Kognitiv Spark in Plug and Play

Having booked sales of more than $1 million in less that a year, Fredericton-based virtual reality company Kognitiv Spark has now entered the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Kognitiv Spark offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training or instructing remote workers using complex equipment. The company released its RemoteSpark product last August, and in just eight months the team has made sales in such markets as: aerospace and defence; manufacturing; engineering and construction; and oil and gas.

Its new updated product is expected to be out in a couple of weeks, and CEO Yan Simard said the sales process is fairly smooth because clients need a device that can instruct workers in remote locations.

“The market is already looking for a solution that offers what we do,” Simard said in an interview from Silicon Valley, where he is attending Plug and Play. “We don’t really have too much trouble explaining the product to people.”

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark lets the trainee or remote worker use an augmented reality headset as a training aid or instructional guide.

Endiku: A SaaS Platform for Inclusion

For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. He can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part he is talking about.

In selling the product, Kognitiv Spark has been working in partnership with Microsoft, whose HoloLens holographic visualization headset is the hardware. With the sales effort accelerating, the company is growing. It recently hired two more people, bringing its total staff to 11. Simard expects the staffing numbers to double in the next 12 months.

Kognitiv Spark recently closed a round of funding from angel investors and is hoping to raise a larger round in the near future. In the year ending March 2017 (the most recent data available), the company received $200,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The company’s time in the Plug and Play accelerator is helping its sales and funding efforts as Simard is getting to hobnob with potential funders and customers he wouldn’t normally meet. There are 156 companies in the current three-month Plug and Play cohort, which focuses on business development, and the organizers say they accepted only two per cent of the companies that applied.

Of course, Simard is meeting California-based companies, institutions and angels, but Plug and Play is big enough that it also attracts guests from places like Asia and Europe, some of whom could aid the company.

“I’m networking with prospective customers and investors who go through the place all the time,” said Simard. “It’s a non-stop show.”

IP Workshop by Emergence, BioNova

Charlottetown's bioscience incubator Emergence and Halifax’s BioNova have partnered to host an intellectual property workshop in Halifax for bio-sector innovators and entrepreneurs.

The seminar, scheduled for May 8, is presented by Canadian IP law firm Bereskin & Parr LLP Intellectual Property Law and will discuss different types of IP rights, including trademarks, copyright, trade secrets and patents.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A session and the opportunity to chat with the presenters.

"In today’s increasingly hyper-competitive and global knowledge-based economy, having an IP strategy is critical to protect a venture's value proposition, help define a company's key points of differentiation, and offer protection to a startup's competitive advantage," said Emergence Director Martin Yuill.

The talk starts at 9 a.m. at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax. You can register for the event here.  

Adaptiiv, CIVCO Ink Distribution Deal

The executive team of Halifax-based Adaptiiv, fresh with a recent round of financing, is attending an international radiotherapy conference in Barcelona this week to announce a new distribution partnership.

Formerly known as 3DBolus, Adaptiiv is a company that has been gaining notice in Halifax biotech circles for a couple of years, even though it just released its first public statement this week. The company has developed software that works with 3D printers to produce a personalized bolus — a plastic fitting used in radiation therapy.

Adaptiiv has launched three different products, booked sales in six countries and raised almost $3 million in equity funding. Last week Adaptiiv announced it had signed a distribution agreement with Iowa-based CIVCO Radiotherapy, which will give it sales representatives in all main districts of North America.

“This is a special company,” CEO Peter Hickey said in an interview Tuesday before jetting off to the Estro Conference in Spain. “When I was first approached by the team I initially thought, ‘This isn’t for me,’ because I was in IT. But the team, especially (board member) Bruce Ross, kept driving home the point that this is a software play. It was one of those cases where I fell in love with the company.”

Hickey is best known in the community as a serial entrepreneur in the IT space, most recently for being the CEO of Oris4, which shut down two years ago. In Adaptiiv, he’s teamed up with James Robar, chief of medical physics at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and director of medical physics graduate programs at Dalhousie University, and serial tech entrepreneur Alex Dunphy.

What Adaptiiv does is revolutionize the use of a bolus in radiation therapy. A bolus is a piece of plastic placed over the cancerous area, assuming the tumours are close to or in the skin. The radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour.

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There can be no air pockets between the bolus and the skin, which complicates matters given that every body is unique. Hospitals using the Adaptiiv product buy a system that includes 3D printers with special filaments, so unique boluses customized to each patient can be printed within seconds. They can be reused as the patient receives repeated radiation dosages. Or if the patient’s body shape changes over the course of multiple treatments, the medical staff can print off another bolus quickly.

The company has received its CE Mark certification, meaning it can sell into several countries including members of the European Union. It already has clients in the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Australia and Canada. It has applied for its 510k approval in the U.S. and Hickey said it hopes to receive approval “soon.”

Adaptiiv recently closed a round of funding which included investment from Alexander Capital in New York, an investment boutique that makes direct investments and rounds up angel investors to back companies. Hickey said Adaptiiv has now raised almost $3 million and is planning a larger raise once it receives its 510k approval.

Adaptiiv has three products in the market, including one that helps to prevent healthy organs from being damaged during radiation therapy. With nine employees (soon to be 12), the company continues to develop new products.

“We have a pipeline with some really great innovation,” said Hickey. “That’s what we are. We’re a Nova Scotian-based innovation company that’s producing solutions to problems that people haven’t solved yet.”

GIT Mulls New Graphene Products

Marciel Gaier, left,  and Mo Algermozi are testing new markets with their pilot program

Marciel Gaier, left, and Mo Algermozi are testing new markets with their pilot program

Graphite Innovation and Technologies has launched a pilot program to beta-test its innovative graphene coating with the aim of extending its reach into different marine-related products.

The Halifax company known as GIT has developed a marine coating out of graphene, a carbon-based material that is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. Co-Founders Mo Algermozi and Marciel Gaier had been planning to use the coating on the hulls of boats and ships, but during a recent trip to San Diego realized it could have other applications.

“We realized that this paint doesn’t just go on ships and boats,” said Algermozi during an interview. “It goes on everything, We are now targeting any marine application where corrosion and marine growth is an issue.”

The duo conducted extensive market research and validation while on the Pacific coast and discovered that their coating, called GrapheneCoat, has multiple market applications.

“It also works for buoys, unmanned vessels or fishing traps,” said Gaier.

GrapheneCoat undercoats ships, buoys or unmanned marine exploration vessels with a hard coating that prevents corrosion and buildup and in turn, extends the life and efficiency of what it’s coating. The coating is also environmentally friendly since it doesn’t leach into the water, and reduces CO2 emissions by easing the drag of long-haul ships.   

The specifics of GIT’s revolutionary concoction are now patented. Protecting the IP of GrapheneCoat is an important business move for Gaier and Algermozi.

“That was one of the biggest milestones we needed to reach,” said Algermozi. “We have to be very selective with who we pilot with because a lot of people contact us as clients and then they want to know more about the coating itself.”

Since launching the pilot program, the duo say they are receiving a steady stream of emails and have already lined up several clients for the first month of the beta-test.  Algermozi and Gaier have also added to their team, growing their staff by about 60 percent.

GIT has received no new funding since racking up wins in programs offered by Innovacorp and COVE but it has had assistance from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. As the pilot program continues, the company will start a pre-seed round of funding, next month.

“We already have a private investor interested; they are just waiting for us to open the pre-seed round,” said Algermozi.

The company is also currently enrolled in the Creative Destruction Lab at Dalhousie University, where the company is currently based. The team has plans to move outside of Dalhousie for the end of the summer, but still plans to keep an office at the university.

Currently, GIT is able to produce around a 55-gallon barrel of GrapheneCoat per week but the founders hope to produce seven to eight barrels per week by the end of this year.

Through a partnership with The Boat Shop in St. Margaret’s Bay, GIT is conducting its first live test on an actual boat and has recently coated its second test vessel. Though GIT started with long-haul ships in mind, the team has pivoted slightly to test the waters in other industries.

“We’re exploring what other markets and industries we can get into.”

Endiku: A SaaS Platform for Inclusion

Mike Wright

Mike Wright

In a time when all organizations face pressure to be more inclusive, Endiku has developed software that helps companies create a culture in which people of all backgrounds can thrive.

Based in Toronto and New Brunswick, the company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps organizations and their staff or members develop an inclusive culture. That can mean changing personal behaviour to ensure all team members feel comfortable and poised to succeed. It can also mean adjusting a company’s hiring process to welcome people who will work well with a diverse workforce and show the flexibility needed to change culture.

The methodology used in the platform is based on the work of Co-Founder Leeno Karumanchery, who’s worked for more than 25 years as a consultant in the diversity and inclusion space. Endiku – named for a character in Mesopotamian mythology who rid the demigod Gilgamesh of his arrogance – has adapted Karumanchery’s theories into a digital format. It means that as individuals use the platform, they develop insights into their own behaviour. When those individuals all make up a company or organization, it can lead to cultural change.

Sounds good, says the wary startup enthusiast, but can it make money? Sure can. Since it began selling the platform in March 2017, Endiku has taken on about a dozen companies or organizations as paying customers. And with that traction, the company is having discussions about raising its first round of equity financing.

“Our client base spans verticals and size because diversity right now is a subject that is very important to a lot of people,” said CEO Mike Wright in an interview last week. “We have about a dozen clients and they range from non-profits to healthcare to finance to software.”

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The kernel of the methodology is found in a passage from Karumanchery’s writing: “We are the only ones who judge ourselves based on our intent – everyone else judges us based on our impact.”

In other words, in a diverse workforce we have to be aware of the impact of our behaviour regardless of what we intend by it. By using the platform, people come to understand the impact of what they do.

When all– or at least most – members of an organization understand their impact, a positive culture can evolve, which allows the company to attract and retain better workers and improve productivity, said Wright.

Endiku now comprises five employees divided between Toronto and New Brunswick so it can develop technology on the East Coast and be close to customers in a large centre.

Wright himself has made a career out of being a Toronto-based business development executive for New Brunswick-based companies. That includes almost five years as Senior Vice-President of Operations with Bravada, the Rothesay, NB-based company that provided integration software for the insurance industry. It was purchased by Towers Watson for $15 million in 2015.

Wright and his four co-founders are experienced business people, but he is quick to credit the regional ecosystem – groups like Propel ICT and the Wallace McCain Institute – with helping them to launch a tech product.

“We’re a mature founder group,” said Wright. “We’ve all held executive-level positions, but having the opportunity to go through Propel showed us things that we haven’t seen in our other jobs.”

Ordermotive Aids Car Dealer Leads

Ryan Hartigan

Ryan Hartigan

Careful and particular are some of the words that can describe Ryan Hartigan’s approach to business.

The 27-year-old Dartmouth native founded his company Ordermotive, an automotive marketing company, while working as a market consultant at a local dealership. It was there that he saw flaws in the automotive industry, particularly with how dealerships generate customer leads.

In the automotive industry, car dealerships often generate clients and sales through third-party lead generators. This process, according to Hartigan, does not have the customer's best financial interest at heart, so four months ago Hartigan started offering market training for car dealerships.

“I wanted to change the process of car sales by basically cutting out the lead providers, who are wreaking havoc on this space,” said Hartigan during an interview. “They tell the consumer that they can avoid the dealership, but customer information is just randomly sold. I think they’re destroying the economy and creating another housing bubble in the automotive space.”

He says because so much of the leads are automated and marketing information is sold to the highest bidder, customers don't receive best deal, and dealerships sign on to riskier payback agreements.

“A finance manager can work the system and find approval for someone who should not be approved.”

Nanuk Markets VR to Condo Developers

Hartigan, whose family is also in the automotive industry, says this can be avoided by bringing marketing back in-house and using the digital marketing space. With Ordermotive, Hartigan gives the dealerships back the ability to generate leads and eliminates the need for third party providers.

Like many in the startup community, this is not Hartigan’s first business venture. His past venture, BackDrop, was a software platform for DJs. After that company sank, Hartigan began doing business in a way that goes against some of the conventions in the startup community.

He sought no external funding and is generating profit from his service, all on his own. Of course, Hartigan has plans to grow his team but for now, Ordermotive is a one-man show.

“I’m in a good position to scale,” said Hartigan. “I’ve been very strategic about this.”

Hartigan’s journey through the startup world has left him critical of some aspects of the community. He says the mentality around pitching can create business ideas that often lead nowhere.

“There’s something wrong with pitching culture,” said Hartigan. “A lot of companies build a product before they can actually sell it.”

Since offering Ordermotive’s marketing service to dealerships across Canada, Hartigan says he has taken on around two clients a month.

Hartigan plans to hire a developer for a software component of the company but for now, he is focused on ensuring the satisfaction of his clients and maintaining sales. Currently, Ordermotive serves dealerships in Halifax, Calgary and Toronto.

“The dealer partners I have right now are having great results. One client generated 100 leads last month because they took Facebook leads in-house.”

Green Power Labs Receives Funding

Bedford-based Green Power Labs Inc. said this week it has attracted external investment for the first time and will use the funding to accelerate sales of its new Predictive Building Control product.

The company, which uses data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, issued a press release saying it has received funding from Ron Omessi, though it did not reveal the amount of the investment. Omessi, who has held business development positions with a number of engineering and technological companies, has now joined Green Power Labs as Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development.

“We are delighted to welcome Ron Omessi as our first external investor,” said Green Power Labs President and CEO Alexandre Pavlovski in the statement. “His extensive global background in the energy space will be a valuable asset in defining and implementing our go-to-market strategy.  . . . His 20 years of hands-on experience with leading international companies in the renewable energy management and engineering sectors specifically in complex international operations and business development perfectly fills a gap in our team.” 

Founded in 2004, Green Power Labs has developed an international clientele for its predictive analytics product SolarSatData for Utilities, which helps power suppliers determine future patterns of energy supply based on expected changes in heat from the sun. In 2013, the company received a $2.4 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund to develop technology that can optimize energy consumption in commercial buildings.

Last year, the company launched its artificial intelligence platform Predictive Building Control, or PBC. Green Power Labs says this technology is capable of saving up to 40 percent on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning costs in large commercial buildings and that it targets a market consuming 36 percent of the world's energy.

The company also said it has hired Brent Strader, a former GE Energy Services leader responsible for its global substation automation product line, as Chief Operating Officer. He will also support the planned aggressive strategy to market and deliver the PBC product, said the company.

“Brent’s contribution is to develop and implement processes to deliver PBC to a market with 130 trillion square feet of commercial office space,” said Pavlovski. “His world-class experience in project execution and product line management at GE gives us real bench strength in achieving our objectives.”

Pavlovski also said the company will follow up on the initial investment with a subsequent round of funding. He said: “A second round of investment now in progress will accelerate our penetration in this market and allow us to become a leader in predictive energy management.”

Nanuk Markets VR to Condo Builders

The Nanuk team: CTO Diogo Farinho, left, CEO Jake Moore and COO Mike Cyr.

The Nanuk team: CTO Diogo Farinho, left, CEO Jake Moore and COO Mike Cyr.

With condo booms booming in major cities around the world, three young Halifax entrepreneurs have created a company that uses virtual reality to show prospective condo buyers when their yet-to-be-built units will look like.

The company is Nanuk Technologies and its VR system gives condo developers a cutting-edge marketing tool. Prospective buyers coming into a sales office or show suite can strap on a headset and view a condo even before it’s built.

The trio of co-founders have developed the technology and have been piloting it with a few Halifax real estate developers. They anticipate a full launch within about four months.

“We started with the most advanced virtual reality solution on the market really,” said CEO Jake Moore in an interview. “We’ve been heavily involved with virtual reality and at the moment, the solution we offer is the most cutting edge on the market.”

The co-founders of the company are gamers and current university students or recent graduates. Moore is studying computer science administration at Dalhousie University. CTO Diogo Farinho is studying computer science at St. Mary’s University. And COO Mike Cyr graduated last year with a business degree from SMU. (Cyr also launched the Nova Scotia Startup Community Facebook group.)

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As gamers, they understood the possibilities of virtual reality and have set out to build a company that aims to be the global leader in using the technology for marketing in the real estate space.

The way it works is a developer invests about $3500 in a virtual reality headset, and then contracts Nanuk to provide the VR programing. The condo developer has to supply floor plans and renderings to Nanuk, and the company can have a virtual reality presentation of a condo unit within a week.

A view can be a major selling point for a condominium, and Nanuk can even work the view into the VR presentation. The team can take a drone to a construction site, send the unmanned craft up to the position of the condo and take photos of the landscape. With these images, the viewers can get the virtual sensation of stepping on to the condo’s balcony and enjoying the view.

“One of the reasons we started doing this is we used to be virtual game developers and we saw this as the next step for this technology,” said Moore. “We love virtual reality and we wanted to see the true potential of it. We wanted to see more ways for the using it . . . rather than just playing games.”

The system helps condo developers make early sales, and that can help in getting financing to build their project. It also affords the developer a cool device to impress a prospective buyer – which never hurts in a marketing program.

The Nanuk co-founders so far have not taken on board any investment, though they’re interested in talking to real estate developers about investing. The plan for the coming year is to do a full launch in the burgeoning Halifax then move on to a larger market.

“Toronto is on the list of places to go,” said Moore. “Once the market here in Halifax has been properly displayed and opens up, then Toronto would be an attractive market for us.”

Fundica Seeks East Coast Entries

The Fundica Roadshow is looking for Atlantic Canadian applicants for its $500,000 pitching event, even though it will not make a stop in the region this year.

The organizers this year have announced pitching events only in Toronto, Montreal and Toronto, and are offering to cover the travel costs of three companies not based in those cities. Atlantic Canadian companies can apply to receive one of the travel packages to Montreal, though they will be competing against companies from other cities.

You can find applications here. The deadline for applications for the Montreal pitching session is Friday, April 20.

The Fundica Roadshow is an annual competition open to startups from across the country, with a cash prize being given to the winner from all the roadshows. The prize this year is a maximum of $500,000 in cash.

Last year, the Fundica Roadshow brought together over 150 startups, 2000 attendees, 132 funders, and 125 partners, making it the largest pitch competition across Canada. The 2017 competition included a stop in Halifax, at which the regional winner was Halifax-based Grey Lit Matters.

This year, the pitching competitions will be head in Montreal on May 1, Vancouver on May 31 and Toronto on June 28. As many as 20 entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch in each city. The top pitchers in each city will win prizes and an invitation to the Finale in Montreal on July 12. The winner of the Finale will have a chance for investment of up to $500,000 from Panache Ventures.

RovaultAI Wins China Program Event

Ehsan Lavasani

Ehsan Lavasani

RovaultAI, the Halifax company developing technology to reduce waste in shellfish processing, was the big winner Thursday night at the China Program pitching session organized by Launch Dal.

The program is designed to improve the local ecosystem by training several companies, awarding prizes to the best of them, and increasing links with the huge market in China. Eight companies were selected to pitch at an event at Dalhousie University last week.

RovaultAI, which has designed a marine camera solution that could potentially save seafood plants $2 million per year, took the first prize. It includes $2500 in cash and $2000 in in-kind consulting services.

The company’s algorithm-based visual recognition software identifies species of shellfish based on size, growth and health and helps to find meat that would otherwise be discarded. Rovault plans to integrate its technology into shrimp processing plants to help increase the yield in an industry where usable meat is often wasted.

Co-Founder and CEO Ehsan Lavasani last year raised $25,000 in non-dilutive funding through Innovacorp’s Blue Solutions Startup Challenge and $10,000 through Dal’s LaunchPad competition. In November, the company also received a $25,000 equity investment from the Volta Cohort pitching competition.

The second-place prize in the China Program event went to Knit, which is developing a social network for seniors. It allows them to share their daily experiences with old friends, family, and other seniors through a highly interactive video journal feature.

Graphite Innovation & Technologies Inc. captured the third prize. The company has developed a revolutionary way to produce graphene and used it to develop a marine coating for vessels. Graphene is an unusual pattern of carbon atoms aligned in hexagonal hives to produce a light, durable material. It is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity.

Jobs: Jaza, DH, Eyesover, Cribcut

There’s a diverse mix of postings for our Jobs of the Week column today.

Jaza Energy, Dash Hudson and Cribcut have openings in Halifax and Eyesover Technologies is looking to hire in Fredericton.

Jaza hopes to hire a software engineer. This comapny supplies rural Africa with electricity with its integrated energy solutions by building solar hubs and providing locals with portable battery packs.

Cribcut has developed a software-enabled marketplace to help hair stylists to run independent hair businesses. It is looking for a head of operations.

Dash Hudson, a visual marketing company is hiring a Customer Success Representative. Known for its software product Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos.

Eyesover Technologies, a software development company devoted to real-time market and public opinion data, is hiring a sales executive for its Fredericton office. Its platform analyzes online discussion for its customers, allowing them to make decisions based on accurate customer opinion. 

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


Jaza Energy

Software Engineer

Jaza is building the future of infrastructure in Africa. We are on the lookout for well rounded software engineers to join our engineering team in Halifax. We need people that enjoy learning new technologies and tackling big challenges. We are a small and fast moving engineering team in Halifax that supports a much bigger (and rapidly growing) operation in Africa...


Design scalable data models and build well structured databases

Solve complex performance problems and architectural challenges

Evaluate new technologies to help evolve our technology stack

Help support and maintain our existing infrastructure*... 

Apply for the job here.


Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

You will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers.


Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.

Deliver training content to potential customers.

Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.

Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests…

Apply for the position here.



Head of Operations

As Head of Operations at Cribcut, you will be responsible for a geographical roll-out of the Cribcut marketplace, researching and implementing a customer wide insurance policy, overseeing and managing the companies legal and financial foundations…


With the CEO and CFO, the head of operations builds the corporate budget and financial forecasts to support our growth and fundraising goals, maintaining an intimate understanding of current and future cash flow needs.

Apply for the job here.


Eyesover Technologies

Sales Executive

We are looking for an individual with significant software sales and marketing experience to help us continue our growth. Our ideal candidate has a creative focus capable of generating new ideas and concepts that will elevate our presence in the market, and who possesses the following skills and attributes: well-organized; detail-oriented; a clear and persuasive writer... 


Responsible for sales activities including:

Development and implementation of marketing and sales action plans;

Analyze market trends and results, pricing strategies, and competition;

Apply for this job here.

McCain Invests in Bedford’s TruLeaf

Gregg Curwin: 'The best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.'

Gregg Curwin: 'The best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.'

McCain Foods has invested in TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, with the goal of helping the Bedford-based vertical farm company to accelerate its farm development and reach global markets.

The Florenceville, N.B.-based food giant issued a press release on Thursday announcing the investment, though it did not reveal the dollar amount. McCain was the only investor in the funding round.

The deal is significant for both the companies. For McCain, it is another step in its strategy of investing in startups that use leading technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics in the food industry. For TruLeaf, it brings in capital and a major corporate relationship as it is poised to enter the Toronto market this year with the opening of a major farm in Guelph, Ont.

“It’s a strategic move on many fronts,” said TruLeaf Founder and CEO Gregg Curwin in an interview. “We’re partnering with a major food company so it’s really about scaling intelligently, and their brand is truly global, which is very appealing.”

TruLeaf aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming — which combines hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater to allow year-round production of plants indoors. Vertical farming is nearly 30 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 95 per cent less water, and takes up less land.

The company sells greens in Atlantic Canada under the GoodLeaf brand and has been working with Loblaw Companies, the parent of Atlantic Superstores. It will open the production facility in Guelph in the autumn, which means it will sell into Toronto. What Curwin has been speaking about more frequently in recent years is using artificial intelligence and data analytics to improve growing metrics and the nutritional content of the produce.

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That use of smart technologies meshes well with recent moves by McCain. Under the stewardship of startup and entrepreneurship program lead, Nestor Gomez, the company has been assembling a stable of startups that use digital technologies to improve food production and distribution. McCain has already invested in Fredericton-based Resson, which gathers and analyzes data from outdoor farms, and Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, which uses data to predict consumer demand for food. McCain has also worked with Fredericton-based internet-of-things company, Eigen Innovations, and now can add an indoor farming operation to its portfolio.

“We have worked closely with many research institutions, technology partners and of course, our global network of growers,” said McCain president and CEO Max Koeunein in the statement. “We remain committed to this approach and as such are always looking to partner with innovative businesses like TruLeaf to continue to set new standards for environmental care and efficient crop production, through advancing agricultural technology.”

TruLeaf, which last raised capital in an $8.5-million financing round in December 2016, will not seek more financing in the near future, said Curwin. The company now has 40 employees, which will rise to as many as 65 in the autumn with the opening of the Guelph farm. And Curwin said the partnership with McCain will accelerate the build out of its farms.

“This is really a pivotal move for us and the best part is it’s such a great East Coast story.”

3 Researchers Split $165K in R3

And the winners are . . . Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, left, Clive Baldwin and Carole Goodine.

And the winners are . . . Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard, left, Clive Baldwin and Carole Goodine.

Three New Brunswick researchers have been awarded $50,000 each from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, as part of the 2018 R3 competition, which recognizes leading researchers in the province.

The winners, announced Thursday evening at a gala in the Fredericton Convention Centre, are:

Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard (Université de Moncton) 
Nursing Homes Without Walls: A Model for Aging in Place
With the majority of seniors wanting to age at home, we require an efficient model of service delivery to ensure they are getting the services they need. Dupuis-Blanchard’s research explores the notion of nursing home personnel providing services to older adults living at home.

 Clive Baldwin (St. Thomas University)
Enhancing Well-Being in Later Life through Innovations in Narrative Care
Narrative care is an approach to health and healing that uses people's life experience (i.e., their life stories or narratives) to address the many challenges facing older adults that can result in feelings of loneliness, meaninglessness, anxiety, depression, and despair.  Research in the field of "narrative gerontology" has shown that approaches to care that involve some form of life story work (e.g., life review, life-writing, reminiscence) have a significant and positive impact in terms of health outcomes with this population.

Carole Goodine (University of New Brunswick)
Polypharmacy App to Improve Health Outcomes in Older Adults
Goodine’s work is developing a Polypharmacy App that aims to solve the simultaneous use of multiple drugs - which has become a major issue in the aging population. The App will result in a more efficient and accurate medication safety review - which will save hundreds of clinician hours and decrease high risk medication use and adverse effects.

“All five of our finalists are doing important work here in New Brunswick,” said NBIF Director of Research Lindsay Bowman in a statement. “We were thrilled to be able to profile them and their projects. The funding awarded tonight is an investment that will improve the quality of life for all New Brunswickers as they age.”

The gala included a keynote speech by ageism expert Ashton Applewhite, who said ageism is the last accepted form of prejudice and this has to change. 

All five research finalists were profiled on social media, and each had the opportunity to showcase their research video at the gala event.

Goodine also received the CBC Viewers Choice Award, receiving the most likes on social media. She received $15,000 in research funding from NBIF.

The R3 gala was the conclusion of three days of talks, keynote speakers, workshops and other activities focused on Innovations in Aging.

Women Founders Split Poker Pot

The Genesis Centre on Thursday divvied up the proceeds of a poker extravaganza with the goal of helping six female entrepreneurs develop their companies.

The St. John’s-based startup incubator kicked off its Pitch and Pick event by dividing more than $40,000 between six female founders. The money was raised through a charity poker tournament titled the Big Raise All-In for Women hosted in January by Genesis, the YMCA and the Big Raise.

Roshell Industries was awarded $10,000 as its founder Donna Paddon was the big poker winner of the event. 

More than 100 female business leaders came together at the sold-out event to play poker in support of female technology entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador. All money raised throughout the evening was divided between these six female entrepreneurs:

  • Emily Bland, Sucseed – Sucseed makes hydroponic units designed to provide a low-cost, high-yield solution so people can grow their own leafy greens.
  • Ivana Drcec, Zero Worx – Zero Worx is a software development company that makes products to fit a range of business needs. Its Linxpot product is a cloud platform that connects customers’ business world and makes daily activities more accurate, efficient and faster.
  • Stefana Egli, Intelligent Materials and Monitoring Inc. – This company is a Memorial University spin-off company that provides a cleantech portable water sampling device for analysis and monitoring of particular compounds of interest in water.
  • Chrissy Rossiter, Peachy – Peachy has developed an online platform for home-care providers to simplify their job and optimize their time.
  • Kelly Strickland, HashtagTutors – This startup offers an administration platform designed for tutoring businesses. From matching students to managing sessions, HashtagTutors aims to simplify all administrative tasks.
  • And Donna Paddon, Roshell Industries --.Labrador-based Roshell is developing an individual outdoor transport system that combines skis and a gas-powered engine, The Skizee “Woodsrunner” provides access to harsh Arctic backcountry, which is in demand by individuals and organizations such as the Military.

Read Our Recent Profile of Peachy's Chrissy Rossiter

The cheque presentation took place at the Genesis Centre’s Pitch and Pick event, which is the culmination of eight weeks of intensive Genesis Centre Evolution workshops.

The Evolution program for early stage technology-based startups is designed to help entrepreneurs identify their markets and validate their ideas. The top eight teams from the program pitched Thursday afternoon to a full house of local stakeholders at the Bier Markt, and the audience picked the winners.

The three winners, whose prizes ranged between $200 and $500, were Fufilament, VitalMIST and BreatheSuite.

Feds Lend BioVectra $5M for NS Plant

The federal government has announced a loan of $5 million to Charlottetown pharmaceutical manufacturer BioVectra to help it expand operations, including upgrading a plant in Nova Scotia.

Treasury Board Secretary Scott Brison made the announcement Thursday in Windsor, where the facility is being renovated, creating 28 jobs in the near term. Once the plant is operational in 2020, the company expects to employ twice that number at the site.

The government made the loan through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Founded in 1970 by J. Regis Duffy, then Dean of Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, BioVectra manufactures ingredients for drugmakers around the world. The company was purchased in 2013 by Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif., for $100 million, and since then has been expanding rapidly.

“As an integral part and leader within the vibrant Atlantic Canadian BioScience cluster, we consider ourselves fortunate to operate in a supportive ecosystem where substantial emphasis is placed on talent, skills and innovation,” said BioVectra President Oliver Technow in the statement. “The contribution from ACOA’s Business Development Program will enable BioVectra to continue to thrive, create highly skilled jobs in Atlantic Canada, and help solidify Canadian leadership within the very competitive global markets we participate in.”

BioVectra will use the money to complete major renovations at its Windsor facility and to purchase new equipment, all of which will help it make and sell more pharmaceutical products, said the statement. The changes to the 50,000-square-foot facility will increase the company’s capacity by about 40 percent.

A pillar of the P.E.I. life sciences community, BioVectra has more than 300 employees, and will initially add another 28 jobs in Windsor. The company’s four facilities – three in Charlottetown and one in Windsor – total about 110,000 square feet.

The company has been growing strongly. In September, it opened a new 21,000-square-foot flagship warehouse and process development suites, and in December it signed a manufacturing agreement with Boston-based Keryx Biopharmaceuticals.

Oberland Finds Market for Fly Larvae

Obie the Gecko

Obie the Gecko

A young Halifax company that includes a NASA scientist and a gecko called Obie has announced that your supply of black soldier fly larvae is just a click away.

The company is a one-year-old enterprise called Oberland Agriscience, which has just launched an e-commerce site called obiesworms.com. It allows anyone to order live black soldier fly larvae, or BSFL, the things that grow in your green bins in the summertime.

It turns out that BSFL are a superb source of protein for such markets as pets, agriculture and aquaculture, and Oberland has launched a unit called Obie’s Worms to sell the live larvae to the owners of pet reptiles. The company even has an official mascot, a gecko called Obie, which survives on the company’s produce.

Oberland was founded by Greg Wanger, a NASA scientist who lives in Halifax and commutes to work at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. His goal was to develop a business that took advantage of all the organic waste collected in Halifax.

“My goal for Oberland is to build a sustainable company to close the food loop here in Nova Scotia,” said Wanger in an email. “It’s exciting to see the opportunity to transform green cart waste into nutrient-rich protein products.”

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova's Huq

The Oberland team, which includes vice-president of commercialization, Barbara Campbell, has spent the last year developing a BSFL production site at the Ragged Lake waste management facility near Halifax.

This insect farm uses green cart waste as food for the larvae, which are a high-quality, nutrient-rich form of protein with several markets. People who have pet reptiles and amphibians feed them live BSFL. Dried BSFL are a nutritious food supplement for poultry. And ground and dried BSFL are an excellent protein ingredient in aquaculture feed.

The initial market is direct sales to pet owners through the obiesworms.com website. Campbell said e-commerce in worms is “a fast, convenient way to service the live feeder market, one that all the major insect live feeder farms in the U.S. use.” These larvae have a shelf life of two to three weeks, making them a convenient product for shipping.

Company officials say Oberland is rooted in Atlantic Canada and does not plan to establish processing facilities outside the region. However, its products, whether live grubs for insectivore pets or manufactured products for poultry or aquaculture feed, will all be marketed across Canada.

Oberland Agriscience has raised more than $500,000 in equity capital from private investors, and received additional funding from such sources as Efficiency Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Learnsphere CCM and others. The company has received Nova Scotia environment approvals as a waste receiver and is scaling up larvae production with the full life-cycle of flies, eggs and larvae on site.

Oberland now employs four full-time employees and will hire one more technician in the spring. It also plans to raise more capital later this year.

“Our pilot facility is just the first step,” said Wanger. “We are excited to develop partnerships with breweries, organic waste generators, aquaponics and aquaculture facilities that can benefit from Oberland’s technologies.”

Finalists Named for NB’s Kira Awards

The organizers of the 19th annual Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.

The awards committee said in a statement the winners will be named at a gala in Fredericton on May 3. Tickets are available here.

Here are the finalists:

Innovation Champion Award Finalists:


East Valley Ventures

Les productions Fusion Productions

Most Innovative Product or Service Finalists:

Beauceron Security

Blue Roof Distillers Ltd.

Stash Energy Inc.

Most Innovative Startup Finalists:

Chinova Bioworks

Knalysis Technologies


Premier’s Award for Innovation Finalists:


Family Medicine New Brunswick

Treasury Board, Government of New Brunswick

V4C Lands $4.4M for 505 Interns

The federal government on Wednesday announced $4.4 million in funding for Venture for Canada, which will allow 505 graduates to intern at innovative Atlantic Canadian companies.

The government issued a statement saying that it will provide funding for the organization that helps graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions land positions at startups and innovative companies. The funding is part of the government’s $73 million Student Work Placements Program, which aims to create more than 10,000 paid student work placements in STEM and business fields over the next four years.

Venture for Canada founder Scott Stirrett said the funding will finance 505 internships over three years. The companies will include startups and some small and medium-sized enterprises that develop innovative products.

"Through the Government of Canada's support, Venture for Canada will provide Atlantic Canadian post-secondary students with the work integrated learning opportunities needed to learn skills, gain work experience, share knowledge and build resilience, all the while contributing to the growth of innovative small and medium sized enterprises in the region," said the Halifax-born Stirrett in a statement.   

Since it began four years ago V4C, has been training some of the top grads from Canadian colleges and universities for positions at startups. Its fellows spend two years working at partner startups, where they gain the skills, network and experience necessary to launch their own firms. For the 2016 fellowship class, the organization received nearly 1,700 applications from across the country.

The government’s statement said the V4C funding is in addition to funding provided to Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that provides research internships with a goal of creating 10,000 work placements per year. With these combined programs, more than 60,000 post-secondary students will have paid work placements over the next five years.

Jobs Analysis Reveals R&D Problem

An analysis of the 299 first-quarter job postings for Atlantic Canadian tech developers shows early-stage companies – not larger corporations -- are using most of the cutting-edge technology in the region.

Our survey of three job boards in the region between December and mid-March 2018 found 299 technology jobs open in the region. Our research also revealed only 23 percent of the postings are for leading technologies. (These include technology using languages like Python, JSON or R and methods like RESTful, which are used in artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain.) The remainder of the postings were for such skillsets as project management, senior management and operational work within IT.

What we found interesting is that 64 percent of the companies advertising for leading technologies were in the startup or early-stage category. Given that these startups comprise a slim fragment of the region’s economy, this data suggests a fundamental weakness in the East Coast economy: a reluctance on the part of established companies to develop truly innovative technologies that could increase their growth. It is the startups that, for the most part, are looking for newer skills with emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and python or java languages.

 Types of Companies Using Leading Technology 

This is the first time we have conducted this research, and we hope this study will provide a baseline for further studies. The headline number for the study is about 300 openings in the first quarter, and we hope subsequent studies will establish whether demand for developers is growing in the region. As mentioned above, we found that almost three quarters these jobs are in traditional technology applications.


So what else are employers looking for? More than half of the openings are for senior developers, and more than 60 percent of the openings are in Nova Scotia. Here are a few charts that showcase job postings in both leading and traditional technology categories.




When we looked at the types of companies that are looking for developers, we found that only 21 percent were in the startup or early-stage categories. The remainder were jobs with larger technology services companies and a very few with provincial governments.


All of this might suggest that regionally, Atlantic Canadian companies are not innovating with newer technologies. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t innovating at all. There is, for example, a high demand for engineering skills from electrical to industrial, especially in the oceans sector.

About two-thirds of the openings are for private corporations, while more than one-fifth of the postings were by public organisations, such as non-profits and public companies.

This is an initial study that we intend to return to in the next few months to look at trends. What’s interesting is the skills the market is looking for and who’s looking for them. For the larger employers, they’re seeking what we might call legacy technology skills for enterprise clients. These would include network administration, cyber security and platforms such as Microsoft, SAP and Cisco.

We need more data, and over a longer period of time to start drawing full conclusions. For now, the data is suggesting we need to think about these questions in Atlantic Canada and understand better if companies are innovative with technologies. Demand for certain technology skills across various sectors is a good indicator of what industry sectors are more digitally advanced than others.


We analysed almost 300 jobs posted online in Atlantic Canada from December 2017 to March 24, 2018. These were all coded based on various criteria we determined, in a Google Spreadsheet, which is publicly accessible. We collected data through manual coding by visiting publicly available information on:

- CareerBeacon

- Workopolis

- Indeed

In addition, we reviewed job postings from the websites of members of Digital Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Association of Technology Industries, where member companies indicated current openings.

Information was coded in the Google Spreadsheet and refined in Excel with final graphs being designed in Numbers. The data is believed to be accurate at the time of analysis. Some job postings may have expired or been removed by the employer or operator of a website or online job posting board.

Dovico Lands NB, ACOA Funding

Moncton-based Dovico Software Inc., which makes time-management software, plans to hire as many as 13 people full-time with about $460,000 of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

The governments said this week they would provide funding for the company, which has been selling its software for more than 25 years and now has about 30 employees. Its flagship product Dovico Timesheet is sold worldwide to such companies as Xerox, HedgeServ and Ryan.

“When people invest in your dream, it is the best compliment you can get,” said director, president and CEO Yves Doucet in a statement. “It does come with a responsibility, but, after 25 years in business, it presents even better opportunities for providing world-class business services to all our customers.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is lending the company $332,250 through its Business Development Program.

Opportunities New Brunswick is providing up to $110,069 to support the new positions and fund market development activities.

The New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour is contributing $20,800 through the One-Job Pledge program.

Ayles’ Allergy App Wins UNB Contest

Holly Ayles won the ideas category at the RBC Student Pitch Competition at UNB. Photo by Cameron Fitch/Photo UNB.

Holly Ayles won the ideas category at the RBC Student Pitch Competition at UNB. Photo by Cameron Fitch/Photo UNB.

A University of New Brunswick student has been recognized for her smartphone app that allows people with food allergies to find safe places to eat.

Holly Ayles, a third-year UNB business administration student from Fredericton, captured first place in the ideas category of the 12th annual RBC Student Pitch Competition hosted by UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program.

She came up with the idea for her Have Food app after a frightening personal experience. Two years ago, at the age of 19, Ayles had an anaphylactic reaction from eating tree nuts during dinner in a restaurant. It was the first time she learned she had any allergies.

A keen traveller, it became hard for Ayles to find places to eat.

“It’s really difficult to find a safe place to eat when you aren’t familiar with the restaurants or their allergy policies,” she said.  “You end up calling or visiting dozens of restaurants just to find one place at which you can eat. It’s tiring.”   

Her solution is a universal app that would allow users to select their dietary restrictions and then be provided with safe restaurants in major cities and tourist destinations across Canada. 

Ayles first presented her idea in the fall at another pitch competition, placing third. She then refined the idea.

“So many people reached out to me to say that this would benefit them or someone they know –  it inspired me to keep moving forward with this idea,” she said.  

Potential Motors Converts Cars to Electric Power 

Ayles doesn’t have a concrete timeline for full development of the app but will be taking courses through UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program to further her knowledge of entrepreneurship and further refine her idea. 

At the RBC competition late last month, students competed in both the ideas and growth categories with cash prizes of $1000, $750 and $500 being given to first-, second-, and third-place winners and smaller cash prizes for teams that earned honorable mentions.

In the ideas category, OnTrack Coding and BrainWave took second and third place, respectively. The communication award was given to Fruit and Vegetable Vending Machine, the innovation award went to GeoDetect and Box of Babylon received the impact award.

In the growth category, first place went to Potential Motors, second place to Pi Security and third to Adventure Pack.

Farmers Online received the social innovation award and Bar PSIence was given the award for technical innovation.

Awards were given to individuals that have helped others or shown achievement in their field. David Coleman, a professor with TME, received an award for leadership in education and Curtis Kennedy was given the student leadership award.  

Adam Harris, managing director of Fredericton’s C-Therm, was given the award for entrepreneur of the year.

Replies to My Rural Startups Column

My opinion piece last week on policies on rural startups drew a range of responses, many of them disagreeing with my premise.

You can read my arguments here for policies that encourage startups in population centres, rather than rural areas. I want to highlight a few of the responses on social media.

Here’s what Bob Pelley, Innovacorp’s regional manager for Cape Breton and Northern Nova Scotia, said:

“I will respectfully disagree with you on this one, Peter. Yes, there are more startups in urban area, but I believe that is simply related to population. Suggesting that government only support start-up activity in urban areas is akin to suggesting they only support fires departments in urban areas because that’s where the biggest and most active fires occur.

“I believe that what’s more important than population to start-ups, is community. While that community might be easily found in population centres, it can also be found in small communities and in today’s connected world, online.

“We have an ease, and freedom of travel like no other time in history and start-ups are using that to find communities of support and build relationships that have meaning for their growth and development.

“A number of start-ups I work with use remote workers and remote contractors to help them build and grow. We live in a connected world and it’s never been easier to do this. It allows the founders, like Chad Munro, to choose where they want to live, whether that be Mabou or Montreal.”

Added Permjot Valia, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Momentum Cape Breton:

“And to be fair.... at a North American level, Halifax wouldn’t pass the ‘urban’ test. So it is arbitrary -- and I don’t think it’s a healthy development to think of only one place in a province as urban.”

I was also asked how I’d define “population centres”. I’d say they are the four provincial capitals, Sydney, Saint John and Moncton, and I’d draw a wide radius around each of these cities. Let me repeat that Sydney and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality comprise one of the region’s municipalities with about 100,000 people – almost as big as Greater Fredericton. CBRM definitely should be nurtured as a startup centre.

Charlottetown has a population of only 36,000 but more people live a short drive away. 

The column did receive some positive feedback from people who agreed with it, mainly through private correspondence.

CarbonCure in US$20M XPRIZE Finals

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

CarbonCure Technologies is a finalist for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge and has a shot at winning a total of US$8 million in the next two years.

The organizers of the competition announced the 10 finalists for the prize this morning. Each finalist will receive US$500,000 and spend the next two years testing its product in one of two tracks. At the end, one winner from each track will receive a cash prize of US$7.5 million, or about C$9.6 million.

Halifax-based CarbonCure, whose technology cures concrete by injecting carbon into it, assembled a team two years ago comprising companies involved in all stages of the concrete supply chain. It was one of more than 2,000 entrants in the competition.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to encourage industry to make useful products from CO2 rather than emitting it into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

The philosophy behind the XPRIZE competitions is to offer a lucrative cash award. The money should help the winners grow their company, and be alluring enough that even the losers develop world-changing technologies.

“It’s an honour to be recognized as one of the finalists in the global Carbon XPRIZE Challenge,” CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven said in a statement. “The XPRIZE competition challenges the world to reimagine CO2 as a valuable commodity and drives innovators to scale solutions faster to realize the potential $1 trillion market and seven gigatonne CO2 reduction opportunity by 2030.”

As Sales Grow, SimpTek Lands Capital

CarbonCure has grown into a profitable company by developing a process of hardening concrete by injecting it with carbon dioxide. This process saves concrete-makers money and makes their operations consumers of – rather than producers of – carbon. CarbonCure licenses its technology to concrete producers and will have its 100th installation this year.

In the XPRIZE Challenge, CarbonCure will be one of five finalists in Track A, which will demonstrate technologies at a coal power plant in Wyoming.  Five other finalists will compete in Track B at a natural gas power plant in Alberta.

The statement said Canada leads all nations in the competition with four teams in the final round. Three finalists are from the United States, while the remaining teams represent India, China and the United Kingdom.

CarbonCure’s XPRIZE team is led by Executive Vice President Jennifer Wagner – the only female team lead in the competition. The other partners in the CarbonCure team are cement and concrete producer Cementos Argos S.A., concrete producers Thomas Concrete and BURNCO Rock Products, industrial gas company Praxair, Inc., carbon capture innovator Sustainable Energy Solutions, engineering specialists Kline Consulting LLC. The team includes such design and construction companies as LS3P Architects, RJC Engineers, DIALOG, Uzun + Case Structural Engineering, and Walter P. Moore Structural Engineers.

CarbonCure was recently recognized for its CO2 utilization solution by McKinsey Consulting and the Global CO2 Initiative, and for three years straight has been named to the Top 100 Global Cleantech companies by the Cleantech Group.

Earlier this year, CarbonCure hit a significant milestone by taking the carbon dioxide produced from cement production and using it to cure concrete with the CarbonCure technology. Many companies in the industry produce both cement and concrete and using excess carbon from one to cure the other further reduces industrial carbon emissions.

The other Canadian finalists in the Carbon XPRIZE are:

  • Carbicrete, Montreal -- Carbicrete has devised a way to make concrete without using cement, replacing it in the mix with steel slag, which is industrial waste.
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, Calgary – CUT uses CO2 emissions to cultivate nanoparticles that enhance materials like concrete, plastics, and batteries.
  • Cert, Toronto – Cert’s system provides the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 into value-added fuels and feedstocks using novel, high efficiency catalysts.

Chicago Group Cites Squiggle Park

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard.

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard.

As its traction accelerates, Dartmouth-based Squiggle Park has received validation from a panel of education experts by being one of 12 EdTech programs selected this year by LEAP Innovations in Chicago.

LEAP issued a statement last week saying that its Leap Pilot Network had selected a dozen IT programs that help children, teachers and parents improve educational outcomes, and one was Squiggle Park. Some 32 organizations applied to the competition, which features a rigorous selection process that lasts several months.

 “This announcement is important because Chicago Public Schools is a district that leads nationally in regards to their vetting and selection of the best EdTech products,” said Squiggle Park Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Julia Rivard. She added that being selected by the CPS-affiliated Leap Innovation is a key validation because the program is recognized by other districts all over the U.S.

“The vetting done by Leap to be on this list was significant and happened over several months with critical reviews by top researchers, educators and EdTech professionals,” she added.

Itavio Gains Funds, Enters Hearst Labs

Squiggle Park has developed a series of games that helps users -- especially children from preschool to Grades 3 or 4 -- learn to read. The company says children using the games learn to read in one-fifth of the time of traditional lessons, and it is especially helpful in teaching children who lag their peers. In its home base of Nova Scotia, the software is supporting several hundred classrooms and is accessible through the Halifax Public Libraries.

“Technology is not a prerequisite for personalized learning, but it can be a powerful tool in support of great teaching,” said LEAP Innovations CEO Phyllis Lockett in the statement. “Over the last five years, we’ve tapped the expertise of learning scientists and researchers, working alongside educators, to create a framework that is both rigorous and respectful of the real-world challenges of classroom teachers.”

Rivard and her Co-Founder, CEO Leah Skerry, offered Squiggle Park to users just over a year ago and as of last week it has been used by 80,914 users, both children and adults.

The users – mainly in Canada and the U.S. but also in schools in Oman, Mexico, India, Germany and China – have answered 33 million questions and logged a total of 70,372 hours of playing time, or roughly eight years.

Rivard also said the company is in the middle of a large pilot with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help newcomers to Canada master English reading skills. This pilot is taking place with 11 organizations from coast to coast and thousands of players. “It is the largest EdTech study with English Language Learning ever done,” she said.

Jobs: NB Government, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column is highlighting two internships with the province of New Brunswick and two openings with Halifax-based Dash Hudson.

As part of its new Public Innovation Internship Program, the New Brunswick government is looking to fill two internship positions, one for a summer term, the other for a full year. The program aims to identify and grow the province's innovation talent pool. 

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing, software-as-a-service company that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies. Its platform, Vision, provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. The company is looking to add an Account Executive and a Performance Marketing Manager to its team.

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

Here are experts from the postings.


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world.


Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.

Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.

Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas. . . .

Apply for the job here.

Performance Marketing Manager

The Performance Marketing Manager, reporting to the Senior Director of Marketing, will support the marketing team and overall goals of Dash Hudson...


Plan, execute and optimize all web, SEO/SEM, PPC, marketing database, email, social media and retargeting campaigns, and CRM activity.

Managing, measuring and optimizing the performance and effectiveness of all marketing programs and lead generation campaigns including lead scoring and lead nurturing programs.

Continuously measure and report performance of all digital marketing campaigns, and assess against goals (ROI and KPIs)...

Apply for the job here.


Government of New Brunswick

Innovation Internship -- Full Year

Innovation Internship -- Summer Term


The Public Innovation Internship Program is designed to identify top talent and grow GNBs Innovation Talent Pool. Join a dynamic team of public servants who are passionate about improving the lives of New Brunswickers…


During orientation, you will participate in an initial series of workshops to learn about how the government works, how to foster an inclusive work culture and innovative tools for problem-solving. You will be assigned a mentor in your department, who will help guide you through the projects you will be working on. Your workload will be project based, and you’ll need to be eager to manage your deliverables while balancing your priorities…

Apply for the summer position here, and the full year here.

Startups Are an Urban Phenomenon

After surveying startups across the region recently, I’ve come to believe more than ever that public policy should encourage startups in cities rather than rural areas.

Successful startups need two primary components — human and financial capital — and no matter how much of the second is available for young companies, the first will always be a challenge.

Rather than trying to fabricate conditions for startups in rural areas, public policy should encourage other forms of entrepreneurship in smaller locations — small businesses, contract workers, co-operatives.

In saying this, I draw a clear distinction between startups and small businesses, admitting there are overlaps.

A startup commercializes new technology with the goal of disrupting established business practices. It will rework and adjust its product until it finds a product that customers will pay for, then it grows quickly, often doubling or tripling in size annually over several years.

A small business is an enterprise with a small number of employees — let’s say fewer than 100. Such businesses are essential to any economy, and the people who run them have all the business acumen of startup founders.

The difference between the two is the talent they have to hire. As a startup grows, it will constantly improve its product, or use its technology to launch complementary products. To do this, the startup has to bring on a range of highly specialized personnel.

Let’s say the company is developing a medical device. It will need medical specialists. It will also need experts in manufacturing, electronics, and software engineering, and probably contract workers in regulatory affairs and design. Given that artificial intelligence is becoming standard in new technologies, the company will need a few artificial intelligence programmers — a rare breed indeed.

A startup can’t find this sort of talent easily in Halifax, let alone the other cities in the region, let alone rural communities.

One hallmark I’ve noticed of startup entrepreneurs in the region is their knowledge of immigration regulations, because they have to bring in specialists who simply aren’t found locally.

At Entrevestor, we’re now analyzing about 480 startups across the region, and two trends are becoming clear. First, size matters. The number of successful companies is disproportionate in the larger cities, with Halifax atop the heap. I believe the prime reason is the availability of talent. The second trend is the growing number of zombie companies — those that haven’t quite died but aren’t quite active. They appear to be more prevalent in smaller areas.

The startup ecosystem should support companies in each province, but I think policies to seed startups in rural areas need to be reviewed. There are startups in rural areas that have beaten the odds and done magnificent things (Halifax Biomedical of Mabou, Cape Breton, springs to mind). And yes, AgTech startups and oceans companies will need rural operations. The emphasis in rural areas should be entrepreneurship — the building of small businesses. Succession is a huge issue in small businesses in the region, and training more young people to take over businesses with existing income streams would be invaluable.

There should also be support for the legion of independent experts, the contract workers who have clients all over the globe. They are scattered around the region and would benefit from formalized support networks. The Hub South Shore in Mahone Bay would be a great model to emulate.

Startups are an urban phenomenon. Entrepreneurship is universal, and policy should reflect that reality.

NACO Roadshow Begins April 30

NACO will host workshops throughout the region.

NACO will host workshops throughout the region.

The National Angel Capital Organization will start touring the Atlantic provinces on April 30, to deliver a series of workshops for investors and entrepreneurs.

The NACO Academy Roadshow, as the series is known, aims to build better engagement between investors and entrepreneurs to improve on investment outcomes.

Charlottetown-based life science incubatorEmergence is one of the community partners for NACO’s roadshow.

“Angel investment is an important asset class for early-stage companies and plays a critical role in the life of most startup and scale-up ventures,” said Martin Yuill, the Director at Emergence.

“These workshops are designed to help local entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to raise private capital to support their growth, and investors increase their knowledge about structuring great deals.”

The roadshow will kick-off on Monday, April 30 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and continue on with workshops in in the following cities:

  • Tuesday, May 1st: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Wednesday, May 2nd: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
  • Thursday, May 3rd: Moncton, New Brunswick.
  • Friday, May 4th: Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Sessions called “Structuring Deals & Term Sheets” and “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Angels” will address key issues for both investors and entrepreneurs.

The Guide to Angels workshop will help entrepreneurs improve their ability to attract angel investment, and build a positive ongoing relationship with their angels. Structuring Deals and Term Sheets will show participants how to structure investment deals to maximize the value created and protect returns from adverse events. Click here to register for the workshops.

The sessions in St. John’s, Halifax and Charlottetown include post-workshop cocktail reception and the workshops in Moncton and Fredericton will provide lunch.  

The roadshow is meant to meant to be a prelude to the Atlantic Regional Angel Summit, scheduled for May 28 and 29. The second annual summit will bring local angel investors together with angels from the rest of Canada and parts of the US.

As Sales Grow, SimpTek Lands Capital

SimpTek CEO Asif Hasan, right, with his Co-Founder Keelen Gagnon

SimpTek CEO Asif Hasan, right, with his Co-Founder Keelen Gagnon

After changing the direction of its business last year, Fredericton’s SimpTek Technologies is accelerating its growth, having booked almost $1 million in sales and on the cusp of raising $1.9 million in capital.

The company was founded in 2014 by a trio of University of New Brunswick students to help homeowners and utilities identify where households use the most electricity.

In the last two years, two things have happened that changed the business model: the team realized the best way to make money is to work with a broader range of clients indirectly helping them reduce electricity consumption. And it brought on Halifax-based cleantech maven Megan McCarthy, and is in the process of buying her company PowerWHYS.

As a result, SimpTek is now dedicated to helping a range of electricity purchasers measure their consumption, analyze how it might be reduced and helping them to make the changes that reduce consumption. The company is working not only with the consumers of energy but also with vendors who sell products that can help lower energy use. The team learned that US$133 billion was spent last year on energy efficiency and it wanted to attack that market.

“Everyone is shifting focus to make energy use smarter — they want to make more smarter energy decisions,” said co-founder and CEO Asif Hasan in an interview. “There have to be more energy efficient products to achieve it. And we realized that utilities want to sell more than just energy. We realized there are two sides of the market.”

UNB Team Makes CanInfra Top 20

For the last couple of years, SimpTek has been developing a digital platform that would allow retail and large energy consumers to measure and analyze electricity use, and find products that will reduce consumption. For that last part, the company works with vendors in making sure consumers find the latest products for energy efficiency.

Hasan said the platform uses artificial intelligence to identify how customers can reduce energy costs, thereby avoiding the need of expensive energy consultants. He added it is “hardware-agnostic” meaning it can be used on a range of electrical meters and products.

The company began beta-testing the platform last February, and as of March 31, the product has generated almost $1 million in revenue.

SimpTek plans to release the latest generation of its platform, which is called Building360, in about a month.

With growing sales, the company has just closed $1 million in equity funding (including an investment from a SimpTek customer in the Middle East), and is now complementing that equity round by raising $900,000 through government grants. The company last raised equity capital in 2016 in a $700,000-plus round led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

McCarthy, who has worked on a range of cleantech companies for the past several years, has become the company's Chief Business Development Officer and heads up SimpTek’s business development efforts in the company’s Halifax office.

And business development is now a key effort for this nine-employee company. Hasan said the main effort right now is to grow into international markets, and he highlighted the fact that the company has clients in the Middle East a sign that it can grow beyond Canada.

“It’s all about scaling up and growing,” he said. “We’re launching this powerful platform in the global market and helping the industry to grow faster than it would have if people didn’t use SimpTek.”

PLATO Wins Jedi Pitch Competition

PLATO Testing of Fredericton won the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) pitch competition last week at aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin Canada’s IMPACT Centre. It was one of six Indigenous businesses from New Brunswick in the competition.

The Indigenous-staffed software testing firm affiliated with PQA Testing won a $5,000 cash prize for taking first place at the 2018 JEDI Indigenous Business Pitch Competition.

Chelsea Griffith, a team lead and software tester at PLATO, said in an interview prior to the announcement that the company will focus on expanding.

“The main thing that PLATO’s looking to do is to keep expanding because we’re looking to have 1,000 software testers. So we’re looking for opportunities and partnerships to expand and bring more aboriginal people into IT and to STEM,” she said.

Griffith said the company, which already has around 65 employees across Canada, also wants to explore opportunities with companies like Lockheed Martin. . . .


Read the full story on Huddle.

MUN Awards $40K in Woodward Cup

Three Memorial University of Newfoundland engineering students have won $10,000 each at the 2018 Mel Woodward Cup for their innovations in health care and energy efficiency.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the business idea competition last Wednesday, which awarded $40,000 in seed funding and other supports to student entrepreneurs.

“Through the Mel Woodward Cup, we’re supporting entrepreneurial students in their business development journeys, providing them with much-needed funding so they can take their business ideas to the next level,” said MCE Director, Florian Villaumé in a press release.

“By supporting these student entrepreneurs, we’re also providing a pathway for young people to stay in (Newfoundland and Labrador) as the province’s future business leaders.”

BreatheSuite, VitalMIST and WARPAR Corp were the top three winners among the eight finalists.

BreatheSuite, headed by mechanical engineering student Brett Vokey, aims to build an add-on device for inhalers that allows people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to receive optimal dosages of medication.

Read our Reports on Last Year's Winners:

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

Hyperloop Success Leads to CoLab

VitalMIST, founded by Anna Gosine, another mechanical engineering student, offers a nasal optimizer that allows physicians to administer liquid medication effectively.

WARPAR, founded by fifth-year electrical engineering student Warren Parsons, is building a product called Enzo, a light dimmer that can monitor power, and is compatible with most lightbulbs on the market.

The winning students also received up to $1,500 in marketing and legal expenses and will have access to MCE’s co-working space as well as enrolment in the Genesis Centre’s Evolution Program, and a free seminar from the Gardiner Centre.

Two other companies, Delta Innovations and BlueBrick Design & Development, received honourable mention and prizes of $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

Chrissy Rossiter, who founded Peachy, a software company that helps seniors, and Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews from CoLab, a company creating collaboration software for 3D design, won last year’s competition.

The Mel Woodward Cup was created in November after a $1.13-million donation from the family of the late Mel Woodward, a well-known entrepreneur who founded the Woodward Group of Companies.

Parsons Takes New Post in Toronto

Having worked at a startup, a support organization and a student investment group in Atlantic Canada, Dana Parsons has joined Toronto-based Highline BETA, one of Canada’s most innovative companies in the venture capital sphere.

Parsons, formerly the CEO of St. John’s-based loyalty program startup Brownie Points, started at Highline BETA earlier this month as new venture director. In this new position, she is working closely with Founding Partner Marcus Daniels in the portion of the business that works with established corporations to form external accelerators.

Highline BETA is not a customary VC firm, as shown by its tagline, “Transforming industries from the inside out.” Founded by Daniels and startup specialist Ben Yoskovitz (who spent time in Halifax with the team that launched GoInstant), Highline Beta aims to work with established corporations to develop innovation that solves their problems.

“Highline and Marcus come from a VC background but it’s not my focus,” said Parsons in an interview this week. “Right now, I’m really focusing on our accelerator programs. I’m really working on building those up.”

Parsons says she ended up at Highline BETA after “doing the full circle” in Atlantic Canada. In 2014, she joined Brownie Points, first as CEO, then as COO when she moved on to other opportunities. She worked as the Venture Lead at the St. John’s startup incubator Genesis Centre, and in management with Venture Grade, a student-led VC fund operating out of St. Mary’s University.

Talking to people about opportunities, she was steered toward Highline BETA by two people: BDC Capital director Nicole LeBlanc; and Jeanette Stock, a Highline associate who Parsons met when they both attended the G20 Youth Summit in Berlin last summer. Soon, Parsons met Daniels and was hired.

“They kind of had to create the position once we started talking,” Parsons said. “It certainly has the feel of a startup here in that we’re learning as we grow. I started March 1 and they’ve added three or four people since then.”

In her new role, Parsons is learning what pain corporations feel in their operations and trying to find and work with startups that could solve those problems. She hopes these will include startups she knows on the East Coast.

“From a startup point of view I see a lot of opportunities, so that I’ve already shortlisted some startups for different corporations,” she said. “There is right now a company located in St. John’s that we’re potentially going to work with.”

Parsons believes that some startups don’t fully understand the scope of innovation taking place at corporations of all size. She hopes Highline BETA can act as a bridge to these younger companies.

“My mind is going 100 miles an hour thinking about (this) because in Toronto there are all these introductions I can make.”

Neothermal To Test Heat Storage Unit

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson

After a few years of development, Neothermal Energy Storage of Halifax is beginning two demonstration projects for its electric thermal storage unit, or ETS, which helps homeowners manage their energy consumption.

Led by Co-Founders Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson, Neothermal has developed an electrical unit about the size of a trunk that stores heat in homes that use electrical or oil heating. It works in a similar way to a rechargeable hand warmer, with the same salt mixture inside.

The idea is that the homeowner can charge the heater at night when electrical rates are lower, then release the heat during the day. By not using electricity during the high-priced daytime periods, the device can lower heating costs by as much as half, say the co-founders.

The team is now testing the product in a private home (Desgrosseilliers’ parents’ place in Timberlea) and at a Pilikan House, a cleantech lab at the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Middleton.

“These demonstrations will lead to our early adopter pilot, which will come out this fall,” said Johnson in an interview.

As is often the case with physical products, the development of the Neothermal ETS took a few years of experimentation and adjustment. Desgrosseilliers developed the technology — which now has patent pending — during his PhD studies at Dalhousie University.

Axem Developing Headsets at Chinese Accelerator

The team won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s cleantech competition in 2015 and then received $20,000 for entering Innvoacorp’s cleantech accelerator a year later.

With that money and investment by the founders, friends and family, the team has developed the ETS with a goal of maximizing the functionality of the device. For example, the unit now has the ability to heat two rooms, so it can function in a smaller space that’s not big enough for a dedicated unit.

As a cleantech device, the Neothermal ETS could eventually reduce energy consumption at the community level if not reducing the consumption of individual households. Utilities everywhere are trying to solve the problem that peak consumption periods (early morning and evening) don’t coincide with the times that renewable power sources operate at peak output (daytime for solar; nighttime and stormy periods for wind). Once storage units are mainstream devices, utilities should be able to increase renewable power production, which would in turn reduce fossil fuel-based generation.

“We manage energy better and that’s designed to make the grid system more efficient,” said Johnson.

Johnson and Desgrosseilliers said that about half of the energy in the ETS can be stored long-term, giving more choice to the customer and better response to weather fluctuations. They added the ETS can be an effective tool for storing energy if people are worried about a power disruption because of a major storm.

The company’s near-term plan is to conduct a pilot product in Nova Scotia this autumn with a target of about 25 to 50 participants. Eventually, Johnson and Desgrosseilliers hope to take their ETS to larger markets, especially in the U.S. They said there are now six million oil-heated homes in that market, along with 42 million homes heated by electricity.

AVF Seeks 12 Founders to Pitch

The Atlantic Venture Forum is looking for a dozen startups to present at its two-day conference in late June in Halifax.

The sixth annual AVF, which will take place June 28 and 29 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. Each year there are presentations by both early- and growth-stage companies.

This year’s agenda will call for 12 companies to present at the event.

Early-stage entrepreneurs will get six minutes to pitch to a panel of early-stage investors for the opportunity to receive immediate feedback. Growth-stage companies will have nine minutes to present and can be pitching for investment.

Any company interested in pitching can apply here, and the deadline for applications is April 27.

All selected companies will have their registration fee waived to attend the full forum.

Critical Path Group, which stages the event, has begun to announce speakers for the event. The list so far includes: entrepreneur, author and innovation leader, Jim Gibson; Techstars Boston VP of Network, John Hill; and Josh Simair, co-founder of SkipTheDishes, a $200 Million exit story.

Job of the Week: Opening at Masitek

MASITEK Instruments’ opening for a Production Electronics Technologist is the headline posting in our Job of the Week column today.

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

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

Here is an excerpt from the job posting:


MASITEK Instruments

Production Electronics Technologist

MASITEK Instruments is a leading, global manufacturer of Smart in-line sensor solutions for packaging and agriculture. Our products are trusted by some of the world’s most recognized Fortune 500 companies.

MASITEK is looking for a Production Electronics Technologist to work in a fast-paced work environment that is continually growing with the ability to learn and excel in in custom assembly projects involving technology, electronics, mechanical design and assembly and the ability to interpret customer drawings. You will assemble and test custom components and a range of systems including both mechanical and electrical components. It is also necessary to have excellent soldering skills and some experience with SMD soldering. This position will also have involvement in leading activities such as process development/optimization, problem-solving/continuous-improvement activities, and communicate/request information necessary in order to complete “build-to package” production.


•Ensure product quality and timeliness of work and resolve problems to meet objectives.

•Execute key production processes such as CAD drawings, software/firmware setup and product assembly

•Evaluate and propose acquisition of new tools, equipment and processes to aid in production efficiency and safety

•Interprets customer drawings to develop specifications for customer assemblies

•Communicate design, drawing, and interpretation issues for customer projects as necessary

•Assemble custom sensors from the design team

•Perform analysis of production performance metrics for reporting

•Performs special assignments relative to product engineering

•Perform troubleshooting of hardware with issues

•Test new technology including new releases of software and firmware

•Assist team with internal computer and technology issues

•Actively contribute to our Agile Community and the self-improvement of our teams and members.

•Analyze problems and help create innovative solutions involving technology, methodology, tool and solution components.

•Help develop new and refine existing processes to enhance quality and productivity . . .

Read the full job description here.

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

Chrissy Rossiter: 'I asked myself, what do I care about?'

Chrissy Rossiter: 'I asked myself, what do I care about?'

New entrepreneurs are advised to find a problem, or pain, to solve, and consult with prospective clients before proceeding. Chrissy Rossiter did so and is now helping companies that care for seniors in their own homes streamline and improve care.

Rossiter, the CEO of software company Peachy, and her co-founder Diego Zuluaga, initially founded their venture to help seniors with health-related tasks such as remembering to take medication and check blood pressure.

The idea was for the product to be used by seniors at home. But after consulting with seniors, their families and doctors, the founders changed course.

“We realized the concept of frequent text alerts was not necessarily part of seniors’ daily routine,” Rossiter said from Peachy’s base in St. John ‘s.

“We then looked at working with retirement homes, but we didn’t want to do that. We didn’t feel the same pain problem.”

The pair decided that, as most seniors want to live at home for as long as possible, they would make it easier for them to do so.

Working with the managers of home care agencies seemed a good idea, as the agencies oversee the home support workers who provide the care.

“Managers at the agencies deal with many issues. They manage hundreds of staff working remotely. They are run ragged, adjusting work and other schedules on paper or on complicated software,” Rossiter said.

“By automatically updating employee hours with shift information we remove the need for managers to manually make changes at the end of the pay period, which can take more than six days a month.

“And by automating the flow of information, we improve payroll and invoicing accuracy.”

She said Peachy has many competitors, but Peachy’s advantage is it’s simple and easy to use.

“Some other products can take 20 hours of training to use,” she said.

“A lot of software offers many features for a price. We are for the small to medium companies that can afford our product.”

She said the Peachy software is more affordable because it has fewer features.

“We’re currently running a beta test with early adopters,” she said. “We will be increasing the number of features but will continue to focus on simplicity and ease of use.”

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Peachy evolved from Rossiter’s experience of working in a retirement home.

“I’d always wanted to start a business. I asked myself, what do I care about? What problem do I want to solve? In the home, I served food and felt I had an impact. I’m also really close to my grandparents.

“By helping the companies that help the seniors, we allow the companies to improve the quality of care they provide.”

Peachy has got off to a promising start. The Peachy founders are both students at Memorial University and they won the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship Startup Cup in April 2017.

The contest, which is funded by the local business community, gave them $10,000 with which to operate.

Peachy was recently one of five Atlantic Canadian companies to take part in the prestigious Fierce Founders bootcamp for female entrepreneurs run at the Communitech technology hub in Kitchener, Ontario.

Rossiter said the experience allowed her to see the big picture of running a business and make connections with other women, which is especially valuable in a male-dominated sector.

“I spend most of my day talking to guys at the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship. There’s nothing wrong with that, but together we women can have conversations we wouldn’t have with the men.”

Rossiter and Zuluaga will both soon graduate from Memorial — Rossiter with a business degree, Zuluaga with computer science. Then they will be able to focus on Peachy.

They plan to target the U.S. market, which has a huge number of care providers. They also aim to develop an app for the workers who deliver the care to seniors.

UNB Team Makes CanInfra Top 20

These UNB students have proposed an idea for a smart highway design. (Photo: Joy Cummings)

These UNB students have proposed an idea for a smart highway design. (Photo: Joy Cummings)

A team of four students from the University of New Brunswick has made it to the top 20 of the CanInfra Challenge, a nationwide contest that crowdsources pitches to solve Canada’s infrastructure problems.

The team, called Smart Roads, is pitching a concept for an intelligent highway system with an open databank that feeds vital road, traffic and weather data to drivers.

“We’re possibly the only student team from Atlantic Canada and definitely the youngest team in the competition,” Nakul Gupta, a first-year business student and leader of the project, said in a statement.

Gupta is joined by second-year science student Blake Constable and first-year business students Prajain Raj Maskey and Peter Hopper.

To get to the next round in the competition, Smart Roads has to gain support through online voting over the next 10 days. The three teams with the most votes automatically advance to the top 10 while the remaining seven will be chosen by judges.

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova CTO Tanzina Huq.

In a release, Gupta said he and his team were taken aback to make it to the top 20.

“We didn’t expect it,” said Gupta. "It is definitely an honour and it makes me sort of nervous. All of these other teams are filled with people who are established and have much more experience in infrastructure proposals. One of the other teams has more than 100 years of combined experience in infrastructure.”

Smart Roads' original idea was to develop a highway that feeds data to self-driving vehicles. That idea evolved to a plan for an open, peer-to-peer data network that funnels information required for both drivers and self-driving vehicles, like road hazards, and traffic and weather conditions.

The team is working to refine the idea further with help from the Boston Consulting Group, a sponsoring company for the competition.

The CanInfra Challenge is a six-month contest open to teams across Canada. The top 10 teams each win $5,000 to further develop proposals and travel to Toronto to present their ideas in May. The top winner in the final round receives $50,000 and a pitch session with senior government and private-sector leaders. The runner-up and people’s choice award winner each receive $25,000.

SimplyCast Adheres to EU Data Rules

SimplyCast announces it’s in accord with new General Data Protection Regulation

Dartmouth-based communication automation company SimplyCast has announced its compliance with the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation.

The regulation, to be implemented May 25, requires stricter handling and processing of personal data belonging to E.U. citizens.

After completing an audit of its processes and infrastructure and making changes, SimplyCast can comply with the regulation, which requires any entities that store or process personal data from E.U. residents to allow for residents’ additional rights over their data.

“We worked hard to be able to meet the requirements of this regulation and will work to continue to safeguard the data of not only our E.U. clients, but of our clients around the world.” said Data Protection and Privacy Officer Ryan Ernst in a statement.

SimplyCast is launching an email course to help prepare its clients for the changes. The email course will educate participants about individuals’ new rights regarding their access to and control of personal data and what will happen if compliance is not met.

The weekly email course will begin on April 4. If you would like to register, fill out the sign-up form, which can be found here.

Spritely Unveils Web Application

Akram Al-Otumi is the founder of Spritely (Photo Sofia Ortega)

Akram Al-Otumi is the founder of Spritely (Photo Sofia Ortega)

Spritely, a Halifax company that aims to show newcomers around their new cities, showcased its web platform at its soft launch Tuesday night in Bedford.

“This launch is just a taste, and will give users an idea of what the platform will look like,” said Akram Al-Otumi, the founder and CEO of Spritely, during an interview. The complete platform will include the website and a mobile app. Attendees Tuesday night were able to test out the platform and listen to a short presentation on Spritely.

Spritely’s platform is part of the sharing economy model, similar to companies like Airbnb and Uber. The company has a network of "local experts" who can be hired to show newcomers the best retail outlets, entertainment sites, health facilities and the like. Users specify their needs and Spritely's city experts take them on a tour.

“Locals can show people around the city,” said Al-Otumi. “They can show it off and have a meaningful job where you’re showing a newcomer around a new city.”

Al-Otumi says that 75 percent of the revenue is used to pay the city experts, who set their own hours and specialties. City experts must be over 21 and have no criminal record.

So far Al-Otumi has built a network of over 20 city experts and plans to have 100 registered by the end of April in Nova Scotia alone. For the time being, Spritely is testing its platform in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

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Ten years ago, Al-Otumi was a Halifax newcomer himself. He moved to Canada when he was 19 years old from Yemen to learn English and attend university.

“I went from having all my family and friends that I was raised with, to a place where it’s a totally different culture, different country, different systems,” said Al-Otumi. “And when you can’t speak the language, it’s quite an experience. I learned so much from a lot of the challenges I faced.”

In his second year of his undergrad, Al-Otumi started a business called Azal Agency, which helped international students settle in Halifax. In doing this, he saw how his model worked and how much it helps newcomers to the city.

“I was a city expert myself,” he said. “I know that this will help newcomers.”

The number of newcomers in Nova Scotia is growing. The most recent data says immigrants make up about 6.1 percent of Nova Scotia’s population, which is about 55,000 people. More than 20 percent of the province’s immigrant population arrived within the last six years.

Spritely can also be a tool for tourists. Said Al-Otumi: “You find a local expert to show you around who can save you a lot of time and money.”

Last summer Spritely completed the 2017 Project Incubation Bootcamp in Halifax, a 12-week incubator at ShiftKey Labs at Dalhousie University, where Spritely is now a resident company.

Al-Otumi says the product will fully launch once the app is built and more market testing is conducted.

“It’s a meaningful business and that’s what really drives me,” said Al-Otumi. “It supports the economy and has a social impact. I want to exist to support people.”

Axem Builds Headset at China’s HAX

Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

Halifax-based Axem Neurotechnology is attending the HAX Accelerator in Shenzhen, China, where it plans to complete the prototype of its device, which enhances mental training for athletes.

The company’s co-founders, Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen, are now at Hax, the world’s largest hardware accelerator, as they prepare to begin beta-testing in Canada.

The two PhD students in neuroscience from Dalhousie University are building a wearable device that measures brain activity to help athletes improve the mental aspects of their game.

“We’re also exploring the rehabilitation market,” Ingram, the CEO of Axem, said in an interview. “We think it would provide a lot of value, like for stroke rehab and many other types of rehab, mostly neurological because we measure the brain.”

Axem’s device sits on top of your head, almost like a headband, and records brain activity and function. Its purpose is to allow users to “mentally train” for physical tasks and improve motor function. The device will also connect to a mobile app, which is being built at HAX.

It will still be a while before Axem has its device ready for manufacture but the 14-week accelerator is helping it rapidly develop the prototype.

“In Canada, when we were working on our prototype it would take a couple of weeks to get something like a circuit board,” said Ingram. “It was just a bottleneck. We’d try to fill our time with other stuff, but here it’s just better for rapid prototyping and iteration. You get through more tests and get answers quicker.”

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For companies developing complex hardware and software, like Axem, China is the ideal place.

“If you need a part, you don’t need to order it. You basically just go downstairs and find it. There are vendors all over the place.”

HAX is backed by SOSV, a global venture capital firm with $300 million under management. The accelerator offers up to $100,000 in seed funding, mentorship and office and lab space for its participants.

Taking part in HAX builds on the momentum Axem gained in 2017. Late last year the startup was awarded $50,000 as winners of Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation and also became a resident company with Volta Labs in September. Ingram also said Axem received funds from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, or IRAP.

Ingram says Axem will tackle markets in sports training and is penning letters of intent with professional sports teams, though he declined to name them. In the fall, Ingram and Friesen plan to be more focused on raising investment.

“We got our working prototype running before we got here,” said Ingram. “The Halifax ecosystem was instrumental in that, and has been so supportive of us.”

“While we’re here in China, we’re not just doing product development; we’re meeting people and doing business development.”

Ingram said Axem is looking into the clinical applications of the technology and the subsequent regulatory requirements they would have to meet in the medical device market.

Eight Companies Enter Startup Zone

Startup Zone has taken on eight new resident companies after seven clients graduated this month.

The startup house in downtown Charlottetown said in a press release on Monday that seven members have graduated and joined its alumni network: Kim Roach Design; Mighty Pebble Games; Onset Communication; TopFeed; Open Air UAV Training; Becka Viau; and Lift Media. With the departure of these companies, Startup Zone welcomed eight new companies into the residency program.

“It’s an exciting time in the Startup Zone,” said Interim CEO Shannon Pratt in the release. “We look forward to working with our new resident companies and we are happy to offer them the support and resources they need to start and grow their businesses here on P.E.I. and beyond.”

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These are the new tenants:

  • AGAMA specializes in augmented reality and virtual reality experiences, 3D audio, interactive spaces and custom electronic devices. Sergio Fernandez, co-founder and CTO of AGAMA, recently moved to P.E.I. from Colombia through the Startup Visa program.
  • Gocanna, founded by Shaman Ferraro and Annie MacEachern, is Canada’s cannabis tourism guide. They are working to connect medical cannabis patients and (impending) recreational consumers with responsible product and service providers.
  • Island AquaTech was founded by three engineering students from the University of Prince Edward Island, Jordan Sampson, Dylan MacIsaac and Brett McDermott, who invented a cage flipper for the oyster farming industry. Read Our Recent Profile of Island AquaTech.
  • Letter Board Company, founded by Diane Sankar, is Canada’s first premium felt letter board company dedicated to providing quality letter boards for your home.
  • Smart Catch Systems, founded by Pierre Bassaler-Merpillat, is working to create a unique traceability solution for P.E.I. seafood.
  • Salts of the Earth, founded by Darren Blanchard, is a social enterprise that provides organic salt products from all over the world to raise funds and awareness for charitable groups.
  • Maritime Heritage Meats, founded by Jordan Liantzakis, is aiming to start P.E.I.’s first Gourmet Meat Distribution Company focusing on quality, ethically sourced and produced products.
  • The Maker Factory, founded by Kevin Brooks, will be a 3D printing storefront, offering pre-printed 3D objects, customizable designs, educational classes, and concierge services to help clients design and create custom items.
  • PEI Cider Co. (working name), founded by Robert Van Waarden, is looking to tap into the potential of craft apple cider. The company will aim to fill this gap by creating a cidery on Prince Edward Island.

Startup Zone offers its resident companies workspace, advice in such professional services as accounting and law, free information sessions and other supports.


Disclosure: Startup Zone is a client of Entrevestor.

Mitacs Recognizes Chinova’s Huq

Tanzina Huq: 'Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products.'

Tanzina Huq: 'Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products.'

When the national research organization Mitacs named 150 leading Canadian researchers in December, one name on the list was Tanzina Huq, the CTO of Fredericton natural preservative company Chinova Bioworks.

Huq is a postdoctoral fellow in Chemical Engineering at University of New Brunswick. Her research into drawing the multi-purpose compound chitosan from mushrooms is the foundation for Chinova, one of the region’s leading new biotech companies.

Having participated in at least four accelerators in three countries, Chinova is using chitosan in an anti-microbial agent, which it will employ in a natural preservative in such foods as juices. Chinova has developed three off-the-shelf formulations, which will launch later this spring. It is also working with producers to develop customized formulations for specific food and beverage applications.

Huq, a biomaterials and polymer scientist originally from Bangladesh, said consumers want more transparency in food ingredients and Chinova is working with producers on natural preservatives that satisfy health concerns and prevent food from spoiling too quickly.

“Producers have to ensure food safety, shelf-life and maintain the overall quality of the product while giving consumers natural, healthy, transparent ingredients,” said Huq. “However, natural preservatives in the marketplace are not able to deliver. This is what drives Chinova's research.”

Huq is working with her Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dhayagude and David Brown to get these preservatives to market. But she is also continuing her research at UNB. Mitacs, which supports research and commercialization at universities across the country, named her to its list of 150 notable researchers across the country, which it produced to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. (Last year, Brown was also recognized nationally when he was one of six recipients of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.)

Picomole is Back and Conducting Tests

Huq’s work focuses on chitosan, a compound with a range of medical and industrial applications that is traditionally extracted from the discarded shells of shellfish. Mycodev Group – the company Chinova was spun out of two years ago – has worked for years at producing chitosan from fungal sources, and now Chinova is using the substance in food production.

“Our product can either be broad-spectrum or customized to fit the needs of each individual food and beverage producers microbial issues,” said Huq. “Chinova's mission is to replace artificial preservatives with our natural clean label products across many different industries and get as many companies to join us in the clean label movement.” 

Chinova has received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation ($100,000 as of March 2017) and from the First Angel Network. The company recently joined the Fierce Founders Bootcamp, a program for Canadian female-led startups at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont. And it has participated in three international programs – RebelBio in Ireland, Terra in San Francisco and Plug and Play in Sunnyvale, Calif. These last three programs are specific to the foodtech/biotech industry that Chinova fits into.

“These programs offer a lot of support to startups, like their extensive network, amazing mentors very specific to our industry, access to potential clients and investors,” said Huq. “All these factors help create a very strong support system for Chinova to continue to expand and scale.”

Jobs: Community Manager at Propel

A position as a Community Manager with PropelICT is our lone posting in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Propel is the main IT accelerator in Atlantic Canada, known for its Launch and Build accelerator programs. The Community Manager will report directly to Propel’s CEO and help educate potential and current accelerator participants and stakeholders. The group is advertising to hire someone in Halifax, but Propel Entrepreneur-in-Residence Trevor MacAusland said on Facebook this week the applicant "can be located anywhere as we are a virtual organization."

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

Here’s an excerpt from the posting:


Community Manager

The Community Manager will lead and participate in industry conversations and help to educate potential and current accelerator participants and stakeholders. We’re looking for someone to build our online and offline brand and position Propel ICT as a subject matter expert and trusted resource when it comes to early stage startups and startup accelerators...


Developing and maintaining a communications plan including online and offline elements.

Planning, leading and hosting events offline and online on industry topics

Planning and implementing social media strategies aimed at growing our social following and furthering our brand recognition

Continued industry education and research to keep up with market trends and maintain a competitive edge.

Engaging in online and in person conversations with prospective and existing clients about our industry, products, and brand... 

Apply for the job here.

Quber Unveils FinTech Savings App

Jen Leger: 'Every five minutes, we'd be getting emails from customers.'

Jen Leger: 'Every five minutes, we'd be getting emails from customers.'

After a summer of intense mentorship in Singapore and a 100-member beta test, Moncton-based fintech company Quber has just launched its product, which helps people manage their spending and savings.

The product — an app that helps people visualize the money they’re saving — was launched this month in the two major outlets for mobile apps, Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Before the launch, Co-Founder Jen Leger had spent a few months taking about 100 clients through a closed beta test, working out kinks and getting feedback from users.

“The big news this week is that we launched about a week ago,” said Leger in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s a full product launch . . . We continue to receive feedback from customers. There was a time during the launch that every five minutes we’d be getting emails from customers.”

A finalist in last year’s Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, Quber has developed a mobile app that lets people set goals for their savings and channel the saved money toward something important. As well as a data-based analysis of individual spending habits, the app features a picture of a savings jar, and the more money you save by cutting out little purchases, the more that jar fills up with coins. The goal is to save enough that you can move the full jar toward something bigger, like a vacation, a car or long-term savings.

Quber operates with accounts from most of the largest Canadian banks and financial institutions, and the company plans to add more institutions in the coming months. The app does not store information on clients’ bank accounts on its system; it merely tells the users how their money is moving in and out, and provides a graphic illustration of their savings goals.

Moncton's Picomole Is Back, Conducting Tests

The company emerged from the Breakthru competition last spring and applied to the FinLab, an accelerator for global fintech companies based in Singapore. Quber was one of eight companies accepted from a pool of 400 applicants. Leger spent last summer in the Asian financial hub, working with a range of mentors, especially those from its dedicated mentoring group, United Overseas Bank.

“They had a lot of their senior management that would mentor us, help us with the idea, and help us to make sure it would work in Singapore and in places like Malaysia and Thailand,” said Leger. “We had sales training and pitching as part of it. What came out of it for us is that we want to go back.”

Growth in Singapore and the Pacific Rim is in the distant future. For now the company is looking at developing a base of customers across Canada. It recently raised some money in New Brunswick, though Leger declined to provide specifics on the raise. She said the team is now working on another funding round with a target of about $800,000. The money will be used for marketing to help it spread the word about the app across Canada.

“We need to do a big marketing push,” said Leger. “We haven’t done any marketing yet — it’s mainly been a great organic growth. We need to build up traction across Canada.”

EhEye Now Detects Guns in Video

EhEye CEO James Stewart demonstrates the weapon screening and alert process.

EhEye CEO James Stewart demonstrates the weapon screening and alert process.

EhEye, a New Brunswick startup that aims to make security cameras more effective, has completed its “MVP 2.0”, which is able to detect guns and quickly alert security teams to potential threats.

The software is able to recognize people and, more important, weapons. The photo above shows what a security camera, outfitted with EhEye’s system, would record. The green outlines indicate that the camera sees a person, and if someone has a weapon, it can accurately detect that, as shown in the red outline.

James Stewart, the CEO and co-founder of EhEye, says this tech could save valuable time during an active shooting, which on average lasts only seven minutes.

“With everything that is happening today, we are so frustrated,” said Stewart, who is a former cop himself. “When you consider that our solution can save seconds during an incident, that becomes powerful when you start breaking down the numbers.”

The company's tech can be hooked up to instant security procedures, like auto-locking doors and trigger code-red lockdowns, saving precious time in an emergency.

In the recent case of Stoneman Douglas in Florida, where 17 high school students were murdered in February, authorities learned of the crisis only after the first shots were fired.

“Those procedures are only good if they have the time to actually put them in place,” said Stewart. “That’s what our software is for, to save lives.”

Itavio Lands Funding, Enters HearstLabs in NYC

The consistent wave of gun violence in the U.S. resonates in EhEye’s small Fredericton office. Its team of nine is working hard to get the product in front of more industry players and currently hoping to raise $1 million through local angel investors. Stewart says the company is about $250,000 away from that goal. In January, the company said it had closed a $500,000 round, led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. EhEye, which has offices in Saint John and Fredericton, said earlier this month that Saint John Airport Inc. had signed up to be an early adopter of its product. 

“We are making good progress but we are also under the gun, no pun intended, because of our financials,” said Stewart. "We need to make this work or this fantastic tech could, I don’t want say flame out, but we’re a small startup so that’s always a possibility."

Stewart said $1 million would give the company another 12 months, which is plenty of time to get this screening feature in front of investors, specifically those in the U.S. market. But proving this tech to investors has its challenges.

“There’s a challenge because we’re from little ol' New Brunswick and because investors have this notion that computer recognition is a single-use case,” said Stewart.

“There is an idea that since there are self-driving cars, there must be the ability to detect a gun and that’s not the case. And, let’s be frank, there is no such thing as artificial intelligence, each case is so different from each other.”

What Stewart means is AI technology is not a one-stop solution for all the world’s problems. Each solution takes a lot of time and coding to build since there are so many variables. Computer recognition technology has been around for years but Stewart says investors need to be shown that the technology is still developing. There are still lots of things it cannot detect.

Said Stewart:  “Show me this technology exists. Show me where Stoneman Douglas had this. Show me where Sandy Hook had this. We’re passionate about it to begin with and now we’re frustrated and passionate.”

Itavio Gains Funds, Joins HearstLabs

Itavio, a startup that helps gaming companies increase revenues and retain customers, has received several hundred thousand dollars in funding, and is expanding its marketing efforts as it joins a New York accelerator.

The company – which has offices in Moncton, New York and Montreal – has issued two press releases this month, saying it’s taken on funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and HearstLabs of New York. Itavio did not reveal the size of the funding. An NBIF official said the foundation’s contribution in this round amounted to $317,375, which suggests the term sheet was priced in US dollars, and NBIF’s contribution was US$250,000. NBIF has now invested in the company in three rounds for a total of $517,375.

Itavio said it will use the money to expand its marketing efforts, and that it has taken office space in the Manhattan-based HearstLabs, which is an accelerator for female-led startups in the media space.

“We’ve worked hard to build a product that solves a huge problem in the marketplace and with the help of NBIF, we’re establishing ourselves in the innovation and media capital of the world,” said CEO and Co-Founder Melani Flanagan in a statement. “This will enable us to broaden our reach and create partnerships with other innovators in the space.”

Founded in 2014 by Flanagan and CTO Matt Pichette, Itavio brands itself as a specialist in “game economics”. It provides gaming companies with pricing tools and analytics that can help them increase revenues, strategize, retain customers and engage with new companies.

The company also says it aims to “empower parents”. It helps parents set limits for their children’s spending on games, almost like giving them a digital allowance.

Proposify Raises Funds, ARR Rises 121%

Flanagan and Pichette tend to work quietly away from media attention, but there have been a few public announcements over the years. They went through the Propel ICT accelerator and in 2016 attended the Matter accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Now Itavio has joined HearstLab and will take up space in Hearst Tower in New York City. HearstLab backs women-led media and information-based startups with seed investment, office space and access to other resources. This includes subject matter expertise available at Hearst, whose media titles include such brands as Cosmopolitan, GoodHouseKeeping, Elle, Marie Claire and Oprah magazines.

In the NBIF announcement, Flanagan touched on a subject that’s dear to her heart – the difficulties female founders have in raising capital. Such problems are well documented. Several American women who run startups went public with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination last year, and VC database PitchBook said all-female teams received just $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year.

Flanagan stressed that as a female founder, she has had constant support from NBIF.

“It’s not easy to raise capital and certainly the news is full of reports about gender disparity or bad actors in the space,” she said. “Our relationship with NBIF has been a completely stellar opposite. Their team and leadership have maintained their support throughout and we are very lucky to have them with us on this journey.”

Said NBIF President and Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in a statement: “We like to back founders with a big vision and the entrepreneurial drive to realize that dream. Itavio has honed in on an exciting, growing market, one that the company’s founders intimately understand. The timing was perfect for us at NBIF to invest additional capital to fuel continued growth.”


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

UNB Displays Electric Car Conversion

The Potential Motors team: Michael Barnhill, left, Nick Dowling, Samuel Poirier and Isaac Barkhouse. (Photo by Rob Blanchard)

The Potential Motors team: Michael Barnhill, left, Nick Dowling, Samuel Poirier and Isaac Barkhouse. (Photo by Rob Blanchard)

A team of New Brunswick students on April 5 will showcase a simple process to convert gas-guzzling vehicles to electric power -- a process that is the basis for their new startup. 

The engineering students at University of New Brunswick will park a demo car at the front entrance of the Fredericton Convention Centre as part of the fourth annual UNB Engineering Design Symposium.

The one-day event allows final-year UNB engineering students to showcase hundreds of designs and prototypes to the community.

“We want to share the experience of what it’s like to be in an electric vehicle,” Michael Barnhill, one of the students behind the conversion technology, said in a release.

The four final-year engineering students – Barnhill, Nick Dowling, Isaac Barkhouse and Samuel Poirier – are planning to commercialize their work through their new startup, Potential Motors.

They see potential and a big market for their work, especially in Europe.

UNB's Vertiball Wins $15,000 at CBMC

“There are laws coming into play over the next 10 years to ban internal combustion engine vehicles,” Dowling said. “In Germany, they just passed regulations that allow cities to ban diesel and high-emitting vehicles. That affects 13 million vehicles in Germany right now.

“We don’t think that it’s environmentally or economically savvy to send these vehicles to the scrapyard. We want to convert them, but we want to start in New Brunswick first.”

The retrofit essentially replaces the fossil fuel-powered engine with three new components made up of modules – a motor, batteries and an electronic control unit. The motor is a universal electric motor system, specifically designed to replace the regular motor.

The system is built in a modular style to allow components to be added or taken away to make the car faster or slower; to give it more or less range; or allow it to charge faster.

The students, who developed the technology for their senior engineering design class, say they can convert a vehicle in a fraction of the time and cost of other conversion kits. They say they can convert a vehicle in under a day for an affordable price.

They are looking at the commercial vehicle market first and are receiving startup mentoring through UNB’s Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program,  which allows students to create, design and launch their own businesses.

The public is invited to attend the free symposium, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the convention centre.

LifeRaft partners with PlanetRisk

LifeRaft, a Halifax Software-as-a-Service company that detects safety threats through social media, said Tuesday its technology will be integrated into the leading security product at PlanetRisk, a security and risk analytics firm in Virginia.

The cross-boarder partnership will combine LifeRaft’s open source intelligence analytics platform with PlanetRisk’s existing global security operations through its Corporate Security Risk, CSX, platform. The technology is designed to help professionals protect assets, offices, products, and people when attacks are imminent domestically, and globally.

“We always align ourselves with the most forward thinking, experienced, and well-respected companies,” said LifeRaft CEO John Gallinaugh in a statement. “This integration demonstrates our commitment to only the best partnerships for our customers and for our company.”

In addition to its new partnership, LifeRaft has also been working with the Canadian Trade Commissioners office in the U.S. The CTC chose LifeRaft to take part in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, which helps companies penetrate US markets, in New York City as well as its current Boston cohort. In October, LifeRaft said noted investor Mike Durland had invested $1.45 million in the company, buying out existing investors. 

Harbr Raises $1.75M Funding Round

LifeRaft's flagship product, Navigator, tracks and collects data on potential threats to public safety by analyzing social media for key words like “kill” or “gun”. By integrating with PlanetRisk's CSX product, it will allow teams to use data points to understand the context surrounding these threats.

“Our technology has always been designed to deliver a single source of easily accessible and accurate information,” said Matt Tirman, the Chief Commercial Officer at PlanetRisk. “With this integration, we’re providing more intelligence to do just that – giving you immediate insight into threats and risks specific to your organization’s requirements.”

The statement said this partnership with LifeRaft will make PlanetRisk a trusted service provider for companies that need increased environmental awareness but lack the internal resources to do so.

Mariners Are Kinduct’s 9th MLB Client

Halifax health-technology company Kinduct Technologies said Tuesday the Seattle Mariners have become the ninth Major League Baseball team to subscribe to the company’s athlete management system, or AMS.

With this new partnership, the Mariners will be able to obtain a deeper understanding of their players’ data resulting in intuitive decision-making within their organization, said Kinduct in a statement. AMS will help the Mariners improve athlete performance, mitigate injuries and improve recovery.

“The need for data collection and analytics was apparent – Kinduct’s AMS bridged that gap for us,” said Lorena Martin, Director of High Performance for the Seattle Mariners. “It goes without saying that we’re all busy and our time is precious; having our data pulled into a centralized platform allows for more time spent on actionable measures to improve our player performance and well-being.”

Kinduct’s AMS product is already helping well over 100 professional and elite sports organizations find information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data in one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from about 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation. The company last raised funding in a US$9 million round led by Intel Capital in October, 2016.

Kinduct's website notes that its clients range from the San Francisco 49ers to the Boston Bruins, and includes such pro baseball teams as the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.

“The penetration in the MLB is unbelievable,” said Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough. “It’s great to see the Mariners become part of the Kinduct team.”

India’s Space O Sets Up in PEI

When Space O Technologies moved into Launchpad PEI in Charlottetown last fall, it became one of the biggest startups in the region in terms of total headcount.

There’s some irony, then, that the greatest challenge founder and CEO Rakesh Patel faces is finding the right staff for his P.E.I. operation.

Space O is an eight-year-old mobile app development company that Patel founded in Ahmedebad in Western India. He has grown the company to include offices in Russia, Phoenix and (as of last year) Charlottetown. The company now has 254 employees, of which 180 are in India.

Space O has an impressive global clientele. For example, it’s produced the No. 1 business app in Saudi Arabia. But Patel needed a base from which he could target the North American market. After considering a few choices, he and his family opted to set up shop in Charlottetown. He applied for and was accepted into the Canadian government’s Startup Visa program, with Innovation PEI as his sponsor.

“It was more like a personal lifestyle question,” he said. “My daughter wanted to study computer science at University of PEI and my wife saw the culture of the city and it made sense for us. There were no traffic issues. All in all, it’s nice.”

IWT Lands $500K, Joins Imagine H20

The story of Space O began in 2010 when Patel saw an opportunity for remote mobile app development. With a $1,000 investment, he and a business partner started the company and demand from foreign clients drove the hiring of other developers at a rapid clip.

Space-O now specializes in app development for Apple Watch, iPhone and Android operating systems, even augmented reality apps compatible with iOS 11, the world’s most advanced operating system. The company has developed more than 2,500 iOS and Android mobile apps, taking clients from the conceptualization stage to the finished product. Its clients include such blue chip companies as athletic equipment maker Nike and cybersecurity giant McAfee, and its apps have been downloaded more than 20 million times.

The company has its own app on the Apple App store, which on any given day can rate in the top 100 in such categories as photos and videos or productivity.

In Charlottetown, Space O has a prime space in the new LaunchPad facility on Great George Street, which is also home to such Charlottetown tech luminaries as Onset Communication and RevIQ. The company now has one employee and contractor working in P.E.I., and Patel would like to increase the staffing on the Island to six to eight people this year. But finding the right people has proven difficult. Space O tried to hire a digital marketing specialist locally, but had to hire in Montreal. It is now looking for a content writer, marketing manager and a product manager, and maybe a sales and marketing executive.

“Hiring people is one of the challenges to growing,” said Patel. “We are looking for some really good talent that can really kick ass and challenge our process and systems.”

The goal is for the overall Space O organization to grow, and for the P.E.I. office to be a key ingredient to expanding in the valuable markets in the U.S. and Canada.

“With limited resources, it’s hard to grow,” said Patel. “We want to make sure we’re a business with 300 to 500 people in the next few years. We’ve been using our own knowledge to build the company but need some new employees who can challenge our own model.”

NS Contributes $11M to SMU Facility

The Province of Nova Scotia will contribute about $11 million to a new facility for entrepreneurship and innovation at St. Mary’s University.

On Thursday, the provincial government made the announcement as part of a $244 million wave of funding that came from a one-time windfall from offshore oil revenue. While most of the media attention was dedicated to funding for rural internet, the spending plans included several initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

A statement from the government said the funding for SMU aims “to create a physical location that will allow for the development of creativity, innovation and commercialization, and to put students and faculty in contact with entrepreneurs, businesses and the external community.”

The university is planning to build a new Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation Hub on the campus in the South End of Halifax. It advances the ‘Discovery and Innovation’ and ‘Intercultural Learning’ components of the Saint Mary’s University 2017-2022 Strategic Plan.

“Since I became president, we’ve made entrepreneurship a strategic direction for the university and we’ve been working and investing in this field,” said SMU President Robert Summerby-Murray in a statement.

The other innovation-related funding initiatives that the government announced last week include:

  • Research Nova Scotia Trust: $20 million to fund post-secondary research in oceans and ocean technologies, life sciences, information technology and other areas.
  • Offshore Growth Strategy: $ 11.8 million to extend offshore activities in the earth and oil sciences for another four years.
  • DeepSense: $5 million to support the creation of a platform for ocean data analysis to contribute to the growth of the regional marine economy.
  • Innovation Team: $1.5 million to support a new suite of projects that will help post-secondary institutions contribute to the growth of the provincial economy, attract students and provide more research and development opportunities.
  • Sandbox: $850,000 to create a ninth sandbox in the Southwestern Nova Scotia region to bring together students from Nova Scotia Community College and Université Sainte-Anne.

Disclosure: SMU and the Province of Nova Scotia are clients of Entrevestor.

NBIF Names Five Finalists for R3

NBIF will award $50,000 to three New Brunswick researchers at this year's R3 Gala.

NBIF will award $50,000 to three New Brunswick researchers at this year's R3 Gala.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation on Monday announced five Research Innovation Awards finalists for this year’s R3 Innovations in Aging Gala, which is set for April 12 in Fredericton.

The awards will be presented to three of the finalists for their research in technology and its impact for our aging population. Each winner will reveive $50,000 in NBIF research funding. On top of these awards, one CBC Viewers Choice recipient will be awarded $15,000.

“We’re so excited that for our 10-year anniversary, we’re offering $50,000 each in NBIF research funding for such a critical action area,” said NBIF’s Director of Research Lindsay Bowman in a statement.

"These finalists have shown tremendous potential for impact on healthy aging in New Brunswick, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the list. Research is the often unseen foundation that’s critical to any innovative product or service, and we want to make sure it’s appropriately recognized and celebrated.”

This year, NBIF is expanding its biennial event, the R3 Gala, into three full days of talks, conferences and seminars that will centre around the main theme: innovations in aging. Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and an expert of ageism will present a keynote address during the awards ceremony.

The conference starts on April 10 at the Fredericton Convention Centre

The five finalists are:

Suzanne Depuis-Blanchard, Université de Moncton

Her research explores the benefits of at-home care for seniors, and is examining a model of this type of delivery service where nursing home staff actually travel to patients’ homes.  

Clive Baldwin, St. Thomas University

His research on “narrative gerontology”, a practice in which healthcare providers use the patient's life story or personal narrative, is being recognized for its capacity to help older adults combat feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

Carole Goodine, University of New Brunswick

Goodine is developing a polypharmacy app that aims to solve a major issue among the aging population -- simultaneously taking high amounts of medication. Older adults on multiple prescriptions often take their daily meds all at once, which can lead to more health issues.

Erik Scheme, University of New Brunswick

He has developed a program called, PITCH which stands for Proactive Integrated Technology-Enabled Patient-Centric Healthcare, a screening program designed to enable regular health monitoring and intervention.

Trevor Hanson, University of New Brunswick

His research addresses issues facing rural seniors who no longer drive and looks at the different challenges that limit mobility.  His research aims to start new conversations on how we can help older adults who have lost their mobility freedoms, rather than just  limiting driving because of aging.

You can vote for the CBC Viewers Choice Award by watching the finalists' videos on CBC New Brunswick's Facebook page and 'liking' your favourite. Click here to to buy tickets to the gala.


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Picomole Is Back, Conducting Tests

After a few years of dormancy, Moncton-based medical technology company Picomole is once again in operation and developing its breathalyzer device that detects early signs of cancer.

In partnering with the New Brunswick health authority Horizon Health Network, Picomole will test its device in a study, involving 100 lung-cancer patients and 100 controls, to further develop the core screening technology.

Anthony Reiman, a Research Chair with the Canadian Cancer Society, is the principal researcher with this study.

“(Horizon Health) is better funded than us and providing good information to develop the tech,” said Chris Purves, the Vice-President of Engineering and Development at Picomole. He also said the study is going more slowly than originally thought but the team has added second study sites at hospitals in Moncton and Saint John.

Purves said the company raised about $600,000 through local angel investors to reboot the business in 2016, and is making good headway with the Horizon study. That study enrolled its first cancer patient in October and has collected about 10 percent of the needed breath samples since.  

Picomole’s product is a portable breath analyzer that patients breathe into to be tested for early signs of cancer. The product can be used for a fast, inexpensive test when patients visit their doctor, to flag patients who need immediate attention. Currently Picomole is keeping its focus on lung diseases.

Cancer screening processes now involve bulky, expensive equipment, like CT scans. Purves said the American Physicians Society recently put forward a motion to have higher risk groups for lung cancer -- such as smokers or people with histories of cancer -- screened more frequently.

SomaDetect Expands To Buffalo

“There is a mandated need for this screening,” said Purves. “The market is waiting and there is no good solution, but we believe we have that solution.”

Purves predicts Picomole could build up to $1 billion in annual revenue once it hits its targets, based on what it plans to charge for its tech. Picomole is tackling the U.S. market first because its healthcare industry is vertically integrated and would get Picomole's tech in hospitals faster, said Purves.

“Once we’ve developed the screening test with lung cancer, we’ll just start adding on diseases,” said Purves.

The company put the machine through successful trials in 2013, but after the CEO and Founder John Cormier left to pursue other ventures, the company had to put the device in storage.

Now that Picomole is back, Purves says the company is working on additional commercial developments and a clinical trial for the product. Purves wants the company's analysis platform to be able to detect a range of diseases through breath samples alone.

“Similar to when you get a blood test and check for multiple diseases, we can get a breath test and find multiple things too.”

The company isn’t ready to release details yet but Purves hinted it may soon make an announcement in regards to its first customer install. And it is also in the middle of a $2 million fundraising effort.

Jobs of the Week: HeyOrca,Envenio

In our Jobs of the Week column today, we’re highlighting openings with HeyOrca in St. John’s and Envenio in Fredericton.

HeyOrca is a Newfoundland Software-as-a-Service startup that built a social media planner specifically for marketing agencies. It’s hiring a Sales Development Representative via its New Grad Program.

Envenio, also a SaaS company, developed a program that lets basic computers simulate air-flow, and examine how different structures would interact around that movement. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can chart the interactions of liquids and gases in specific conditions and with certain solid shapes. It is looking for a UI/UX developer to lead the development of the product’s new interface.

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

Here are excerpts from the postings:

St John’s


Sales Development Representative

The Sales Development Representative (SDR) will generate new business opportunities by following proven processes to prospect into business accounts. You'll learn how to identify and research lists of companies to target, and how to develop email and telephone campaigns to generate new business opportunities…


Place outbound calls and send emails to uncover opportunities with prospective companies.

Learn and execute proven processes to generate new sales opportunities

Manage follow-up and conversations to sales opportunities.

Engage and identify the necessary internal resources for deal execution…

Apply for the job here.



UI/UX Developer

As the UI/UX developer, you will be leading the development of our next generation interface for our engineering simulation software EXN/Aero. You will evaluate the existing software & web interfaces, competitor's workflows, and craft the next generation user experience…


- EXN/View, our existing UI, is how we interact with EXN/Aero, and it handles several aspects of the engineering workflow, including:

- Setting up datafiles for submission to the solver

- Updating datafiles when new versions are released

- Running solver launch scripts

- Monitoring simulation metrics while a solve process is active

Apply for the job here.

Innovacorp’s $2M LightSail Bet Fails

Danielle Fong

Danielle Fong

LightSail Energy, the Silicon Valley cleantech company co-founded by Dartmouth-born Danielle Fong, has shut down, meaning Innovacorp will write off its $2-million investment in the company.

Based in Berkeley, Calif., LightSail was working on an energy storage product that used compressed air infused with water vapour that could drive wind turbines during periods of low wind. The publication Greentech Media said in December that the company, which had raised a total of US$80 million, had run out of money and was shutting down.

Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s venture capital and innovation agency, had invested in the company’s US$37-million D Round of funding in 2012, joining such tech luminaries as Bill Gates and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. As part of the $2-million investment from Innovacorp, LightSail agreed to build a demonstration project in Nova Scotia to test its solution in a northern climate.

That Nova Scotian project, like the rest of the LightSail commercialization plans, failed to materialize.

“Like anything in this space, it was a situation where a technology failed to commercialize, and there are other technologies that have progressed more in the energy storage area,” said Innovacorp vice-president of investment Charles Baxter in an interview. “In this case, lithium ion batteries have progressed more.”

The investment in LightSail was considered an experiment for Innovacorp. It sought to back the company’s facility in Nova Scotia, which was expected to cost a total of $4.7 million. By investing in the California parent company, the organization hoped to develop contacts with Silicon Valley investors, with the hopes that could lead to investments in Nova Scotia companies.

Harbr Raises $1.75M Funding Round

The genesis of the relationship between LightSail and Innovacorp was Fong, a brilliant scientist who hailed from Nova Scotia and had judged Innovacorp’s CleanTech Open competition in 2011.

Fong, a Dalhousie University alumna, dropped out of a PhD program at Princeton to found LightSail in her early twenties. The company espoused a revolutionary system that would improve the efficiency of compressing air in order to store electricity — a system that would have been especially useful for wind or solar power applications.

The company said its technology solved a classic problem in renewable energy: Wind power works only when the wind is blowing, solar only when the sun shines. That means there is no correlation between periods of strong energy generation and peak electricity demand. By storing electricity, energy providers can moderate the output and rely less on backups from more reliable energy sources, like burning fossil fuels.

Many storage systems rely on compressed air, which can be released during down times to produce electricity. However, the compression process creates heat, a form of energy that is mostly lost. Using water vapour, LightSail planned to recapture that heat and convert it into electricity. The Nova Scotia plant would have assessed how the system could use water vapour in a cold climate during winter.

Asked if Innovacorp would again invest in an offshore company with operations, Baxter said each case is considered individually, but the agency would demand that the Nova Scotian part of the operation be up and running before it considered such a deal again.

He added that each VC investment carries risk, but the technology risks in clean energy products are significant because they often need the plant to be constructed to ensure a product works, and there are always new technologies coming on stream. It differs from an IT investment, in which it is fairly easy to demonstrate efficacy. In life sciences, he said, Innovacorp tends to focus on medical devices, which have a lower threshold of regulatory risk than drug discovery companies.


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Millennial Business Pitch Competition

Dominyka Taylor (left) started the competition when she was in grade 11.

Dominyka Taylor (left) started the competition when she was in grade 11.

The second annual Millennial Business Pitch Competition is scheduled for June 1, at Planet Hatch. This competition is designed for Fredericton-area high school students to connect with the business community and show industry sponsors their ideas.

Participating high school students will pitch their ideas to a crowd of teachers, industry experts, and several judges including Heather Boyd-Kinnie from the Pond Deshpande Centre and Chris Ramsey, the co-owner of Crabbe Mountain. Those participating could win $500 in prize money.

Dominyka Taylor started the competition in 2017.

“I came up with the idea for this competition when noticing the lack of student participation in the business startup community,” said Taylor, who will graduate from Fredericton High School this spring.

“I noticed that every entrepreneurial event I’d attended that year had lacked high school student involvement. The event has shifted high school students into future entrepreneurs and their ideas into not just ideas, but into real startup businesses.”

Taylor says presentations this year will range from clothing brands that donate to mental health organisations, to watches that can detect UV rays and signal when it’s time to get out of the sun.

Eight businesses pitched at last year's competition, and this year Taylor is expecting there to be more. She also hopes to see more involvement from surrounding schools.

“The Millennial Inc. Pitch Competition only has room to grow,” said Taylor. “Since last year, we have connected with more people in the business startup community such as sponsors, mentors, judges, teachers and business gurus.”

She says the competition helps business leaders take youth more seriously.

“Too many people in the business startup community don’t appreciate the many talents and ideas high school students offer. Millennial Inc. brought together these two groups, giving confidence to the students and giving the business startup community a reality check.”

The event will be held Friday, June 1 at 5 to 9 pm at Planet Hatch, where dinner will be provided.  

Drawing Youth to Farms With Robots

“Picking weeds sucks,” says Teric Greenan, who is building a robot that can identify and pick weeds (Gayle Wilson/LighthouseNOW)

“Picking weeds sucks,” says Teric Greenan, who is building a robot that can identify and pick weeds (Gayle Wilson/LighthouseNOW)

To reverse the declining numbers of young Canadian farmers, Halifax-based Nexus Robotics is developing a weed-picking robot that makes the physical farm labour less grueling.

“Picking weeds sucks,” said Teric Greenan, the founder of Nexus.  “It never ends. You can be as proactive as you want about it, but there are always going to be weeds next week, next month, next year. And no young person wants to get into an industry where you have to work your ass off for next to no pay, there is a reason we’re turning away from it.”

In Canada, there are more farmers over the age of 55 than those under 35, according to Statistics Canada. And “that’s just an industry waiting to collapse,” said Greenan who is a part of this declining population.

The 25-year-old runs a farm in Lunenburg called Abundance Cooperative and it was there that Greenan, a former electrical engineering student at St. Francis Xavier University, had the idea for a robot than can identify and remove stubborn weeds.

So in October 2016, he approached Thomas Trappenberg, a professor with Dalhousie University's Faculty of Computer Science, to figure out how to build this robot. Since then Greenan has partnered with a team of four developers and researchers to construct the weed-picking bot, and they’ve been gaining good traction.

SomaDetect Expands In Buffalo

The team has received about $150,000 in funding from such organizations as Innovacorp, through its Spark Innovation Challenge and Cleantech accelerator, and the National Research Council. They have built the initial prototype of the machine. What’s next is developing the software for the visual recognition, machine learning system that will ensure that the robot knows exactly what is and is not a weed.

“That’s really the innovative part of our system,” said Greenan.

Nexus plans to have the final prototype ready within the next six months to demo for large-scale farmers here in Canada. Ideally, Greenan says he’d like to tackle the North American markets first. In Atlantic Canada, he has identified a large problem with a weed called Lamb's Quarter, a pesky plant common on the potato farms in Prince Edward Island.

A big issue in modern farming is that weeds have become resistant to traditional herbicides, forcing farmers to resort back to old fashioned weed-pullin’ to deal with their unwanted sprouts.

“Technology is the solution to that,” said Greenan. “It’s not going to go back to people in the field with hoes.”

Greenan says his robot would be able to work twice as fast as a person and would also work overnight, giving farmers back their time to plot, plan and plant crops.

The robot, which has been built, taken apart, and re-assembled twice now, will have the advanced software installed within the next couple months.

Greenan says he is open to testing the robot at his farm in Lunenburg. But he needs to be absolutely confident in the bot's functionality before testing it on any of the crops and, more importantly, before demoing for potential early adopters.

“I just want to make farming better for farmers, that’s my goal.”

ReadyPass, BrewHopper in Merger

Two New Brunswick startups have merged and are now offering their products under a new company name.

BrewHopper, a craft beer tourism tech company and ReadyPass, a smart software company for transit agencies, are now being run by a new company called Expedition Connect. The new owners say this means more growth for both products.

Expedition Connect was started by Al Sturgeon and Mike Legere, the founders of BrewHopper. Sturgeon says they decided to gain ownership of ReadyPass through a friendly acquisition in May 2017. At the time, he says BrewHopper was already working with ReadyPass to use its technology.

“We partnered with ReadyPass to expand what they were doing on transit, but to build for BrewHopper,” says Sturgeon. “In 2017 we started to roll out our [BrewHopper] pilot in Fredericton where we were using the same tech but to do hop-on-hop-off  [craft beer] tours around Fredericton.” . . . 

Read the full story on Huddle. 

Harbr Raises $1.75M Funding Round

Dave Kim: The makeup of the investment group is the most significant thing.

Dave Kim: The makeup of the investment group is the most significant thing.

Halifax-based Harbr has closed a $1.75 million round of funding, having assembled a blue-chip roster of Atlantic Canadian business people as the core of its investor group.

The company is developing mobile technology that uses artificial intelligence to help construction companies perfect such tasks as scheduling. It is now being backed by a group of investors weighted heavily in the construction industry. It features some noted technology investors from the region and beyond, and some of the mentors Harbr has worked with as it’s gone through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic program.

“Having the group of investors that we have in this round is the most significant thing,” said CEO Dave Kim in an interview. “We’re trying to create exponential value, and all these investors  . . . are working toward our vision of trying to create artificial intelligence for the construction industry.”

Kim said the round was led by Jevon MacDonald, the CEO of Halifax-based Manifold, and Halifax developer George Armoyan, whose interests include Geosam Capital and Clarke Inc.

Other investors from the construction or development industries include: Don Clow, President and CEO at Crombie REIT; Jim Spatz, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Properties Limited; Dan Flaminio, President and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Traugott Building Contractors; and Victor Kielbratowski, owner of Halifax-based Kiel Developments.

Other members of the investment team are Atlantic Canadian business people Frank Sobey, John Risley, Mark Dobbin (President of St. John’s-based Killick Capital), Gavin Uhma, Wade Dawe and Joe Fiander, as well as David Dufresne of pan-Canadian venture capital fund Panache Ventures, and Innovacorp.

One interesting aspect of the funding is that it re-unites MacDonald, Uhma and Kim, who together founded GoInstant, the Halifax startup that was bought by Salesforce.com for more than $70 million in 2012.

Proposify Raises 'Significant' Round as ARR rises 121%

Kim founded Harbr two years ago with a vision of using artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency of and reduce workflow bottlenecks in construction projects.

The product – which is now being tested in pilot projects – uses field data from building sites to tell construction teams what is happening in a project and help execute on the production schedule. “The idea is to put this in everyone’s pocket so everyone knows what’s going on in real time,” said Kim.

He said the goal is to improve efficiency and cut costs and waste. The product will be piloted for most of this year and Kim anticipates a full launch later this year.

“Committed to exceptional growth in the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, Harbr's very capable team is creating world-class cutting-edge technology, which could have huge impacts for construction and real-estate industries across the globe," said Clow in the statement.

Kim said the money will be used to grow the Harbr team, which now comprises 11 people. In particular, he wants to ramp up the sales team and recently brought in Sarah Murphy, former CEO of St. John’s startup Sentinel Alert, as Vice-President of Business Development.

Murphy’s hiring exemplifies another aspect of the Harbr mission: the company is committed to equal hiring based on gender. Its 12th hire, coming aboard in the coming weeks, is female (a digital designer from Ottawa who is moving to Halifax to take the job), at which point the company will have six men and six women.  The funding will allow further hiring.

Said investor Gavin Uhma: “Up until now they’ve been operating on a shoestring budget and have accomplished so much - I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with more capital.”

SomaDetect Expands to Buffalo

The SomaDetect team with Founders Bethany Deshpande and Nicholas Clermont in the centre.

The SomaDetect team with Founders Bethany Deshpande and Nicholas Clermont in the centre.

Fredericton-based SomaDetect, an agricultural data company that analyzes cow’s milk to moniter health and increase milk quality, has been growing fast and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The company has announced that it is expanding its offices to Buffalo and adding three new executives who have a combined 50 years of experience in product management, leadership and commercialization.

John Gavigan, Daniel Fuglewicz and Margaret Kerr will serve as the Chief Operating Officer, Director of Embedded Engineering and Office Manager/Executive Assistant to the CEO, respectively. 

“I am thrilled to welcome John, Daniel and Margaret to SomaDetect as our first Buffalo hires,” said Bethany Deshpande the CEO of SomaDetect in a statement. “I know that they will be essential team members in growing SomaDetect right here in the Queen City. ”

The Buffalo offices are well positioned for SomaDetect, which develops hardware and software for dairy farmers. Its technology scans raw milk with a laser beam, scanning the fat content and somatic cell count as each cow is milked. This provides data that can point to the presence of mastitis, an udder disease, as well as measure the quality of the milk.

“There are more cows in the state of New York than all of Canada,” said Ryan Cobb, SomaDetect's Customer Success Specialist during an interview.

BioNB Annual Report Assesses Growth of Biotech in NB

On top of growing its staff, SomaDetect is set to join two programs, the 2018 Sprint Accelerator Cohort and the NVIDIA Inception program. NVIDIA aims to nurture startups that are disrupting industries with AI and data.

“We'll get key feedback to make sure we’re building the most robust algorithm for what we’re doing,” said Cobb. “You don’t see farming and tech coming together often so we’re excited to be in the middle of that.”

What’s also exciting for the company is the Sprint accelerator’s corporate sponsor, the Dairy Farmers of America. The three-month accelerator in Kansas City, Mo., positions SomaDetect to collaborate with one of the largest dairy companies in the world, with more than 13,000 farmers in 48 states.

“They’re excited to help bring new ideas and innovation to the dairy industry,” said Cobb. “And that mentorship and getting industry knowledge back is so important. They're helping us to communicate our value to farmers, processors and every part of the industry.”

SomaDetect was founded by Deshpande, Bharath Sudarsan, and Nicholas Clermont  in 2016. Since then, SomaDetect has been a finalist in the NBIF Breakthru Competition, the winner of the Fierce Founders Bootcamp in Ontario and winner of the Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis. It also won $1 million at the 2017 43North competition, in Buffalo, which allowed the company to facilitate its U.S. expansion.

“We take any opportunity we have and it’s really positioned us in a good spot,” said Cobb. “Atlantic Canada has been the best place to start SomaDectect from. There is one degree of separation from farmers, we owe a great debt to the Atlantic Canadian dairy farming community.”

QRA Lands $749,000 IRAP Grant

Jordan Kyriakidis: Grant will allow 'high-risk, high-reward industrial research'.

Jordan Kyriakidis: Grant will allow 'high-risk, high-reward industrial research'.

QRA Corp, an emerging design verification technology firm, has received funding of up to $749,068 from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.

The Halifax company builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements at crucial stages of development. Their products help engineers to devise better requirements and detect design errors early in the design process.

The funds will help support applications of Natural Language Processing to requirements authoring and analysis, QRA said in a release.

“This contribution will enable us to conduct high-risk, high-reward industrial research that vastly deepens our analysis of technical requirements documents.” said Jordan Kyriakidis, QRA Co-founder and CEO

The company has received up to $799,000 in total contributions to date from the NRC-IRAP. The latest funding will support R&D of a requirements quality analysis toolset for improving procurement processes and project development.

The announcement follows QRA’s recent sale to the Royal Canadian Air Force of related quality analysis software intended to improve requirements compliance and quality within the Department of National Defence.

Rimot Launches First IoT Product

After two years of development, Dartmouth-based Rimot.io last week launched its Internet-of-Things product for monitoring remote infrastructure, like communications transmitters.

At the International Wireless Communications Expo in Orlando, the company launched RimotRF, which monitors remote phone transmitters, like those in the middle of a forest, to ensure the equipment is working when it’s needed.

CEO Andrew Boswell said in an interview the company has been beta-testing RimotRF with six or seven parties for the past year, and last week in Orlando it met with about 20 prospective clients.

“There are hundreds of thousands of wireless transmitters across North America that are not monitored in real time that provide important voice and data communications for business and government,” said Boswell in a statement. “We are excited to be one of the first companies to launch an easy-to-use remote monitoring service for these unmonitored transmitter sites that provides continuous insight about the remote site, transmitters, weather and lightning.”

A former Chair of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Boswell spent 14 years as the President of Nova Communications, a specialist in integrating wireless communications systems. During that time, he noticed that phone transmitters (not cell phone towers but transmitters commonly used by emergency services) in remote locations go unmonitored because it takes time and money to send people out to inspect them regularly. The only way the operator knows there’s a problem is that people who need them report that their phones aren’t working.

Boswell said Rimot CTO James Craig understood the problem and devised a solution that can fix it. They describe RimotRF as a turnkey solution, meaning that it can bolt on to any remote transmitter and work seamlessly with existing communication equipment.  

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RimotRF constantly collects information about the transmitter and site, combining it with weather data to give a complete picture of what is happening in the field. It can, for example, tell the user if lightning is in the area.  RimotRF users receive this information and the analytics on the mobile device of their choice. The system can set up alerts that can be sent by email or texts when certain thresholds are exceeded.

The monitoring service is an example of the growing global adoption of predictive maintenance and smarter remote asset management solutions. According to MarketandMarkets, the predictive maintenance market is growing at 25.7 percent annually from 2016 to 2021.

Boswell said the team is initially targeting the market for cell phone transmitters – a market he estimates to be worth more than $1 billion in Canada and the U.S. alone. Eventually, Rimot hopes to expand to other remote infrastructure, such as power generators.

Rimot, which has five full-time employees, has been funded so far by the founders, and received $25,000 from Innovacorp’s CleanTech program. The priority now is to record sales, and Boswell feels sure the beta-testers and some of the people he met in Orlando, will soon become paying clients. Once the revenue starts to increase, the company will consider seeking outside funding, preferably with a partner with experience in the IoT space -- especially the Industrial Internet of Things.

Right now, Boswell is enjoying the buzz of being in the early stages of growing a company again.

“It’s a fresh challenge and there’s a lot to learn,” he said. “And I’m really looking forward to the revenue piece.”

Techsploration Receives National Award

Techsploration, a Nova Scotia-based non-profit, has been awarded the 2018 Leadership Excellence Award for Empowerment by the group Women in Communications and Technology.

The national award honours success in empowering girls to continue their participation and education in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.

“Since 1998, our small, grassroots organization has been propelled by the idea that knowledge empowers potential,” Arylene Reycraft, Executive Director of Techsploration, said in a release. “This award is a testament to the impact of this vision, as well as the passion and dedication of our community of staff, sponsors, role models, teachers, volunteers, and alumnae.”

Techsploration encourages young women from Grades 9 through 12 to explore in-demand science, trades, and technology careers, while also helping them understand the significance of high school math and science for their future careers.

The group’s mentorship program demonstrates the power of role models to help girls choose a career that's right for them, said Joanne Stanley, Executive Director of WCT.

The group currently reaches 40 schools and over 3,500 students per year. Techsploration’s ‘Women in Action’ web video series has been viewed more than 300,000 times and is used by teachers and students in classrooms across North America and beyond.

WCT’s Leadership Excellence Awards will be presented at the WCT Annual Awards Gala on April 16, 2018 at Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

The complete list of award winners is available here.

Planet Hatch To Host Startup Events

Planet Hatch in Fredericton will host two free events this month that will highlight how startups can receive funding and partner with corporations.

Opportunities New Brunswick will host the first one on Thursday. The day-long event, called Access to Capital for Startups, is a part of East Coast Startup Week, a week-long series of private events across the region starting today.

ONB has assembled a panel of entrepreneurs and investors to discuss topics like investment readiness, and there will also be a lunch-and-learn on the small business tax credit. The event will run from 9 am to 3 pm.

On March 22, Ignite Frederiction plans to present its second Engage Innovation Talk, which will focus on the power of corporate-startup partnerships to produce innovation.

This talk will feature a panel discussion with Nestor Gomez, startup and entrepreneurship program lead at McCain Foods, Andre Pelletier, Business Development Manager at the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council, and Lindsay Bowman, Director of Research at New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The panelists will show attendees how their companies can partner with corporations so both the new and established companies share the benefits.

The event starts with networking at noon, and concludes with closing remarks by 3 pm.

Both events aim to show early businesses and startups new avenues for investment and how to foster corporate connections.

Innovacorp Exits Kivuto; 12X Return

Innovacorp has exited from an investment it made last century, booking a return of 12 times in the process.

The Nova Scotia government’s venture capital and innovation agency said Friday that its portfolio company Kivuto Solutions Inc. has been sold in a private equity deal. No information on the price was released, but Innovacorp Vice-President of Investment Charles Baxter said in an interview that the provincial agency made 12 times its money through capital gains and dividends.

“Within what we call the legacy portfolio, the companies we invested in before we changed our investment model in 2011, it’s the largest return that we got on any of those companies,” said Baxter.

CEO Ram Raju founded what was then known as e-Academy in Halifax in 1997 to simplify the management and distribution of software in higher education. Two years later, Innovacorp invested in the company, and not long after that Raju moved the company to Ottawa, changing its name to Kivuto.

The disappointment Innovacorp felt at losing the company to Ontario was softened by the fact that the company did well – so well, in fact, that for several years now it has paid dividends to its investors, including Innovacorp back in Halifax.

Now the company has been sold in an equity-and-debt buyout put together by Calgary-based Legado Capital and Roynat Equity Partners, which is a subsidiary of Scotiabank.

Kivuto is best-known for two products: OnTheHub, a network of custom school-branded online stores that provides students with discounted academic software; and Texidium, an eBook adoption, delivery and reader solution.

The company has worked with leading software publishers with the goal of developing academic programs that provide students with the tools and skills they need to be successful in the workforce. These programs are designed to give students and faculty low- to no-cost access to top-tier products provided by publishers.

“Kivuto has built a great team of professionals that has driven much of the company’s success over the years and we’re thrilled to be a part of this world-class organization,” Jeff Blacklock, managing partner of Legado Capital, said in a statement.

What the deal means for Innovacorp is money in the bank. It’s the Crown corporation’s first exit since Analyze Re sold out for US$9.5 million ($13 million) to Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics company Verisk Analytics in October, 2016.

A return of 12 times looks good on paper, but the celebration is tempered by the fact that it took 19 years to cash out. VC funds assess their success on internal rate of return, or IRR, a measurement that considers not only the final return but also how long it took to get their money.

“If you told me I could make that [a 12-times return] in my RRSP back in 1999, I would have had a big smile on my face,” said Baxter. “Twelve times money is a good return. But the IRR is not what a VC firm would be looking for given the time involved.”

The exit is also a chance to make money from the legacy portfolio. Most of the companies in this group have failed (which is not uncommon in a VC portfolio) and it still includes three Halifax-area companies that are growing: SimplyCast, Medusa Medical Technologies, and DGI Clinical.

Oddly, the Kivuto news came out on the same day that the media were reporting on another EdTech company that began in Halifax during the dotcom boom -- the news that Knowledge House insiders were convicted of fraud. Baxter did not comment on Knowledge House, but he said it would have been better for the province if Kivuto had remained in Halifax. 

"Obviously, we want to see companies like this grow here and be a contributor to the Nova Scotia economy," said Baxter. "But the landscape today is a lot different than it would have been in 1999. I’m confident that if we had the same opportunity today that we would see that company grow here."


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Jobs of the Week: 5 at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is a SaaS visual marketing company in Halifax and is looking for 5 new employees for its team

Dash Hudson is a SaaS visual marketing company in Halifax and is looking for 5 new employees for its team

To keep up with its growing customer base, Dash Hudson has five positions open to join its team here in Halifax, all on our job board this week

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing, software-as-a-service company that helps corporate clients optimize and manage visual marketing strategies. It hopes to hire five new employees to fill the roles of: Senior Full Stack Developer, Account Executive, Data and Research scientists as well as a QA Automation Engineer. 

With its platform, Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos.

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

Here are excerpts from the job postings:


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world.


Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.

Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.

Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas. . . . 

Read about the job here.

DevOps/QA Automation Engineer

As a DevOps / QA Automation Engineer, you will work with our incredible dev team to build and maintain the automation infrastructure and framework to support the deployment, scaling and quality assurance of services / applications.


Deploying, automating, maintaining and managing AWS cloud based applications / services

to ensure the availability, performance, scalability and security of production systems

Development of automation infrastructure, including documentation and strategy

Configuration management of applications / services across environments

Read about the job here.

Senior Full Stack Developer

As a Senior Full Stack Developer, you will work with our incredible dev team to build product used by some of the best companies in the world.


Design, build, test and maintain web applications and services

Implement APIs using RESTful conventions for integrating with web and mobile applications

Work closely with our product and design teams to customize user experience on the front-end

Analyze and optimize application code for efficiency and performance . . . 

Read about the job here.

Research Scientist

As a Research Scientist, you will work with our incredible dev team to build innovative products using the cutting edge technologies...


Ability to learn and adapt

Problem-solving mentality

Product-first approach to building software

Programming experience in Python.

Programming experience with following libraries and toolkits: numpy, scikit, tensorflow, and other machine learning and neural network toolkits...

Read about the job here.

Data Scientist

As a Data Scientist, you will work with our incredible dev team to develop analytical approaches to meet business requirements…


Selecting features, building and optimizing classifiers using machine learning techniques

Data mining using state-of-the-art methods

Extending company’s data with third party sources of information when needed

Enhancing data collection procedures to include information that is relevant for building analytic systems…

Read about the job here.

Proposify Raises; ARR Soars 121%

Kyle Racki, left, and Kevin Springer

Kyle Racki, left, and Kevin Springer

Halifax-based Proposify has raised a significant funding round led by businessmen John Risley and Brendan Paddick, which should help the company more than double its staff to 60 this year.

The parties involved in the deal, which closed last week, are not revealing how much was raised by the company, whose Software-as-a-Service product automates the process of writing proposals. But CEO Kyle Racki said in an interview the deal values Proposify at about $30 million.

For several years, Racki and Co-Founder Kevin Springer have been at least doubling sales annually, so they now have about $4 million (and growing) in annual recurring revenue, or ARR. As of last summer, the duo was undecided about whether to raise capital or just continue organic growth, but they recently decided their fast growth and the size of their potential market warranted bringing on new capital.

“The timing just felt right,” said Racki, bleary-eyed but happy after a business / pleasure trip to San Diego, where he met clients — and got engaged. “We felt like we had got the initial traction, but if we really wanted to get the company to the next level . . . to become a $100-million ARR company, that we needed capital to do that."

CVCA Says Atlantic Canada Raised $99M in VC in 2017

Proposify’s software simplifies and enhances the process of writing proposals in the cloud with online proposal design templates that can easily be customized with text, images, videos and charts. Racki said it allows Proposify’s 6,000 clients to close deals more quickly, which increases their revenues. The product, which is constantly being improved, gets into such cutting-edge markets as e-signatures, sales enablement and sales automation. The e-signatures market alone is forecast to grow 39 per cent, compounded annually to $2 billion in the four years to 2020.

Proposify is growing even more quickly than its markets. In 2017, the company’s ARR increased 121 percent to $3.9 million, and Racki expects its ARR will hit $10 million by the end of the year.

Proposify last raised capital in 2014 — a pre-seed round that featured a $250,000 investment from Innovacorp and additional funding by angel investor Patrick Hankinson. Innovacorp came back into the current round, joining Risley and Paddick.

Though best known as founder and chairman of Clearwater Seafoods, Risley has been getting more involved with startups. He is a fellow of the Creative Destruction Lab – Atlantic, and his investment company CFFI Ventures Inc. has invested in such Halifax-area companies as the sports data platform Kinduct and Velo Industries Inc., which has developed a messaging service targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

The Proposify principals are now ramping up the company, planning to expand the staff from the current staff of 27 to about 60 by the end of the year. Building up the sales team will be a huge focus, and the team recently brought on Lisa Jackson, a veteran of Radian6, Salesforce, Eastlink and BlueDrop Performance Learning, as the vice-president of sales and customer success.

“What we want to do as a company is to improve the sales process,” said Racki. “We’re positioned very well to be a leader in this market.”

Ubique Backs Major Gaming Event

Ubique Networks, a gaming platform company headquartered in Sydney and Toronto, is putting up US$10,000 in prize money for the CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournament at the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo, Canada’s largest gaming expo.

The expo, hosted by Enthusiast Gaming, starts Friday and wraps up Sunday at the International Centre in Toronto. Ubique is known for its Swarmio Esports Platform – a vertically integrated “lag-sensing” platform, which will be used during this weekend’s expo.

“We are proud to partner with Enthusiast Gaming to co-sponsor EGLX's Counter Strike tournament,” Vijai Karthigesu, Founder and CEO of Ubique, said in a statement. “As esports continues to grow in global popularity, Ubique's latency-optimized and feature-rich Swarmio Esports Platform is a perfect solution for both LAN and online tournament organizers and gamers.”

Ubique, which received $1 million in equity funding in 2016, aims to solve a huge problem with multi-player online games. When players in different parts of the world are playing one another, the system is much faster for the player closest to the server, giving that player an unfair advantage.

Ubique’s solution is to develop a network of remote servers, so the players are always playing on a server based roughly equal distances from each of them. In October, the company won the Sydney Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Export Achievement Award, recognizing its global reach.  

Over 15,000 gamers, enthusiasts, and developers are expected to attend the gaming expo this weekend. The CS:GO tournament series began with an open 64-Team Online Qualifier in early February on Ubique’s Swarmio platform.

“Their online qualifiers created a lot of momentum heading into our final physical event and the Swarmio platform will offer our competitors a level of lagless gaming they have yet to experience,"said Menashe Kestenbaum, the Founder and CEO of Enthusiast Gaming in the statement.

This week’s series will start with a 32-team qualifier tournament and conclude with the final eight teams on Sunday. The top three winners of the tournament will receive $6000, $3000 and $1000 cash prizes respectively.

Besides CS:GO, EGLX will also host Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros, Halo 5, Dragonball FighterZ and Street Fighter tournaments.

You can watch the twitch stream of the tournament here. 

Ethical Swag Expands Into the US

Tara Milburn: 'It can be complicated but we make it easy.'

Tara Milburn: 'It can be complicated but we make it easy.'

Having polished her e-commerce sites and quit her full-time job, Tara Milburn is building Ethical Swag, a business that helps companies buy sustainable branded products.

Sydney-based Milburn began Ethical Swag in 2010 and, until recently, worked on it part-time.  Now, with many businesses becoming concerned about their purchasing decisions, Milburn is making it easy for companies to buy ethically made items such as T-shirts, pens, plants, seeds, and tech and novelty items.

She said that purchasers want to be able to have confidence in supply chains and Ethical Swag’s products are curated for sustainable criteria.

“We only work with suppliers that have passed audits related to social compliance, environmental impact, supply chain security and product safety and quality,” she said.

“We look for sustainable goods which include recycled content.  We watch carbon footprint when shipping. … It can be complicated but we make it easy.”

Milburn said her company works with ethical sourcing partners such as Fairware and QCA to ensure standards.

Recently, Ethical Swag has expanded into the U.S. with the launch of a U.S. e-commerce site.  Milburn said it made sense as more than half of Ethical Swag’s clients are in the U.S.

“We are making it easier for American clients to buy from us; we are developing relationships with suppliers in the U.S. We have done lot of work on who our customer is and what they are looking for,” she said.

“We have simplified the technology for buying on our sites. …In the next 12 months, we will streamline the buying processes.”

Nova Scotia Social Enterprises Eye Growth

Milburn has competitors in her sector but says many of her competitors follow an agency model and help larger clients design advertising campaigns that incorporate ethically sourced promotional products.

She prefers to offer e-commerce to smaller businesses.

“For example, a lot of startups care,” she said.  “The startup community is interested in buying swag anyway so why not buy sustainably?”

Buying sustainably makes good business sense, she said. She cited a recent consumer study by Get in Touch, which states that U.S. consumers rank promotional products as the most effective advertising vehicle.

Promotional products help create resonance, which is marketing that develops customer loyalty by expressing a business’s core values.

“When you buy sustainably and can communicate that, it has positive connotations,” Milburn said. “It’s about knowing and sharing the positive story behind a product.

“Customers want to know a garment is not being made in a sweatshop…We can verify how workers are treated. This is about equity for people everywhere, how to ensure a buying decision is equitable for everyone.”

Before going full-time with Ethical Swag, Milburn worked for Nova Scotia Business Inc. as Director of Foreign Direct Investment and also assisted a startup client.

Now, she is focused on building a profitable business. Her existing clients include American technology startups, the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, Indiana’s Centre for Social Change, and universities such as the University of Toronto and Simon Fraser.

She has been fully self-employed for the last six months.

“It’s not easy to take that leap into entrepreneurship and give up the paycheque,” she said. “I needed to feel confident we’d have a significant impact while being profitable. We feel we’ll be more impactful the more profitable we are as a business.”

After founding Ethical Swag in 2010, Milburn later brought on partner Jane Mitchell who now runs her own similar venture, Halifax-based Oyster Promo Inc.

“We are both doing our own thing now,” Milburn said.  “There is lots of room in the market. There are not enough people doing what we are doing.”

Region Logs $99M in VC, Says CVCA

For the second year in a row, the Atlantic Region received about $100 million in venture capital investment, largely because of a handful of big deals in Nova Scotia, according to data from Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association.

The CVCA, as it’s known, released its data for 2017 this week, showing that Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador accounted for 58 VC deals worth a total of $99 million. That’s a slight drop in dollar value from 2016, when the CVCA said the region received $103 million in VC investment in 56 deals.

The Atlantic Canadian data is contained in a report on venture capital and private equity investment for the country overall, which shows a steady increase in VC investment.

“Canadian venture capital investment grew 11 per cent in 2017 with $3.5 billion invested over 592 deals compared to the $3.2 billion invested over 534 deals in 2016,” said the report. “This is the latest increase, following years of steady investment growth for Canadian VC across the entire spectrum of stages in the ecosystem. Canadian venture capital investment is now approximately double the size it was just five years ago.”

The growth in Canadian VC totals is being driven by major investments, as there were a record 15 deals worth more than $50 million each in Canada last year, up from 10 the year before. There were three $100-million-plus deals, led by Montreal-based Lightspeed POS Inc. raising a record $207 million.

The $50-million-plus deals are a gravy train that has yet to travel east of Gaspe Bay, as no Atlantic Canadian company has ever booked a VC round of more than $20 million. But Nova Scotia has been booking larger deals than it ever has before.

Affinio Enters New Microsoft Program, Deepening its Relationship

The CVCA’s databank shows that Nova Scotia startups raised a total of $77 million in 21 deals in 2017, for an average deal size of $3.7 million. (By comparison, the average deal size in Canada last year was $5.9 million.) In 2016, according to CVCA data, the average Nova Scotian funding round was $2.9 million.

The average deal size is important because companies that can raise large rounds tend to have the greatest impact. They hire more people, spend more on R&D, export more and fail less often.

The funding in Nova Scotia was led by such deals as Halifax-based Manifold raising US$15 million; Halifax’s Affinio raising US$9 million; Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Halifax booking an $8.3 million funding round; ABK Biomedical closing a $9 million round in August; and Liverpool-based Aqualitis’ $8.8 million round.

New Brunswick accounted for 30 deals worth a total of $16 million. The CVCA said 27 of those funding rounds, worth a total of $15 million, included participation by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The report said the NBIF (which is a non-profit organization that receives government funding) was the second-most active “government fund” in the country, exceeded only by the federal government’s BDC Capital.

Nova Scotia’s Innovacorp, a provincial Crown corporation, was involved in 13 deals worth $24 million.

The report said there were seven deals in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017 worth $6 million, and that there was no venture capital funding on Prince Edward Island last year. The recently launched Island Capital Fund has already announced three deals this year, but they were its first investments.


Disclosure: NBIF and Innovacorp are clients of Entrevestor.

A Call for Better Business Acumen

Darren Rowles: Businesses succeed because of good products, business sense or good fortune.

Darren Rowles: Businesses succeed because of good products, business sense or good fortune.

Having been a scientist for more than 15 years, I’ve seen my fair share of science-based startups come and go.

Those that succeed tend to do so through a combination of good products, good business sense and good fortune. Often a good enough product or idea can compensate for a lack of business sense, and some companies succeed through sheer luck alone.

But many others fall by the wayside before they even get a chance to succeed. Without a good business plan and knowledge of the market even the best products and ideas can fail.

The simple fact is, many scientists lack the business acumen and motivation needed to take their idea or product to market. I don’t say this as a criticism, just an observation; many scientists have absolutely no interest in business, finance or commerce and that’s fine.

Take my company, Sona Nanotech, for example. The team at Sona comprises brilliant scientists who have developed unique products – the world’s first toxin-free gold nanorods. But they lacked the knowledge and contacts to gain the vital market access they needed to make the products a commercial success.

Over Sona’s brief history there has been no shortage of would-be investors willing to back the company and its products, but it was difficult for the team to properly capitalize on these offers without a solid commercial strategy. 

That’s why I was brought on board as CEO and president at the end of last year, because I know the market, I am comfortable in business environments, I can talk the language and I can build relationships and partnerships.

Read our Report on Sona's Plan To List on the TSX Venture

Coming from the U.K., I am having to learn how to navigate an entirely new and unfamiliar system here in Nova Scotia, so I can understand some of the difficulties other life science startups in the province face when it comes to commercializing their own products.

For example, after an initial successful application a couple of years ago, we applied to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for further funding, but not being very familiar with the system and wanting to get the best out of it meant we needed help.

So, we brought in a consultant to help us better understand the system and how to access the different tiers of funding programs. As a result, our current application stands a better chance than most.

There are also operational issues to consider. Take facilities, for example. We are incredibly lucky and grateful that we have been able to operate the company out of lab space at St. Francis Xavier University. But now we need a new space to accommodate our growth and have been looking around for somewhere suitable.

Many life sciences startups will no doubt be in the same position, having spun out of one of the province’s excellent universities they will be looking for a permanent base from which to grow.

Luckily there are options for us in the Halifax area, and for startups there are several incubation hubs in the region that can offer superb facilities. However, finding those facilities and negotiating a good deal can be difficult if you aren’t commercially minded.

Logistics is another issue. We recently needed to buy in some specialist equipment from the U.S., but to do so we had to use brokers to deal with the import/export costs and supply chain logistics, something which came as a bit of a surprise.

ABK Raises $9M in Equity Financing

Nova Scotia has a healthy and growing life sciences sector. Worth around $300 million and centered on the Halifax area, it is home to more than 50 companies that employ around 1,100 people.

There are also some incredible life science startups dotted throughout Nova Scotia, but unless they receive proper business support many are going to struggle to fully realize their potential.

Life sciences if a fast-moving global sector, and startups need interaction with industry partners, access to programs of funding and, most importantly, access to the market.

And this can’t just be access to market reports, because those can be sourced online, but real market access, company databases, contact info and the opportunity of actually getting in front of the key decision-makers in their specific part of the life sciences sector.

Ideally, they need to obtain access or incorporate an individual or organization into their setup that can bridge the gap between science and business, which can be worlds apart.

That’s why something like BioNova, the life sciences body for Nova Scotia, is so vital. BioNova aims to advance life sciences in the province and accelerate the commercialization success of its businesses and organizations by building relationships and by creating networking and educational opportunities. Additionally, it offers programs that allow life sciences SMEs to apply for project funding or work with collaborators. As a member we have made vital connections in the sector both inside and outside the province.

If the potential of Nova Scotia’s life sciences sector is to be fully realized in the increasingly competitive global marketplace, its science and business communities must work more closely together in future.


Darren Rowles is CEO of Sona Nanotech, a biotech firm based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has 15 years' experience in product manufacture and development in the area of gold nanoparticles and lateral flow diagnostics.

Startup Yard Seeks Applications

Applications to join the Startup Yard’s first cohort at the Center for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship are now open.

COVE is looking for early-stage ocean companies in sectors such as energy, aquaculture, and marine transportation to join its incubation facility during its six- to nine-month program. Entrants have to be pre-revenue or with sales less than $1 million per year.

The program will teach companies such business know-how as how to protect intellectual property and validate potential through customer discovery and market research. Workshops on lean startups, pitching and product development will also be available.  

COVE is Nova Scotia's upcoming facility for innovation within the region's oceans sector. With a new waterfront property in the works, COVE will be a base for the oceans research and innovation community in Halifax. Many of its tenants will be established businesses, and Startup Yard is the patch dedicated to young, innovative companies. 

Participants in its incubator will get to demo and present their final business pitch at the Demo Day event at COVE, where the winner will receive $25,000 in non-dilutive funding.

Applications for the first cohort are due March 16 and shortlist interviews will be held March 23, 28 and 29. You can apply to the cohort here.

Silver Economy Summit Wraps Up

Nova Scotia's Department of Seniors and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce are wrapping up their fourth annual Silver Economy Summit, called AdvantAGE: Embrace the Boom, at the new Halifax Convention Centre today.

The two-day conference brought together governments, businesses, and entrepreneurs to discuss the needs and interests of the aging population and find new ways to tap into the growing “silver economy”.

"By 2030, more than one in four Nova Scotians will be over the age of 65," said Leo Glavine, Minister of Seniors. "This conference provides an opportunity for people from all sectors to come together with innovative ideas that capitalize on this shift.”  

The summit wasn’t just for seniors. It also opened its doors to students, caregivers and any individual interested in new growth opportunities for the region.

R3 Conference in NB To Focus on Aging

The summit discussed how technology can add value to the province’s aging population through sessions and workshops on active living, understanding technology and social engagement. Gretchen Addi, a consultant and designer-in-residence with Aging2.0, held a workshop that challenged the preconceptions of designing for the aging population.

"Nova Scotia has the fastest-aging population in Canada," said Patrick Sullivan, the President and CEO for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. "Our province has a unique opportunity to become a world leader in improving the older population’s quality of life.”

The conference is ending with a keynote address by Ted Graham, the Head of Open Innovation at General Motors.

Play the Field Brings AR to Casinos

If the Pokémon GO craze of summer 2016 has shown us anything, it’s the impact that augmented reality has on connecting consumers with the physical world around them. And Kara Holm, the CEO of Play the Field is piloting a project that will bring that same experience into the casino industry. 

The Halifax company has developed a demo for an app that can gamify the experience of visiting casino resort hotels by using the same AR mobile phone technology that was used in Pokémon GO.

“We thought this technology could be used in an enterprise rather than a novelty context,” said Holm in an interview. “We looked at how this technology has the ability to be able to move people and engage people and [we] put it into a casino.”

The app would show users local “treasures” for them to engage with and find. Holm said these treasures could be something like a free appetizer at one of the casino’s restaurants or collecting points to earn certain prizes.

Through a business-to-business model, Play the Field has secured its first client through a paid pilot project, which will begin in April. Holm declined to say who exactly the client is. However, this project will be the first revenue stream for Play the Field and officially launch its product into the market.

“I’ve been working for free since June so it will be nice to get some revenue in this,” said Holm, a long time marketing consultant and first-time entrepreneur.

Affinio Deepens its Relationship with Microsoft

Since its inception in 2016, she has raised more than $250,000 for the business with help from family and friends and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

After more than a year of market validation, Holm estimates that her target market consists of 550 North American casino resorts. She is focusing on larger scale casinos with hotels, restaurants and theatres where she says there is a new desire to capitalize on mobile gaming.

“Until recently phones have been frowned upon in casinos due to game integrity concerns,” said Holm.  “But what the industry has been doing is trying to find a way to let their customers use their phones because they know there is a huge group of casual casino customers that actually engage with each other and the world with their smartphones. So, if they’re not letting people engage with social media and tweet and share and snap they’re actually missing opportunities to build their brand.”

Holm was one of the 25 participants in the recent Fierce Founders accelerator program at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont, which mentors startups headed by female entrepreneurs. Though Play the Field did not make it to the final eight in the program's competition, Holm said she came away with valuable insight.

She had the software developed through Brave New World, a development and innovation company in Halifax. Enabled through sales and current fundraising, Holm plans to move development in-house and grow her team to support the pilots and future sales.

The first vertical is the casino industry but Holm sees applications for the tech in all sorts of industries— museums and art galleries or municipalities—because it’s customizable and can adapt to the AR technology that is already in the palm of your hand, in your smartphone.

“So the question is: If this is a core part of the technology, not an add on, [and] how can we actually use it to generate better results for businesses?" said Holm. "And that’s what we’ve been thinking about and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

BioNB Releases First Annual Report

Meaghan Seagrave: 'This is the third year in a row we're seeing growth on all fronts.'

Meaghan Seagrave: 'This is the third year in a row we're seeing growth on all fronts.'

BioNB, the umbrella organization for life sciences in New Brunswick, has published its first annual report, showing a rapid increase in the number of biotech companies in the province and highlighting several achievements.

Last week, the Fredericton-based group issued the 44-page report, which says that the number of bioscience startups operating in the province has doubled in the past four years to more than 100. The association said it is now working with more than 40 startups.

The report also said that startups now make up about 44 percent of the bioscience community in the province, while 22 percent are early stage, 16 percent growth stage and 19 percent mature.

“The sector continues its upward trend with regards to number of companies, number of jobs and private capital raised,” said Executive Director Meaghan Seagrave. “This is the third year in a row we are seeing increases on all fronts. New Brunswick is definitely proving to be a great sandbox for early-stage bioscience ventures.”

The companies range from startups like Chinova Bioworks, SomaDetect and Pfera, which were founded in the past few years, to such global enterprises as McCain Foods.

UNB's Vertiball Wins $15,000 at CBMC

The highlights of 2017 included:

  • Atlantic Cancer Research Institute signed a non-exclusive license agreement with BioVendor for liquid biopsy enabling technology.  The institute received a $3 million loan from the Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2016.
  • Soricimed Biopharma published the results of Phase I studies of SOR-C13 in patients with advanced solid tumours.
  • Screening Devices Canada’s investigational study of smartphone and rapid tests was approved by Health Canada. The research will take place at Horizon Health.
  • Chinova Bioworks presented at the TERRA accelerator demo day in San Francisco. The TERRA accelerator is focused on food and agriculture innovation and features exposure to major corporate partners. Chinova Bioworks COO David Brown was awarded the Governor General’s Innovation Award.
  • SomaDetect won the US$1 million 43North competition in Buffalo, NY, and was named one of the Top 20 most innovative new Canadian tech companies by CIX.
  • ADI Systems was acquired by Pittsburgh-based Evoqua Water Technologies, the world’s largest provider of wastewater solutions.
  • BIOMATCAN received ISO 13485 Certification for Medical Devices, which is a key step toward the global marketing of the company’s products.
  • Canuevo Biotech was accepted into Rebel Bio accelerator in Cork, Ireland, with a $100,000 investment.

“2017 was a banner year for New Brunswick bioscience,” said BioNB in a press release. “Our entrepreneurs worked to advance opportunities that ensure our food security, improve our health and create a cleaner environment. Over 100 New Brunswick companies were involved in bioscience, including start-ups, early-stage and established companies.”

Vertiball wins $15,000 at CBMC

Curtis Kennedy, centre, won $15,000 at this year's CBMC

Curtis Kennedy, centre, won $15,000 at this year's CBMC

Curtis Kennedy, a mechanical engineering student at the University of New Brunswick, was the winner at the sixth annual Canada's Business Model Competition this weekend.

Kennedy took home $15,000 for Vertiball, a wall-mounted roller ball for back-pain relief. His design has a suction cup so users can mount the ball to any height on a wall and roll out hard-to-reach muscle knots. He’s going to use the newly acquired funds to grow his team.

“Right now I’m very limited on how fast I can bring the company to market,” said Kennedy in an interview after his win.  “I’m really excited about having the opportunity to create a consumer product company, so the first step in that is building a team and the template necessary to do it on a consistent basis.”

Kennedy took UNB’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship course in his first year. The TME program helps engineers become familiar with the fundamentals of starting a business so they can take their inventions, like the Vertiball, to market.

“It got me so excited to become a part of the entrepreneurship in New Brunswick, it all started from UNB and doing things like this,” said Kennedy, who secured a spot at the International Business Model Competition in Utah this May. The win comes two months after Vertiball was a co-winner at the Apex  Business Plan Competition in Fredericton, where it won $5,000.

UNB's win in the CBMC was part of a successful weekend for the Fredericton university in Halifax. Its teams also won the Canadian edition of the Venture Capital Investment Competition at St. Mary's University, and won the AUS Basketball Championships. 

With Cash in Hand, Swept Ramps up Staffing.

The CBMC is put on through Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship. Organizers said the event this year had the most applications to date, with over 90 submissions from 19 universities across Canada. 

“That’s the highest we’ve ever had,” said organizer Ehsan Lavasani. “In 2013, when we started, we only accepted 12 applications and this year we accepted 35 teams.”

Lavasani, who was a finalist in last year’s CBMC, said the organizers made changes to the criteria and also looked at the traction the companies were gaining to help determine the winners.

Lavasani assured all the finalists that whether or not they took home prize money, the CBMC is mostly about bringing the community together.

“Although it’s a competition it’s also a great platform to connect with people,” said Lavasani. “I encouraged all the students to make connections to move forward with their projects.”

The other finalists who presented on Saturday were:

Monetta Tech: This team from Queen's University won the $10,000 second-place prize for its AI system that can record and store notes from meetings via voice recognition technology.

1Mentor: Took the third-place prize worth $5,000. This company built an online platform for students in Latin America to find job opportunities and internships worldwide.

Giraffe: A team from the University of Waterloo developed a platform for companies to meet diversity requirements by connecting them with employees with disabilities.

Farmers Online: With a goal to reduce food waste for Nigerian farmers, Farmers Online would organize the chaos of real-life markets online.

SheLeads: SheLeads provides intelligence assessments through a web-based game to help girls realize their capacity for leadership roles.

Artistocrat: This team created a social platform, paired with a monthly magazine, to help promote and showcase artists’ work.

UNB wins VCIC at SMU

Ellen Farrell, left, of SMU with the winning team from UNB

Ellen Farrell, left, of SMU with the winning team from UNB

A team of four MBA students from the University of New Brunswick won first place at the Venture Capital Investment Competition, at St. Mary’s University on Friday.

Six teams from Canadian universities took part in the competition, where they assumed the role of venture capital investors with an imaginary $100 million to sink into one of the startups that volunteered to pitch.

“It was great seeing MBA students gaining an understanding of the venture capital by working through the investment decision-making with two real companies,” said Chris Moyer, Director at Pelorus Venture a seed-stage venture capital fund.

“During the partners' meeting portion, the judges asked hard questions forcing the students to think on their feet. A number of students thanked the judges afterward on making the competition realistic and not going easy on them.”

Senalda Rodrigues, Natasha Youssef, Seth Barkhouse and Grayson Beairsto made up the winning team at Friday’s competition, taking home the $1000 first-place prize. The team was coached by Raymond Fitzpatrick, a venture capital investment manager with New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The intense, day-long event ended with the venture capital teams negotiating with the entrepreneurs in a format similar to the Dragons Den. The overall results were judged by a panel of venture capitalists from organizations like Innovacorp, Pelorus and East Valley Ventures.

VCIC is a tri-continental investment competition that engages with over 70 universities worldwide. SMU is the first Canadian university to host the VCIC and in early February, its own team, Venture Grade, won second place at the competition in Boston.

The competition rules dictate that SMU’s team could not take part in its home competition. So last month, Venture Grade competed against teams from prestigious universities such as Yale, Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was narrowly beaten by Rochester University to take second place.

The teams at Friday’s event came from the following six Canadian Universities: UNB, Dalhousie University, Western University, Université Laval, Wilfrid Laurier, and the University of Toronto.


Disclosure: St. Mary's University is a client of Entrevestor.

Jobs: TechImpact, Masitek, DH

We have a CEO position in our Jobs of the Week column today.

TechImpact, an Atlantic Canada-based group of private tech companies, is looking for a leader to drive its success in the region. Our job board also has two openings for Customer Success Representatives at Dash Hudson and a Business Development Associate internship with Masitek Instruments.

TechImpact’s mission is to tap into the region’s potential in the technology sector as a means to build up the economy. It’s searching for a CEO who recognizes the economic and social impact of the rising technology sector.  

Dash Hudson, a visual marketing strategy company known for its platform called Vision, needs two Customer Success Representatives for its Halifax team. [Dash Hudson on Sunday posted several other openings  that we will write about in the Jobs of the Week column next week. Check them out here.] 

And finally, there is a 12-month internship at Masitek, a technology solutions company that specializes in helping food and beverage companies avoid problems on their production lines. This position would fill the role of Business Development Associate to help grow the business worldwide.

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

Here are excerpts from the postings:


Masitek Instruments

Business Development Associate

This is an internship position (12 months) with potential for full time work. We are looking for a customer-oriented individual that will be responsible for the sales of our sensor technologies across multiple verticals. We seek someone who is confident, hard-working and takes sincere satisfaction in helping customers by addressing their needs…


Prospect new customers, generate new leads and business opportunities across a variety of market segments, maintain routine contact with existing customers to determine their needs/requirements through both face-to-face and telephone contact with the expected degree of professionalism;
Analyze customer situations to generate specific plans that will lead to the achievement of objectives;
Arrange and assist the application studies and demonstrations and, when appropriate, accompany agents and partners to demonstrations…

Apply for the job here.

Atlantic/Nova Scotia



The CEO is responsible for the successful leadership and management of the TechImpact mission. They will define and lead the strategic direction with the Board of Directors.  They will oversee the daily operation of the organization and will work with the Board of Directors to ensure that annual initiatives promote defined objectives…


Drive the Atlantic expansion of TechImpact mission and vision with a focus on recruitment of new industry partners.
Drive the successful implementation of strategic initiatives that will foster economic growth in all Atlantic industries
Be the voice of the Atlantic technology vision…

Apply for the job here.


Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

As a Customer Success Representative, you will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers…


Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.
Deliver training content to potential customers.
Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.
Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests…

Apply for the job here.

Densitas Secures 510(k) Clearance

Days after it announced it had received regulatory approval in Australia, Halifax-based Densitas Inc. has announced it gained access to the world’s largest medical device market.

The company said Thursday its flagship DM-Density product had received 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, which means it can now distribute its software for assessing breast density in the U.S.

The clearance in the U.S. comes after Densitas had already cleared regulatory hurdles in Canada, Europe and (as of last month) Australia. The software is already used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics, so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density.

“Receiving 510(k) clearance marks a significant milestone in our company’s growth as we expand our global reach into the U.S. market with our flagship product,” said Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell in a statement. “We are delighted to be entering the largest medical device market in the world, especially as 31 states have passed mandatory breast density notification laws.”

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells as healthy tissue. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

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Abdolell, an associate professor in Dalhousie University’s Department of Diagnostic Radiology, has been pushing his idea for a device that measures breast density since 2011. And in all that time he has noted that a growing number of jurisdictions are requiring mammograms to include some assessment of breast density.

The CEO announced the 510(k) clearance while attending the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna. The 510(k) clearance is the basic approval for a medical device in the U.S., and shows the product is safe for use on humans and that it will do what its creators say it will do.

The announcement is the latest in a stream of good news from Densitas. As well as announcing the Australian regulatory approval last month, the company said researchers from the University of Manchester have published a review of breast density measurement methods in the journal Breast Cancer Research. The study clinically validates Densitas’ automated breast density measurement software as a practical solution for use in breast cancer risk models, said a recent statement from the company.

This study demonstrates that while visual and semi-automated density assessments show strong relationships with breast cancer risk, they are not practical for use in population-based screening.

In November, Densitas signed an integration agreement with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based EnvoyAI, an artificial intelligence distribution platform, which is dedicated to incorporating software like DM-Density into healthcare systems. EnvoyAI’s distributor Diagnostic Imaging Australia, will launch DMDensity into the Australian market.

Densitas, whose products use artificial intelligence, noted in its statement Thursday that DM-Density is only its first product, and the company has said that it is planning more releases in the future.

NS Social Enterprises Eye Growth

Nova Scotia’s social enterprises want to grow but need more support in such tasks as getting their products to customers, says a new report by the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, or SENNS.

The network, which represents Nova Scotian companies and organizations that aim to benefit society, wildlife or the environment, just released its tri-annual report that assessed the health of its base in 2016. That base, says the report, is healthy. But its executives are doing the best they can with limited resources and need assistance in helping their organizations to grow.

“The majority of social enterprises surveyed plan to grow, and they are eager to see changes and supports emerge to better allow them to do so,” said the report.

SENNS is an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Nova Scotia’s social enterprises, which it describes as “a business or organization operated for the purpose of addressing social, cultural or environmental challenges.”

While there are overlaps in the social enterprise and startup movements, the SENNS base is more focused on local communities. Roughly 70 percent of the 288 groups responding to the survey are not-for-profit societies, cooperatives or charities. SENNS has a catalogue of about 3,100 groups that it considers social enterprises, and 9 percent of them completed the survey.

Yet the report – the third such report conducted by SENNS – shows that they are having a significant economic impact.

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The respondents said they employ 5,600 people, and since some are part-time or contract workers it works out to 3,330 full-time equivalent positions. Some 63 percent of the respondents have fewer than five full-time employees, while 11 percent have more than 25.

About 200 respondents provided revenue data, and they produced $179 million in annual revenue, with an average of $996,000. One-third of the respondents said their annual revenues were between $100,000 and $499,999.

One hallmark of Nova Scotia’s social enterprises is that their senior executives are aging, and these organizations need succession planning. Forty-three percent of respondents who identified as senior managers were 56 years and older, with 13 percent over the age of 65.

The report noted that executives in this field do a good job at achieving a lot with few resources, but they could do more with increased resources. Only 33 percent said they now had adequate human resources and 28 percent felt they had sufficient capital.

“When respondents were asked to rank priority areas . . . that would contribute to their development, the number one priority area that emerged was expanding their organization’s access to customer markets,” said the report. “Expanding business skills of directors and managers, and expanding access to capital closely followed as the top three priorities.”

World’s Best Deodorant Reboots

The Best Deodorant in the World is packaged in 100 per cent biodegradable material

The Best Deodorant in the World is packaged in 100 per cent biodegradable material

After a reboot that took more than a year, The Best Deodorant in the World is preparing for a relaunch next year with huge plans for exporting, and even more so for its social impact.

The Best Deodorant in the World is the name of a Fredericton-based company that sells all-natural deodorant. At its core, it is a social venture with distinct strategies to help the environment, animals and people.

After almost eight years of successful sales, co-founders Margaux Khoury and Joshua Bruce David took their deodorant off the shelves in 2016 to rebrand and reformulate the product. Now the wife-and-husband team of entrepreneurs plans to launch the new deodorant on March 18 with a new formula and packaging.

“It was in a tin, and we loved to think it was being reused but it wasn’t — people would just throw it out,” said Khoury, the CEO of The Best Deodorant. “I didn’t wake up every morning being excited about selling the best natural deodorant in the world.”

So, Khoury and David swapped out the tin for 100 per cent biodegradable packaging as a part of the new social policy that drives the company.

“We want to show other companies and people that it’s possible to build a huge and successful company without hurting the earth, or your body, or other animals,” said Khoury.

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In addition to its plastic-free advocacy, at the start of every month the company donates one day’s sales to an animal sanctuary, rotating its target each month.

Through a partnership with Water.org, The Best Deodorant has also adopted a model in which one purchase of its deodorant will ensure one year of clean drinking water for a child in need.

“It’s great because people are going to buy deodorant, which is something they need anyway, and they will have the direct impact of providing clean water for a child,” said Khoury.

Before the reboot, The Best Deodorant had been used on more than 200,000 armpits and, currently, there are more than 50,000 units ready to ship for the re-launch in March. Khoury said they took six months to perfect the new recipe, seeking advice from an expert with more than 33 years of experience.

“Anything like this is a science; you really just can’t put natural ingredients together,” said Khoury. “It’s kind of crazy because they have to be poured at the right time when you mix it, so they’re at the right heat.”

The company is going through Ignite Fredericton’s Export Igniter, a 12-week program that helps startups build a viable export strategy. The chief operating officer of the company, Rivers Corbett, is representing The Best Deodorant at the Igniter.

Currently, The Best Deodorant is aiming to raise $150,000 in capital to help with staffing, production and a new viral video strategy that will launch around the same time as the improved product.

It is planning a crowdfunding campaign in March to source funds and, more importantly, raise awareness about the company’s social impact.

“The social impact that companies can make is insane — we have so many raving fans because of that,” said Khoury. “Companies of the future will realize that it’s not worth being in business without having a social impact.”

CarbonCure Uses New CO2 Source

CarbonCure Technologies hit a significant milestone in its development last month: the Halifax cleantech company and its partners have launched an integrated solution that reduces carbon emissions in both cement and concrete production.

CarbonCure issued a press release this week saying it led a team of five companies that took the carbon dioxide produced from cement production and used it to cure concrete using the CarbonCure technology.

CarbonCure has grown into a profitable company by developing a process of hardening concrete by injecting it with carbon dioxide – a process that saves concrete-makers money and makes their operations consumers of – rather than producers of – carbon. The developments of the past month mean that CarbonCure systems use cement production as a source of the carbon dioxide.

“In many cases, cement and concrete producers are owned by the same company (vertically integrated), so this opens up the potential for a concrete producer to purchase the CO2 from their parent company,” said CarbonCure COO Jennifer Wagner in an email. “This project demonstrates a way for the industry to both reduce their CO2 costs and purchase a waste material from within their own value chain.”

One of the lessons you learn in reporting on CarbonCure is that concrete and cement are not synonymous, as many of us think. Concrete is a building material made from crushed rock, sand and a fixative. Cement is the fixative that holds it all together.

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In traditional production, the production of both concrete and cement emitted vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. CarbonCure has developed its business by injecting CO2 into concrete (first in blocks, then in ready-mix concrete) in a process that is now used in almost 100 major concrete plants. The company and several partners have formed a consortium that is one of 23 semi-finalists in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Known as the Nobel Prize of Cleantech, the Carbon XPRIZE is a US$20 million global challenge to accelerate businesses that specialize in making products from carbon. The finalists are expected to be named in the coming months.

CarbonCure’s clients all have to purchase CO2 from an industrial supplier, such as an ethanol plant or coal plant. “CO2 is actually reasonably expensive, and the cement industry is looking for ways to get rid of (or ideally sell) their CO2 emissions,” said Wagner.

Last month for the first time, members of the CarbonCure consortium installed a system at a demonstration site in Calera, Alabama, that showed how the system can use the CO2 produced by a cement kiln.

Specifically, they captured CO2 emissions from the cement plant near Calera owned by the Colombian producer Grupo Argos. The gas was captured by Sustainable Energy Solutions’ Cryogenic CO2 Capture technology and transported by Danbury, Conn.-based industrial gases company Praxair. It was taken to Argos' Glenwood concrete operations near Atlanta, where it was reused through CarbonCure's CO2 utilization technology.

The Global CO2 Initiative estimates a potential $400 billion market opportunity for CO2 utilization products in the concrete sector alone, with the prospect of reducing 1.4 billion metric tonnes of annual CO2 emissions by 2030.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, CarbonCure announced that  it had hired Ted Jones as Vice-President Sales and Marketing. Jones had previously been a sales and marketing lead with Oldcastle Precast, Contech Engineered Solutions, and The Fort Miller Co.,

Volta Eyes More Innovation Outposts

Volta Labs' new Vice President of Innovation, Chris Crowell, is starting his job with plans to develop a larger corporate outpost within Volta as a part of the startup house's expansion this fall.

Crowell, who started with Volta last month, joined the startup house to build more corporate outposts that will connect scaling companies with valuable corporate partners.

“A key part isn’t just having the companies and entrepreneurs co-located but to also bring [the startups] closer to corporations and public-sector organizations as well,” said Crowell, who spoke with Entrevestor from Communitech in Kitchener, Ont., where he was touring its corporate outposts.

Volta models its outpost strategy on that of Communitech, the startup and innovation hub at the heart of the Kitchener-Waterloo tech community. In corporate outposts, a large corporation sets up an office in a startup hub, allowing for stronger interaction between established businesses and innovation-based startups. With this model in mind, Volta opened its doors to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation in 2016, making it the first corporate outpost for innovation in Atlantic Canada.

“We’re actively engaged with Communitech,” said Crowell, “They’ve been helping us ramp up corporate innovation and supporting us as we reach out to Atlantic Canadian companies. It’s taken a tried and proven model and implemented it in Atlantic Canada to help drive more innovation in our region.”

Corporate outposts are vital in growing the community because they allow big corporations to access the innovation and creativity found in the startup community and provide new avenues and partnerships for scaling businesses. 

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Crowell joined Volta’s team as a part of its massive expansion that’s happening this winter. He said half of one floor in the expansion will be set aside for these outposts that he hopes will consist of public and private corporations. Crowell came to Volta from the Saint John-based diversified IT company Mariner, where he was the Halifax-based Chief Marketing Officer. Before that, he was the Senior Director of Business Development at NeuLion in Toronto.

“What we’re doing with this new space at Volta is best in class," said Crowell. "It’s a really exciting thing for Atlantic Canada and will be a critical piece of infrastructure for Halifax, and the whole region.”

Last year, Volta announced its plans to triple the size of its downtown Halifax facility. The startup hub has leased out 60,000 square feet of office space in the Maritime Centre on Barrington Street to offer more office space for startups and a new event space right on the Barrington level. The expansion won’t be unveiled until the fall but it will make Volta Labs one of Canada’s largest innovation hubs.

In terms of support, Volta has received two sizeable investments through the provincial and federal government to facilitate this expansion. In September the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Innovacorp committed $2 million to the expansion followed by a $2.25 million commitment from the Nova Scotian government.

Since its 2013 inception, more than 50 early-stage companies have worked out of Volta Labs and more than two-thirds of these companies are still doing business. Volta’s goal is that this expansion will make it the cornerstone for technological innovation in Atlantic Canada.


Disclosure: ACOA, Innovacorp and the Nova Scotia government are clients of Entrevestor.

Densitas Approved In Australia

Mohamed Abdolell: 'The Australian market marks further expansion of our technology globally.'

Mohamed Abdolell: 'The Australian market marks further expansion of our technology globally.'

A week after academic research in Britain validated the premise of its business model, Halifax-based Densitas Inc. has received regulatory clearance for its automated breast density software DM-Density to be sold in Australia.

The company issued a press release Tuesday saying that the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration had approved the product. Densitas will sell its software through Diagnostic Imaging Australia, which is the Australian distributor for the company’s Cambridge, Mass.-based sales partner, EnvoyAI.

Densitas’ technology works by processing images from mammograms to analyze breast density. It is an important factor in the mammography process since dense breasts can easily mask cancerous cells. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of breast cancer so if doctors are aware of a patient’s breast density, they can better allocate their time and resources to ensure she gets appropriate care.

Australia has about 12 million women and 1.7 million are screened for breast cancer using mammography every two years, said the statement. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer mortality in Australian women aged 50 to 74, with about 45 deaths per 100,000 women. The Australian Government has increased its commitment to the early detection of breast cancer by recently expanding the BreastScreen Australia target age to include women 70 to 74.

“We are pleased to be able to offer Densitas’ software in Australia, as it fills a need for radiologists looking for a reliable and standardized breast density solution,” said Diagnostic Imaging Australia Director Phillip Cahill. “The deployment of the Densitas algorithm on the Envoy AI platform is a natural fit that radiologists will find to be seamless.”

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Added Densitas CEO Mohamed Abdolell: "We are excited that doctors and patients in Australia can now benefit from our advanced machine learning algorithms to assess breast density. Our entry into the Australian market marks further expansion of our technology globally.”

The software is used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics so any woman who has mammography tests in the province will have her information processed by DM-Density. 

A week earlier, Densitas issued a press release saying researchers from the University of Manchester have published a review of breast density measurement methods in the journal Breast Cancer Research. The study clinically validates Densitas’ automated breast density measurement software as a practical solution for use in breast cancer risk models, said the statement.

This study demonstrates that while visual and semi-automated density assessments show strong relationships with breast cancer risk they are not practical for use in population-based screening.

“We are very pleased to see that our breast density measurement software has been independently validated to be strongly associated with breast cancer risk by this eminent research team from the University of Manchester,” said Abdolell. “Several upcoming scientific and poster presentations at ECR 2018 in Vienna . . . will further confirm the results of the Manchester study.”

Affinio Enters New Microsoft Program

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

Halifax-based Affinio is one of the first companies accepted into a new program offered by Microsoft in which the tech giant’s sales team helps to sell startups’ products.

TechCrunch, the respected Silicon Valley tech publication, said earlier this month that Microsoft has launched a new program called Microsoft for Startups, which brings technology and marketing expertise to startups. Most important, said TechCrunch, the program includes “a co-selling program that allows startups to piggyback on Microsoft’s existing sales force.”

The article said Affinio has already made a sale through Microsoft’s new program, and has 20 more potential clients in the pipeline with Microsoft for Startups. TechCrunch added that the Affinio management team plans to push more than 100 sales opportunities into the pipeline by the end of the first quarter.

By joining Microsoft for Startups, Affinio is deepening its relationship with the maker of such products as Windows, Office and Explorer. Affinio attended the Microsoft Accelerator program in Seattle in 2016 and has remained in touch with the company.

“The unique thing with this is that Microsoft has this down to a science — all the way down to the playbook,” Affinio CEO Tim Burke was quoted by TechCrunch as saying.

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Burke, CTO Stephen Hankinson and a few other co-founders started Affinio about five years ago as a company that could monitor social media data and present a visual analysis that would help users understand consumer intentions. In its first few years, the team largely targeted advertising agencies, and has since moved on to targeting major brands, especially in the consumer packaged goods and media sectors. The Affinio system can work with data collected by the client and also with social media, bringing machine learning and visualization platforms to help clients understand their markets.

TechCrunch said that Affinio has been quietly testing Microsoft for Startups for a few months. As part of the program, Microsoft gave Affinio a clear playbook to follow, as well as helping the Halifax company create collateral content (which is a collection of media used to support sales), case studies and video content.

Burke said that Microsoft didn’t just give him a checklist to follow but worked closely with Affinio to make sure the program was beneficial. “It’s amazing how the organization as a whole has bought in,” Burke told TechCrunch. “Everybody knows the goal and direction.”

In November, Affinio announced a US$9 million (C$11.4 million) funding round, led by Toronto-based Round13 Capital, a new investor in the company. The other participants in the round are Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto and Halifax-based Build Ventures, both of which invested in Affinio previously.

The Series B funding came two years after Affinio raised a $4-million VC round from Whitecap, Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures, and several angel investors. Before that, Build backed the company in its $1.5-million seed round in 2013.

That means the company has raised upward of $15 million in five years, and Burke said the company hopes to raise its next round in mid-to-late 2019.

Startup Halifax To Showcase Funding

Startup Halifax is hosting an event March 12 that will show founders and executives what funding options are available for startups.

The event, which starts at 6 pm at the Halifax Central Library, will feature talks from such organizations as Innovacorp, BDC, and ACOA  and will show founders the financial resources that are available and how to access them.

“This is truly a great opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs to see what services and funding opportunities are available to help them start and grow,” reads the event description on Eventbrite.

“Following these presentations, there will be an opportunity to network with like-minded people, renew old contacts and make new ones over refreshments and pizza.”

The event, which is called Support and Funding Options for Startups, is free to attend but organizers would like for folks to register online beforehand. To register, click here

ABK Raised $9M in Equity in August

ABK Biomedical has raised more than $9 million in an over-subscribed round of equity funding that closed last August.  The larger equity base has allowed the company to borrow $3 million from the Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The Halifax-based medical device maker revealed that it closed the Series A funding round – one of the largest in Atlantic Canada last year – during discussions about its latest borrowing from the AIF, a fund operated by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

ABK is working to improve a process used to kill some forms of tumour: tiny beads cling to tumours, depriving them of blood flow and thereby shrinking or killing them. The company hopes that its first product – which is now awaiting regulatory approval in the U.S. – will be one of the first beads on the market that can be seen by x-ray, and this will help doctors assess how well the treatment is working.

As well as helping to finance regulatory applications, the company said the new funds will help it to manufacture its products in Nova Scotia once it receives regulatory clearance.  

“The AIF funding announced yesterday will be supporting some of the most advanced medical device manufacturing capabilities in this region, and will help us to succeed as an Atlantic Canadian medical device company that will manufacture locally and sell novel life-saving products globally,” said CEO Bob Abraham in an email Friday.

It had been known that ABK was raising money, though the size of the round was surprising. Abraham said the company was originally after $7.6 million in funding but it attracted more commitments than expected, with most of the funding coming from the U.S. and Asia. Innovacorp, which had invested in the company previously, contributed $1.1 million to the round.

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“This significant foreign investment came as a result of the recognition of the value of our portfolio of imageable embolic products in development, the great team we had assembled and importantly, the recognition of the significant support ABK receives in Atlantic Canada through organizations such as ACOA,” said Abraham.

ABK – which last raised funding in 2014 through the Halifax-based First Angel Network and Wilmington Investor Network of North Carolina – was one of several Nova Scotian startups to close funding rounds of $8 million or more last year.  Halifax’s Manifold, Affinio, Metamaterial Technologies and Liverpool, NS-based Aqualitas all closed major rounds. (The Aqualitas round may be considered to be more project financing for its core cannabis business.)

The next big news for ABK is likely to be regulatory clearance in the U.S. for its first product, the x-ray-visible beads. This product is currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration in a 510k application, which establishes whether a device is safe and effective. ABK hopes to gain approval later this year, “after which we are planning a controlled launch into the U.S. market,” said Abraham.  He added the company hopes for Health Canada approval in late 2019.

Abraham also said the company is working on another series of beads, the Y-90 radioembolic product, which actually emits radiation. “We are quite excited about the potential of this product to be a game changer in our field,” said Abraham, adding that the regulatory requirements mean it will have a longer road to commercialization.

ABK is also in the early stages of developing a degradable bead which will block blood supply to tumours then disappear from the body after a short period of time.


Disclosure: ACOA and Innovacorp are clients of Entrevestor.

Mariner Buys Firm, Names VP of Data

Mariner, the diversified tech conglomerate based in Saint John, has acquired Ottawa-based SEASI Consulting Inc. and named the consultancy’s principal Donald Richard the Vice-President of its Data and Analytics practice.

Mariner issued a statement last week saying it had completed the acquisition and that Richard, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University, would set up his team in Halifax.

"It’s exciting to be returning home to Nova Scotia, and to be joining a key player in the Atlantic Canadian technology industry,” said Richard in the statement. “Mariner is truly a class act, taking world-first analytical solutions to market globally, as well as funding, mentoring and supporting . . . startups in Atlantic Canada.”

Richard will lead a growing team of consultants working in the areas of data management, data architecture, business analytics, and data science, said the statement.  He will also continue his work in developing local chapters of international tech and data organizations.

In the past, Richard has been instrumental in developing chapters of Transforming Data with Intelligence, DAMA International, and America’s SAP User Group.

 “With over 20 years of domain experience, Donald is a respected thought leader and has served as a trusted adviser on many high-profile initiatives in both the public and private sectors,” said Paul Eisner, President of Mariner Innovations.

Mariner began in 2003 when veterans of iMagicTV, which provided software for video services, launched a new company to improve the delivery of videos online and alert providers of any problems with video transmissions. That business, known as xVu, is the core of Mariner’s business.

The company’s other three pillars are: Shift Energy, which has developed an internet-of-things application to conserve energy in large facilities; Mariner Innovations, which provides advisory and professional services and project delivery; and East Valley Ventures, the loosely held portfolio of 22 startup investments, held by Mariner itself and/or members of its network.

Mariner employs more than 200 IT and software professionals working with clients both regionally and around the globe.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, HeyOrca

In our Jobs of the Week column today, Halifax-based Dash Hudson and HeyOrca of St. John’s are both looking to hire account executives to work with their sales teams.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing strategy company. Its visual intelligence platform, Vision, provides a one-page solution for its clients to manage visual marketing.

HeyOrca developed a social media planner built specifically for marketing agencies. Its goal is to help agencies build better relationships with its clients. 

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

Here are excerpts from the postings:


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world...


Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas...

Apply for the position here.

St. John's 


Account Executive

Your goal is to work on qualified leads generated by marketing and achieve set monthly quota. You should possess excellent listening and problem-solving skills that result in sales...


Have a thorough understanding of the HeyOrca platform and developments in the marketing industry
Maximize individual pipeline of leads and achieve monthly quota
Work with Sales Development Rep to ensure prospect’s information is being passed on correctly
Conduct product demos and re-qualify prospect’s fit
Document all activities related to leads/accounts in CRM...

Apply for the job here.

DHX’s WildBrain Surging on YouTube

Here’s a little-known fact about children’s animation company DHX Media — its fastest-growing segment is the one that posts free content on YouTube.

The Halifax- and Toronto-based company released results last week for the quarter ending Dec. 31, and the company said its organic revenue growth (which excludes acquired businesses) was 37 per cent. But what’s interesting is WildBrain, DHX’s wholly owned unit that posts stuff on YouTube, reported organic growth of 73 per cent — about twice the level of the overall company.

That’s surprising when you consider London-based WildBrain makes its money — $34 million in gross revenues for all of 2017 — off a platform most of us associate with home videos. It turns out that YouTube is the leading platform for children watching video, grabbing 15 per cent of their viewing time. That exceeds the 13 per cent of their time that goes to traditional TV and the nine percent that goes to Netflix.

“YouTube is not meant for children,” Samreen Ghani, head of WildBrain’s content production and operations, said in an interview Wednesday in WildBrain’s headquarters near London’s Euston Station. “But YouTube is one of the largest platforms where kids are watching content because it’s free.”

The WildBrain story dates back about four years, when DHX set out to capture the ad revenue from DHX content that people posted on YouTube. The company soon realized there was an opportunity to make money on YouTube and it was a fast-growing business. The operation became WildBrain, which now employs more than 80 people and has several different revenue channels.

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The company develops YouTube content using the catalogue of DHX children’s cartoons. These segments are usually three to five minutes in length. WildBrain gets 55 per cent of the ad revenue from this content, which adds up given the cartoons are often watched a million times or more.

Ghani explained the content can be produced quickly at one-20th the cost of, for example, a cartoon for TV because YouTube cartoons are shorter and of varying quality, which means a segment can become profitable on the YouTube ad revenue it earns. What’s more, there’s extremely fast feedback from WildBrain’s proprietary analytics tools, which helps the company produce related content, often within two months.

WildBrain became so good at producing YouTube content that other media companies, such as NBC Universal and Turner, came to the company asking that it produce their YouTube animation. Toy companies like Mattel have also contracted WildBrain to produce their YouTube content, which can range from animation to videos of kids playing with the toys. Ghani showed me a Fireman Sam segment that comprised a two-minute animation, then went to a paid advertisement for the toys shown in the animation. It helps to build brand awareness for the toys, she said, and the analytics can tell the toymakers which toys resonate with children.

More and more children are watching these segments. WildBrain fans watched 13 million minutes of its content in June 2014. Within three years, that figure had jumped to seven billion minutes — 390 per cent compounded annual growth.

Ghani said there is no sign that children’s and parents’ love of YouTube is abating. The main drive now is to gain more recognition for the WildBrain brand so parents know the company produces quality, appropriate content for children.

“That’s what we’re really pushing for now — to be the top-of-mind brand for parents, in the same way Disney and Nickelodeon are,” Ghani said.

Saint John Mulls Adopter Program

A city councillor in Saint John has put forth a motion for the city to create an early adopter program that could help budding businesses find and land government contracts.

Councillor Greg Norton presented this motion to council early February. He says the program would create a mutually beneficial relationship between the city and its innovative entrepreneurs.

“The city has problems that could be solved by virtue of an early adopter program,” said Norton in an interview. “We can support those that are trying to build the economy. They need that marriage . . .  [and to] cut through the bureaucracy quicker than traditional pathways.”

Entrepreneurs often fill out lengthy proposals and wait for long periods of time that sometimes can lead nowhere, he said. The current process is clunky and takes a lot of time.

To help his fellow councillors understand just how an early adopter program could help entrepreneurs, Norton teamed up with James Stewart, the CEO of EhEye. Stewart’s company applies artificial intelligence and data analytics to video surveillance.

“Having worked for a municipality, I can say that it is tough to innovate from within,” said Stewart. “There are just too many competing priorities and very little tolerance for failure. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, struggle daily to find meaningful problems to innovate on. Creating a formal program to provide a line of sight to these problems, and allowing outside innovation to occur, will bring powerful, creative solutions and jobs to the region.”

Norton also reached out to Mark Breen, the Senior Economic Development Officer with Enterprise Saint John. The two will make a presentation before council on the impact of municipal early adopter programs on March 26.

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“By partnering with municipalities, innovators have the opportunity to use their technology to work on civic problems and refine their technology and gain valuable insight,” said Breen.

“This will help them commercialize their technology and scale up for a global marketplace. The municipality also gains multiple benefits. It gets access to cutting-edge technology to solve significant problems at a fraction of what an off-the-shelf solution may cost. The municipality also demonstrates that it is open and supportive of startups. This enhances the attractiveness of the entire region.”

A quick example of how local innovation can solve municipal problems is the regional spread of HotSpot Parking’s pay-by-phone parking and transit solution. The Fredericton company's product, which allows people to pay for parking with their phone, was first adopted by its local government and has since spread across the Maritimes. 

Norton is now working on getting all of council on the same page about the motion and gathering support within the community. He says he’d ideally like to see a fully developed program pitch ready in the next six months and has already received some support from his fellow councillors.  

“Some of the problems that cities [have], like snow removal, parks and recreation, those things we have a good grapple on," said Norton. "But the things that can create a more people-happy city, I think an early adopter program will help.” 

With Cash, Swept Ramps up Staffing

Matt Cooper: 'We very intentionally spent our time and set our sights on Atlantic Canada.' (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Matt Cooper: 'We very intentionally spent our time and set our sights on Atlantic Canada.' (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Having raised US$2 million late last year, janitorial software producer Swept is now beefing up its team and aiming to hire just the right staff.

And the Halifax-based company is also doing its best to make sure the hires take place in Atlantic Canada.

Matt Cooper, the COO and co-founder of Swept, told about 40 Dalhousie University students and entrepreneurs at Launch Dal’s Fireside Chat last week of Swept’s growth since it raised the funding. And he emphasized the importance of proper hiring and choosing the right team members for an early-stage company.

In October, with help from venture capital firms iNovia and Afore Capital, Swept closed a US$2 million round of funding and set out a plan to increase its staff to about 20 members.

“We’re using that equity to hire more director roles and hiring people who are way smarter than Mike and I,” said Cooper in an interview after the chat. He says he and his co-founder, CEO Michael Brown, are trying to hire within the region.

“We spent a lot of time attracting and building here — we very intentionally spent our time and set our sights on Atlantic Canada.”

Since the October raise, Swept has taken on five new employees and is still looking for the right people to fill development, sales, marketing and director roles.

“We’re working with our heads down to build the plan that we set out (and) our plan should be complete in the next month,” said Cooper, who added the company has no immediate plans to raise fresh capital.

Curv's Journey from Dal to the Superbowl

Swept creates software for the commercial cleaning industry, and its tech helps connect cleaners with their bosses and customers, letting the employer check in with their cleaners on the job.

Cooper says the problems in the cleaning industry are systemic. Employees, especially those who work night shifts, often feel overlooked and sometimes are not given clear instructions for their shift, leading to a high turnover rate in the industry.

According to Cooper, solving the cleaning industry’s retention problem wasn’t Swept’s original business plan. What started as a cleaning company morphed into janitorial software development while going through Propel ICT’s accelerator program. Cooper says good research and “self-awareness” led to that pivot.

“If you don’t do the research, you’ll end up creating something nobody needs,” he told the crowd. “The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to find someone to complement that.”

The fireside chats are part of Launch Dal’s Collide program. It aims to bring in graduates of the program to talk about their successes and, more importantly, their failures in the business world. Swept is not a graduate of Dal’s Collide program but organizers made an exception.

“Normally we keep it in Dalhousie but I’ve been seeing Swept in the news or on Career Beacon, so obviously they’re hiring and they’re growing so we reached out,” said Sarah MacLellan, the program co-ordinator for Launch Dal. She was pleased that Cooper gave a real, honest talk about Swept’s growth.

“We need to bring in people who talk about all of their journey, the good and the bad, not just meeting the milestones.”

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor.

Starting Point Sets Attendance Record

Over 185 students attended the 2018 Starting Point conference. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Over 185 students attended the 2018 Starting Point conference. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

The fourth annual Starting Point Student Entrepreneurship Conference is coming to a close today and organizers say the number of participants reached a record this year.

A total of 185 students registered for the three-day conference put on by the Sobey School Business Development Centre at St. Mary’s University, and more showed up at the door. The theme of this year’s conference centred on being fearless.

“We want to teach them that entrepreneurship is not as scary as it sounds,” said Sarah Meaney, one of the organizers. “However you want to make your entrepreneurship journey is up to you and it should be fun and not scary at all.”

Organizers made a few changes to the schedule structure to respond to the growth. They extended their master classes—sessions taught by entrepreneurs—over the course of two days and added an additional class. Attendees got to learn from local companies such as Skyline, Halifax Paper Hearts and one of the creators of the Sickboy podcast. The organizers also mixed up the locations and opened parts of the conference to the public.  

Starting Point also opened its doors to about 30 high school students to take part in its high school pipeline workshop and other events.

More Women Joining Dal's Computer Science Program

Matt Wowchuk, a SMU grad and CEO of Toronto-based North Keg, was one of the many Sobey School of Business alumni to attend the conference. A few years back, Wowchuk attended the conference and won $500 for his business idea.

This year, he was back with that same $500 to donate to Starting Point’s funding pool.

The conference handed out $8,000 in cash prizes over the course of three days, as well as $500 in door prizes. Attendees got the chance to start funding their business ideas right away through events like the Funder Speed Dating and the Iron Entrepreneur.

On the second night, Tristram Stuart, an entrepreneur and food waste advocate, gave a keynote address at Casino Nova Scotia. He is the author of such books as The Bloodless Revolution and Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.

Starting Point, which aims to “change the world through entrepreneurship” by teaching students to hone their entrepreneurial ideas, will close this afternoon with an awards ceremony at SMU. 

“It starts with them just sharing,” said organizer Michael Sanderson. “It’s like a snowball going down a hill. That’s why I love this conference  -- because I meet so many students on Day 1 and they don’t want to share their idea and by the end of this conference they’ve won money, everyone is telling them they have a good idea. But more importantly, they’re engaged."


Disclosure: St. Mary's University is a client of Entrevestor.

Nominations Open for Startup Awards

Startup Canada, the organization that promotes entrepreneurship across Canada, has opened applications and nominations for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards.

Anyone who wants to nominate themselves or someone else for an award can do so here before April 3.

As part of the awards celebrations, Startup Canada will hold regional presentation ceremonies across the country and then a final national ceremony. Startup Canada has yet to announce the dates and locations of the presentation awards.

“We know that the entrepreneurial road is tough, but the rewards are worth it when you have a community backing you and celebrating your successes,” said Startup Canada Events Lead Kathryn Forrest in an email.

Now in their fifth year, the Startup Canada Awards are presented this year in 18 categories, half of which are only offered at the national level. Last year, three Atlantic Canadians won national awards, including Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s, who was named Entrepreneur of the Year.

For the time being, Startup Canada is encouraging people to send in nominations in any of these categories:

Advancing the Environment and Culture in Canada

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award

Startup Canada Policy Prize (National Only)

Startup Canada Community of the Year (National Only)

Startup Community Leader of the Year Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Communities Collaboration Award (National Only)

Entrepreneur-led Businesses Demonstrating Excellence

Startup Canada Global Award

Startup Canada Innovation Award

Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award

Startup Canada High-Growth Award

Exemplifying the Spirit of Canadian Entrepreneurship

Startup Canada Woman Entrepreneur Award

Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award (Under the age of 19)

Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur Award (Over the age of 65)

Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Newcomer Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Resilient Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Outstanding Impact in Canadian Entrepreneurship

Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award (National Only)

Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award (National Only)

KnowCharge Sues NBIF and FAN

Fredericton-based KnowCharge Inc. is suing the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the First Angel Network, and some of their current and former officers, seeking $11 million in damages.

KnowCharge, a 10-year-old company that makes static-electricity-resistant packaging for the electronics industry, filed the suit last month in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton, naming five defendants:  NBIF; FAN; Ross Finlay, a Co-Founder and Director of FAN; NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury; and Joe Allen, who was NBIF’s Director of Investments until December 2017, and now heads the accelerator programs at University of New Brunswick.

The court document alleges that Milbury, Finlay and Allen breached their fiduciary responsibilities to KnowCharge and that the funding organizations enabled them. The 94-clause filing details the relationship of the parties over the past nine years, during which time NBIF invested $700,000 in the company and FAN members $438,831.

“Litigation is always a last resort, but unfortunately all attempts (over several years) to resolve amicably were not only rebuffed, but positions have hardened,” said KnowCharge CEO Rob Morrow in an email to Entrevestor last week.

Finlay and NBIF Chair Cathy Simpson (speaking on behalf of the Foundation, Milbury and Allen) declined to comment, saying the matter is now before the court. (Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.)

Morrow and Co-Founders Edgar Gallibois and Chris Marshall founded KnowCharge to commercialize technology that solved a problem for the electronics industry. The company has said that about 6 to 8 percent of electronics goods are ruined because of static electricity in packaging, but it has come up with special paper that protects against static electricity.

The court documents say the company raised $150,000 from NBIF in 2009. Two years later, the company raised another round of funding, securing $438,831 from 27 members of FAN, and a further $200,000 from NBIF.

Parental Marketplace: A Rental Service for New Parents

Under the funding agreement, FAN and NBIF were each permitted to appoint one director to the five-member board, and selected Finlay and Milbury respectively. Morrow and Gallibois represented the co-founders. 

Once the four directors were chosen, said the document, “fundamental disagreements over the direction of KnowCharge arose. These disagreements generally divided along the lines of founders and funders, with the founding shareholder representatives Morrow and Gallibois in disagreement with the funder nominees Milbury and Finlay over corporate strategy.” The document also notes that the shareholder agreements granted NBIF and the FAN members the right to “put options” on their shares – that is, the right to make the company buy back their shares after five years.

The four directors were unable to agree on a fifth member, and that effectively gave NBIF and FAN a veto over the board, said the document.

By May 2014, the company needed new capital. Morrow (who said he had been working without compensation for some time) received a term sheet from Toronto-based Green Century Investments, or GCI, outlining a $4 million investment program that valued KnowCharge at $8 million. The document said GCI would make the investments in several tranches over three years, and included a “pathway” to the new investor gaining 50 percent of the company.  

Morrow and Gallibois favoured the GCI investment, believing it would offer the company an opportunity to secure grants from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the government of New Brunswick. However, the court document said the offer was opposed by Milbury, who doubted GCI was a good long-term partner for KnowCharge, and Finlay, who said the investment was too complex and that a recent purchase order could attract other investors.

At a May 2014 board meeting, Milbury and Finlay proposed KnowCharge make a counter offer, in which GCI’s first round of investment would buy out NBIF and the FAN members. The document says Morrow and Gallibois doubted it would work and believed any requirement to buy out existing investors would be “a barrier for any new investment.”

The four directors debated the response, and the documents say the GCI proposal was “rejected through a series of untenable counteroffers directed by Milbury and Finlay.”

Island Capital Invests in Moncton-based Garago

Milbury said NBIF would invest a further $500,000 in the company, said the document, enough to unlock non-dilutive funds offered by ACOA and the New Brunswick government. However, this financing was proposed at $2.15 per share, compared with $4.0665 per share set out in the first tranche of the GCI proposal.

By October, six shareholders affiliated with FAN agreed to commit a total of $60,000. Morrow asked NBIF to come in with $250,000, but Milbury said he first had to exhaust options of other sources of funding, said the court papers.

In the ensuing months, the company and its investors made several proposals as Morrow tried to find other investors. By the end of 2015, the company had raised no new investment. In January 2016, Milbury resigned from the board and was replaced by Allen, said the document, and a new chair and independent director joined the board. Also that month, NBIF issued the company a convertible debenture worth $175,000.

KnowCharge says in the court document that this debenture gave NBIF “explicit control” over the company as it couldn’t change its business or raise capital without NBIF approval.

The court filing goes on to say that Morrow was close in February 2016 to signing a multi-million-unit order with a global customer, Avnet-Premier Farnell, and that GCI was again interested in investing in KnowCharge. However, Morrow learned that GCI declined to invest after receiving “negative information” about KnowCharge from Allen, said the document.

In July 2016, NBIF issued a second $175,000 debenture to the company, with the same conditions as the first, said the court filing. “With the adoption of the Second Debenture, NBIF had now gained full and complete control over KnowCharge,” said the filing.

KnowCharge said it has asked repeatedly to alter the terms of the debentures, saying they prevent the company from raising new equity investment. NBIF has declined to do so, the company said.

In an email to Entrevestor, Morrow said the company is still operating, though it recently had to put a major strategic customer on hold.

More Women Joining Dal CS Program

Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science, is approaching its goal of doubling the proportion of female students entering its programs in 2018-19.

As part of the university's 200th anniversary celebrations, Dal plans to offer at least 60 scholarships of $10,000 each to female computer science students entering first year.  The university said this week about 31 percent of the Canadian students enrolled in next year’s computer science program are female, up from the 18 to 20 percent level of recent years.

In addition to more financial opportunities for its female students, the faculty is revamping how it teaches computer skills by broadening its curriculum in order to attract more women. 

“We tried to articulate the importance of technology, and the widespread digitization of industry,” said Andrew Rau-Chaplin, Dean of the Computer Science Faculty.  “We want to show our students how it can really change the world.”

Rau-Chaplin said they’ve added a pair of courses that will explore the history of science and technology to help students contextualize the real-world impact of their degree. 

“As one organization after another digitizes, you need more and more people who have that computing experience but are also focused on people,” said Rau-Chaplin, who added that today's students have a drive to understand how their degree can enrich other people's lives. 

By working with industry partners, Dalhousie is hoping to provide at least $600,000 in funding for scholarships for women in tech.

The unversity will announce who these partnerships are with in coming weeks, and Rau-Chaplin hopes that the partnerships can also lead to co-op placements for his students.

SMU Places 2nd at VCIC in Boston

Rau has also been working with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to reach into the public school system to promote careers in technology for women. In November, the faculty opened its doors to 140 female high school students for its Women In Tech Day.

After that day, he was informed that a few students actually changed their minds and applied to computer science.

Another change that the faculty will make to its curriculum is moving away from chunky weekly assignments and integrating skills into day-to-day classroom activities to encourage a “deliberate practice” of computer skills. This is to make computer science more accessible for everyone and make it less intimidating for first-year students who may not have much experience with coding or programming.  

“We’ll make sure there are multiple paths in that first year curriculum for students who have done computer programming before and for those who have never written a line of code,” said Rau-Chaplin.  

Rau-Chaplin says that all his students, no matter how experienced they were before Dalhousie, will all be on the same level after first year.

“You can’t separate them in terms of the GPA distribution; by the end of the first year they are already there.”

The faculty plans to run the 2018-19 class more like a cohort, following a new curriculum to retain students throughout their degree. 

Stash Energy Enters CTA in Denver

A New Brunswick clean energy startup is participating in an accelerator that will help them develop their business south of the border.

Last November, Stash Energy was chosen to participate in the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) for clean-energy based in Denver, Colorado. The accelerator helps with selected high-growth, high-potential startups raise capital, do research and development, and explore markets opportunities in the U.S.

“We were really excited to hear that we got accepted into the Denver accelerator because we are at a growth stage right now for our company,” said Stash Energy CEO Jordan Kennie. “We’re launching a few products in the fall in P.E.I. and hopefully in New Brunswick in 2019. There’s a lot of challenges that come with that that the Denver accelerator has helped with so far.”

Stash is developing a cost-effective system that works with conventional heat pump technology to store energy.

“They really helped us out with research lab problem and also just general business problems like how to sell and market your product, introducing us to investors to help fund our growth, things like that.” . . .

Read the full report on Huddle. 

A New Diagnostic Tool for Hearing

Guy Earle: 'The technology basically hasn’t changed since World War II.' (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Guy Earle: 'The technology basically hasn’t changed since World War II.' (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Guy Earle is a standup comedian with a huge ambition: He hopes to change the way we diagnose hearing loss.

Earle is the president of Halifax-based IObIO, which is building a portable device called the BioBox. The box captures and analyzes data for clinical and scientific research and can be customized for different industries by using external plug-ins. It would reduce costs and improve flexibility in the way we determine whether someone has a hearing problem.

Earle, who describes himself as a “mad scientist,” is designing the tech with the help of two Halifax doctors, Manohar Bance and Steve Aiken. Together they plan to figure out how his invention can reform auditory diagnostics.

The current practice of diagnosing hearing loss is quite outdated, said Earle. A device called an audiogram is normally used to test patients’ sensitivity to certain frequencies.

“There is more to it than that. There is frequency discrimination, cochlear inner ear issues that can’t be identified with (an audiogram),” said Earle. “The technology basically hasn’t changed since World War II so doctors are diagnosing (hearing loss) after the fact.”

Hearing loss can be detected through MRIs and CT scans but the equipment is bulky and costly. Not only would Earle’s invention cut costs and save time for both the doctor and the patient, but the box is also portable and customizable.

“We combine audio acoustic and electrode physiological paradigms in one system, and that hasn’t been done before,” he said. “This allows us to look way deeper than the standard auditory assessment practices.”

Tieӧs Takes New Approach to Cancer

Earle got his technical know-how at Dalhousie University, where he studied experimental physics. He is also a certified LabVIEW developer via National Instruments.

IObIO started three years ago as a custom automation development company. Earle would develop custom tech for his clients but when he met Bance and Aiken, he started developing the BioBox.

“The BioBox lets us custom-make complex testing protocols much more cheaply than any existing technologies for fast innovation and test thinking,” said Bance, the chief medical officer for IObIO. Bance is currently conducting research in England, studying the effects of hearing loss with the British Armed Forces.

Hearing issues are the most common, and subsequently the most costly, ailment among members of the military. Earle hopes that Bance’s research and collaboration with the military will be IObIO’s point of entry into the market of custom medical devices.

Aiken, an audiologist and the CEO of IObIO, did initial research on the Auditory Response Toolkit, a guide to determine levels of hearing loss.

On top of building new inventions, Earle is also a standup comedian. He admits that he’s not really a marketing guy but years of standup routines makes him comfortable when pitching his product.

“They go hand in hand really, in terms of getting out there and trying to promote yourself.”

With the help of $25,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Engage program, Earle has built the hardware portion of his device. Now he needs to set up the software.

“We built the box and now I need to code it — which is no easy task,” said Earle. IObIO is currently searching for places where it can beta-test the BioBox.

Jobs: Harbr, Masitek, Pharm3r

We have three positions to highlight from Harbr, Masitek Instruments and Pharm3r in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Harbr, which is searching for a React Front End Developer, is a Halifax-based company that developed a mobile app for big construction companies to manage data on large projects, improving efficiency over time.

Masitek, a technology solutions company that specializes in helping food and beverage companies avoid problems on their production lines, is looking for a Software Developer to join its team in Moncton.

And finally, we have Pharm3r. This healthcare analytics company builds custom software for proprietary datasets and is looking for an Intermediate/Senior Developer to help fix bugs and improve its software.

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

Here are excerpts from the postings:



React Front End Developer

We're looking for an experienced, creative, collaborative React/React Native Front End Developer to inspire, teach, and create the customer-facing development of our new and existing web and mobile products.


You'll straddle the line between product and engineering, iterating for continuous improvement of product, features, and projects creating and executing on S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Be passionate about our mission, vision, and execution strategy. Developing modular, test first applications while building reusable code and libraries for future use.

Be a model for thoughtful design and execution. Provide technical expertise to product teams, advising best practices and highlighting risks….

Apply for the job here


Masitek Insturments

Software Developer

MASITEK is looking for a motivated individual with committment to self development and learning who brings some .Net programming experience / training, preferably including related technologies such as C#, ASP.NET (Web Forms & MVC). Some exposure to JavaScript, jQuery, JSON, XML, XSLT, HTML5, CSS3, and knowledge of relational databases (SQL Server).


Passionately architect, code, and advocate for enterprise software abilities: scalability, reliability, monitor-ability, maintainability, and reusability.

Act as a member of a product team supporting teammates and collaborating with a “do what it takes” attitude to ensure product and team success.

Proactively investigate and participate in discussions regarding new technologies and their impact.

Actively participate in Agile Scrum sprint planning, artifact creation, in-sprint testing, automated regression testing, demonstrations, retrospectives, and solution releases….

Apply for the job here

Nova Scotia


Intermediate/Senior Developer

 We are currently looking for a self-motivated intermediate-to-senior level Developer who thrives in a fast-paced startup environment to help our small team improve our technology, tooling, and processes as we grow. The position is based in Nova Scotia and offers the flexibility of working from home with the support of local team members…


Your mission will be to transform requests into solutions quickly, design & implement features, fix bugs, and improve our software, as well as help maintain and improve our data and automation infrastructure….

Apply for the job here

Ocean Supercluster Named Winner

Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has been named one of five groups to share $950 million in federal funding to establish innovation hubs across Canada over the next five years.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the five winners at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday, and the Atlantic Canadian finalist made the cut.

What this means is that Ottawa will contribute more than $125 million over five years, which will be matched by investment from private industry. This will go toward establishing a collaborative network across the region, which will allow large and small companies, government and academia to work together in developing ocean-related technologies.

“The government’s investment in the Ocean Supercluster will position Canada as a global leader in the ocean economy of the future,” said Robert Orr, Managing Director of Cuna del Mar, one of the private sector sponsors of the Ocean Supercluster. “It catalyzes unprecedented private investment in collaborative innovation across Canada’s ocean sectors, including energy, food and bio products, shipping, defence, and ocean technology. This will kick start new partnerships, innovations, and economic opportunities.”

Last year, the federal government outlined a plan to develop several “superclusters” of technology across the country. The idea is that by growing hubs of expertise in specific locations, partnerships will emerge that encourage innovation and economic growth.

The Ocean Supercluster is overseen by a multi-province steering committee, which has proposed a structure comprising three layers of participants. At the top is a group of major private investors, which is now made up of: Clearwater Fine Foods and the electricity company Emera, both of Halifax; Petroleum Research of St.  John’s; and investment firm Cuna Del Mar. Below this segment are: other corporations involved in ocean-related businesses; and institutions that support research and the ecosystem.

Luna, Pelagis Win Blue Solutions Competition

The organization must come up with at least $125 million in private investment, which will be matched by the federal program. The group, which will probably have bases in all four provinces, will then channel the money over five years into a series of projects that will advance ocean-related industries.

The committee envisages a structure that would encourage innovators to provide solutions to problems common to all ocean-related endeavors. Startups and other SMEs would be integral to devising the solutions – especially digital solutions, such as data-analytics products – that could be adapted by companies in Canada and elsewhere.

The other winners are:

- The SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec), which will build intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics;
- The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario), which will connect Canada’s technology strengths to its manufacturing industry;
- The Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies), which aims to make Canada a leading source for plant proteins;
- And, the Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia), which will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in such sectors as healthcare, forestry, and manufacturing.

A group centered in New Brunswick had also proposed a smart grid supercluster, but did not make the list of finalists. It is pushing ahead with its work and finding funding from other sources.

A Rental Service for New Parents

Kiera Devine: 'Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market.'

Kiera Devine: 'Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market.'

When Kiera Devine flew to New York with her baby girl, the new mom left her bulky stroller at home because she expected to be able to rent baby equipment in New York. When she couldn’t, her new business — Parental Marketplace — was born.

Parental Marketplace is an online platform that allows parents to rent baby equipment.

“My husband and I were travelling with our daughter Kingsley last year,” said Devine, who is based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

“I didn’t want to take my stroller and car seat. I didn’t want to lug them around New York or risk the airline damaging them.

“I thought, surely I can rent. There should be a stroller rental on every street, but I found I needed to give 72 hours’ notice and have a fax machine.”

She decided there must be an easier way.

“By the time I was travelling home with a sleeping baby on my knee I was trying to figure out the business model,” said the entrepreneur, who is known in Saint John as the former owner of women’s boutique Je Suis Prest and men’s clothing store Ready Man.

Devine believes the growth of the sharing economy, popularized by Airbnb and now including many product-sharing options, means the time is right for her venture.

She is starting off with parents renting to parents. She is initially targeting Toronto where, she said, apartments can be so small that parents have to store bulky baby items such as car seats in bathtubs. Then she would like to get thousands of baby rental companies on her site.

“Eventually, I’d like to be the Expedia of this market,” she said. “I’d like to work with companies like Airbnb and airports and hotels to provide service to their clients.”

Devine launched her venture in December and went through programming offered by regional accelerator Propel ICT. She’s now happy to be one of five Atlantic Canadian female-led companies to be participating in the prestigious Fierce Founders Bootcamp and Pitch Competition, run by Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.

Read About the Five Atlantic Canadian Companies in Fierce Founders

Devine is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow New Brunswick entrepreneur Bethany Deshpande, CEO of SomaDetect, who recently won $50,000 at Fierce Founders.

“I’m at the point where I’m looking for funding,” Devine said. “I’m honing my pitch, figuring out what my company needs.”

What her company needs is $150,000 in pre-seed funding. So far, Devine has received funding from private sources and government agencies, allowing her to launch the initial iteration of her website.

The new funding will allow her to advertise in Toronto.

“I want to infiltrate the market fast through social media and feet on the ground,” said the entrepreneur, who also runs active-wear company Lole in partnership with her mother.

Devine said she is the first in Canada to offer baby equipment sharing on a large scale (there are many local rental businesses) although she has a competitor called goBaby in the U.S.

“I had a bit of a sinking heart when I heard about goBaby,” she said. “They got a six-month head start on me. But the fact that other parents are thinking the same way means the market and business can grow.”

She wants her site to make life easier for parents by allowing them to test a product before buying.

“In Saint John, for example, we have limited options about where to purchase products. We can buy online, sight unseen. We can’t try before buying.”

Her site will maintain quality control by inviting both sides in a rental agreement to leave reviews, and by requiring deposits. Only approved brands not subject to recalls will be listed.

Although she is setting her sights on the Toronto market, Devine plans to stay in New Brunswick.

“I’ve had so much support here, including from economic development agencies and Propel ICT, with this and my other businesses,” she said.

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