCorp certification and will soon complete the largest photovoltaic solar installation ever in Nova Scotia.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that the 30-kilowatt hour project is a partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq and Millbrook First Nation. The project will provide power to the community gymnasium and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq offices. Funding was secured through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Eco Action program. 

BCorp certification is a global standard for designating an ethical business. Businesses that want to join the BCorp movement must complete a rigorous process ensuring their focus is not just profitability but also care for the environment and people. BCorps range from local companies like Nova Sun to such multinationals as Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy.

“I started Nova Sun Power 19 years ago in Pictou County because I wanted access to clean, secure renewable energy for my family,” said Sun Nova Sounder Robert MacKean in a statement. “Energy independence is more important now than ever. It’s good for the planet and good for the pocketbook too.”

Nova Sun Power specializes in grid-tied photovoltaic solar energy sales, installation and maintenance. The company helps businesses and households operate and live more sustainably while potentially selling their clean, surplus energy to Nova Scotia Power under NSP’s net metering program, said the statement. 



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

UST Attacks Multi-Core Chip Problem

Laurie and Layton Perrin are twin brothers originally from Parrsboro, N.S., who are developing a solution that could dramatically improve the speed and energy efficiency of most software on the market.

Their startup, Unified Software Technologies, is developing technology that, if successful, will be especially attractive to sectors requiring huge computing power, such as data analytics or cloud-based data storage. These industries are having problems because most software has difficulty operating correctly and efficiently on most modern processors.

“We’ve seen a ceiling on clock speed; the industry is maxing out at around four gigahertz,” Layton Perrin said in an interview.

“For the last 10 years, there’s been a shift to multi-core processors, but the problem is that software has to catch up.”

Since the birth of computers, the capacity of microchips has doubled roughly every two years, allowing for faster processors. A few years ago, to maintain this rate of growth, manufacturers began to develop microchips with two cores instead of one. Since then, they have moved on to chips with four and even six cores.

The problem is that most software is designed to operate on single-core chips so any gain in processor speed is lost by the inadequacy of the software.

Laurie Perrin, who lives in Wolfville, has developed and patented a “lock-free algorithm,” a technology that can help software run more quickly on multi-core processors. He says the algorithm often increases computing power by a factor of between five and 40 times, with a commensurate reduction in the electricity needed to carry out the computing. Given the amount of energy consumed by large data centres, the product is a form of green technology because it reduces electricity consumption.

Layton, who lives in Orlando, Fla., has joined in the venture as a business development specialist. Together, they’re working on rolling out their initial product, the Speed web server, to major data centres and other massive users of computing power. They hope to have sales next year.

“We’re at the point now where we have developed the product, and the patents are awarded,” said Layton Perrin.

“We’re going to market, and we’re in early discussions with some potential early adopters.”

They have worked with Damian Dechev, assistant professor of computing science at the University of Central Florida and a recognized leader in lock-free programming. The Perrins said Dechev, who has received a National Science Foundation grant to investigate lock-free algorithms, has validated UST’s core technology.

The company is seeking to establish academic and commercial partnerships as part of their preparation to enter the web server marketplace. They want to further prove UST’s performance through third-party benchmarking and demonstrate that the technology complies with industry standards while looking into opportunities to integrate the Speed web server into existing data centre infrastructure.

United Software Technologies was a regional finalist earlier this year in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition for the Annapolis Valley grouping. It is working with Innovacorp on validating the product and finding early customers.

So far, the twins have invested $100,000 in the project themselves. As they commercialize the product, they think their first capital raise will have a target of about $350,000 to $400,000.


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

Press Release GrowthWorks Atlantic

GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund, a labour-sponsored VC fund based in Halifax, issued the following press release:

GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund Provides Update on Sales and Redemptions

November 20, 2014, Halifax, Nova Scotia – GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund Ltd. (“Atlantic Fund”) reported today that it has suspended until further notice sales and weekly redemptions of its Class A Shares (the “Shares”), specifically the Balanced Series and the GIC Series.

The Fund’s Board of Directors considered several factors in determining to suspend redemptions and sales of Shares, including forecasted exit opportunities, redemption demand and the need to preserve investment and operating capital, and the long term impact of the federal government’s announcement in 2013 to phase out the 15% federal labour-sponsored venture capital corporation tax credit on future capital raising. The Board of Directors determined that, at this time, it is in the best interests of its shareholders to preserve capital for key follow-on investments and operating commitments and therefore decided to suspend redemptions.

Atlantic Fund continues to work towards maximizing the value of its holdings and focusing on realizing exit opportunities in its venture portfolio to ease increased liquidity pressures.

Liquidity pressures have recently increased as exit opportunities regarding select venture investments have been delayed. With expected low levels of capital raising from the long term impact of the phase out of the federal tax credit, the Fund’s ability to ease liquidity pressures is entirely dependent on levels of divestment activity in the venture portfolio, activity that is highly sensitive to market conditions. While Atlantic Fund and its manager are encouraged by the exit opportunities with several portfolio companies, discussions and negotiations remain at an early stage at this point and there can be no certainty as to if or when such transactions will be completed.

The Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund has commenced a full review of strategic options aimed at realizing on the potential value of its venture portfolio and providing liquidity for shareholders. These options will be considered in light of a range of factors, including the Share’s cash position, actual and projected levels of divestment activity, the prospects for generating exit values in excess of carrying values, the prospects of resuming weekly redemption processing and capital raising.

The Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund believes the closure of redemptions of Shares is in the best interests of all shareholders. Tom Hayes, President and CEO of Atlantic Fund, commented “The Board of Directors of the Fund remains confident that certain companies in the venture portfolio have potential to increase value materially for shareholders and provide some meaningful liquidity through exit transactions.”

Atlantic Fund will continue to allow shareholders to request redemptions of their Shares. However, Atlantic Fund cannot process Share redemption requests at this time and redemption requests must be submitted manually, as opposed to electronically through FundSERV. You may complete and sign our redemption request form, which is available at http://www.growthworks.ca or pr,ovide written instructions containing the information that is set out in the redemption request form. Further terms and conditions may be determined by the Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund from time to time.

For questions related to processing redemptions please email client.services@growthworks.ca or call 1-800-268-8244. Atlantic Fund will not process redemption requests that are submitted until such time as the Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund determines that Atlantic Fund meets the legal requirements and financial ability for doing so.

There can be no assurance regarding the outcome of the strategic review or that Atlantic Fund will resume weekly redemptions or sales of Shares or process requested redemptions of Shares.

Forward Looking Statements: This press release contains forward looking statements about the liquidity of Atlantic Fund including future divestment activity, the value of the portfolios, resumption Share redemptions, future sales of Shares and the strategic review by Atlantic Fund’s board. These statements are based on beliefs and assumptions of management of Atlantic Fund at the time the statements are made, including beliefs and assumptions about future market conditions, levels of sales, divestment activity, redemption requests and the strategic review by Atlantic Fund’s board. These beliefs and assumptions are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including risks and uncertainties associated with volatility of market conditions and, in turn, the future climate for sales of Atlantic Fund’s shares, divestment activity, redemption requests, and factors affecting sales of portfolio companies, other factors affecting the performance of portfolio companies, valuations of portfolio companies, financing needs of portfolio companies and the availability of capital to satisfy such financing needs and other risks and uncertainties disclosed in Atlantic Fund’s most recent prospectus and other regulatory filings posted on SEDAR at http://www.sedar.com These. risks and uncertainties may cause actual results, events or developments to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Unless required by law, neither Atlantic Fund nor its manager assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or other factors.


ViTRAK Raises Up To $2 Million

ViTRAK Systems Inc., a Charlottetown startup commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile system, has raised as much as $2 million in funding from P.E.I. investors.

The company said in a press release yesterday the investors included the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund and associated companies, but gave few other specifics of the funding round.

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

Last year, the company signed its first client, and the press release announcing the latest funding said it will use the money to enhance its product and support sales and marketing in Canada and the U.S.

ViTRAK also said it has opened its new facility on Walker Drive in Charlottetown, where the floor tiles will be manufactured.

 “Our patented software can offer clinicians and patients the opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment by providing new clinical insights, thus permitting new developments in rehabilitative engineering for the future,” said Lavallée in the statement. “This will ultimately benefit the patient population suffering from mobility impairing diseases.”

Ron Keefe, President of the Regis Duffy BioScience Fund, Regis Duffy and Earl Duffy will join the board of ViTRAK.

ViTRAK had previously raised $850,000 from P.E.I. angels, and in 2011 won a two-year, $1.4-million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The ViTRAK funding is typical of the leading startups in P.E.I. There has never been a pure venture capital investment on the island that has been publicly announced. But the Island has a loyal band of angel investors and its startup founders have been successful in putting together seven-figure funding rounds.

The Regis Duffy BioScience Fund, established by the founder of Charlottetown drug manufacturer BioVectra, last year joined a $1.5 million funding round for Neurodyn Inc., the Charlottetown biotech developing early treatments for neurological diseases.


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

Scouring the Sea for Global Products

Cracking the global marketplace is tough. Jean-Paul Deveau, president of Nova Scotia-based Acadian Seaplants has done it. He advises investing in research and development to create value-added products that clients will want to buy.

Founded in 1981, Acadian Seaplants is based in Dartmouth and exports value-added seaweed-based products to over 80 countries.

The company operates five manufacturing facilities and an R&D centre in Atlantic Canada. It has 320 employees in eight countries, including 25 research scientists.

 “If you wish to compete globally, you have to create products and services the world recognizes as having unique value,” Deveau said in an interview.

 “Bear in mind that the world wants to see companies working in a sustainable manner. We ensure that we harvest less than the annual growth of seaweed in the territories we license from the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”

It’s also vital to understand each potential market’s business culture. Deveau said the Trade Commissioner Services and other export development programs offered by federal and provincial governments provide useful guidance.

 “You can also consult or hire graduates of those countries who are studying in Canada,” he said. “And, as you grow, you can hire full-time staff in those markets.”

Deveau is well-qualified to give advice, having helped his father, Louis, grow Acadian Seaplants from a small Maritime venture into a global corporation.

Louis first became interested in seaweed as a child. Growing up on the shore of Nova Scotia’s Baie Ste. Marie, he noticed his father spreading goemon de roche (the Acadian term for seaweed found along rocky shorelines) on the crops in the family vegetable garden.

Later, Louis was recruited by Marine Colloids, a multinational based in Rockland, Maine. From 1967 on, he held various international positions with the company, including president of Marine Colloids Canada, where he was responsible for the worldwide procurement of seaweeds for processing into carrageenan, a food gum.

Louis oversaw the Nova Scotia operations that consisted of harvesting, drying and baling seaweed and shipping it to the parent company for extraction into carrageenan.

He observed the American company investing in R&D and developing new products and realized that he could do the same himself. He decided to purchase the parent company’s Canadian assets and, in 1981, Acadian Seaplants was founded.

His son joined him in 1985. By then, Jean-Paul had obtained his bachelor of science and bachelor of engineering from Dalhousie University in Halifax, as well as his MBA from McGill University in Montreal.

He had also worked for Imperial Oil in sales and marketing positions in Eastern Canada. He was keen to work with his father, recognizing they had complementary skills.

 “When I joined my father, he was still operating out of my old bedroom,” Deveau recalled.

 “The company was small and new, but cash flow-positive.

 “It was exciting. I could see the potential even though there wasn’t enough money to pay me at first. I said, ‘Let’s give it a try,’ and we’ve never looked back.”

The company recently acquired Arramara Teoranta, Ireland’s largest seaweed company. Work has also been completed on the Deveau Centre, an enhanced production facility in Cornwallis.

The company has many divisions. The biggest is its plant science division, which produces globally exported crop biostimulants.

Specialty-food products are a growing part of the business. “Seaweed is full of micronutrients,” Deveau said. “I eat it myself most days. Every day, 125 million people eat seaweed in Japan.

 “These days, you can buy sushi from Sobeys and Superstore. Twenty years ago, no one would have thought of it.”

He re-emphasized the need for Atlantic Canadian innovation.

“We need to look at what we can do to create value out of the great natural resources and opportunities we have here and then export globally. That’s what will drive our economy.”




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

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

Making Water Treatment Affordable

Island Water Technologies is tackling environmental and financial problems that are troubling homeowners today and looming large for small Canadian towns in 2020.

Based in Montague, P.E.I., the company uses patented technology to treat water in septic systems serving people’s homes or small communities. While the focus in water treatment usually is on big plants in urban areas, there is an acute need for affordable solutions in rural areas and small towns.

 “The thinking up to now has been, ‘We need a big, shiny waste-water treatment plant,’” said Patrick Kiely, the company’s Irish-born CEO. “And, in reality, that’s not what most places need. You can offer decent solutions that cost a fraction of those big plants.”

IWT now has two products on the market. They’re so impressive that the company is one of three Canadian companies recently named to the GEW 50, a group of 50 promising startups from around the world selected by Washington, D.C.-based Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The first product is ClearPod, a small device that is dropped into the septic tank of an individual home or small business to clean out contaminants. Island Water Technologies recently installed nine ClearPod units at a golf course outside Toronto, and has been talking to a national chain of hardware stores about carrying the product.

Nova Scotia could be a huge market for ClearPod because 30 per cent of the households rely on septic tanks, and they tend to fail after 20 years. The company is now in discussions with provincial regulators to move into the market.

The second product is Regen, a renewable energy-powered sewage treatment system designed for communities of about 250 people. It features a modular system (a shipping container with equipment inside) powered by solar panels. The product is parked beside a town’s sewage system and operates at minimal cost, with no need for electricity from the grid.

Island Water Technologies now has a test model in operation near Truro, and is working with several governments in Atlantic and Northern Canada on possible installations.

The federal government has mandated that by 2020 all towns and villages must have a certain standard of water treatment facilities. But rural towns across the country are beset by falling populations, shrinking economies and falling revenues. Regen offers a low-cost solution to the regulations.

The science behind the two products is a fixed-film treatment that is placed into the water tank and captures all the impurities. Kiely and his team spent about 18 months researching several polymers to find the perfect combination that pollutants would attach to.

Kiely has more than 15 years’ experience in molecular microbiology and related fields and is a veteran of a Boston-area startup. He hooked up a few years ago with Jason Aspin, a marine engineer who is company co-founder, and they decided to build the business together on Prince Edward Island.

Kiely funded ClearPod on his own and the team won a grant from the New England Clean Energy Council to do tests. Aspin invested $120,000 into Regen, which received additional funding from various government programs.

Island Water Technologies is now raising a funding round worth a total of $2.5 million, including $500,000 to $2 million in equity funding.

NS Panel Wants Tax Credit Doubled

A Nova Scotian panel reviewing tax policy has recommended the province double the ceiling for investments eligible for the equity tax credit to $100,000, and pays faint homage to the idea of a regional investment tax credit.

The Tax and Regulatory Review, conducted by former Ontario cabinet minister Laurel Broten, is garnering headlines for its recommendations that the province shift the burden of taxation toward consumption and carbon use and away from income. It would introduce a carbon tax, broaden the Harmonized Sales Tax while lowering the income tax rate for corporations and top income earners.

But the panel also recommends changes to the equity tax credit – which grants individuals who pay taxes in Nova Scotia a credit worth 35 percent of an investment in an approved Nova Scotian business. The maximum investment eligibility now is $50,000, and the Broten panel recommends it be doubled to $100,000. By comparison, the maximum annual investment for comparable credits in New Brunswick is $250,000, and Newfoundland and Labrador has proposed a lifetime cap of $250,000.

“Consideration should be given to targeting the ETC to strategically designated high-growth sectors, such as information technology and clean technology, to be designated by regulation,” said the report. “As well, eligibility requirements must be re-examined to ensure that Nova Scotians are receiving best value from these tax credits.”

The report makes no mention of extending investment tax credits to individuals living outside the province – a practice that has been adopted successfully in such states as Arkansas and Minnesota. And though it makes no specific recommendation on regional credits, it speaks in favour of such a proposal.

“The Nova Scotia government should pursue a conversation with other provinces in the region about expansion of the ETC to a regional tax credit, such as the Atlantic Gateway Capital Credit, which has been championed by 4Front Atlantic, as part of a larger regional harmonization strategy,” said the report.

FAN, Wilmington Investors Link Up

First Angel Network, the Halifax-based organization for angel investors, has formally announced a partnership with the Wilmington Investor Network of North Carolina, under which the members of each group will be invited to invest in the other’s portfolio companies. 

FAN said in a statement today that most major cities have organized networks of angel investors, but this alliance creates Canada’s first formalized partnership with a U.S. network of angel investors. 

“This partnership is exciting because it opens the door for shared deal flow between our accredited investors from Atlantic Canada and North Carolina,” FAN Co-Founder and Director Ross Finlay said in a statement.

The press release said the arrangements will allow each groups’ members private access to each other’s investment meetings and that they would share insight into angel investment best practices.

“Atlantic Canada has a lot of very interesting companies so formalizing this partnership increases our ability to see well-vetted deals and share our networks,” said Michael Cain, managing member of the Wilmington Investor Network.  “Plus, if we have a deal we can bring up to Canada, that’s great too.”

Cain came to Halifax for the Invest Atlantic conference in September, joining Finlay as joint keynote speakers.

Earlier in the year, FAN arranged for its portfolio company ABK Biomedical of Halifax to pitch to the Wilmington Investor Network. Chief science officer Daniel Boyd made the pitch as part of a raise with a target of $1 million.

Finlay said the current arrangement will allow FAN to take extraordinary companies outside of Atlantic Canada when searching for investment. Select entrepreneurs will be pitching beyond the borders of their own region, which helps ensure they are ready to compete internationally, he added. 

Timbre Cases’ Kickstarter Campaign

Timbre Cases, the Fredericton startup making upmarket guitar cases, is launching its product with a Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising $30,000.

Though the minimum pledge in the crowdfunding drive is one dollar, the goal of the campaign is to get early purchases of its Dreadnaught guitar cases, which will ship in May.

Founded by music aficionado Peter McMath, Timbre Cases is a startup dedicated to making the best guitar cases available.

“The Big Idea with Timbre Cases is to provide guitarists with the ultimate solution to eliminate all those challenges associated with moving, storing and getting to and from gigs with their much-loved guitars,” said the company on the campaign web page.

As well as a sleek design, Timbre Cases set out last year to produce a case that will protect the instrument. The team has worked with Felipe Chibante, a chemical engineer at the University of New Brunswick, to find the best materials to ensure a protective case that houses a cushioned interior.

Timbre Cases are made of aerospace-grade Kydex, a material that is tough, waterproof and lightweight. The company says it is the ultimate option for creating guitar cases designed to deliver the ultimate protection.

Guitars are too often damaged when they are transported in flimsy cases. Sometimes the necks break when the cases’ lids close suddenly, so Timbre Cases have “constant torque hinges” so they only close if someone purposefully pushes them shut.

A lifelong music fanatic, McMath wants to emulate the success of local companies Sabian Cymbals and Los Cabos Drumsticks, which have excelled in the global market for music equipment. McMath, who took his company through the ACcelr8 accelerator at Planet Hatch, announced the campaign at the Launch36 Demo Day in Fredericton last week.

As of this morning, the Timber Kickstarter campaign has raised $6,753 with 31 pledges. Three people have made the top pledge of $849 or more, which entitles them to a premium limited edition Dreadnaught DNone case with a personalized name plate.

The campaign ends on Dec. 17.

Press Release: Mashup Weekend

Southwest Nova Scotia -- November 19, 2014 – It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide series of events celebrating innovators, job creators, and business startups. What better way to participate than by registering for Mashup Weekend, Southwest Nova’s biggest ever business creation weekend?

Mashup Weekend is for anyone interested in doing something to bring new ideas to life, regardless of age, background, and experience. It’s really quite simple: Teams of enthusiastic and committed people spend two days together identifying real-world problems and coming up with inspired solutions. These solutions become business ideas, and some of these ideas may even become life-changing opportunities.

“Come by yourself, bring a friend, or bring everyone on your street,” says Andrew Button, CEO and founder of Mashup Lab, the organization behind Mashup Weekend. “This is 54 hours of skills building, community building, and economy building. It’s also a really good time!”

No business, technical or entrepreneurship experience is necessary. “Some people are nervous about coming because they think they need a fully formed idea, all the skills, and a game plan,” explains Lorelei Phillips, owner of L7 Opportunities Consulting and one of the event’s organizers. “All you need is openness and curiosity. We give you the time, space, and skilled people to get you up and running. Bring it to Mashup Weekend and we’ll help you.”

The Mashup Weekend business building experience will take place this weekend from November 21st to 23rd at NSCC campuses in Bridgewater, Kentville, and Yarmouth. Each location will have an expert facilitator and specialized coaching to help your team grow an idea from a spark to a raging inferno.

Thanks to generous sponsorship, registration is only $60 and includes all meals and snacks. Register for Mashup Weekend today at mashuplab.ca.

Mashup Lab is a series of events and mentorship programs that activate and amplify startup communities in rural Atlantic Canada. We identify entrepreneurial talent and help bring business ideas to life.

PACTA: Idea to Beta in 6 Months

Having resettled in Nova Scotia in May, Charlotte and Isak Rydlund wasted no time in starting their company, PACTA, and placing it among the hottest new startups in Atlantic Canada.

The partners in life and business got the idea in July for an online product that helped manufacturers manage their contracts. They joined the entry-level phase of the Launch36 accelerator in September and last week were chosen as one of the seven companies (selected from a pool of 18) to pitch at the accelerator’s Demo Day in Fredericton.

They’re not slowing down, as they soon hope to beta-test the technology.

 “The MVP (minimum viable product) will be developed in the next month and a half, and we have two customers lined up for closed beta in the new year,” said Charlotte Rydlund in an interview.

 “We plan to launch in a year.”

PACTA helps medium-sized manufacturers manage contracts with customers, suppliers and others. The Rydlunds have experience in the sector — Charlotte, an Austrian-Canadian, has an MBA, and her Swedish husband is a lawyer — and understand the cost and time of managing contracts.

These manufacturers will have hundreds of contracts, and they have to ensure that all these documents comply with laws and regulations from various levels of government, as well as their customers’ requirements. Companies now manage them manually, often assembling teams to react to factors that could affect each contract. PACTA would proactively manage contracts automatically, saving time and money.

The system is designed to store and monitor the contracts. If there is a change in regulation, it will use a semantic search to go through the portfolio of contacts and highlight anything that needs attention. It automatically searches for events outside the company, such as recalls, and flags the user about what contracts, customers and suppliers are affected so the situation can be acted on faster and better. It also highlights when the company is obliged under contract to take certain actions, and when each contract must be renewed.

The Rydlunds are in talks with Dalhousie University on working together to produce natural language processing that can scan content and pull out key information automatically.

Developing this company has been a whirlwind experience for the pair, who met while studying at Dalhousie. About a year ago, they decided to return to Canada. They spent months travelling across the country with their dog, Fenwick (named for the Dal residence), working on their own non-profit, Canadive, encouraging scuba divers to clean up the beds of lakes and harbours.

After first settling in British Columbia, they decided the best place for them was the city where they met. They returned, came up with the idea for the business and were soon working out of the Volta Labs startup hub.

They’ve found the community a great place to start a business. So far, they have funded the project themselves, but Charlotte Rydlund said in her pitch last week they are looking for $250,000 in equity funding.

 “In terms of the startup community, what we found was so much support, and Volta was there, and there is all this stuff that is now happening in Halifax,” said Charlotte, adding that the combination of Volta and Launch36 provided great mentorship.

 “We’ve just found that this is the right place.”



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

Ara Lab Pair Secures Startup Visas

Two co-founders of Fredericton-based Ara Labs Security Solutions are the first successful Atlantic Canadian applicants to the Startup Visa Program, the federal government announced last week.

They were also the first successful applicants in the country under the program using the sponsorship of a venture capital fund, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander visited Fredericton last week to announce the award for Ehsan Mokhtari and Hadi Shiravi Khozani. The two natives of Iran helped to found the company when they were doing their PhDs in computer science at University of New Brunswick.

The Startup Visa Program grants residency status immigrant entrepreneurs as long as they are sponsored by a Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor organization or business incubator. It is designed to encourage the migration of talented entrepreneurs into the country.

NBIF, which invested $250,000 in Ara Labs earlier this year, sponsored the pair in their application. Though the New Brunswick application is the first from the region to succeed, there are other groups in the region, including Innovacorp, working with applicants in the program.

"As a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship, NBIF is interested in working with entrepreneurs and start-up companies who wish to set up, launch, and operate their innovative businesses in New Brunswick,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in a statement.

Ara Labs has developed a platform for the real-time monitoring of fraudulent behaviour affecting the advertising campaigns of its customers.

The company has raised $500,000 in seed financing, with equal contributions from NBIF and Moncton-based Technology Venture Corp.

Ara’s software-as-a-service product detects, reports and mediates malware and botnet activity across the Internet in real-time. Malware affects more than 95% of the world’s Global 5000 enterprises each year, costing the global economy about $1 trillion. Most viruses, malware and botnets are designed for criminal activities, such as the theft of private information, money and intellectual property.


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



Propel Reaches and Sets Lofty Goals

The Launch36 Demo Day on Thursday night celebrated more than just pitches by seven of the 20 companies that passed through the Atlantic Canadian accelerator this autumn.

It celebrated the fact that PropelICT, which operates the accelerator, vastly out-performed the lofty goal it set for itself three years ago. And it laid out ambitious plans for the coming few years.

In the fall of 2011, the technology development organization that had developed in New Brunswick set out to launch 36 new companies across Atlantic Canada in 36 months. At the celebration at the Delta Fredericton last night, the Propel execs joyfully proclaimed they had actually launched 49 companies from all four provinces in just 33 months.

“We did not hit our target – we fucking crushed it,” the proud but pottie-mouthed Executive Director Trevor MacAusland told the enthusiastic crowd.

The highlight of the evening was the pitches by seven graduating companies, who together are seeking $4.3 million in equity financing. But they were almost overshadowed by the sense that the organization has over-achieved and will keep on growing.

The big announcement was that Propel has hired a new CEO, St. John’s based entrepreneur Gary Dinn. MacAusland will become the Vice-President of Business Development and focus on what he enjoys most – coaching young companies.

Dinn outlined the growth plans for the organization, which hopes to be offering programs across Atlantic Canada by 2018. By 2019, it hopes to have 20 companies going through the elite Launch36 Build program (there were five in the current cohort). Propel plans to hire two professional entrepreneurs-in-residence and a Vice-President of Program Development.

“Propel can best be described as a knowledge-based, or virtual organization – we’re always going to be decentralized,” said Dinn, who will continue to work from St. John’s. “To set the goals we have set, we need support from all the organizations in our ecosystem across Atlantic Canada.”

Propel Co-Founder Gerry Pond said the organization’s goal is to build a few companies valued at $1 billion or more, and predicted the first one would reach the goal in 2019.

MacAusland noted that the pitching session featured the first Launch36 company from Newfoundland and Labrador, Sentinel Alert, and its first international company, Bungalo, which is based in Halifax and Iceland.

The seven companies pitching were:

Bungalo – Launched in Iceland, the company is now a tenant at Volta. It offers an online reservation system for cottages, and has been expanding rapidly in Nova Scotia. It has leased $2.3 million in cottages and never raised capital. It is now looking for $1 million.

Fundmetric, Halifax – Another Volta tenant, Fundmetric offers a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, product that helps charities organize fund-raising campaigns. The company has just signed its first contract with a client and is in talks with three others. It’s seeking $550,000.

Pacta, Halifax – This five-month-old company is developing a SaaS product helps manufacturers manage their contracts, saving them time and money. Pacta has two early adopters lined up for its product and is looking for $250,000 financing.

Sentinel Alert – The company is developing wearable technology that can tell companies or organizations if a remote worker has had an accident.  It is now in talks with four major Canadian oil and gas companies and is looking for $450,000 in funding.

Simptek, Fredericton – Simptek is developing algorithms to work with any home-automation system help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It is looking for $500,000 in funding.

Smartpods, Dieppe – Smartpods is developing workstations whose working surface moves up, down, left and right to help workers avoid being too sedentary during their work day. Its latest funding round has an $800,000 target and is 70 percent committed.

Swapskis, Halifax – Swapskis lets women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services. Having launched 14 days ago in Halifax, the service has attracted 1,100 users who have so far swapped $12,000 in services. The company is setting its site on launches in Toronto and New York in the new year and a $750,000 funding round.


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

Mark Hobbs’ Mission to Aid Charities

Getting a business off the ground can be stressful, a fact that hit Mark Hobbs when he was invited to interview for the prestigious Google for Entrepreneurs tenancy program.

Unfortunately, the Halifax-based entrepreneur had less than 48 hours’ notice about the interview and no choice but to put the costs of the trip to the Google Canada headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario on his personal credit card.

But Hobbs, founder of FundMetric, a Halifax startup that helps charities monitor donor activity, managed to get his credit card limit raised and eventually won a spot with Google at their location at Communitech, Waterloo.

“It’s tough bootstrapping a business,” said Hobbs. “I had no money to get to Google and I then gave a pretty bad interview.

“I wasn’t happy about that. I failed to articulate the value of predictive analysis (predicting future behavior from existing data).

“But I contacted the interviewer through an online fundraising campaign he was running and wrote him three paragraphs on how our product could help with a campaign to reduce hunger.”

Hobbs and FundMetric were accepted onto the Google program. They also won a spot with New Brunswick-based accelerator Launch36 and were one of seven teams presenting last night at the Demo Day of Launch36’s fifth cohort.

Now, Hobbs and his co-founder Chris Kolmatycki travel between Waterloo and Moncton to tap into the expertise that is helping them develop their product, which they plan to launch at the end of this month.    

“The key is not to give up,” said Hobbs with a laugh. 

The FundMetric product is a software-as-a-service tool that lets charity workers communicate with their donors and plot fundraising campaigns.

It presents lists of donors and their contact details, highlighting how they like to be contacted. It can stream the donors into groups. And, through a drag-and-drop mechanism, lay out the timeline of a fundraising campaign, plotting when and how to contact donors.

“The product makes donations more transparent,” Hobbs said. “Charities can follow their money using infographics, and make the money go further. It tracks how engaged the donor is. For example, do they open the charity’s email?”

He said that tests show that these campaigns are 41 per cent more effective than traditional blanket campaigns.

Hobbs and Kolmatycki, both former advertising execs, began FundMetric in May 2013 after a stint working with a hospital clarified their thoughts on marketing.

They knew they were onto something with FundMetric when clients said they would sign up for the product before it was even completed.

FundMetric now has two paying customers and is in talks with several others. They are also talking with U.S. venture capitalists about funding growth and are backed by multiple angel investors.

When the product launches it will enter a huge market. The company is first targeting health and education charities, and there are more than 200,000 such organizations in the U.S. alone. These groups raised $63 billion last year and spent $12.6 billion doing so.

Hobbs said his company owes a lot to Halifax innovation hub, Volta Labs.  The partners worked out of Volta’s Spring Garden Road space for their first year and attained the momentum that has allowed them to move into their own space and hire more staff.

“We got a lot of support through Volta,” said Hobbs. “The biggest resource is the other entrepreneurs. When I was applying for a program or accelerator I could walk down the hall and talk to someone who’s been there.”

Hobbs, now aged 28, has had a lifelong interest in volunteerism. He was born in Regina and gained a political science degree from Dalhousie University. He said FundMetric has a few competitors but his company’s advantage lies in its real-time monitoring of donor activities.

“In five years, I’d like FundMetric to be the gold standard in charity accountability,” he said. “It will lead to less wasted money and more transparency.”



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








Xiplinx Lands $700K in Grants, Loans

Xiplinx Technologies Ltd., the Saint John company that helps manufacturing plant managers monitor data from around their factories, has landed about $700,000 in debt and grants from provincial and federal governments.

The company announced this week that it would receive a $500,000 loan from the provincial government and a combination of grants and loans from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency totalling $214,250. The money will help the company to expand its team – now at five full-time employees and two contract workers – in such areas as sales and account management.

Xiplinx’s product, Siteflo, allows workers around a plant to input data using mobile devices. Siteflo aggregates the data and presents it on an easy-to-read dashboard that plan managers can view in real-time.

When it went through the first Launch36 cohort in 2012, Xiplinx had its greatest traction with beverage makers, but CEO Brent MacDonald said Thursday the company is now having success in the consumer packaged food market.

"These investments make it possible to meet the demand for the SiteFlo product in a variety of markets, with a New Brunswick-based team," MacDonald said in a statement.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation recently said that in its fiscal year to March 31 it invested $250,000 in Xiplinx. According  to the Foundation’s website, it now has a total investment of $350,000 in the company. 

The New Brunswick government has identified innovation as one of the key planks of its economic strategy. The government recently gave a $90,000 grant to HotSpot Parking of Fredericton. 


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


Press Release: Pursu.it in the US

Pursu.it, the Halifax-based crowdfunding site for elite athletes, has issued the following press release:

Former Olympian Launches Crowdfunding Platform Pursu.it USA to Support US Athletes

November 10, 2014 – Washington, DC: On Thursday, November 13, Pursu.it USA, a nonprofit crowdfunding platform, will launch to support aspiring US athletes to raise the money necessary to fulfil their athletic dreams. Modelled after the successful Canadian version, Pursu.it USA gives fans and supporters the opportunity to directly support American athletes on their journey to success. Athletes make their appeal for each project through a personalized video in which they articulate their inspiring story and the impact the funding will have on their ability to achieve their goals as they work towards competing at the highest level in their sport.

“We are very excited to offer our crowdfunding services to aspiring American athletes and support them in their pursuit of their dreams” says founder Julia Rivard, who in 2000 walked away from her own dreams of standing on the podium in order to enter the workforce and contribute financially to her family.

“When I finished my competition at the 2000 Olympic Games I had two choices: continue with my passion and try to be the best in the world or hang up the paddle and get a job to pay for life,” Rivard says. “I chose the latter and since that time, I’ve often wondered what might have happened if I was able to train and support my life through sport. It made me wonder what I could do to help athletes who are struggling to support their own dreams.”

Like Rivard, many aspiring athletes forfeit their pursuit of the podium because they simply don’t have the funds to continue. In 2012 Rivard, a former Olympic kayaker, launched Pursu.it in Canada together with former gymnast Leah Skerry. Since its launch 45 Canadian athletes have raised more than $380,000 through the platform to support their dreams.

Pursu.it USA will initially launch with campaigns featuring Dagmara Wozniak (USA Fencing), Allison Jones (Paralympic Cycling), JD Bergman (USA Wrestling), Amber English (USA Shotgun), and Adeline Gray (USA Wrestling). Each athlete will have 60 days to engage their fans to raise the money they need. Once Pursu.it USA is launched, the platform will be open for any aspiring athlete in need of financial support.


Dagmara Wozniak – Fencing

Born July 1, 1988 in Poland, Dagmara’s family moved to the United States when she was one year old. She began fencing by the age of ten and trained for about six years at the Polish American Fencing School in Linden, NJ coached by Janusz Mlynek, before moving to New York to train under National and Olympic Men’s saber coach Yury Gelman. Dagmara has been a member of the US national team since 2006 and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Currently ranked 5th in the world individually and number 1 in the world for team rankings. She is a 2016 Olympic hopeful.

More at http://www.usfencing.org/page/show/700896-dagmara-wozniak

Allison Jones – Paralympic Cycling

Allison Jones is an 8 time Paralympic Medalist in the sports of Alpine Skiing and Cycling. She has competed in 7 consecutive Paralympic Games, starting in the 2002 Winter Games. Her goal is to compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic in Rio de Janeiro for cycling. She is the defending Gold medalist in the Individual Time Trial and defending World Champion in the Road Race. The next two years of competition and qualification will pave her way to her eighth Paralympic Games. Allison retired from skiing after the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia so that she could focus all efforts on the bike and Rio de Janeiro.

More at http://www.jonezyrocks.com/biography/

Adeline Gray – Wrestling

Adeline was born January 15, 1991 in Colorado and is currently ranked No. 1 at 75kg for team USA Wrestling. She has been wrestling for 17 years and won gold at the 2012 and more recently at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships. In 2012 she also went to the Olympics as an alternate for the U.S. women’s wrestling team. Adeline’s favorite move is the arm drag to a chicken win and her next big goal is to be the first female U.S. wrestler to win an Olympic gold.

More at http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling/Athlete-Bios/GR/Adeline-Gray

Amber English – Shooting

Amber English is the 2013 U.S. National Women's Skeet champion, winning this year's national championships with a score of 216/225 - the second highest score of the entire tournament, including men's results. Amber commenced competitive shooting in 2006 at age 17 when she began competing in women's skeet matches. After progressing up the ranks of International skeet shooting, she moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO to become a full-time U.S. Shooting National Team athlete in March, 2013. Competing in various domestic, international, and World Cup matches, Amber has continued to hone her skills as a shotgun shooter, and has her sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Never considered to be one-dimensional, Amber, continues to work toward attending P.A. school, regularly volunteers with various local youth organizations, and works with national conservation organizations. A lover of the outdoors, Amber enjoys hiking, fishing, and, of course, hunting in the Colorado wilderness in and around the Rocky Mountains.

More at http://www.usashooting.org/12-the-team/usashootingteam/nationalteam/nationalshotgunteam/amber-english

JD Bergman - Wrestling

Born September 7, 1984 in Ohio, JD was a 2010 and 2013 USA Wrestling World Team member at 97kg. He is currently a member of the USA National team and has his sights sets on being an Olympic Champion in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He was a two time Ohio High School State Champion from Oak Harbor High School and was also a first team All-Ohio running back in football. While at Ohio State University, he was a three-time All-American and was the 2008 NCAA Runner-up. JD actually appears in the upcoming Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo wrestling movie “Foxcatcher” depicting the tragic events leading to the death of Olympian David Schultz.

Rho, Build Lead Resson’s $3M Round

To understand why Resson Aerospace landed $3 million in its first funding round, it’s important not to focus too closely on the word “Aerospace” in its name.

Many companies involved in data-based agricultural analytics are focused on using drones to gather data from fields. But Fredericton-based Resson is developing an integrated system, complete with machine learning, that helps farmers and agriculturalists improve production and reduce fertilizer use.

The company’s co-founders Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl announced Thursday that the company has secured $3.025 million in an A Round of funding led by Rho Ventures Canada of Montreal and Boston and Build Ventures of Halifax. The other investors in the round are BDC Venture Capital of Montreal, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation of Fredericton and a handful of individual investors.

InDepth Coverage of Resson’s Funding:

Details of Resson’s Deal

Resson’s Support Network

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture

What’s impressive about the deal is that Resson is only 18 months old. Since it incorporated in May 2013, Goggin and Behl have devised the Resson Agricultural Management and Analytics System, or RAMAS, to analyse a broad array of data, and secured McCain Foods of New Brunswick as an anchor customer.

“Resson provides real value to an important industry,” said Rob Barbara, a Partner at Build Ventures. “Resson's customers not only enjoy significant increases in profit by using RAMAS but the world also benefits from bigger and cleaner crops.”

RAMAS collects data from several sources on a farm – from tractors, from sensors buried in the field, from aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken. It might identify a disease that’s broken out in one section and has to be destroyed. It might show another section needs more water or fertilizer.

Using RAMAS, Resson’s goal is to improve agricultural yield by 10 percent and reduce the need for agricultural chemicals like fertilizer and pesticides by 12 percent.

Behl, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, said the system also learns over the long-term from the data so that it keeps on improving its analysis of the growing conditions. “The more data the system processes, the more intelligent it becomes,” he said. The Resson team developed the business with the aid of three accelerators or incubators – the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick; the ACcelr8 program at Planet Hatch; and Propel ICT’s Launch36 accelerator.

After it graduated from Propel this past summer, the company received $250,000 in convertible debentures from BDC Venture, which went into the current round. It also met Rho Partner Jeff Grammer, who had already invested in three Atlantic Canadian startups. Behl said the meeting with Grammer was almost anti-climactic – an extremely systematic examination of the potential market and sales projections.  But at the end, Resson produced one of the best scores ever in Rho’s evaluation system.

“Their technology is very unique and highly technical,” said Grammer in an interview. “They’re in a field that’s getting a lot of attention.”

On the business side, Resson announced in July that it would be working with McCain, one of the country’s largest food companies. The initial work with McCain this autumn allowed the team to calibrate its system so it will be able to gather and interpret data through a full growing season next year.

Resson now employs seven people and expects to raise that number to 12 by the end of March, mainly through the hiring of programmers. Goggin, the company’s CEO, said the company is also in talks with other major agricultural companies and hopes to be able to announce new customers within four to six months.

“We are seeing big companies -- like the major agricultural companies of the world -- are looking at us,” he said. “So it all looks good right now.”


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


8 Startups Present at Demo Camp

DemoCamp Halifax took place at Dalhousie University last night, revealing a more polished and professional look than in any of the three preceding years.

MC-ed by Katelyn Bourgoin of Swapskis and organized by Rachael Craig of Brilliant Labs, the event allowed seven startups to demonstrate their products. They weren’t allowed power points, only a demo of what their product does.

The startups that pitched were:

Salubrian Health – This Halifax-based health informatics company is focused on improving the quality of global healthcare. Salubrian Health implements web-based technologies that enhance the quality of communication between patients, practitioners, and health clinics. In particular, it provides a channel that allows patients to book appointments with a doctor a learn whether the physician is running late. 

Bitness – The company’s beacon tracks who enters an outlet like a coffee shop with their cellphone set to receive Wi-Fi signals. It can track who lingers at the cash register (signalling a sale), who stays in and who leaves. It can track the number of returning customers.

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

GlitchWizard -- Allan Lavel and Connor Bell of the indie studio ThinkRad created this app to give users the ability to “glitch” photos, videos and GIFS and share them to social networks. The images are automatically distorted or embellished. Glitch Wizard runs images through audio filters, manipulates image hex, and performs a host of other experimental techniques that create unpredictable, beautiful results.

BlockShip Wars -- BlockShip Wars is a physics-based, multiplayer, real-time strategy game in which you command a fleet of space ships you design and build yourself out of blocks. You will gather resources to build ships and outfit them with thrusters, weapons, shields, etc. As well you can build your ship to the shape you desire. The object of the game is to take your opponents’ planets and destroy their ships.

Athletigen -- The startup launched a software-as-a-service product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genomic analysis. The company owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, and has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe.

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

R17 – Based in Quispamsis, N.B., the Launch36 grad has just released a new product that tells online advertisers whether their ads are actually seen by viewers. Founder and CEO Steve Mallett said about 35 percent or more of online ads are never actually seen by humans. R17 can track ads and tell whether they are visible to people and for how long.

The keynote speaker of the night was John Paul Morgan, the Founder and CEO of Morgan Solar of Toronto. He recounted his time installing systems for Doctors Without Frontiers in Africa and how he could have continued such work, all the while being told he was doing good. But as a physicist, he decided he should and try to create an affordable solar power system that would benefit all poor communities.

“I knew blatantly that I was likely going to fail,” he said. “But I also knew that it didn’t matter at all. I knew that if I didn’t even try, that that would have been the greatest failure of all.”


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

Press Release: SimplyCast & ACOA

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing startup, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Secures $500,000 from the Government of Canada for Global Expansion Strategy

SimplyCast is expanding its customer base around the world with a $500,000 investment from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, November 10, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is excited to announce the next stage of its global expansion thanks to a $500,000 investment from the Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

ACOA is dedicated to supporting local businesses in the Atlantic Canada region to help develop and diversify the local economy. ACOA enables many Atlantic Canadian start-ups to grow and expand, in order to bring ongoing innovation and sustainable revenue into the region.

“The digital world has changed the whole marketing equation. SimplyCast Interactive Marketing has simplified the growing number of communication channels into a single easy-to-use marketing platform for customers. Our Government is pleased to support SimplyCast and a growing number of other Nova Scotia firms that comprise the province’s burgeoning IT sector,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Regional Minister for Nova Scotia, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (ACOA).

SimplyCast plans to use this investment to increase its global presence and widen its customer base, while remaining in Nova Scotia. The company is committed to enriching the local business community and hiring local talent, including many coop students and recent graduates now entering the workforce.

“With the growing number of communication channels, SimplyCast has built the most innovative and comprehensive multi-channel marketing platform available. Businesses in 175 countries use our platform to communicate with customers and grow their businesses,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “In order to maintain and grow our customer base from here in Nova Scotia, it is essential to stay ahead of the competition. That’s why this project to support a global expansion strategy will be invaluable.”

With the recent addition of the advanced lead tracking tool, Sonar, and the robust Contact Manager, which enables businesses to create complex automated sales pipelines and manage vast amounts of customer data, SimplyCast offers the most complete marketing automation platform available.

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

About SimplyCast

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

Resson’s $3M Funding: Deal Details

The following chart shows the details of Resson Aerospace's $3.025 million venture capital funding announced today:


Funded Company Resson Aerospace Corp.
Founders Peter Goggin, CEO, Rishin Behl, CTO
Business Resson's software analyzes data collected from farm fields to maximimize production.
Deal Details  
Investment C$3.025 million (The parties declined to detail each party's investment)
Lead Investors Rho Ventures Canada, Boston and Montreal
  Jeff Grammer
  Build Ventures, Halifax
  Rob Barbara, Patrick Keefe 
Co-Investors BDC Venture Capital, Montreal
  Nicole LeBlanc
  New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Fredericton
  Calvin Milbury
  Anonymous Angels
Company's Legal Counsel Tripp Business Law, Moncton
  Michael Tripp
Investors's Counsel Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Toronto
  Chad Bayne, Brian Gray
Company Details  
Website http://www.ressontech.com
Contact Info@ressontech.com
Headquarters Fredericton
Year Founded 2013
Board of Directors Rishin Behl, Peter Goggin, Jeff Grammer, Rob Barbara
Support Programs Pond Deshpande Centre, PropelICT, Planet Hatch, NRC-IRAP
Previous Funding

Resson received a $250,000 convertible debenture from BDC on graduating from the Propel accelerator. That has become part of this funding round.

Major Client McCain Foods
Previous Articles
Resson Unveils Deal with McCain | June 24, 2014
Solving Farmers’ Pain From Above | May 9, 2013


Resson Aerospace’s Support Network

Resson Aerospace took the term “accelerator” seriously.

In less than a year, it raced through three different accelerators (or incubators) that moulded the company that landed a $3 million funding today.

With a focus on bioinformatics and data analytics, the precision agriculture company was first nurtured through the Pond-Deshpande Centre, the University of New Brunswick facility that encourages entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The PDC offered the young company its first funding (a $15,000 grant) as well as office space and mentoring. “Karina LeBlanc (the PDC Executive Director) was one of our biggest supporters and continues to be so,” said CEO Peter Goggin in an interview, adding that she introduced the team to several angel investors.

In the winter of 2012-2013, the company went through the ACcelr8 accelerator at Planet Hatch, which provided a bit more financing and also introduced Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl to another key mentor, Susan Holt.

Holt’s day job is the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Business Council. At each board meeting of the council, select startups are invited to make brief presentations to the group, which includes several captains of New Brunswick business. Holt helped Resson prep for such a pitch, but she held the pair back, making sure they didn’t pitch until they were ready.

When they did pitch, they got results. One of the introductions was to Allison McCain, chair of McCain Foods, and the pitch led to McCain using the Resson technology.

From ACcelr8, the team progressed into the Launch36 accelerator, which Goggin said brought the company’s professional development up a notch. Its main mentor in Launch36 was Kevin Berry of the Moncton startup SelectBidder.

Resson Aerospace has also worked with the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.


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

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture

Resson Aerospace is a shining example of a precision agriculture startup, which means it’s devoted to using advanced systems and data analytics to increase crop yields while lowering expenses and pollution.

Precision agriculture is basically a textbook Big Data undertaking applied to farms of all sizes and sectors. By collecting a range of data from different points on a farm, precision agriculture identifies in real time what is happening in the field or the barn, and helps the farmer to respond immediately. Diseased crops can be killed early, without disturbing others. Fertilizers or pesticides are applied in proper doses only where needed.

Precision agriculture relies heavily – though not exclusively – on two pieces of modern technology. The first is GPS-enhanced guidance and mapping capabilities, which can help the user pinpoint areas that need attention over the vast acreage of their fields. And the second is drone technology, as unmanned aircraft can scan fields in a fraction of the time that ground vehicles can.

It’s not a coincidence then that some of the highest profile precision agriculture companies are using drone-based technologies. One Halifax drone company, SkySquirrel Technologies, recently announced a partnership with VineView-SAI, Inc., a Napa Valley remote sensing company, in which they will apply precision analytics to vineyards.

PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh, N.C. drone company with offices in Toronto and Halifax, recently received funding from Intel Venture.

Of course, the applications of precision agriculture extend far beyond using drones to collect information.

For example, Agronomic Technology Corp., an American company whose software helps farmers preserve nitrogen content in their soil, has partnered with the likes of Walmart and the U.S. Nature Conservancy, and recently landed $2.2 million in VC funding. Strider Agriculture of Brazil is devoted to reducing the amount of pesticides farmers use, while Summer Technologies of Palo Alto, Calf., offers precision grazing management for cattle ranchers.

Discoverygarden Thrives as SaaS

John Eden is often amazed at the digital artifacts that end up in Islandora, the digital repository for institutions that’s overseen by the company he leads, Charlottetown-based discoverygarden.

While working on a contract for the University of Connecticut, he saw the digitized version of a manifesto written by Adolf Hitler. While carrying out a project for the University of Southern California, he’s worked with black and white film from the 1920s – a priceless memento of the early days of Hollywood that would have deteriorated beyond repair if it hadn’t been digitized.

Eden’s background is business and game development, but as the CEO of discoverygarden he is heading a company that is helping more than 100 institutions around the world preserve and manage priceless artifacts. What’s more, he’s growing this unique business, with revenues up 30 percent in the last six months.

With a highly original business model, discoverygarden is inextricably linked to the open source Islandora system. Mark Leggott, the librarian at University of Prince Edward Island, developed Islandora with help from the community and $2.5 million in financing from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. Working with religious studies professor Joe Velaidum, they launched discoverygarden to commercialize the product. In 2012, Eden came aboard as a consultant and eventually became CEO, though Leggott remains the majority owner.

The organization has evolved over the years so Islandora is now an open-source product that any institution can implement. It combines open-source software from Fedora Commons and Drupal to create a repository that protects and stores digital assets permanently. It includes such features as a powerful search function and flexible installation.

“We still are true to the original offering, the original vision, of helping organizations to create their digital repository using a framework of open-source software and open standards,” said Eden.

What discoverygarden does is build products for institutions so that Islandora can meet their needs. And a lot of institutions return these efforts to the Islandora community so others can use them as well.

“We still go over and above what we’re asked for on a lot of paid work so that we can return it to the community,” he said. Discoverygarden also provides various support services and resources for Islandora, and helps out with Islandora Camps, which have taken place in such centres as Colorado, Toronto and London.

Discoverygarden was growing in popularity when Eden took the helm, but it was becoming a service company. With the demand, the company grew to a staff of 26 people in its Charlottetown headquarters. Eden decided to transition into more of a development and software-as-a-service model, which he launched in February. Staffing has since fallen to 18 people while revenues have grown. He added the company may grow its staff again as its workload increases.

With three-quarters of its revenue coming from outside Canada, the company has grown with relatively little equity investment. It brought in angel investments totalling $290,000 in 2012 and closed a $150,000 round in early 2014. Eden hopes the enterprise won’t have to raise money again and can thrive on rising revenues.

“We’re kind of an old fashioned IT company in that we’re built on revenue,” he said. “There was demand for this right out of the box.”



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


Press Release: SkySquirrel & VineView

SkySquirrel Technologies, the Halifax startup dedicated to drone-based technologies, issued the following press release:

VineView and SkySquirrel Debut Drone at Rootstock

Joint venture to display specialized drone

St. Helena, Napa Valley and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, November 2014 ---- VineView-SAI, Inc., a St. Helena-based remote sensing company established in 1999,  is partnering with SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. (SST), a commercial Unmanned Aerial System (drone) company based in Nova Scotia, Canada.  VineView and SkySquirrel will be displaying their Aqweo agricultural drone at The Concept Bar at Rootstock, the Napa Valley Grape Growers’ trade exhibition taking place on November 13, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Napa Exposition Fairgrounds (575 Third Street, Napa 94558). More information at http://www.skysquirrel.ca/vineview.com.

VineView is contributing its 15 years of experience in remote sensing of vineyards and other high value crops to the development of a fully integrated drone system for high resolution imaging of vineyards, citrus and nut crops.  “Partnering with SST allows us to bring the technologies we’ve developed to new markets as well as provide additional options for our current customers,” said Matt Staid, Ph.D., President of VineView.  “Canada has been a leader in supporting the commercial use and testing of unmanned aircraft, allowing us to start using this new platform sooner than would otherwise be possible.”

SST has been developing and testing its robust, portable, commercial drone system for the past 2 1/2 years.   “What we see missing in the current drone marketplace is a commercial-grade UAS delivering a turn-key aerial imaging solution for growers,” said SST CEO and co-founder, Tim Stekkinger.  Other manufacturers are focusing on the drone itself, whereas the Aqweo delivers a complete GPS-guided system, including customized onboard imaging equipment which allows for crop-specific imaging.  “This breakthrough product will allow the user to collect accurate, consistent measurements of crop conditions and upload them to a cloud environment for automatic data processing. The resulting maps will go far beyond basic vigor mapping and can be viewed in the field from a tablet device,” explains Stekkinger. “The partnership with VineView allows us to offer calibrated aerial imaging data, which is of much higher quality than anything on the market today.”

The system will become available in Europe, Canada and South America early next year; availability in the U.S. depends on FAA restrictions currently under review. 

Based in St. Helena, VineView has been providing remote sensing services to the wine-grape industry in California, Oregon and Washington since 2002.  VineView uses state of the art equipment and image processing techniques to deliver high-quality imaging products from multispectral and hyperspectral systems. In addition to calibrated vigor maps and infrared images, VineView also offers RedleafMap™ (leafroll and redblotch mapping) and has developed H2OstressMap (water stress mapping).  Aerial images are a valuable tool for many aspects of vineyard management and can help growers improve grape quality, identify disease, save time and resources and reduce the environmental impacts of farming.  More information at http://www.vineview.com/.

Based in Nova Scotia, SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. develops drone-based technology for monitoring crop health, with a primary focus on improving crop yields and reducing costs at commercial vineyards. It offers an effective way to optimize agricultural inspection and field monitoring operations. The company was founded in May 2012. Based in Canada, it also has a presence in Switzerland and California. More at http://www.skysquirrel.ca/



The White Cross by H.P. MacKeen

It isn’t a medal or order,

It carries no ribbon or braid;

But a token still

As on Calvary’s Hill

Of the greater sacrifice made.


It stands as a lonely sentinel,

O’er the place where a hero sleeps;

‘Neath a lowly mount

In the shell-swept ground

Near the battered walls of Ypres.


It bears a simple legend

Yet a tale of lasting glory:

“Her lies a British Soldier

Pro patria mori.”



Harry MacKeen, Peter Moreira's grandfather, (pictured at the left above), wrote this poem on the Ypres battlefield in September 1917.

QRA Nearing $4M Funding Raise

Jordan Kyriakidis’s eyes light up and his voice rises when he talks about what the Internet of Things could mean to his company, QRA Corp.

During a recent interview, Kyriakidis outlined the possibilities of QRA’s technology, which helps machine manufacturers detect problems with their designs early in the development process. As machines grow more complex, with more digital and autonomous features, the attractiveness of the QRA technology is bound to increase.

 “We started off in aerospace, but we work with other machines like autos and trains,” he said.  “And when the Internet of Things gets going, our system will be perfect for it.”

The development of the QRA software began five years ago when Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor, came to Dalhousie University with a problem. It wanted Dal researchers to look into ways to detect design flaws in big machines before the company had sold them.

Kyriakidis has a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics from the University of Basel in Switzerland and is an associate professor of physics and atmospheric science at Dal. He headed the project, which eventually led to the creation of QRA, which stands for Quantum Research Analytics, to commercialize the team’s work.

 “They’re finding the design errors at a very late stage, and at that point it costs a lot of money to fix them.”

Kyriakidis said the problem is that components of machines are often designed in isolation so the manufacturer has no way of knowing how all the parts will work with one another in the real world.

QRA’s tools can analyze and validate how system components are put together and work together, all in the design stage. It can detect any faults before the machine is actually built. These tools are based on rigorous mathematical approaches and can detect errors that conventional testing cannot, said Kyriakidis.

 “This ultimately leads to lower development costs and timelines, and higher systems confidence.”

QRA believes a more rigorous systems engineering approach is needed to help create the next generation of robust, safe, software-driven industrial infrastructure.

The next big advance in industrial machines is likely to be the Internet of Things, in which machines communicate with each other and react in real time, carrying out tasks more quickly and accurately than a group of humans could. There are estimates that the segment will be worth $19 trillion by the end of the decade and that 50 billion devices will be connected to each other.

As the Internet of Things becomes a reality, its complexity will increase very rapidly, said Kyriakidis. That will make it more difficult to ensure errors do not infiltrate the machinery and cause possibly catastrophic accidents. QRA’s tools are being developed precisely to help address such problems.

The development of the QRA system has so far cost about $2.5 million, mostly coming from sales to customers.

The three founders — Kyriakidis, Dean Tsaltas and Micah McCurdy — are raising about $4 million in equity and other forms of capital, enough capital to finance the company for about two years. About one-third of the funding will be equity investments, while the remainder will come from customers and a range of programs.

The company now employs 10 people.



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


Press Release: Unique Solutions’ CEO

Unique Solutions of Dartmouth, whose technology scans the human body, has issued the following press release:

Former SVP of Global Search at Yahoo Joins Body Data Experts at Unique Solutions Design Ltd. as CEO

Leading Body Data Corp.  Announces New CEO, Board of Directors and a Senior Advisor to Lead Growth in Body Data Information Technology

SILICON VALLEY, Calif., Nov. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Unique Solutions Design, Ltd, developer of innovative body fit solutions and technologies, is pleased to announce the appointment of Tuoc Luong as CEO and a new board of directors and a senior advisor as part of a strategic plan to position itself as the Go-To Experts on Body Data, and launch an aggressive online apparel sizing-matching campaign planned for Winter 2014. Unique Solutions Ltd. Founder Tanya Shaw has moved into the role of executive chairwoman of the board.

In his new role as company CEO, Mr. Luong will run the company from Silicon Valley—commuting to Halifax frequently. The plan is to build-out the company's Silicon Valley presence, he said.

The two new additions to Unique Solutions' board of directors and advisory committee are Arlene Dickinson and Stephen I. Sadove, respectively. As a director, Ms. Dickinson brings a wealth of one-to-one marketing experience and data analytics. Mr. Sadove will serve as Senior Advisor to Executive Chairwoman Tanya Shaw, with a focus on penetrating the apparel sector.

Founder and Executive Chairwoman Tanya Shaw said: "The appointment of Tuoc, Stephen and Arleen are part of Unique Solution's long-term goal of becoming the premiere body data experts globally. We are most fortunate to have this highly distinguished group serve in their new roles."

Unique Solutions Design Ltd. CEO Tuoc Luong said: "What attracted me to Unique Solutions is its potential to own and dominate a large category of data that no other company has access to. Where Google, Facebook and Amazon may have user interest, behavior and transaction data, they do not have access to a user's physical body. Through its patented body scan technology deployed over a couple of years, Unique has amassed physical body dimension of well over 1 million users and growing. This positions the company well as it looks to businesses from fashion apparel fitting to the health and wellness industry."

TUOC LUONG most recently served as the Chief Executive Officer of Shanda Online. Previously, Luong served as the Global Senior Vice President of Yahoo from 2007 to 2010, where he led the Search Division and was responsible for Yahoo Search products worldwide. Prior to joining Yahoo, Luong served as the Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering at Zazzle Inc. and Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering and Technology of IAC Search & Media, Inc. (formerly Ask Jeeves Inc.) Prior to joining Ask Jeeves, Luong worked at Microsoft Corporation as its general manager for BackOffice and Hosted Service from January 1999 to March 2000. Prior to Microsoft, he served as Vice President of research for Baan Company, an enterprise resource planning company. He has also worked with Oracle Corporation, and Informix Software. Mr. Luong holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.S. degree in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University.

ARLENE DICKINSON is a Canadian author, entrepreneur, television personality and venture capitalist. She has served as a partner at Venture Communications since 1988. In 1998 she became sole owner and has grown the company into a strategic and creative powerhouse for a blue-chip client list, which includes Toyota (Prairie Region), Cenovus Energy, Travel Alberta, Mayo Clinic, Brookfield Residential, and Husky Energy. Under Dickenson's direction, Venture has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada for three consecutive years. In 2007, Dickenson joined the cast of the CBC business reality show Dragon's Den during its second season. She was selected to perform on the series after she won numerous awards, including Calgary Business Owner of the Year, PROFIT magazine's Top 100 Business Owners, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Canada's Most Powerful Women Top 100. Dickenson continues to make guest appearances on top-rated television shows as Canada's top entrepreneur.

STEPHEN I SADOVE is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks Incorporated. Between January 2002 and November 2013, Stephen I. Sadove held positions of increasing responsibility with Saks Incorporated.  In January 2002, Sadove joined the management team of Saks as Vice Chairman.  In March 2004, he assumed the additional post of Chief Operating Officer of the Company and in January 2006 he assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer.  He held the post of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks between May 2007 and November 2013. Prior to joining Saks, Sadove built a distinguished marketing and consumer products career spanning more than 25 years.  Between 1975 and 1991, Sadove held various positions of increasing responsibility with General Foods USA, including Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Desserts Division.  Sadove joined Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in 1991 as President of Clairol.  In 1994, he was appointed President, Worldwide Clairol, having direct responsibility for the Clairol business in the United States as well as all of the consumer businesses in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.  In 1996, he was appointed to the post of President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care, with responsibility for Clairol Worldwide and Matrix Essentials.  In 1997, he was appointed President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care and Nutritionals, adding Mead Johnson Nutritionals to his duties. Sadove is a graduate of Hamilton College and holds an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for National Retail Federation as well as a member of public company boards of Colgate-Palmolive, JCPenney, Aramark and Ruby Tuesday.


With offices in Nova Scotia, Philadelphia and Silicon Valley, Unique Solutions Design Ltd has provided innovative body fit solutions since 1994, and owns the only body scanning technology to measure an individual while fully clothed. Unique Solutions develops and commercializes advanced body measurement technologies, and maintain the largest database of body measurements that accurately reflects the real size and shape of consumers. Its highly acclaimed apparel size-matching service, Me-Ality—Measured Reality—premiered in 2010—and has been a dream come true for consumers by taking the guesswork out of finding their best fitting apparel styles. In 2014, the company launched an online "Predictive Model" for apparel shoppers that allows them to input a few key measurements and shop with high accuracy online. Unique Solution's proprietary technology yields aggregate data and body measurement information that readily translates into better fitting products and services. This unique data provides added value to multi-billion dollar industries including health and fitness, sports and fashion. For more information about Unique Solutions Design, Ltd., please visit http://www.me-ality.com


Press Release: B4Checkin & Agilysys

B4Checkin, a Halifax startup that makes software for hotels, release the following press release:

Agilysys and B4Checkin Partner to Offer Web Booking Engine To Visual One™ PMS Customers

Solution Increases Conversion Rates, Drives Incremental Revenue, Boosts Loyalty

ALPHARETTA, GA. and HALIFAX, NS — Nov. 10, 2014 — Agilysys, Inc. (Nasdaq: AGYS), a leading provider of innovative information technology and hospitality software and services, and B4Checkin, Inc., a developer and provider of cloud-based hospitality software solutions, today announced a partnership agreement whereby Agilysys will offer the B4Checkin booking engine to its Visual One™ PMS customers.

The B4Checkin booking engine is a highly interactive online booking solution that drives conversions and provides superior property merchandising. The solution has certified two-way interfaces with the Visual One PMS, which means crucial information — such as room rates, inventory availability and guest profile data — is automatically exchanged in real time between the two solutions, speeding confirmation times and ensuring that guests have an accurate view of booking options. Designed specifically for independent hotels, the solution is fully customizable to match the look and feel of a property's website, so that a consistent brand image is presented to potential guests. Easy-to-navigate screens and availability calendars enable users to view room types and rates, and guests have the option of purchasing pre-built packages or selecting specific components to create dynamic packages.

The B4Checkin booking engine also upsells users to better room types and displays value-added items that enhance the guest experience, such as wine, flowers and local attractions. Personalized email communications with guests, both pre- and post-stay, encourage loyalty and repeat visits. Add-on modules allow for group deposits, thereby reducing operator expense. And, unlike most booking engine vendors, which typically require hotels to pay on a per-reservation commission basis, B4Checkin features an affordable flat monthly subscription model.

"Our partnership with B4Checkin enables us to provide our customers with a market-leading booking engine that boosts revenue and enhances guest satisfaction," said Jim Dennedy, president and chief executive officer of Agilysys. "The power of the Visual One PMS combined with the B4Checkin booking engine will allow customers to improve conversion rates, increase revenue per stay and drive incremental revenue from the sale of value-added products. This innovative technology will also help hotel operators create more lasting connections with guests that build loyalty and ensure repeat visits."

"In the highly competitive lodging industry, a professional and reliable web booking engine is a vital component for success," said Saar Fabrikant, president and chief executive officer of B4Checkin. "Our B4Checkin booking engine fully integrates with the Visual One PMS, increasing efficiency for customers and maximizing convenience for guests, be it on a computer or a mobile-friendly basis. We are excited about our partnership with Agilysys and our role in helping independent hotels realize their full potential."

About Agilysys

Agilysys is a leading developer and marketer of proprietary enterprise software, services and solutions to the hospitality industry. The company specializes in market-leading point-of-sale, property management, inventory and procurement, workforce management, analytics, document management, and mobile and wireless solutions that are designed to streamline operations, improve efficiency and enhance the guest experience. Agilysys serves four major market sectors: Gaming, both corporate and tribal; Hotels, Resorts and Cruise; Foodservice Management; and Restaurants, Universities, Stadia and Healthcare. Agilysys operates extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, with corporate services located in Alpharetta, GA, and offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. For more information, visit http://www.agilysys.com


About B4Checkin

B4checkin™ is a developer and provider of an innovative suite of cloud-based software solutions for the hospitality industry. Designed to help hotels better manage online reservations and measure guest satisfaction, core products include B4Checkin, an on-demand, customizable booking engine, and B4Feedback, a state-of-the-art guest satisfaction tracking and management tool. Properties throughout the world use B4Checkin solutions to create and manage highly customized branded website reservation systems, improve guest communications and maximize revenue. B4Checkin is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with installations serving customers in North America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. For more information, visit http://www.b4checkin.com


Lamda Cited for ‘Unrivaled’ Product

Halifax-based Lamda Guard Inc. has been awarded the 2014 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for Product Leadership for its “unrivaled” solution to the problem of laser attacks on aircraft.

Lamda Guard, a subsidiary of Metamaterials Technology Inc., is developing metaAir, a transparent, flexible film that can go over the aircraft windshields to block out laser beams. The shield is necessary because aircraft pilots are increasingly subject to people – from terrorists to pranksters – shining lasers at cockpit windows to blind the crew.

At Entrevestor, we generally don’t report on Atlantic Canadian startups winning awards (because there are simply too many of them), but this award drew our attention because it comes with a super detailed report. Frost & Sullivan, a San Antonio, Texas-based business consultancy for innovative businesses, does a great job of explaining why metaAir has such great potential.

“As a unique participant with an unrivaled solution to improve safety with such simplicity, metaAir could become a standard in the industry and it may become mandatory in the advent of stricter safety regulations,” said the report.

The document establishes the demand for the product, saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation says that laser attacks on aircraft in the U.S. increased from about 300 incidents in 2003 to nearly 4000 incidents in 2013. It added that the aviation industry – including commercial and military aircraft, private planes, helicopters – doubles every 15 years. And plane makers are always looking for improved safety.

The report says metaAir effectively blocks out laser beams without impairing the visibility of the crew. What’s more, metaAir is easy to install – it is just stuck on to the inside of the cockpit windshield. That means there’s no downtime for the aircraft, and it can be installed in both existing and new planes.  

Current anti-laser solutions tend to be standalone products such as eyewear, which can hamper cockpit instrumentation and pilot performance, said Frost & Sullivan.

"Unlike competitors' existing products, which only provide limited and/or temporary protection, the metaAir can be integrated during either aircraft forward-fit or retrofit operations," said the report, written by consultants Thomas Saquer and Alix Leboulanger. "It requires minimal integration costs, as it eliminates complex cockpit conversion, training and additional certification."

The report also praises the human capital of the company led by CEO George Palikaras, a PhD who has developed a metamaterial that uses nanotechnology to filter out, absorb or enhance certain forms of light. It also noted that AirBus, Europe's largest aircraft maker, is working on a multi-year development project with Lamba Guard.

Frost & Sullivan said its Best Practices awards recognize companies in a variety of markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, innovation, customer service and strategic development.


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



Watzan Expanding in Halifax

Watzan, a New York startup devoted to enhancing searches in ecommerce and media websites, is expanding its presence in Halifax now that it is bringing in new clients.

Founder and CEO Charles Benaiah said in an interview the company is now building a development team in Nova Scotia and hopes that the city will host its full-time development division.

“People still ask me, ‘Why here?’”, said Benaiah, a native Torontonian who has an MBA from Dalhousie University. “I answer, ‘Why not here?’ The people are great. The talent is here. The community is supportive. What else could a company want?”

Now headquartered in New York, watzan is a “big data” visualization tool that makes it easier for companies to show clients the products they may be most interested in. It’s the natural successor to Benaiah’s previous startup, Sequence, which personalized content for magazine readers in print and online. He sold Sequence to the printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

Watzan recently announced that fashion company Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent will use watzan to merchandise its customer experience. Benaiah said Cynthia Vincent’s intricate designs and Bohemian fashions became an instant hit among socialites and celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Bilson and Scarlett Johansson.

Watzan had already gained traction from pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline, and Benaiah also wants to work with media companies to make it easier for readers to select content that might interest them.

Benaiah said he’s aware of a few New York companies that have noticed the talent and supportive community in Halifax and are considering developing teams in the city.  


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






Brilliant Labs Expands in NS

Rachael Craig learned to love technology in childhood. Now she’s spearheading Brilliant Labs in Nova Scotia, as the Atlantic initiative that promotes technology to school kids gains traction within the province.

Craig, 31, has only been in her role as the Nova Scotia director of Brilliant Labs for the last month, but she is beginning to forge the kind of private and public partnerships that have made the group successful in neighbouring New Brunswick.

“I’m exploring opportunities for collaborating with other groups that are already working to promote computer programming to kids in Nova Scotia,” said Craig from her base at Volta Labs on Halifax’s Spring Garden Road.

“This work needs community involvement. The kind of change we want to see in Nova Scotia requires partnerships.”

Brilliant Labs aims to boost innovation by increasing education in science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics.

The organization began in New Brunswick in March, but through its relationships with the New Brunswick government and organizations such as Science East, it has already accomplished a lot.

In the last few months, Brilliant Labs has identified seven sites for Makerspaces in New Brunswick schools, one in each school district.

Makerspaces are spaces where people gather to create, invent and learn. They often have equipment such as 3D printers, software, electronics and tools.

The Brilliant Labs Makerspaces will be complete before Christmas. The group has also helped fund 14 Brilliant Projects in New Brunswick schools, most at a cost of less than $2,000.

Jeff Willson, executive director of Brilliant Labs, said projects include an underwater robot that will be used to study the Miramichi River, as well as wearable electronics, a 3D printer and mini Makerspaces.

“In the spring, we partnered with other groups to run a high school challenge,” Willson said.

“Entries included a tracking bracelet that can be used to locate fishermen lost at sea. The young inventor is already exploring the patenting process.”

Willson said the group plans to grow regionally and maybe nationally with the help of its growing network of partners.

The Brilliant Labs story began when Fredericton’s David Alston, chief innovation officer of Introhive, began to work with then-New Brunswick Premier David Alward on promoting coding in schools.

Brilliant Labs’ high-profile supporters include Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma. The founders of the successful tech company GoInstant have helped found Volta Labs and the program for startups now piloting at the University of Cape Breton.

“Jevon MacDonald is championing Brilliant Labs in Nova Scotia,” Craig said.

“The project was also well received by the oneNS Coalition (which is building on the work of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy) when presented in September.”

For Craig, her new role dovetails with her existing role as president of AtlanticSpark, a non-profit that supports the startup community through targeted events, specialized training and related services.

The Nova Scotia-born neuroscience grad has also been involved in developing educational games.

Craig traces her love of technology back to her father, a mechanic and entrepreneur, who ensured that his daughter always had access to a computer and encouraged her to play, experiment and build.

She is keen to build on the success Brilliant Labs has achieved in New Brunswick.

“It’s cool to see 40 kids engaged in a Makerspace at lunchtime, to see them developing the skills they need with their peers,” she said.

“We want the youth of Nova Scotia to benefit in the same way.”




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

Salubrian Targets Clinic Wait Times

Salubrian Health, an online platform that lets patients check whether their physician appointments are running on schedule, hopes to launch its product this month.

With the Halifax company’s product, a clinic’s administrative staff click a button every time the physician starts and ends an appointment. This information is available on the Salubrian Health website so patients know how long their wait will be and can plan to arrive accordingly.

According to a 2011 New York Times article, an American spends an average of 23 minutes in a doctor’s waiting room.

There isn’t a similar statistic for Canada, but a 2014 Canadian Institute for Health Information survey ranked Canada as the worst developed country for emergency room wait times. Canada is the only country in which more than 20 per cent of patients wait more than four hours in the ER.

“We’ve created a very unique technology to keep track of what’s going on in the clinic in real time,” said Salubrian Health founder Justin Javorek.

Patients can also book their appointments on the platform. Javorek said it’s a hassle for patients to have to call a physician’s office to book an appointment, and even more of a hassle if a need for rescheduling arises.

“It’s really a differentiator for the patient experience,” said Javorek. “It’s easier for patients to book appointments online in a few seconds.”

Salubrian Health has generated interest among health clinics in the United States and Canada. At the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University in the spring, the company represented Canada alongside students from the likes of Harvard and Stanford.

Javorek created Salburian Health in Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean initiative, a class that allows students to create startups. He progressed into a summer business accelerator program, and now Salubrian Health is one of five startups going through the more advanced phase of the Propel ICT accelerator.

Javorek interviewed over 400 patients and 50 health-care providers for Salubrian Health.

“We designed the program around the pain points they’re facing.”

He originally wanted to charge patients $2 a day for checking schedules, but his mentors told him he should abstain from this for now. There is a monthly charge for clinics to keep their schedules on Salubrian Health, but the price point is being determined. Javorek said it will likely range from $39 to $69 per physician.

“We can provide them with an interface where they can communicate with their patients more effectively and automate a lot of communications.

“So that’s extremely helpful for them to save time from the (administrative) stuff and also maximize the patients coming through the door.”

Javorek has not raised any funding yet, though he is looking for initial capital. Salubrian Health has been in the making for over a year, and Javorek credits Starting Lean professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach for his continued work on it.

“They really made us stick and go with it.”


Editor’s note: This is the first article for Entrevestor written by Sabina Wex, who will serve as our student intern for the next few months. Sabina is a student at University of King’s College, and is the Assistant News Editor at Dalhousie Gazette.



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

7 Startups Headline Propel Demo Day

Seven startups from around the region will present at the Propel ICT Demo Day next Thursday, including three that have leap-frogged from the entry-level group to the main stage.  

Propel ICT, the regional startup development group that began in New Brunswick 11 years ago, will display the most promising companies from its restructured acceleration program, formerly known as Launch36.

Launch 36 previously comprised a single cohort of five to 10 companies who met weekly in Moncton. Propel 2.0 has amplified the program, with five growth-stage companies enrolled in the “Build” phase in Moncton, and  15 seed-stage companies going through the “Start” phase at Planet Hatch in Fredericton or Volta Labs in Halifax.

The seven companies are:

Bungalo, Halifax and Reykjavik – Launched in Iceland, the company is now a tenant at Volta. It offers an online reservation system for cottages, and has been expanding rapidly in Nova Scotia. 

Fundmetric, Halifax – Another Volta tenant, Fundmetric offers a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, product that helps charities organize fund-raising campaigns.

Pacta, Halifax -- Pacta has an SaaS products that helps companies ensure they are compliant with regulations in various jurisdictions, allowing companies to focus on their business not local rules.

Sentinel Alert, St. John’s – The first Newfoundland company in Propel has been working out of Planet Hatch in Fredericton. It is developing wearable technology that can tell companies or organizations if a remote worker has had an accident.  

Simptek, Fredericton – Founded by three graduates of the University of New Brunswick’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program, the Planet Hatch tenant is developing algorithms to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Smartpods, Dieppe – Smartpods is developing workstations whose working surface moves up, down, left and right to help workers avoid being too sedentary during their work day.

Swapskis, Halifax – Another Volta company, Swapskis lets women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services.

One thing to note about the Demo Day is that Pacta, Sentinel Alert and Simptek are presenting even though they were in the “Start” program. It’s an indication that they progressed quickly through the accelerator and impressed the organizers.

The Demo Day will also highlight the geographic expansion of Propel. It will have the first Demo Day presentation by a Newfoundland and Labrador company, and the first company that has come to the accelerator from another country. 

Demo Day takes place at the Delta Fredericton on Thursday, starting with a reception at 4:30 pm. 


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

SNM Global Takes Aim at Smoking

Nearly four years ago, Trevor Poole told his partner he was certain he could quit smoking after 25 years if there were only a product that would just wean him off cigarettes gradually.

His partner, Hazel Harrison, set out to develop such a device and thus SNM Global Technologies Inc. was born.

SNM Global is a St. John’s-based company developing a little device that ensures smokers have a set number of cigarettes each day – and it gradually reduces the number.

“This quit-smoking device lets you smoke real cigarettes while you are quitting,” said Hazel Harrison in a recent interview. “It gradually reduces the amount you smoke and it’s so gradual that you don’t notice it.”

SNM – which stands for Smoke No More – is obviously tackling a huge problem. The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 1 billion smokers in the world, and about 70 percent of them are trying to quit. The U.S. alone spends about $300 billion on the treatment of smoking related diseases, and it’s estimated the North American market for quit-smoking products in 2016 will be worth about $5 billion.  What’s more, 87 percent of smokers take up the habit again within three months of trying to quit.

“As our device is reusable, it solves the problem of relapsing,” said Harrison.

Harrison, the company’s CEO, said her patent-pending device is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the smoker can dispense a number of smokes throughout each day according to the proprietary algorithm. Throughout the day, it will dispense the cigarettes. Each time it does so, a photo of a loved one will pop up on the user’s smart phone as a reminder of why he or she is trying to quit smoking.

A former smoker and Carleton University psychology graduate, Harrison said that the idea is to help the smoker withdraw from nicotine without even realizing it’s happening. She added that only about 9 percent of smokers who try to quit cold turkey succeed in their goal.

“The device locks your supply of cigarettes, controls the amount you smoke, and gradually weans you off cigarettes,” she said.

The company has researched the market by interviewing more than 300 smokers. Overall, smokers like the plan for the device, though a few asked what would prevent them from carrying around a second pack and cheating.

“You can carry around another pack of cigarettes no matter which other quit-smoking product you are using to help you quit,” said Harrison. “You need to be mentally and emotionally ready to become a non-smoker, in order for any quit smoking product to work effectively.”

Now, nearly four years old, the company has developed a single prototype, and is now working on a second. It is in talks with a major American retailer interested in carrying the product.

SNM Global is now looking for about $200,000 in equity funding, which it hopes to leverage into a total funding round of about $800,000.

With the funding, said Harrison, the company could have a product within a year. It would then be carrying out its mission to help people stop smoking, to reduce healthcare budgets and to save lives.



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


Newfoundland Unveils VC Plans

The Newfoundland and Labrador government today unveiled a two-track policy to increase the equity funding of companies in Canada’s most easterly province.

Premier Paul Davis announced the program in a statement, confirming the previous announcement that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador would commit $10 million to Build Ventures, the Atlantic Provinces’ venture capital fund created last year.

The Premier also said the government would invest $10 million in the new Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, a private-public fund that will provide seed financing for young startups in the province.  BDC Capital will contribute $2 million to the fund, and it will seek investment from private individuals through the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network. A person familiar with the project said the goal is for individuals to eventually invest a total of $2.5 million in the fund.

“For emerging growth sectors, such as ocean technology and other knowledge-based industries, these new venture capital funds will help improve the global competitiveness of companies, strengthen high-end employment opportunities and drive economic diversification throughout Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Davis in the statement.

The government has been aware that startups in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have an easier time

finding seed funding than those in Newfoundland because of bodies like Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. These public agencies generally make seed investments of $200,000 to $500,000 in companies’ initial funding rounds.

Venture Newfoundland and Labrador is meant to provide a similar service in that province, with some differences.

First, it will have a private fund manager in GrowthWorks Atlantic. GrowthWorks already has several investments in Newfoundland, such as Virtual Marine Technologies, adfinitum Networks and ClearRisk.

“We believe the time is right for public and private investors to create this new pool of capital for budding entrepreneurs and we are very pleased to be involved in this exciting opportunity,” said Tom Hayes, President and CEO of GrowthWorks Atlantic in the statement.

People in the community say NLAN has previously had trouble finding lead investors to identify target companies, draw up terms sheets and lead the funding. In the future, such tasks would be taken over by the fund manager.

Second, local angels will also be able to invest in the fund, and will receive a non-refundable investment tax credit to do so. The Venture Capital Tax Credit will be worth 30 percent of the investment with a lifetime cap on the credit of $75,000 per person.

This new credit will worth 30 percent of the investment regardless of where the target company is located. Previously the Newfoundland and Labrador investment credit offered a higher tax credit for investment made outside the St. John’s region.

Build Ventures so far has received funding commitments from the four Atlantic Provinces, the Business Development Bank and private investors, who together have committed a total of $65 million.

Build so far has invested in tranches of $1.5 million targeting growth-stage, so the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund will obviously focus on early stage investments.


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





After 2 Exits, Steele Launches Eyeball

Having already sold two companies to Research in Motion, Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen are launching a third startup product that they hope will find millions of users.

Bedford’s Eyeball Inc. is launching today its flagship product, a social network for mobile devices that lets those in the amateur sports community tell each other about their games. It is built in the knowledge that there are hundreds of millions of people involved in amateur sports and virtually all of them want to share their scores and highlights.

 “The NHL app is for a small number of teams, each with thousands of fans,” Steele said in an interview.

 “An amateur team maybe has 50 fans. So we’re trying to build a platform for thousands of teams with a few fans each.”

In launching Eyeball, Steele and Johansen are returning to familiar turf. Two years ago, they were employed by BlackBerry Inc. (formerly Research in Motion) as sort of “in-house entrepreneurs.” That means they spent their days trying to develop new products within BlackBerry. Then BlackBerry’s fortunes changed, they were laid off and they began to consider another venture.

They have done it before. 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 RIM. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.

When they were conceiving their third startup, they knew they wanted to do something in the mobile market, which they consider the future of personal computing. They began to realize the opportunity presented by the countless millions of people who play, organize, coach and/or watch amateur sports.

What they came up with is a social network for mobile devices whose hallmark is its simplicity. The dominant feature at the launch allows the user to post the score of a game simply by swiping the screen. Each time you swipe the score box, you add a point to one team or the other. You can also post comments, such as saying what team member scored.

 “It’s really simple in terms of using it,” said Steele. “The idea is to communicate the critical information.”

Going forward, the team plans to introduce a set of features that make it more useful to a wider market.

The overall goal is to gain wide market acceptance, and Steele and Johansen plan to use viral marketing and aggressive search engine optimization to spread the word.

They believe the earliest adopters will probably be people in the “elite youth” sports community. The entrepreneurs understand they will probably need more than a million users in order to generate meaningful revenues.

The most obvious source of revenues is advertising, though Steele said the company will need a few hundred thousand users to make money even with focused advertisers. A second source of income would be selling digital content to users over the app.

The company so far has been funded through investment from the founders and several Ontario-based angels. Steele and Johansen plan to soon approach venture capital investors with the goal of raising a round of funding next year.


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

TopLog, Swapskis Launch Products

Two noted Halifax startups – topLog and Swapskis -- launched their products last week, moving into the phase of their development in which gaining customers becomes ever more important.

Both IT companies have female CEOs and are tenants of Volta Labs, the Halifax startup incubation centre. And both have an association with the Propel accelerator – topLog as a successful graduate and Swapskis as a current participant.

And there the similarities end.

TopLog helps companies or other organizations to prevent network failures – a problem that can cost (and has) cost large businesses tens of millions of dollars. TopLog uses pattern-detection algorithms to help companies predict system and applications failures, and more quickly resolve the problems when they do occur. Its dashboard enables IT operation teams to notice problems in real time.

“Most system or application failures take hours to resolve, with 80 percent of that time spent on discovering the source of the problem,” said CEO Ozge Yeloglu in a statement.  “We’ve developed a powerful tool that does the heavy lifting for IT operation teams, monitoring logs in real time to find problems before they lead to service interruptions.”

The company is now offering special pricing for the topLog solution and plans to release new product features early in 2015.

Swapskis bills itself as the world's first skills marketplace for women. It allows women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and network and eventually charge real cash for their services. It’s aimed largely at women entering the work force who need to get experience in their field and also need services they may not have the cash for.

The company founded by CEO Katelyn Bourgoin launched its public beta test on Wednesday and within two days attracted more than 275 members, who posted more than $12,000 of services. By the weekend, four service swaps had been confirmed.

"After so much work, it feels amazing to finally launch our minimum viable product,” said Bourgoin in an email. “This is just the beginning of course. And we've got big plans for taking it to the next level."


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


Bruce Balcom on Academic Publishing

When Bruce Balcom gives advice on the strategies to follow when publishing academic papers, history suggests it’s worth listening.

Balcom is the Canada Research Chair and the Director of the University of New Brunswick’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Centre, and he’s been the author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications.

And he is a strong advocate of employing strategy when publishing academic papers.

“As a university laboratory, academic credibility is the most important thing you have, so it stands to reason that a healthy and prolific publication stream from the lab is also important,” said Balcom in an interview. He admitted seeking patents and grants to fund a lab are also important, but they all flow from the credibility that comes with peer-reviewed publications.

“It means the lab is internationally known and that means we get funding from others and it means that we can attract key talent,” said Balcom. “And if publishing is the most important thing, then you should figure out how to do it right.”

The evidence suggests that Balcom figured out how to publish properly shortly after he began his academic research in the 1990s, because his lab has produced a series of successes.

The UNB MRI Centre has invented a family of new methods that use MRI – a branch of science usually used for medical purposes – for the visualization of a range of materials, including concrete, polymers, composites, food materials and microporous solids. At any given time, the lab employs 20 to 25 people, and is now working on a four-year project, financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, to develop new and more sensitive tools for imaging rock core and petroleum samples.

In 2006, entrepreneurs Derrick and Jill Green commercialized some of the lab’s published research and the result was Fredericton-based Green Imaging Technologies, one of the region’s leading startups.

Green Imaging used the technology to make it easier, faster and more economical for petroleum companies to study rock core samples extracted during the exploration process. The company continues to work with Balcom’s lab on new techniques and products.

As he did with the initial Green Imaging technology, Balcom often publishes research knowing it will be the basis of a patent, and could be commercialized. “It gives you a good text to use as the basis of a patent,” he said. “And the solid description helps with the patent process.”

But he is also wary of what he puts in the paper, making sure not to publish too early or to reveal too much to competing labs or companies.

“We would write a paper and we would describe what we were doing and we don’t explicitly say how we would think of using it,” he said. “We don’t describe any possible business applications. We wouldn’t even describe the scientific implications – we’re not telling other research labs what we’re going to use it for.”

Balcom emphasizes that he is not a shareholder in Green Imaging, and the company and lab operate independently of each other. But by publishing a steady stream of material and delivering papers regularly, he is able to inform key industry partners about the work the company is doing.

That helps both the lab and the company. And given that UNB is a shareholder in the company, the university benefits when the company does well – and when it pays a dividend.

In fact, Green Imaging did pay its first dividend last winter. So, in a nice piece of mutual benefit, the company was able to reward the university whose lab gave the startup its start.


This article first appeared in the Autumn 2014 edition of Entrevestor Intelligence.


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

Trevor Bernard: A CTO With 3 Exits

Trevor Bernard has a habit of joining companies that make successful exits, and his most recent venture may be his greatest success so far.

Bernard was the chief technology officer of Fredericton-based UserEvents, which sold out to LiveOps of Redwood City, Calif., earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. Though he’d been with two other companies that exited, it was the first time Bernard headed the development team of a successful company.

It’s not a bad track record for a guy who never intended to go into computer science.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” Bernard said. “If not for the computer science department at the University of New Brunswick, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am.”

Bernard grew up on Gesga-pegiag First Nation in Quebec and fell into computer science by accident after coming to Fredericton in 2001 to play baseball at Fredericton High School.

But Bernard, then aged 17, had already graduated high school in Quebec, so he was unable to pursue high school sports. He applied to study engineering at UNB, but the program was full so he enrolled in computer science, intending to change to engineering in Year 2.

Ironically perhaps, he never graduated computer science as he began working for Chalk Media while studying. He is still a semester short of obtaining his undergraduate degree.

Chalk Media was eventually acquired by Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). Then he joined Radian6, which was sold to Salesforce for $326 million in 2011.

Serendipity also played a role in his involvement with UserEvents, which began after he was introduced to co-founder and serial entrepreneur, Jeff Thompson.

“UserEvents was Jeff’s idea. Jeff was probably irked by me at first; I’m quiet when I’m listening and processing,” said Bernard. “Still, he sold me on the idea fast. And we had complementary skills.”

The UserEvents product analyzes a corporation’s data to detect when a customer is having problems with a website or other communications channel. It then notifies the company’s call centre so the problem can be sorted out.

“Being a CTO was no different to being a developer,” Bernard said. “I had a leadership role but my colleagues were top-notch. We collaborated. It was super fun.”

Creating the product was technically challenging.

“Robin Bate Boerop and I created the product, with my focus being writing code. We worked out of Robin’s living room for our first six months,” Bernard said.

Although studying computer science and meeting Thompson was good luck, the team deliberately developed their product so that it would be easy to acquire.

“It was a lot of work, but we’d planned for that from the start. We made the company business friendly; we used safe open-source licences. We made the tech as clean as possible so that it would be easy for someone to acquire.”

Now, Bernard would like to replicate the experience of working with a good team and developing a product from scratch.

“I need autonomy, a sense of purpose, people I respect. If I have those, I’m in,” he said.

“If you’re on the ground in a startup, you actually matter.”

The sale has allowed Bernard to take a break from the stress of startup life and consider his options.

“The last three years have been manic,” he said, as he relaxed in a Fredericton coffee shop. “Starting a company is stressful, although I need to be stressed to function. Without some stress, I get restless and put things off.”

Bernard said he is doing some independent consulting, mentoring new grads and getting a lot of offers, which is not surprising, given his track record. As well as the three companies that have been sold, he also co-founded Maritime Poker, a company run by his dad, who develops software for First Nations communities.

Fullsail To Focus on Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship -- with a special emphasis on funding – will be the focus of the 2014 Fullsail Conference, which takes place Tuesday afternoon at the Delta Beausejour Hotel, Moncton.

Titled "Capital Connections, the half-day conference is being organized by the New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission (which now has the duties of the New Brunswick Securities Commission) and Venn (formerly Tech Southeast), the organization that promotes technology in southeastern New Brunswick.

The get-together begins with a discussion of new programs, followed by two panel discussions, one on entrepreneurs and the other on funding. The goal is to help educate entrepreneurs and connect them with the people who can help them succeed, and there will no doubt be some overlap in the discussions.

The Entrepreneurs panel, which I will moderate, features an interesting range of New Brunswick founders:  Russ Mullard, Managing Partner, Mallard & Associates; Melani Flanagan, Co-Founder and CEO, Kinderguardian; Paul Gunn, President and CEO, Soricimed Biopharma Inc.; and Pablo Asiron, CEO, RtTech Software.

Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng is the moderator of the Funding panel. The panelists will be: Calvin Milbury, CEO, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; Rob Barbara, Partner, Build Ventures; Todd Marshall, Royal Bank of Canada; Louis Jaillet, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; and Mathieu Brideau, Department of Economic Development.


NBIF Logs Record Annual Funding

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation announced this week that it made $2.8 million in venture capital investments in its fiscal year to March 31, 2014, following through on its promise to accelerate its funding of innovation in the province.

The Fredericton-based innovation agency – which is a sponsor of and advertiser in Entrevestor – said in its annual report that it recorded a total of 17 transactions in the 2014 fiscal year. Two companies – AraLabs Security Solutions and Populus Global Solutions, both of Fredericton – received funding in two transactions, so in all there were 15 companies that received funding from the agency.  Nine companies received NBIF funding for the first time.

NBIF said that 14 of the 17 investments were made in conjunction with a range of co-investors.

It was NBIF’s most active year ever as an investor, exceeding the record set the previous year.  The total investment increased 40 percent from the $1.95 million level of the previous year.

“Fiscal year 2013-14 was marked by an expansion of the innovation funds and programs delivered through NBIF,” said CEO Calvin Milbury in an email. “This expansion enabled NBIF to extend its reach and to accelerate innovation in New Brunswick.”

NBIF has been growing in recent years largely because of two major factors. First, in 2011 it cashed in for $9.25 million, or a gain of 28 times, when its portfolio company Radian6 was bought by Salesforce.com. And more recently, the government of New Brunswick has identified innovation as a key focus of its economic strategy and asked NBIF to handle much of the work.

The combination of these ingredients and the success of the New Brunswick startup community have produced a record year and further gains for NBIF. In January, its portfolio company UserEvents sold out to Redwood City, Calif.-based LiveOps Inc. The annual report noted the sale but did not provide any details of the price.

NBIF’s mission extends beyond investments in startups to supporting research and innovation at the province’s institutions. The report said the agency invested a record $4.2 million in 33 research projects under its Research Innovation Fund. In all its programs, NBIF invested $8.5 million in the last fiscal year.

The annual report said that since its founding in 2003, each dollar it has invested has brought in a further seven dollars from other sources for a total impact of $365 million.

The following is a list of all the NBIF equity funding transactions from the 2013-14 fiscal year:

New Funding

Agora Mobile                                     $500,000

AraLabs                                                $50,000

Eigen Innovations                            $100,000

Food Tender                                      $100,000

Foursum                                              $250,000

Geode Technology                          $200,000

HotSpot Parking                               $100,000

R17 Solutions                                   $200,000

Selectbidder                                     $200,000

Follow-on Funding

AraLabs                                              $200,000

Breviro Caviar                                    $50,000

Cyberpsyc Software                         $100,000

Populus Global                                  $35,520

Populus Global                                  $100,000 

Smart Skin Technologies                 $250,000

Xiplinx                                                  $250,000

Zaptap                                                $100,000





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


Building Closer Ties to Toronto-KW

There is a singular reminder of the Atlantic Canadian startup community in the reception area of the Communitech hub in Kitchener, Ont. In the dim, atmospheric space lit mainly by mechanics lamps hanging from the ceiling, there are digital art installations and notices of peer-to-peer learning meetings, and there is a huge video monitor broadcasting goings-on at Communitech.

The video display runs off software provided by Charlottetown-based ScreenScape Networks, whose technology is powering such devices across the continent.

Sitting in the reception room of the famed accelerator on Monday, it was somehow reassuring to know that Atlantic Canadian technology had made it into such a hallowed spot in the tech universe. But it was also a reminder that East Coast startups don’t do enough to capitalize on the resources, talent and customer base offered by the massive Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo tech corridor.

“The reality is that most, if not all, their customers are based in the Toronto area,” Damien Steel, a director with OMERS Ventures, said in a later interview in Toronto. “So companies in the Atlantic region should naturally be spending a good deal of their time here. You need to be close to your customers because that helps you understand them better.”

In a sense, the Toronto-KW corridor has the Canadian equivalent of New York and Silicon Valley blended into one location, joined by Highway 401. The scale is smaller than the U.S. centres, but it has the country’s leading tech entrepreneurs AND its corporate headquarters. It’s the perfect spot in this country for business development, even for companies based on the East Coast.

What’s more, it’s home to Canadian tech meccas like Communitech, the Toronto-based accelerator OneEleven and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, or DMZ. These are the type of places that get any geek’s blood racing.

The Communitech hub is the centre of the startup space in Kitchener-Waterloo, one of the world’s great tech startup clusters. It’s housed in a former tannery in the centre of Kitchener, a yellow brick behemoth than is an emblem of new digital businesses growing out of the ruins of fading industries. Within its walls are the Communitech accelerator, the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator, and the Canadian Digital Media Network. It’s the centre of a tech cluster that now comprises more than 1,000 companies.

One hundred kilometres to the east, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone is completely different but no less enthralling. The DMZ is perched in the upper storeys of a commercial building (including movie theatres, a Good Life gym and huge food court) overlooking Dundas Square on Yonge Street. It’s the home to 70 student-led startups, each given its own space and all coming together to form a massive, simmering hive of digital innovation.

In some respects it’s easier for Atlantic Canadian companies to capitalize on the proximity of Boston and New York than Toronto. There are programs like the Canadian government’s Canadian Tech Accelerator program that supports our startups in the U.S. centres. But Toronto is too often overlooked when Atlantic Canadian startups plot their path to market or are searching for talent.

“Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo are full of these little hubs like Communitech and OneEleven,” said Steele. “They all attract like-minded people, and it helps to be around them.”

Take a Walk Inside Your Project

Phil Romkey can stand in the sun-lit top floor of Halifax’s new library without leaving his workplace at St. Mary’s University.

Well, he can virtually stand in the new library in the Data Cave he oversees at the ACEnet headquarters at the Halifax university.

Positioned in the darkened Data Cave, wearing sophisticated 3-D glasses, Romkey can tour all of the new building, get a keen perception of how it interacts with surrounding buildings and assess pedestrian traffic inside and outside the compelling new edifice.

The Data Cave is a three-dimensional immersive environment designed for visualizing complex simulations. It is essentially a series of 3-D projectors that throw images on to three walls and the floor, so viewers have the impression they are standing within a structure, whether it’s a new library, a space station or a molecule. The viewer can tour through the field or structure, and the image can change depending on where the viewer is standing in the room, which holds up to four people.

“This is now used mainly for science and research,” said Romkey, the Lead Systems Administrator at ACEnet, the group that oversees the Data Cave. “It’s easier for young people to visualize a molecule when they’re standing inside it.”

ACEnet and others want the potential of the Data Cave to spread beyond the single city block that is St. Mary’s University and are collaborating with NSCAD University and other groups on using its immersive powers to aid with design, education and research.

NSCAD has installed a similar 3-D immersive platform in its Harbour Campus a mile away, so ACEnet is able to simultaneously create virtual environments on two campuses. Though the NSCAD facility is less complex than that of SMU, it is a larger space, allowing the participation of up to 20 people.

Gregor Ash, Director at the Institute of Applied Creativity at NSCAD, can even see a day when participants could do a roadshow with the facility using 3-D projectors or other technology.

The educational benefits of such collaboration are obvious, but Romkey and Ash stressed that there are opportunities for startups to work with the universities on perfecting their designs and prototypes using the Data Cave technology.

They are already in discussions with a few startups. The Data Cave allows developers of a physical product an intricate examination of the prototype because they can walk around inside it and inspect it.

“We absolutely see the commercialization potential,” said Ash. “To be able to experience your content in full life-size scale, to be able to manipulate and move through and around data and objects, it helps immeasurably.”

This sort of immersive technology can assist with the development of products, and also help key partners – whether they are potential investors, customers or collaborators – to understand the intricacies of the project.

Said Ash:  “It’s all about creating an ecosystem for experimentation and prototyping by having the tools available that we didn’t have before.”


This article first appeared in the autumn Entrevestor Intelligence report. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The St. Mary’s University Masters of Technology, Entrepeneurship and Innovation program is a sponsor of Entrevestor. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Using Brain Scans To Treat Addiction

When he pitches Help Method Inc., James Drage opens by contrasting the derision showered on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over his addiction problems with the outpouring of compassion that resulted from the news he has cancer.

In fact, said Drage, addicts have as little control over their addiction as cancer patients have over their disease. And Lawrencetown, N.S.-based Help Method is working to personalize treatment of the disease.

“Addiction is a disease of the brain and only recently has technology allowed us to treat the gaps in the connectivity of the brain,” Drage said at the BioInnovation Challenge last week.

Help Method is being spun out of Ledgehill Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centre, in which Drage is a partner and director.  The startup uses brain scans to personalize addiction treatment – a process it calls targeted addiction treatment. In a healthy brain, the mental functions between the different regions of the brain are all inter-connected, and a brain scan can pick out the links. However, scans also reveal gaps in addicts’ brain connectivity.

Help Method aims to understand the mental processes of addicts so it can customize treatment for each addict.

“Understanding the connections in the brain is the key to understanding someone’s addiction,” said Drage, who is also the principal of Halifax-based Atlantic Venture Capital and has been involved in other startups. “Two different types of alcoholics need two different types of treatment.”

Situated in the Annapolis Valley, Ledgehill is a treatment centre for addicts that aims to customize treatment for each patient, taking into consideration his or her personal situation and addiction.  The facility customarily offers 45-day programs, though its treatments run from 30 to 90 days.

Seeking better ways of treating addiction, the Ledgehill team was introduced to the idea of doing brain scans of patients before and after their treatment. They could be given a printed copy to help them understand their affliction. They could hang it on the wall for inspiration. But as the team began to understand more about scans and the technology that has developed just in the last two years, they realized these scans could help with treatment in profound ways.

Ledgehill began to work with a few partners, including the Halifax medical imaging group Biotic and Halifax-based Brain Repair Centre. What they have learned so far is there are different brain patterns for different types of addiction. They believe there are at least five types of alcoholics and four types of gamblers. By understanding someone’s brain patterns, Help Method aims to design specific treatment programs to suit the individual.

This startup is tackling a huge issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of the deaths of people aged 20 to 64 are related to addiction. About 2.5 million people in North America are treated for addiction each year, and addiction costs society about $500 billion a year in North America alone.

Help Method plans to conduct about 1,000 scans of addicts’ brains next year, mainly for research purposes. It then plans to work on 10,000 scans in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017.

It plans to link up with as many of the 4,000 addiction treatment centres in North America as possible. These centres will then have their patients undergo brain scans, which will be transmitted electronically to Help Method. The Nova Scotia company will respond with an analysis and a program customized for each patient.

“In three to five years,” said Drage, “we hope this will be the standard of care in addiction treatment.”


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





Press Release: GE Venture To Share IP

The Nova Scotia government and GE Venture have issued the following press release:

GE to Share Intellectual Property with Nova Scotia Innovative Small Businesses

Imagine having access to the intellectual property of one of the world’s largest, most innovative and most admired companies.

What would your company do with that technical know-how to improve your products and services, grow your company, or change the world?

The Government of Nova Scotia and GE Ventures Licensing want to know.

We are collaborating to connect Nova Scotia entrepreneurs to GE-developed IP as well as the support needed to commercialize the technology.

Join us on Thursday, November 6, 2014, at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre (1344 Summer Street, Halifax), to learn about this pilot program.

The day will begin with an overview of GE Ventures Licensing and the kinds of technologies that will be made available. The presentation will be followed by one-on-one 20-minute breakout sessions in the afternoon, where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can share their ideas on how GE's IP can be applied and commercialized.

Companies interested in meeting one-on-one with representatives from GE Ventures Licensing on November 6 must pre-register by email at JOHNSOMP@gov.ns.ca by Wednesday, October 29. There will be a limited number of time slots available.

Company Criteria

For this initiative*, GE is seeking passionate partners that:

•             are Nova Scotia-based SMEs (note this can include start-ups and sole entrepreneurs);

•             are innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive;

•             are experts in their market;

•             have strong teams;

•             are able to commercialize technology; and

•             have solid ideas on how GE’s IP can improve an existing product offering, solve a customer pain point or expand a business.

* Please note that this is not the right forum to try to sell your products to GE, request investment from GE, apply to become a GE employee, or complain about how your GE clothes dryer eats socks.

What kind of IP are we talking about?

GE's interests and its intellectual property portfolio are extremely diverse. The company is always opportunistic, but for this initiative, GE is especially interested in commercialization prospects the following broad areas: software technology (e.g., cloud storage, data analytics), healthcare technology (e.g., diagnostic imaging and pathology, surgical navigation technology, electrical spectroscopy), green technology (e.g., hybrid and electrical vehicle power electronics, emissions reduction technology), and industrial technology (e.g., radio frequency sensors, cooling technology).

ERDT:  http://novascotia.ca/econ/ge/

Innovacorp:  https://innovacorp.ca/GE-Nova-Scotia

NSBI:  http://www.novascotiabusiness.com/en/home/events/eventscalendar/eventdetails.aspx?event=784


Ying Tam: From IT to Med Devices

Concussion is a global health problem. For Ying Tam, CEO of Halifax-based Mindful Scientific, this means an opportunity to be part of a solution that positively impacts millions of lives.

Tam is rejoicing in achieving a milestone with St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, where his company’s concussion detector has been used to test athletes on several of the university’s varsity sports teams.

Mindful Scientific is developing the Halifax Consciousness Scanner, or HCS, which is a portable device that can be slipped onto an injured person’s head. The HCS then analyzes the individual’s brain waves. 

The product currently works with a laptop or tablet but future plans include using a mobile device instead. When the HCS is market ready, it will show whether the injured person has suffered brain trauma, such as a concussion.

“The HCS is still a prototype, but it’s a big milestone when you can deploy a piece of technology, train others to use it and leave it in their hands,” Tam said.

He said that concussion is a $50 billion healthcare problem in North America that impacts between 4 million and 7 million North Americans every year.

Many of the current methods for detecting concussion involve asking questions of the injured person, such as ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ Indirect measures, such as impact sensors on helmets, are also used.   

“We’re different because we have built a portable device that can quickly and objectively assess actual brain function. It doesn’t require patient compliance, or patient self-reporting,” said Tam.

He said the company is actively looking for investment and is keen to get the HCS to market. 

The need to raise funds means that Tam is often travelling, making frequent trips to cities such as Boston and Toronto, although Halifax is an important hub for neuroscience.    

The recent collaboration with the university is just the latest good news for Mindful Scientific, which was previously named one of six North American finalists in the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, and was winner for life sciences in Get in the Ring, a global entrepreneur competition.  

For Tam, spearheading a life sciences company is relatively new as he became CEO of Mindful Scientific less than three years ago after 20 years as a business executive and tech entrepreneur. Start-ups he co-founded include e-health company i-HRx (acquired by Healthconnex) and abridean (acquired by nCipher plc).

Tam has degrees in cognitive psychology and computer science and feels at home in the life sciences.

“I’m always on my soap box about healthcare so Mindful Scientific is meaningful to me,” said the fitness lover who has a black belt (third degree) in karate.

He’s still adapting to the differences between the tech and life sciences fields. An obvious difference is the need for clinical trials of healthcare products such as the HCS.

“Clinical trials take a lot of time and money,” he said. “They potentially make a product easier to sell as it has already been validated, but the process could be streamlined and the overhead costs reduced.”

He said that in the technical field, there is significant salary creep, while in the life sciences, it’s difficult to find people with the right skills.

“People that work in science and neurophysiology want roles in academia, not industry,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, that’s hard to understand.” 

Toronto-born Tam credits his parents, who immigrated to Canada from China, with helping him succeed.

“My parents had a big family and a small house, and we lived below the poverty line. But they transferred the typical immigrant philosophy to their five kids. They instilled in us a strong work ethic and an understanding of the value of education.”

Tam, who moved to Halifax in 1999, pays it forward by acting as mentor and advisor to local entrepreneurs, working with Entrepreneurs’ Forum and with students in the Starting Lean course, held at Dalhousie.


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


Press Release: Mashup Weekend

Mashup Lab, an organization devoted to building startups in Atlantic Canadian rural communities, has issued the following press release:

Bring business ideas to life at Mashup WeekendSouthwest Nova Scotia

October 23, 2014 – This fall is the right time to take that business idea you’ve been chewing on and put it into action. How? By attending Mashup Weekend, Southwest Nova’s biggest ever business creation weekend. From November 21st to 23rd at three locations in Bridgewater, Kentville and Yarmouth, aspiring entrepreneurs will come together for 54 hours of breakneck business building.

Here’s how Mashup Weekend works: Share your new business idea. Choose the best ideas and build teams from the talent in the room. Work together to make your business dreams a reality. Finally, present the new business to a panel of entrepreneurs for free expert advice! You might even win a prize.

Andrew Button is the CEO and founder of Mashup Lab, the organization behind Mashup Weekend. “If it sounds intense, that’s because it is,” he says. “But it’s also a lot of fun. Where else will you find the time, resources, space and most important -amazing people – to learn about entrepreneurship and maybe even start a business?  This is life-changing stuff!”

Wondering if Mashup Weekend is for you? If you have a business idea you’d like to try out and you’re looking for a friendly and enthusiastic bunch of people to help  you get there, the answer is yes. You don’t need business experience. All you need is energy and a willingness to share your talents. Thanks to generous sponsorship, registration is only $60 and includes all meals and snacks.

Everybody’s an expert in something. Put your strengths to work for yourself, your team and your community. Register for Mashup Weekend today at mashuplab.ca.

Mashup Lab is a series of events and mentorship programs that activate and amplify startup communities in rural Atlantic Canada. We identify entrepreneurial talent and help bring business ideas to life.

Contact: Lorelei Phillips - opportunitiesliaison@gmail.com - 902.221.6364

Share your idea. Build a team. Bring a business to life. All in just one weekend.

SimpTek Progresses After Pivot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Dunbar Calls for Disruptive Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NB-Biomatrix wins BioPort’s BIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures.

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



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


Press Release HotSpot and MADD

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BIC Finals: Athletigen, Fenol, Biomatrix

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

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

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

The finalists are:

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

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

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


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


Health QR Eyes Key Healthcare Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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



Press Release: EnginuityMED and ACOA

Halifax IV Innovator Poised for Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Press Release: NBIF’s Breakthru Pot

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About NBIF:

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


BioPort, Collide Take Place This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full agenda is available here



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


Press Release: Eastlink, CEED

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

Eastlink, Ceed Form Partnership to Support Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Acadia’s Aida Eyes Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Nicolle Brings Lessons from Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Release: Engage Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets for the event are available here

Endurance Buys Seaforth Assets

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

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

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

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

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

It’s an improvement from the previous 12 months.

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

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

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

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

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


Dal, Next 36 Form Partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PEI BioAlliance Launches Emergence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Genome Canada Funds 2 Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Press Release: ABK Advisers

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

ABK Biomedical Attracts World Leaders to Clinical Advisory Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The #startupeast Reality TV Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NB Gives $90K Grant to HotSpot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Press Release: Honibe Partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Gifrer

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

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


About Island Abbey Foods

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

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


LiveLenz Lands Funding, New CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Holt: Linking Startups & Corporates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holt said the interaction works both ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dodoname Aids Consumer Privacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Digital Bridge Scholarship Launched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agile Sensor Targets Drone Upgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Crosbie Wins EY Entrepreneur Award

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

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

EY celebrates gravity-defying entrepreneurs at annual awards gala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business-to-Business Products and Services

Paul Antle

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

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

Business-to-Consumer Products and Services

Michael Whittaker

Trucorp Investments | Moncton, New Brunswick


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

Emerging Entrepreneur

David Alston, Jody Glidden, Stewart Walchli

Introhive | Fredericton, New Brunswick


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

Hospitality and Tourism

Ben Cowan-Dewar

Cabot Links Venture Inc. | Inverness, Nova Scotia


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

Information Technology 

Cindy Roma, Sydney Ryan

Telelink | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador


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


Terry Malley

Malley Industries Inc. | Dieppe, New Brunswick


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

Media and Entertainment 

John Wesley Chisholm

Arcadia Entertainment Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia


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

Real estate and Construction

Robert Crosbie

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


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

What's next?

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

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year

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

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