Envenio Exits, Purchased by Juul

Fredericton-based Envenio, whose technology assists in the understanding of fluid dynamics, has quietly exited, being taken over by San Francisco electronic cigarette company Juul.

Neither Envenio nor Juul has put out a public statement on the deal and no one from the New Brunswick company is talking. However, Monica Schnitger, head of Massachusetts engineering software consultancy Schnitger Corp., blogged in late November that the deal had taken place, though she had no details on the price. People familiar with the matter have confirmed that it occurred.

Juul, which has 800 employees, was formed by electronic vaporizer company Pax Labs, which spun it off into a separate company in 2017. According to Wikipedia, Juul had US$1.1 billion of revenue in fiscal 2018.

In purchasing Envenio, Juul is buying a specialist in computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, meaning its software helps engineers understand how fluids move. (Though most of us think of fluids as liquids, they can also be gases, solid particulates or anything else that flows.)

Growing out of intellectual property developed at the University of New Brunswick, Envenio’s algorithms allow basic computers to simulate the flow of these substances. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can chart the interactions of liquids and gases in specific conditions and with certain solid shapes.

It seems that vaping devices contain extremely complex mechanisms that have to account for various states of matter, temperature and combustion, all interacting in a tiny space. Envenio’s software, which Juul had already been using as a customer, can help with product development and understanding of how these factors work together. 

Fredericton's Sonrai Closes US$18.5M VC Round

Schnitger quoted an email from Envenio Vice-President Scott Walton to clients as saying that Envenio’s engineering expertise will “become an exclusive and integral part of JUUL’s product development division, helping to shape the future of the company’s products.”

Envenio began about eight years ago with three mechanical engineering grads building a business out of IP they licensed from UNB. Initially, it was a service company, helping companies and organizations like the Canadian military with their CFD projects. Then it launched products that clients could buy to conduct their own CFD studies at a fraction of the price of competing products.

Early in 2017, the company had clients in Canada, the U.S. and Europe but the team is now working exclusively for Juul.

In June 2017, Envenio secured $1.3 million in venture capital investment from Celtic House Venture Partners, Green Century Investments and the New Brunswick Investment Foundation.

In their most recent interview with Entrevestor, CEO Ian McLeod and Walton said the company employed more than 10 people in Fredericton. Schnitger’s blog said the engineering team will continue to grow in Canada, which likely means it will remain in Fredericton.

According to their LinkedIn profiles, both McLeod and Walton are now working for Juul Labs and based in New Brunswick. McLeod is now the Senior Director of Simulation Research and Development while Walton is the Director of Business Development.

Schnitger noted in her blog that the acquisition is unusual as it involves a manufacturer buying a software company.

“Over the last couple of decades, a lot of manufacturers have divested themselves of in-house software assets –they make planes or cars, after all, and software development and maintenance costs can best be amortized across a wide user base,” said Schnitger. “I’m not aware of [any] other acquisitions like this, where a manufacturer buys a software developer, but I wonder if it could be the start of a trend.”

CarShare Atlantic’s Cooley Steps Down

Pam Cooley hands the keys to Tim Callanan as she prepares to step down as CEO of CarShare Atlantic after 10 years

Pam Cooley hands the keys to Tim Callanan as she prepares to step down as CEO of CarShare Atlantic after 10 years

It was a bittersweet birthday for CarShare Atlantic as the Halifax company celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Pam Cooley, announced that she will step down from the position in February.

CarShare Atlantic is Halifax’s first and only car-sharing network. Its members share a fleet of vehicles which can be booked any time via web, mobile app or through a hotline and picked up at one of the 50 CarShare stations located within Halifax or Dartmouth.

Car-sharing allows people to drive a vehicle when they need it, without the worry of insurance payments or maintenance costs.

Cooley started Car Share Atlantic shortly after she moved to Halifax in 2008. After living in Vancouver for 25 years, she was struck by the city’s lack of car-sharing services.

“This is a worldwide industry, it’s a common thing elsewhere but in Halifax it wasn’t,” said Cooley in an interview. “But now, 10 years later, I believe that it is part of the mobility infrastructure in Halifax.”

Car sharing has been around since the mid 1980s and is popular in large European cities.

Cooley and co-founder, Peter Zimmer, started CarShare Atlantic in Halifax with only nine cars. Today, the company owns over 70 vehicles, most of which are hybrids, and serves over 1,600 members.

In 2011, Cooley reached out to Communauto, North America’s first car-sharing service, headquartered in Montreal, and forged a partnership that still remains today.

Because of this partnership, CarShare Atlantic’s staff in Halifax remained relatively small. Cooley built a team of three full-time staff, one of whom is Tim Callanan, who will oversee the company when Cooley leaves.

MESH/Diversity Eyes Greater Sales in 2019

“I think there is a lot of people right here in Halifax that still don’t know what a positive impact (car-sharing) can have in their lives,” said Callanan during an interview. “So for me, a huge priority is meeting the need that’s already out there, even if people don’t know they have it.”

Callanan, an avid user of CarShare’s services, joined the CarShare team in 2017. He is now responsible for a company that has already laid the foundation for new high-tech mobility solutions, like autonomous vehicles, to integrate into the city. 

“Where mobility is going, this is going to be a huge disruptor. But Halifax is already on the path of being on top of that because we have car-sharing,” said Cooley.

“Car-sharing is a precursor to autonomous vehicles. If people get used to using a service like ours, when autonomous vehicles come they will have the option to use car-sharing with autonomous cars, which would be fleet owned.”

When Cooley started CarShare Atlantic in 2008, not many understood the concept of car-sharing. Now the company has amassed hundreds of users and car-sharing is a part of the city’s Integrated Mobility Plan.

Cooley will continue as President of her other business, Choosethical Ventures Inc., which helps to facilitate collaboration between business, government and NGOs. And as the mobility industry steers down new roads, Cooley feels confident about those she’s left at the wheel.

Said Cooley: “I’m leaving it in top shape. We have a kickass team who is young and energetic and full of ideas.”

Accenture Opens Office at Volta

Andy Fillmore (Photo by Jay Witherbee/ACOA)

Andy Fillmore (Photo by Jay Witherbee/ACOA)

The global consultancy Accenture has opened an innovation outpost office at Volta in Halifax, made possible through a $400,000 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced the funding at a reception at Volta on Wednesday.  He said the money will fund a one-year pilot program that will include programing delivered by Accenture.

Innovation outposts are becoming common features in startup hubs around the world, and are places where traditional businesses can have an innovation office away from corporate headquarters. The idea is that these remote employees can come up with innovations for the parent company and interact with the brainboxes who work at the nearby startups. The goal is to benefit both the startups and traditional businesses.

Volta opened its Innovation Outpost two years ago and has attracted the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the Government of Nova Scotia and now Accenture as participants.

"Programs that foster relationships between large companies and growing startups are crucial to bolstering the region’s global competitiveness,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rogers in a statement. “Strengthening connections between corporations and startups will not only lead to new ideas and product developments but also further establish the region as a global destination for innovation.”

The addition of Accenture will bring a new dimension to the outpost because the consultancy will offer programs to improve the skills of entrepreneurs in the startup house. This is something that Accenture is doing on a national and global basis by participating in programs at such innovation hubs as Silicon Dock in Dublin. What’s more, the Volta office will be connected with a network of Accenture innovation outposts across Canada.

Accenture’s Innovation Outpost will be headed by Christine Hamblin, a veteran of the startup community and graduate of St. Mary’s University’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.  

“Companies that embrace innovation and harness the power of disruption are better positioned for long-term growth,” said Claudia Thompson, Accenture’s Managing Director of Health and Public Service. “Accenture is pleased to deliver a curriculum presenting new, innovative ways of thinking to guide Atlantic Canadian companies on their innovation journey and solve their most significant challenges.” 


Disclosure: Volta and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor.

Mitacs, MTI, Dal in $1.6M Project

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Metamaterial Technologies Inc., Dalhousie University, and Mitacs on Tuesday announced a $1.62 million project to explore light manipulation for use in a range of commercial applications.

The project will be the largest ever financed in Atlantic Canada by Mitacs, a national non-profit organization that finances research projects between industry and universities. It will allow scientists to research metamaterials – materials whose compounds are not found in nature – that have an impact on light.

MTI is dedicated to producing these light-altering metamaterials and is already working with Airbus to produce metaAIR, a transparent screen that fits onto cockpit windshields to filter out laser beams.  The company is also working on products that can enhance solar power and provide other functions. 

“Materials research is complex and Mitacs researchers allow us to investigate research questions, pushing the boundaries of conventional knowledge,” said MTI Chief Executive George Palikaras in a statement. “We believe that the partnership with Dalhousie University will lead to new breakthroughs in metamaterials, applications and nanofabrication techniques that will re-shape how we think about optics.”

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The statement on Tuesday said the project will attract new researchers and inventors into metamaterials science. It will span different applications of metamaterials, including:

•            Metamaterials that absorb light in ultra-thin solar cells – MetaSOLAR, MTI’s highly efficient solar panel for solar-powered aerial vehicles, will collect light from all angles and absorb it across the most useful parts of the spectrum. The technology will be ideal for lightweight aircraft and vehicles, where efficiency and weight are of prime importance.

•            Stronger light-emitting diodes, or LEDs – This portion will research devices that can be mounted on existing LEDs to substantially improve their brightness.

•            Optical filters based on metamaterials – This part of the project will develop next-generation optics for augmented reality applications. It will bring together experts from the fields of materials science, chemical engineering, nanotechnology, photonics and metamaterials. 

•            Improvement of medical diagnostics using metamaterials –The goal of this portion is to develop a wearable thin-film glucose sensor, that will produce more precise blood glucose measurements.

Palikaras has said he hopes to use his suite of light-altering metamaterials for commercial applications in several industries, including aerospace and defence, healthcare, and green energy. In October, the company partnered with global aerospace industry supplier Satair to produce goggles that can protect pilots and others from laser attacks.

“Our partnership with Mitacs and Metamaterial Technologies Inc. allows us to recruit and train a number of new PhDs in advanced materials and nanotechnology and conduct the type of cutting-edge research that has the potential to disrupt the way the world works today,” said Dal Vice-President of  Research and Innovation Alice Aiken.

Added Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director Alejandro Adem: “Mitacs is pleased to support this important research collaboration in the field of light manipulation. Discoveries in this arena will impact a variety of sectors ranging from aviation to healthcare, improving the lives of Canadians.”

State of the Ecosystem Talk at Volta

There’s a State of the Ecosystem discussion taking place at Volta in Halifax today, and you can tune in regardless of where you are.

Chris Crowell, VP of Corporate Innovation at Volta, and I will hold a fireside chat about what’s happening in the startup community across the region. It will all take place at noon at Volta, and a good crowd is expected.

If you’re not in Halifax, you can follow along through a livestream on the Volta Facebook Page.

We’ll be discussing some of the things I’ve been banging on about in Entrevestor recently, like the highlights of our 2017 data analysis report, and the growing engagement between corporations and startups. We’ll look at how the 2018 databank is shaping up, and chat about Sonrai’s whopper of a VC deal announced yesterday.

Following our discussion, Halifax MP Andy Filmore will make an announcement on behalf of Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Hope you can join us.

Sonrai Closes US$18.5M VC Round

Sandy Bird: 'We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise.'

Sandy Bird: 'We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise.'

Sonrai Security, an enterprise cybersecurity company launched by senior executives from Q1 Labs, has closed a US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million) round of venture capital funding, likely the largest VC round in Atlantic Canadian history.

With a development team based in Fredericton, Sonrai was established in 2017 to help large corporations organize and protect their data on the cloud, which is a network of remote, independently owned servers. The company has officially launched today with a variety of clients, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

In late December, the company closed its first round of financing, led by Boston-area VC firms Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures. They both named representatives to the Sonrai board. New Brunswick Innovation Foundation also invested US$246,000 in the round.

“This is a big opportunity and we want to make sure we have the dollars to do the engineering in Fredericton,” said CTO Sandy Bird in an interview. “We want to make sure we can do all the machine learning . . . We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise and to do that we needed capital.”

Sonrai has its origins in Q1 Labs, a cybersecurity company that Bird co-founded in Fredericton. As Q1 grew, it took on Brendan Hannigan as CEO and expanded into Waltham, Mass., maintaining its development team in New Brunswick. The company sold out to IBM in 2012, reportedly for more than $600 million. Bird and Hannigan became the heads of IBM Security, Big Blue’s cybersecurity division that grew to a $2 billion-a-year operation.

The two execs left IBM in the past few years and came together again to quietly develop Sonrai. With a bit of initial funding, they assembled a team of cybersecurity engineers in Fredericton. That eventually led to a total round equal to C$24.6 million. The only larger funding rounds in the Atlantic Canadian tech space were more private equity deals than VC: a $60 million deal by St. John’s-based Verafin in 2014; and a $30 million raise by Unique Solutions of Dartmouth in 2011.

Read How the Sonrai Deal Impacts NBIF

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The problem they set out to solve arises from the wave of corporations moving their data on to the cloud from their own servers over the past decade, often in a haphazard way. These companies can have hundreds of cloud accounts running across Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Their IT groups don’t know some accounts exist, what’s in them, or who has access to them, Bird said.

Sonrai (the Irish Gaelic word for “data”) addresses these problems by tying together identity and search solutions so these corporations can organize and protect their cloud-based data. As well as offering comprehensive data security, Sonrai enhances the quality of an organization’s compliance. It also allows DevOps teams – in which development and operations teams work closely to produce solutions quickly – to work more efficiently with data spread across different accounts and cloud providers.

Most of Sonrai’s 16 employees are now with its development team in Fredericton, and the company also has offices in New York and Austin, Texas. Hannigan, the company president, said in the interview that the goal for the coming year is to launch a major sales expansion, and that the company envisages doubling its staff this year and every year thereafter for the foreseeable future. On the development side, Sonrai aims to improve the machine learning in its solutions.

“Cloud adoption affords us a unique opportunity to reimagine how we secure corporate data, and to make a clean break from the limitations of device, data center and perimeter centric security," Hannigan said in a statement. "By putting data and identity at the center of a security model that spans cloud-providers and third-party data stores, Sonrai Security offers a level of control and security never possible in a traditional enterprise network.”

Sonrai Deal Ticks All Boxes for NBIF

Raymond Fitzpatrick was positively giddy about the last deal he signed in 2018 – the US$18.5 million ($24.6 million) financing of Fredericton cybersecurity company Sonrai Security.

Fitzpatrick is the Director of Investment for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the provincial government’s innovation policy. It invested US$246,000 in the funding round, which was led by two Boston-area funds, Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures.

In an interview last week, Fitzpatrick wasn’t focused on the numbers so much as what the deal means to NBIF, the Fredericton tech sector, and the province overall.

“This deal from an NBIF perspective is huge,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s the most experienced team that I have ever invested with . . .  and the fact that it’s in cybersecurity, a strategic priority for this province, it really ticks all the boxes.”

Last year was a year of ups and downs for NBIF. In February, news broke that one of its portfolio companies, Fredericton-based KnowCharge, was suing the organization and the First Angel Network. Then NBIF’s small team suffered a few departures, most notably CEO Calvin Milbury in May. When I ran into Fitzpatrick at an event in July, he noted that NBIF continued to participate in funding rounds throughout it all. “We’re still writing cheques,” he said.

Indeed, as the year progressed, it became obvious that 2018 would be a year of record venture capital investment in New Brunswick, with NBIF participating in many of the largest deals. In the first six months alone, the organization had joined the US$15.2 million equity and debt round announced by Introhive and Resson’s C$14 million raise.

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Morale at NBIF improved in October when the organization named Jeff White, an accountant with a world of experience in the tech space, as its new CEO.

Somewhere along the line, Fitzpatrick heard that Sandy Bird, the former CTO of IBM’s global cybersecurity operations, was developing a new cybersecurity company in Fredericton. The two had never met. So Fitzpatrick did something he hadn’t done since joining NBIF three years earlier: he sought out an entrepreneur with a view to a possible investment.

Fitzpatrick was blown away by Sonrai’s vision, team and technology, and hoped NBIF could join its first VC round. In mid-December he heard the company would be closing its round Dec. 28 and there was an opportunity for NBIF to participate if it moved quickly. The NBIF staff, lawyers and board all signed off on the deal speedily enough that it was in when the deal closed between Christmas and New Year. Fitzpatrick said the deal is helping to develop relationships with investors outside the region, which could benefit other New Brunswick companies.

The deal meant that New Brunswick companies raised about $75 million to $80 million in VC funding last year – a jump of about 400 percent from the previous year. The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association data for 2018 hasn’t been released yet, but it will probably show that Fredericton was the fifth hottest VC market in the country last year.

Beyond the numbers, Sonrai was the perfect deal for New Brunswick because the government has targeted cybersecurity as a key strategic industry in its economic development plans. Bird mentioned in a separate interview that he has been working with the Fredericton-based Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which already has about 50 to 60 people.

Fitzpatrick was jazzed to join eight-figure deals with Introhive, Resson and now Sonrai after a disappointing year of funding in 2017.

“With all the challenges we went through [last year], we look at this investment and it shows that companies can attract historic investment around here,” said Fitzpatrick. “To have three fairly massive deals shows that we may be bucking that trend.”


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

MESH/Diversity Eyes Sales in 2019

With a new name and brand, MESH/Diversity is now building its client base, aided by a changing attitude among corporations toward diversity and inclusion, or D&I.

The New Brunswick and Toronto-based company launched as Enkidu more than a year ago to provide an online platform that companies or organizations can use to assess whether their culture meets modern D&I standards.

The co-founders – CEO Michael Wright and Chief Diversity Officer Leeno Karumanchery– have found that their market has evolved to their advantage, but they needed a better name and brand to capitalize on it.

“I think that what we’re seeing in the industry is that there’s a real increased focus and urgency around diversity and inclusion,” said Wright in an interview last week. “We’re happy with the growth we saw in 2018 knowing it’s just a pre-cursor for what’s in store for 2019.”

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.

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 Brovada, the Rothesay, NB-based company that provided integration software for the insurance industry. It was purchased by Towers Watson for $15 million in 2015.

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Wright said MESH/Diversity has been growing but decided it could do better than the name Enkidu (a character from Mesopotamian mythology), which customers found hard to pronounce and remember.

As MESH/Diversity, the company has been taking on clients, such as Toronto sales platform OSL, Saint John-based airline software maker Intelisys, and the University of Charleston. The company has also been adding to its roster of those partners which add the MESH platform to their online offerings, including Habitat for Humanity and Extend A Family.

Karumanchery said customers want the product because D&I policies go beyond simply hiring more women and minorities. He should know. He is recognized as an international expert in diversity and delivers regular speeches on the topic around the world. The MESH/Diversity platform helps companies assess the attitudes and open-mindedness of employees and candidates for new positions. That helps to shape corporate culture on an ongoing basis, he said.

Wright said the company made connections in 2018 and he feels confident he will be able to transform many of them into paying customers. Organizations are not just adopting diversity programs because it’s the right thing to do, he said, but because they realize it is a key strategic component to achieving growth in today’s world.

MESH/Diversity has increased its staff to seven and plans to double staff this year. It recently added Vice-President of Business Development Al Sturgeon, a veteran of Salesforce and former Entrepreneur-in-Residence with regional accelerator PropelICT.  Mesh/Diversity previously received funding from the Saint John investment group East Valley Ventures, but Wright said it has no immediate plans to raise more money. For now, the goal is to grow by taking on more clients.

“D&I is going to become more and more in the mainstream,” said Wright. “For us, we see this as a very, very exciting year. But we see it also as a big and exciting year for DNI.”

15 Startups in Propel’s Incite Phase 2

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian tech accelerator, has announced the 15 companies that will participate in the second phase of its Incite program, which is designed to ramp up sales.

Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. It was designed to overcome two challenges facing a group offering mentorship to tech companies across the region: participants can join up regardless of where they’re based; and it guides companies for a longer period of time than an intense 12-week program.

Phase 1 began with 21 companies in September with the goal of helping them validate their products. Now 15 companies will go through Phase 2 until the end of the summer with the goal of attacking their chosen markets and bringing on more paying customers.  Some of these companies already have significant revenues.

“We are always looking for the most exciting companies to work with,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement.  “We’re also continuously evaluating the companies we’re investing our time in to ensure we’re maximizing our impact on the region and startup ecosystem.” 

These are the companies participating in the program:

Agyle Intelligence

David McNally

Mount Stewart, P.E.I.

Agyle automates data collection and reporting throughout teams, operations and supply chains to improve decision making, simplify reporting and optimize profitability.

Atlantic Institute for Resilience

Jackie Kinley


AIR is developing a mental fitness training platform that enables workplaces to assess and build resilience.

Bereda Training

Dennis Cottreau


Bereda offers a peer-to-peer coaching platform that lets athletes connect and collaborate with friends and coaches and improve their training.


Kianoosh Yazdani


Dugo is an asset management, automation and planning platform for remote sites such as cell towers. Dugo replaces what is typically a tedious, time-consuming and error prone task with a comprehensive network action plan in less than a minute.


Shameer Iqbal

Wolfville, NS

InsightWell has developed a platform that helps people with sleep apnea find better lifestyle habits to improve their sleep.


Brendan Lee Young


Passiv helps passive investors in Canada to rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily, allowing them to exercise more control over their retirement savings.


Matt Zimola and Hossein Salimian


ReelData provides artificial intelligence software for aquaculture feed cameras, allowing fish farms to measure biomass, sea lice and health in real-time without bringing in extra hardware.

Room Service

Johnathan Cannon


RoomServiceHFX.com delivers food to Haligonians’ front doors within 45 minutes of receiving an order.


Jason Trask

St. John’s

Safa increases conversion rates when group benefit insurance brokers are prospecting by providing them with human resource tools and data.

Sensory Friendly Solutions

Christel Seeberger

Saint John

The company has developed an app that identifies and rates public places like restaurants or hotels that are sensory friendly – meaning they don’t have light, sounds or other sensory stimuli that could irritate someone with autism.

Side Door

Laura Simpson and Dan Mangan

Halifax and Vancouver

Side Door has developed an online ticketing and booking platform that helps artists perform in such places as people’s homes, allowing for unique, fun and intimate concerts.

Team Stripes

Brandon Bourgeois


The company has developed an eLearning platform for hockey officials.

Trip Ninja

Andres Collart


Trip Ninja builds better and cheaper multi-city itineraries for travel providers, increasing their bookings and margins.

Unum Home Care

Lisa Williams

Miramichi, NB

Unum Health provides a digital solution for home care providers to improve productivity and communications.


Jon King

St. John’s

Vinocount is a beverage management tool that analyses inventory usage and saves owners up to $20,000 per year.


Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.

Jobs: Alongside, Dash Hudson

A pair of opportunities at our job board partner Alongside headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Moncton-based Alongside is looking for a Technical Project Coordinator and a Junior Designer, while Halifax-based Dash Hudson is in the market for a Sales Development Representative.

Alongside offers a hiring platform whose goal is to help small and medium-sized businesses find the perfect candidates for their job openings. It aims to provide flexibility and customization to allow individuals and organizations to showcase their best attributes and build meaningful connections.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing Software-as-a-Service company that helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software, called Vision, is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. 

The Job 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 this week:


Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel, food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more. Through developing and maintaining the early stages of the sales pipeline, you will contribute to the overall success of the sales team!

About You:

Super organized. To the point of compulsion.

Attention to detail. You lose sleep over typos.

Ability to work heads down and maintain high productivity.

A love for data, testing, and learning.

A uniquely creative mind.


1. Manage Lead Generation

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.

Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

2. Custom Outreach Process

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.

Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.

Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

3. Performance and Tracking

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.

Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.

Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . .

Read the full job posting here.



Technical Project Coordinator

Our team is searching for a Technical Project Coordinator to help us change the way organizations hire people.

Are you someone who empowers and uplifts others? Do you have endless curiosity with a relentless drive to make a real impact? If so, then read on and apply to join our team today!


In this role, you'll be responsible for maintaining and monitoring the progress of our product development. You'll be working cross-functionally with stakeholders from design, development, content, marketing, and more to execute on project deliverables and ensure deadlines are met.

Your responsibilities include:

Maintaining and monitoring project plans and progress.

Organizing, attending, and participating in internal and external meetings.

Documenting and following-up on important actions and decisions from meetings.

Ensuring project deadlines are met.

Writing technical documentation for internal and external use.

Creating project schedules for fulfilling each goal and objective.

Managing information flow within the team.

Managing client initiatives and communication for agreed deliverables. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Junior Designer

We're looking for a Junior Designer to partner with our diverse team of designers, marketers, and engineers. You'll collaborate on cross-functional projects designing experiences that attract, inspire and ultimately solve real problems for our users. You will be back and forth between creating marketing material, helping produce wireframes and helping with polished product design. Essentially, you'll be wearing many hats at once but learning the full scope of Product Design along the way. Since this is a Junior Designer role we do not expect someone who is experienced in Product Design but is rather open to learning the ins and outs of the trade from our senior staff (an understanding of the position is expected).

If this sounds like a role for you, then read on and apply to join our team now!


You'll be responsible for:

Conceptualizing and producing material that conveys our brand values through marketing and product design.

Creating templates and workflows that can help the design process be flexible and efficient.

Coordinating creative assets across teams.

Prototyping digital interactions and experiences to validate and refine design decisions.

Collaborating on high and low fidelity user interfaces and helping bring them to market with success.

Working closely with engineers to ensure a high-quality implementation and user experience.

Helping grow Alongside's identity and design system, and working within our design language to help ensure we are always true to our brand. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Groundhog Preps for Alpha Launch

Scott Burke, left, and Andrew Redden at the Tachyon demo day last month.

Scott Burke, left, and Andrew Redden at the Tachyon demo day last month.

Scott Burke smiles as he tells the story of how he came up with the name for his company’s flagship product, Groundhog.

Burke is the CEO of Halifax-based BlockCrushr Labs, which has been experimenting with various cryptocurrency and blockchain products. Last year, it went through two international accelerators, raised US$625,000 (C$825,000) in equity funding and came up with a product that lets users pay for monthly subscriptions with cryptocurrencies.

Last February, the team was in Denver with the Techstars accelerator and needed a name for its new payment system. After they completed the minimum viable product, Burke went for a walk one night to try to think of a name that would emphasize the repetitive nature of the new product.  

“What do you call something that happens over and over and over again?” asked Burke as he recalled that night in Denver. He remembered the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray keeps reliving the same day. “I went back and said to the team, ‘Groundhog.’ They liked it and within three hours we had a logo.”

Groundhog is a payment system that allows subscription-based products – whether it’s a streaming service, an electrical utility or any other company that receives monthly payments – to be paid in cryptocurrencies. These are digital currencies, such as Bitcoin,with which parties can make payments directly to one another without using a bank or other intermediary.

In an interview, Burke and his Chief Technology Officer Andrew Redden said Groundhog capitalizes on two trends. The first is the global growth of cryptocurrencies.  BlockCrushr believes digital currencies have passed through the speculative fluctuations of the past two years and are being accepted more and more as payment tools in the real economy, especially in emerging economies.

Read About Atlantic Canadian Startups Joining Accelerators Outside the Region

The second is the subscription economy, in which SaaS companies like Netflix and Spotify grow through recurring revenues, and other companies want to replicate that success.

“The ability to make payments with cryptocurrency is becoming more straightforward and gaining adoption, but subscription payments – a huge and growing segment of global payments – have been left out of the equation,” said Burke. “We’re building the technology and user experience to solve that problem.”

Groundhog’s initial system will be a suite of tools that include: a payment gateway that merchants can install on their websites; an app that runs on Apple’s iOS operating system that lets consumers use the system; and an internet app that helps merchants manage their accounts.

The team has attracted support from international blockchain crypto experts. As well as Techstars, it was accepted into the Tachyon Accelerator, a specialist program for crypto startups in Silicon Valley.

All the company's funders are based in the U.S. and include Techstars and Tachyon’s parent ConsenSys Ventures, as well as New Stack Ventures, SK Ventures and several angel investors. The funding allowed the team to grow from three to nine in 2018, and BlockCrushr anticipates doubling staff again this year. Burke will soon begin raising another funding round, which he hopes will bring in “a couple of million.”

The big news on the horizon is the alpha launch of Groundhog next month with a variety of early adopters. It is due to take place Saturday, Feb. 2. That’s right: Groundhog Day.

Venn, Calof Offer CI Workshop

Jonathan Calof

Jonathan Calof

Venn Innovation is looking for applicants for the next cohort of its month-long competitive intelligence workshop led by Jonathan Calof.

Venn, which supports innovation businesses, is offering the course at its Moncton headquarters with the goal of helping companies assess their competitive marketplace. This will be the sixth time that the startup house has offered the program.

Competitive intelligence is the study of external factors that can determine success or failure for a company – in this case, a startup. A CI strategy will consider the medium- to long-term direction of technology, pending government regulation, competitors’ patent filings and the buzz around what competitors are planning. The idea is that a company should try to understand what the world will look like in three to five years – which in many cases is when a startup would be releasing its product.

Calof teaches CI strategy around the world but he’s developed a certain affinity for Atlantic Canada. He’s worked with the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program at University of New Brunswick in addition to his work with Venn.

The cohort, which includes instruction from Venn’s Program Manager Jonathan Dunnett, begins on Feb 4. You can purchase tickets here.

PhotoDynamic Eyes 2020 Launch

After receiving surprisingly strong results from its first clinical trials, Halifax-based PhotoDynamic has altered its business strategy to build up more value in the company before contemplating an exit.

PhotoDynamic is developing a device that uses natural extracts from a wild Nova Scotia plant to erase heavy plaque buildup on teeth. Last spring, it took the device through a two-week clinical trial with 20 patients at Boston’s Forsyth Institute, which specializes in dental sciences.

Those trials showed that, in just two weeks, the PhotoDynamic device made noticeable improvements in patients’ conditions.  With that in mind, the company is aiming to raise a $1.35 million round of equity funding so that by late 2020 it can be selling the product to Canadian brace-wearers through orthodontists.

“Twenty patients in 14 days – it has to be a powerful technology that impacts people in such a short period of time,” said company CEO Martin Greenwood in an interview on Monday.

PhotoDynamic’s product— called PD Foam and PD Tray — eradicates plaque through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. Because the plant is known to be safe for human consumption, the product has a relatively simple regulatory path.

Pioneered by Acadia University professor Sherri McFarland, PhotoDynamic has developed foam made from the plant extract, which the user places in the top and bottom trays of a special mouthpiece. It resembles a mouth guard a hockey player would wear but it contains LED lights. Users turn on the lights, place the device in their mouths for one minute, and the plaque is gone, Greenwood said

The company’s board had been considering linking up with – and possibly selling out to – a major consumer products company to create an over-the-counter retail product. About one-fifth of the population suffers from excessive plaque buildup on their teeth regardless of how much they brush, and this product could help them.

Momentum Building for a Revamp of Investment Tax Credits

That is still the long-term goal. What’s changed is that PhotoDynamic is now planning to produce the initial product on its own for wearers of braces in Canada. (One side-effect of wearing braces is plaque buildup.) In the interview, Greenwood and his deputy Alexander McLellan said they could make initial sales through around 750 orthodontists in Canada. Success in that market would increase the value of the company and put it in a better position to negotiate with a large company on getting into the consumer market.

They intend to launch another clinical trial at the Forsyth Institute this spring, this one will be a three-month trial with about 60 people who wear braces.

Manufacturing, packaging and distributing the product will require capital. Greenwood recently began courting investors, including members of the First Angel Network, who, in 2016, invested a total of $250,000 in the company. He is also approaching Atlantic Canadian venture capital groups and institutional investors outside the region.

Greenwood and McLellan were circumspect when asked how they felt when they received better-than-expected data from their clinical trial, saying they were relieved more than anything. But Greenwood added he was pleased when board members who have worked at major medical and consumer products companies said it showed the company could go it alone.

He said: “When you’ve got guys like this on your board saying, ‘This is as good as it can get with a new technology,’ you get pretty excited.”

Genesis Evolution Seeks Applicants

Entrepreneurs with early-stage technology startups are invited to apply for this winter’s Evolution program at the Genesis Centre in St. John’s.

Evolution is the innovation hub’s pre-incubator program. The eight-week intensive is designed for young tech start-ups which have less than $1 million in annual revenue and have yet to develop a minimum viable product.

With experiential learning at its core, Evolution helps entrepreneurs engage potential customers, while receiving mentorship from Genesis’ advisor network. The program helps entrepreneurs quickly identify their markets, validate their idea, and find problem-solution fit, the organizers said in a release.

The group said Evolution helps entrepreneurs learn lean start-up methodology, the business model canvas and the value proposition canvas.

The program culminates with a pitch event, Pitch & Pick, where selected startups have the opportunity to present their business idea to a live audience, which includes industry professionals, investors, public sector funders and other entrepreneurs.

Evolution is the first step in joining Genesis' flagship incubator, Enterprise.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 16, two weeks before the program starts. You can apply for the program here.

McDonough Named to Sports Leadership Board

Travis McDonough

Travis McDonough

Travis McDonough, the CEO of Halifax-based health data company Kinduct Technologies, has been named to the first ever Sports Leadership Board, an international body that aims to solve problems in sports technology.

Kinduct has developed a platform that provides the world’s largest collection of sports-related health data to athletes, coaches, trainers and sports medicine professionals.

McDonough is joining 15 other international experts on the athlete data board with the goal of creating standards that can be used in producing and using data on athletes’ performance. Bloomberg News on Tuesday said the new board will examine such thorny issues as who owns athletes’ data, what privacy concerns should be addressed, and whether data issues should be included in collective bargaining.

“Kinduct is honoured to be one of the influential thought leaders who will be helping shape the future direction of the sports and human performance industry,” said McDonough in an email Tuesday night. “To help identify problems and then action on solutions in collaboration with organizations such as the NFL, NHL, NFLPA, MGM, UFC [and others] is a great privilege and opportunity for Kinduct.” 

Boston-based Sports Innovation Lab, a market intelligence company in SportsTech, announced Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it would oversee a series of leadership boards for the sports industry.

Each leadership board will address a specific challenge facing SportsTech and bring together thought leaders to collaboratively solve issues under the independent guidance of Sports Innovation Lab. The athlete data leadership board is intended to be the first of many.

"Sports executives have been waiting for a solution, or trying to create one in isolation,” said Angela Ruggiero, CEO and Co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab and a four-time Olympian. “By bringing the proven model of leadership boards to the sports industry, our intention is to accelerate the process by creating consensus and providing actionable solutions for the business of sports."

The data leadership board will include the heads of several sports data companies like Kinduct as well as senior representatives of such high profile organizations as the NFL, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and MGM Resorts International.

Kinduct’s Athlete Management System 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 on one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from more than 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.

VVP Seeks Saint John Founders

There are still a few days left to apply for the winter 2019 Venture Validation Program, or VVP, for early-stage ventures in Saint John.

VVP is the most popular of the Navigator programs and services offered by Enterprise Saint John for startups in Greater Saint John.

“The VVP is a 13-week cohort-based program that helps entrepreneurs with just an idea develop their concept into something they can bring to market,” said Dakota Lutes, Entrepreneur Development Officer, in an email.

“There is a wide range of backgrounds and idea readiness among the 12-person cohort. We’ve had MBAs and PhDs participate as well as individuals that have only a high school diploma.”

Lutes said the program delves into the fundamentals any business needs to address: engaging with customers to discover pain points and develop value propositions; business modelling; market sizing; competitive differentiation; financial modelling; and pitching.

The group runs three cohorts a year, in winter, spring and fall.

“We’ve run five cohorts since the program launched in April 2017. Since then we’ve had 62 people participate in the program, 40 complete it, and 24 launch a company,” said Lutes.

Companies participating in the current cohort are very early stage but beginning to experience growth.

“Our programs, in their current form, are still only two years old and growing rapidly, so we’re just approaching the timeframe where a few of our oldest companies will be entering their high growth stage soon. We expect a few of them to gain traction quickly in 2019,” said Lucas Loughead, Entrepreneur Development Coordinator.

He said current participating ventures include a diverse range of companies:

BioHuntress Therapeutics is a biotechnology start-up dedicated to commercializing patented research around a potential cure for blood cancers. Its full patent was submitted in October. 

Botrow Technologies is developing a cashless payment system for small to mid-size city transit authorities. It has partnered with Saint John Transit as an early adopter.

Enso is a premium wine canning company. Enso is dedicated to putting some best available wines into small cans from around the world, eliminating the hassle of bottles and making it easy to access a variety of premium wines. The cans are 250ml and will be sold for $7 per can. Currently available at some local bars and through special order online, scheduled to hit the shelves of NB Liquor stores in the next week or two.

Four Eyes Financial is developing a wealth management technology platform for independent financial advisors. The company currently has two paying customers and is closing its second round of investment. 

Millennia Tea appeared (and received an offer) on Dragon’s Den and won the global award for Most Innovative New Product at the 2017 World Tea Expo. It has created a new category of tea – fresh, whole tea leaves -- and is available in 35 stores and online.

Tayana Solutions is developing machine learning software to provide insights and automation to accounts receivable departments within large corporations.  Tayana is still seeking an early adopter.

Applications are due Jan 11. You can register by emailing Lutes at: Dakota@enterprisesj.com.

Momentum for Tax Credit Revamp

Senator Colin Deacon:

Senator Colin Deacon:

The investment tax credit discussion in Atlantic Canada has been intensifying lately, and now Senator Colin Deacon is taking up the cause.

These provincial taxation measures give private investors a tax break if they invest in approved companies. All four Atlantic provinces now offer these credits, as do most Canadian provinces and American states.

Players in the startup community have been pushing for improvements for ages – a position I’ve advocated for in this column several times over the years. Those calls are now intensifying. In June, a group headed by Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency exec James Curry issued a discussion paper recommending these credits be harmonized and be offered to investors outside a company's home province. And now Deacon, a serial entrepreneur named to the Senate last summer, is pushing for similar changes.

“A good startup ecosystem needs a good angel group,” said Deacon in an interview last week. “Equity tax credits are a great way for governments to leverage their investment in startups . . . through private investments.”

He argues that equity tax credits (the name of the Nova Scotian program; each province has its own name for them) help to generate recurring waves of new companies year after year. That ensures the startup community keeps growing.

The main problem is that each province grants the credit only to taxpayers who live in that province. This means the credits can attract only a small pool of investors – exceptionally small in dollar terms given that there is less wealth in Atlantic Canada than in other parts of the continent.

Traditional Businesses are Linking up with Startups, to their Mutual Advantage

Curry’s paper – co-written by BioNova head Scott Moffitt, Ogden Pond CEO Sean Sears, and Grant Thornton tax partner Keith MacIntyre – recommends that Atlantic Canada “regionalize” investment tax credits. That means the rules would be uniform across the region. (New Brunswick currently has the most generous tax credit by a long shot.) And it would mean investors in one province could receive a credit for funding a company in another province.

Deacon and the paper’s authors even want the credits to reward investors who live outside the region. Some American states such as Arkansas and Minnesota already allow external investors to benefit from their tax credits. The thinking is that it's more important to get money into growing companies than be concerned about where the investor is based.

So far, the talk about enhanced credits is just that – talk. But there is more talk than a few years ago. (BioNova and Grant Thornton will continue the discussion with an information session in Halifax on Wednesday at noon at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Summer Street.) Deacon says the discussion is intensifying because the region’s startup community has proven it can generate wealth, exports and jobs, and policy makers are looking for ways to perpetuate that success.

It’s hard to say what will happen. One possibility is that nothing will change – finance departments usually prefer not to give up revenue. The four provinces could harmonize and enhance their tax credits. Or possibly, the federal government could offer a tax credit, which would erase the provincial constraints.

Deacon said the long-term goal is a national tax credit.

“I’m a big believer that the federal government should have an equity tax credit nationally,” said Deacon. “This is crucial to our economy.”

Summer Institute Seeks Applicants

The 2018 Summer Institute cohort.

The 2018 Summer Institute cohort.

The University of New Brunswick has opened applications for its Summer Institute, its accelerator known for helping consumer product companies reach their market.

Applications for the 2019 cohort are open until Feb. 15 and can be found here.

The 2019 program, which will run from April 29 until July 19, will grant five to seven participants a stipend for living expenses, prototyping grants, and access to its downtown workspace. They will also receive mentor-led programming aimed at developing sustainable and profitable companies.

“The Summer Institute is designed to help early stage companies with a big vision,” said Summer Institute Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke in a statement. “We look for early-stage ventures that want to make an impact beyond the bottom line, and it’s truly a joy to help these community-minded entrepreneurs pursue their dreams.”

Operated by the University of New Brunswick’s J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, the Summer Institute has helped launch more than 30 companies since its first cohort in 2014. The program is not restricted to companies from any particular region or sector, though it historically has focused on companies with an innovative consumer product or service.

"The Summer Institute is easily the best thing to happen to me or my business,” said Eggcitables Founder and 2018 program alumna Hannah Chisholm. “I accomplished, learned, and grew more in those 12 weeks than I would have in an entire year."

The Summer Institute is a member of the Global Accelerator Network, an invite-only community of the world’s most respected organizations that provide startups with the best resources to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are.

As Startup-Corporate Links Grow, Traditional Businesses Benefit

Harbr founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

Harbr founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

When Halifax-based Harbr announced its $1.75 million funding round in March, there were some unexpected names on the list of investors.

The company, which is developing an artificial intelligence product for the construction industry, said the co-lead was Halifax developer George Armoyan, whose interests include Geosam Capital and Clarke Inc. Other investors included such construction industry leaders as Don Clow of Crombie REIT, Jim Spatz of Southwest Properties, and Victor Kielbratowski of Halifax-based Kiel Developments.

The Harbr funding exemplified a trend that’s taking place in the Atlantic Canadian economy: traditional businesses and startups are getting to know each other. Until recently, there was limited interaction between the two groups, but that’s changing.

And that is important for two reasons. First, it means that startups in the region are benefitting from exposure to the brains and back pockets of the most successful business people in the region. The second reason might have an even greater economic impact. The region’s traditional industries are learning the benefits of innovation and spending more on R&D, a trend that is boosted by their relationships with startups.

“Atlantic Canadian business needs to get more involved in corporate innovation,” said Jeff Larsen, Executive Director of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University. “There have been exemplars such as McCain’s investment and procurement from precision agriculture startup Resson, but not enough to help traditional companies adapt and adopt innovation in response to global competition.”

East Coast Startups Tapping Accelerators Outside the Region

There is a general agreement among startup specialists that Atlantic Canada has many of the components of a successful ecosystem, like universities, funding organizations and abundant mentorship. One missing piece, however, has been the “tent-pole industries”, to use the term coined by Colorado startup guru Brad Feld. The idea is that huge corporations bring expertise to a region. Their employees get business ideas and break away to start their own companies. The big corporations become clients and mentors for startups, and maybe work with local universities on research, all of which contributes to the support system.Our problem is Atlantic Canada’s private sector is small as a proportion of the overall economy, meaning there aren’t a lot of companies, let alone big ones. Now several forces are coming together to encourage the corporations we do have to work with startups.

One is Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic. The East Coast offshoot of a program developed at University of Toronto is bringing traditional business people into the startup space by having them mentor and invest in young companies. Its fellows include such corporate veterans as IMP Chairman Ken Rowe, Clearwater Fine Foods Chairman John Risley, Armoyan and others.

“This CDL is probably one of the best ideas that I’ve ever seen come to Halifax,” said Armoyan, who actually linked up with Harbr through CDL. “The amount of time being committed to the space – it’s really impressive. These are people are really busy but they’re all making time for this.”

Of course, there are other examples of involvement. McCain Foods of Florenceville, NB, has become an increasingly active investor in and partner with startups. And Risley has become a super angel. Since his company Ocean Nutrition Canada exited for $540 million in 2012, he has become a major investor in such high-flying companies as Proposify and Kinduct.

One Startup Player To Watch in 2019: McCain Foods

Volta, the Halifax startup and innovation hub, is growing its Innovation Outpost, where large companies and organizations can set up innovation teams to work on special projects. So far, Atlantic Lottery Corp., Accenture and the Government of Nova Scotia have enrolled in the Innovation Outpost.

What’s interesting is that these links to startups are growing as Atlantic Canada overall is becoming more innovative, after lagging the continent for generations. It’s difficult to establish cause and effect, but maybe the startup ethos is rubbing off on the older industries. Whatever the reason, statistics are showing that R&D is increasing in the region.

Statistics Canada said in October that the innovation rate (a measure of the proportion of companies engaged in R&D) of Atlantic Canadian enterprises increased from 45.8 percent in 2010-12 to 69.1 percent in 2015-17. This means that, within these time bands, the innovation gap between Atlantic Canada and Canada overall has shrunk from 17.7 percentage points to 10.2 points.

Said Larsen: “In the end, it will be the irresistible pressure coming from the global marketplace that will force Canadian, and certainly Atlantic Canadian, companies to become more innovative and, in many cases, to give much greater priority to R&D and collaboration with university-based researchers.” 

Job of the Week: WoodsCamp

We have one posting from December in our Job of the Week column today: Lunenburg, NS-based WoodsCamp is looking for a technical director.

WoodsCamp has developed an online platform that can be used by the 4 million woodlot owners in the U.S. to manage their properties. The goal is to oversee the woodlots efficiently, profitably and with utmost care for the environment. The company in June said it had been bought by the American Forest Foundation for an undisclosed price.

The Job 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 posting:



Technical Director

Join the American Forest Foundation's WoodsCamp Technology team to help build technologies for reaching and engaging family forest owners across the US. The American Forest Foundation works to protect and measurably increase the clean water, wildlife habitat and sustainable wood supplies coming from family-owned forests, by working with landowners, partners, stakeholders and policymakers to address today's important economic and environmental issues.


The Technical Director is responsible for planning and leading all technical efforts for Woodscamp Technologies Inc. This multifaceted position can be broken down into three main categories:

Software Architecture

Lead planning, development and maintenance of all internal and external software products. Implement standardized development practices such as build pipelines, coding standards, source control, deployment pipelines, documentation and automated testing.

Cloud Infrastructure

Orchestrate and maintain all cloud infrastructure used to power Woodscamp products and processes. This includes, but is not limited to, data pipelines, data mining, monitoring, automated backups & disaster recovery, scaling and security.


Responsible for management of all Woodscamp engineering staff. Includes training on internal processes and new technologies, scheduling, task delegation and quality assurance. In addition, the technical director acts as liaison between engineering and other departments within the Woodscamp organization to facilitate coordination on company initiatives.


Bachelor's degree and 8 years of experience as a developer or an equivalent combination of education and work experience. Ability to interpret internal and external business challenges and recommend best technical practices. Ability to lead complex projects. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Our Top News Stories of 2018

Darren Gallop, standing, and Co-Founder Morgan Currie celebrate Marcato's exit.

Darren Gallop, standing, and Co-Founder Morgan Currie celebrate Marcato's exit.

As we look back on 2018, there were a few news stories that really shaped the regional innovation group for the year.

I’ve written about accelerators outside the region and the role of McCain Foods already this week. But let’s close out the holiday period with a look at some the biggest news stories of 2018, and why they had such an impact.

One caveat about this article: the buzz around the community suggests some of the strongest gains, in terms of big firms gaining clients and revenues, were achieved by companies that chose to avoid the media spotlight, like St. John’s-based Celtx and Verafin, and Halifax-based Dash Hudson. 

So here, in no particular order, are some of the higher profile news stories of last year:

Introhive’s $20 million funding round. When the Washington, D.C.- and Fredericton-based relationship intelligence software company announced its equity and debt financing in June, it indicated it hopes one day to be the first Atlantic Canadian company to announce a $50 million venture capital round. The region needs those big rounds because they can generate huge economic impact and make it easier for other Atlantic Canadian tech companies to approach large investors.

Island Capital Partners builds its portfolio. The P.E.I. investment group now has six companies in its portfolio – Onset Communications, Forestry.io, Garago, Island Water Technologies, Stash Energy and Bluefield Seeding Solutions. Its recent investments mean there is now a provincial funding group in each of the four Atlantic Provinces.

Sona Nanotech’s listing. The Halifax life sciences company Sona Nanotech began trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange in October after raising $2 million through the sale of shares. As long as equity markets hold up, public listings by Atlantic Canadian innovation companies could become more common in coming years.

Sequence Bio launches a pilot project in New Brunswick. St. John’s-based Sequence, which uses genomic data to improve drug discovery, announced the approval of the NB Genome Project Pilot in August. It’s another step in the company’s ambitions to build up and use genomic data banks.

CarbonCure reaches the finals of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge. The Halifax company has a shot at winning a total of US$8 million in the next two years. More importantly, the XPRIZE would establish the company as a true global leader in using carbon as an industrial product.

ILokol Gains 1500 clients in six months.  Founded by Chinese students studying in Halifax, iLokol is an eCommerce platform for local businesses. The team, led by Xi Chen, have proven themselves tremendous entrepreneurs – getting out and selling so there were $650,000 of transactions on their platform in half a year.

Panag Pharma sells out for up to $27 million. Panag had been quietly working away at a cannabis-based pain relief drug. Then Boom! Out of nowhere, amid the weed frenzy, it announced what appears to be the region’s largest exit in almost two years. It is adding momentum to drug research in the region.

Marcato Digital’s purchase by Pittsburgh-based Patron Technology. The value of the deal is unknown but it’s another feather in the cap of the Sydney startup group. Founder Darren Gallop gained street cred from the deal, which will help as he grows his second venture, Securicy. 

One To Watch in ‘19: McCain Foods

If I were to choose one player in the Atlantic Canadian startup community to watch this year, it would be McCain Foods.

That’s right: a 62-year-old company known for its French fries will be the big news story in a business group known for its young whippersnappers toting laptops.

I’m making such an incongruous statement because McCain, more than any other traditional business in the region, understands the potential of startups and works most closely with them. This is important because startups only succeed if they grow to seize a global market share. That usually requires a lot of capital, a global sales network, and management with international experience.

Of the few Atlantic Canadian companies that offer these components, McCain Foods has proven the best at working with startups to develop products and get them to market. Its senior executives in the Florenceville, N.B. headquarters include Nestor Gomez, who leads its Startup and Entrepreneurship Program and is respected throughout the startup community.

McCain Foods has relationships with four young innovation companies that I know of. I’ve asked McCain for interviews or information a few times in recent years without success. So the material for this article is drawn from discussions with startup founders, co-investors and public presentations given over the past few years.

We reported a few weeks ago that McCain has now taken over the management of Halifax-based TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture. Last spring, McCain made its second investment in Fredericton-based Resson as part of a $14 million equity funding round. McCain Foods also works with Fiddlehead Technology of Moncton and Eigen Innovations of Fredericton.

East Coast Startups Tapping Into Accelerators Beyond our Borders. 

TruLeaf specializes in vertical farming, and will soon open its $16 million plant in Guelph, Ont., which will use data analytics and artificial intelligence to maximize its vegetables’ output and nutritional value. TruLeaf aims to become the North American leader in vertical farming – an ambition that will require so much capital and management expertise that it couldn’t be achieved without the help of a company like McCain Foods.

Resson uses data from farm fields to improve crop output, drawing data from farm equipment, overhead photography and other sources. Gathering meaningful crop data is incredibly difficult as daily weather fluctuations can skew the data, and the soil content in one field will be different from that in another. And data gathered from one strain of plant or specific region may or may not apply to other plants or regions. McCain has been instrumental in working with Resson to develop its systems and build up a large enough databank to become a leader in precision agriculture.

Fiddlehead is developing data analytics systems that help food producers and retailers predict consumer demand. These are intended to help reduce waste and avoid shortages.

Two things are happening with these developments at McCain. First, one of the region’s pre-eminent corporations is drawing on Atlantic Canadian technology to improve its own operations and thrive in the future. It is targeting outdoor and indoor agriculture as well as food production – pillars of a modern food company.

Above and beyond that, a few startups are finding the capital and expertise within Atlantic Canada to reach export markets. That means more of the benefits of the startup movement remain in the region. McCain Foods deserves kudos for showing leadership in this space.

Tapping Overseas Accelerators

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

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

One trend that quietly emerged in the Atlantic Canadian innovation space in 2018 was the participation of our companies in accelerators outside the region.

It may be the story of the year in the startup community – certainly the most over-looked story of 2018.

The two other big stories are the growing influence of corporations in the startup space (we’ll have more on that later this week) and the record levels of equity investment in Atlantic Canadian startups. These have been covered before, but the wave of our entrepreneurs attending accelerators elsewhere is something new.

I’ve counted more than a dozen startups that participated in accelerators outside the region this year, often moving to the host cities for several months. They are:

Affinio, Halifax                                             Microsoft for Startups

Acoustic Zoom, Paradise, NL                      #DisruptMining, Toronto

Axem Neurotechnology, Halifax                  Hax, Shenzhen, China

Beauceron Security, Fredericton                 CyLon, London

B-Line Analytics, Halifax                             Flywheel New Ventures Challenge, North Carolina

Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton                   Plug and Play, Silicon Valley

EyesOver, Fredericton                                L-Spark, Ottawa

Groundhog Network,* Halifax                     Techstars Anywhere, and 

                                                                   Tachyon,  San Francisco                        

Island Water, Charlottetown                       Imagine H2O, San Francisco

Itavio, Moncton                                           HearstLabs, New York

Kognitiv Spark, Fredericton                        Plug and Play, Silicon Valley

Orenda Software, Sydney                          FinTech Sandbox, Boston

RetailDeep, Halifax                                     XRC Labs, New York

Securicy, Sydney                                         Techstars Boston

Squiggle Park, Halifax                                 Rev, Kitchener, Ont.

*Groundhog is now the trade name for Blockcrushr Labs.

We’ve reported on all these companies in Entrevestor this year, but seeing them all listed at once shows how strong this movement is.

There are grey areas. I’m not sure Microsoft for Startups is an “accelerator” so much as a sales program. But Affinio first linked up with Microsoft by entering the tech giant’s accelerator in Seattle, so I decided to add it to the list. #DisruptMining is more a competition than accelerator, but Acoustic Zoom won it and therefore received intense mentorship and an early adopter program.

That list does not include the six Atlantic Canadian companies that attended Fierce Founders bootcamps in 2018 at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont. This accelerator for female-led companies has been notable in the past five years for the support it’s given Atlantic Canadian founders.

Nor does the list include the startups that attended Canadian Technology Accelerators, a program offered by the Canadian government’s trade offices in several cities. In 2018, Halifax’s Covina Biomedical attended the CTA in Boston, Fredericton’s Stash Energy went to Denver, and Halifax’s LifeRaft joined the CTA in New York.

Attending these accelerators is important because they expose Atlantic Canadian business people to global experts in their fields, as well as potential customers and investors. It’s an opportunity to compare their technology with their global peers, and to develop sales leads. The whole startup thing only works if young companies export, and these extended trips are opportunities to sell internationally.

One final point to consider is that more Atlantic Canadian accelerators are opening their doors to startups from other parts of the world. I recently wrote about European oceans companies that are attending Creative Destruction Labs-Atlantic, and the University of New Brunswick has been actively engaging international companies through its two accelerators, Energia and the Summer Institute. Emergence, the Charlottetown-based life sciences incubator, works extensively with companies from outside the region.  

One of the enduring problems with the Atlantic Canadian economy is that we look inward too much. These are important developments in solving that issue.


Editor's note: we were contacted by a few startups after we posted this story and have made a few additions to the list of companies. 

Happy Holidays to All our Readers

We'd like to wish our readers a truly happy holiday and prosperous New Year.

This has been a great year for Entrevestor. The Atlantic Canadian startup community has never had a better year than 2018, and we've had a lot of fun covering the mounting success. We also believe that 2019 will be an even better year and have a few announcements in store for the community in the new year. 

We always take off the week between Christmas and New Year, so this will be our last post until Jan. 2

So to our readers, to the writers who have filed such great stories to us, to the founders, and to all our clients, we say thank you and hope that you enjoy a happy and safe holiday. 

See you in 2019.

Carol and Peter 

Newpy Aims To Change Online Gifting

Newpy Creative Director Alana O'Halloran, left, and CEO Erin O'Halloran.

Newpy Creative Director Alana O'Halloran, left, and CEO Erin O'Halloran.

Whenever Erin O'Halloran bought someone a gift online, she couldn't wait to see their reaction. She’d get so excited, she would send recipients a photo of the gift in advance. Her joy in gift-giving led her to create Newpy, a social network app for posting photos of products hidden inside digital packaging.

The app allows users to send each other gift ideas, save them from their laptop or phone, and then order by wrapping the gift image. Senders can set a date when the digital gift can be opened so they can see the recipient’s reaction.

“Usually, when it comes to gifting, you have to wait to make someone feel special—it’s all about a date,” said O’Halloran, who is based in Saint John. “You have to order on time and you have to give the gift on the date for the person to feel appreciated.

“With Newpy, you can make any day and more days special…By showing someone a gift they will be receiving, they will look forward to getting it.”

O’Halloran said Newpy has competitors, but they focus on selling their own products on their apps, and when someone buys a product, the receiver is notified by text.

“With Newpy, users can send any gift from any website digitally wrapped as we do not directly sell products on our app,” she said.

“Instead of notifying the gift receiver by text that you got them a gift, our app allows you to send a digital gift on Newpy. The other person opens it like they would a regular gift and then you can see their reaction. We are all about re-creating the gifting experience virtually.”

In February, Newpy will launch its first beta web app. The development follows the creation of two prototypes and interviews with users.

It’s a big step for Newpy, which garnered attention in March, 2017, when it won more than $300,000 In the Breakthru contest run by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

At the time, O’Halloran was still a business student at the University of PEI. It was a big win for the young entrepreneur who had brought her sister Alana into the business, with responsibility for refining the digital design.

NBIF Funding Rose 8.8% to $6.2M in 2017-18.

The sisters have recently altered their business plan.

“From Breakthru in 2017 with Newpy, our goal was to try and get as many people as possible to give gifts digitally and charge $1.99 per digital gift sent,” O’Halloran said.

She said their research has revealed that people invest time and effort in finding the right gift before making a purchase. Now, Newpy is free for users to send as many digital gifts as they like. The new revenue model involves charging companies.

“Once we prove people are saving gift ideas, we’re going to create a way for companies to track who saves their gift idea and be able to offer those potential customers a discount to encourage purchase,” she said.

“We will charge companies a monthly subscription fee based off of how many saved gifts they track.”

She said the total addressable market is huge: 140 million gifts were ordered online in the U.S. during the 2016 holiday season, 35 million of these were ordered with same-day delivery and one-third were given to people who did not live with the buyer.

O’Halloran’s father, John, a vet and businessman, is also a factor in the creation of Newpy.

“My dad told me he read that if you try to write down one business idea per day, once you reach 100, ten will be really good and one will be your million-dollar idea. So, I was looking for an idea to pursue and Newpy was in the seventies on my list,” she said.

Ubique Sets Up Halifax Office

Ubique Networks Inc., a growing tech startup that improves the efficiency of eSports, is opening an office at Volta Labs in Halifax, its third Canadian office.

The company announced this week that it plans to employ about a dozen IT professionals in Halifax. They will work with its dual headquarters in Sydney and Whitby, Ont. Outside of Canada, Ubique has operations in Brazil, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

The company has developed a platform it calls Swarmio that helps ensure there is no time lag for gamers competing against one another from different parts of the world. It has attracted more than 25,000 competitive gamers, including more than 25 eSports influencers, with a combined audience of over 100 million followers.

“Ubique is growing very fast in terms of new users and new countries for our product, and this necessitates the scale up of our operations with highly specialized IT talent,” John Smith, the company’s Executive Vice-President for Sales, said in a statement. “We want to capitalize on the growing IT talent pool in Atlantic Canada, particularly Halifax. Our Halifax centre will be instrumental in our future development plans.”

Ubique 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. Swarmio is a decentralized eSports platform with an automated tournament management system.

Swarmio was launched in Brazil earlier this year, and last month the platform was taken to Sri Lanka with a local partner, Sri Lanka Telecom, which is the largest telecom and ISP operator in the country. Negotiations are also under way to launch the platform in other Asian, European and Latin American countries.

Ubique hosted a US$100,000 charity cup tournament in Los Angeles in September with major gamers and influencers. Now the company is planning a series of tournaments in the Philippines in January.

The new Halifax office will contribute to research and innovation projects in collaboration with educational institutions in the region and outside.

“Volta is proud to offer space, programing and resources to innovative startups like Ubique through our Residency program,” said Malary Schurman, Manager, Special Projects at Volta. “Ubique is an excellent example of the growth that can be achieved when choosing Atlantic Canada as a home base for a technology company.”

Protocase Seeks Partner in Intersect

Having grown to a 200-person operation in 17 years, Sydney-based mass-customization manufacturer Protocase wants to expand into new product lines and is looking for a team of entrepreneurs to help.

The company, known for its customized electronics cabinets, is participating in Innovacorp’s second Intersect competition, which begins this month. Intersect brings forward an established company with a problem, and asks startups to come up with solutions.

To be clear, Protocase is not a company with a big problem. Its revenues have grown strongly this decade. Its 45 Drives unit, which makes data storage solutions, has been such a success that it is expected to account for more than half of Protocase’s revenues in 2019.

What Protocase wants help with is developing promising new businesses. Using its expertise in mass customization, the company has dabbled in a few new markets, such as ceramic tiling or stain glass windows. It would like to link up with entrepreneurs or startups who can build these experiments into new businesses.

“In the last seven years, we’ve averaged 30 percent growth annually and we’re getting up to 200 employees now,” said Milburn in an interview. “When you do that, taking advantage of these small opportunities gets more and more difficult.”

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To understand what Protocase wants, it’s best to grasp its manufacturing model. Some manufacturers knock out mass products (like hardware or auto parts), whereas others are specialist manufacturers that customize products to minute detail for specific customers. Protocase operates in the middle ground.

It manufactures products to customers’ exact specifications and timelines, and in the volumes that customers like electronics companies want.

As the company grew, it was doing more and more work in data storage, so Protocase spun that operation off into its own business, calling it 45 Drives. Milburn also oversees another company, Advanced Glazings, which he said is now doing “really wonderfully” after getting through a law suit from investors a few years ago. Advanced Glazings makes advanced windows that maximize sunlight without reducing insulation. 

Overseeing these operations has tapped out the managerial capacity of Milburn and his team, but they see new opportunities. Milburn said he’s participating in the Intersect competition with the goal of teaming up with a business development team.

Milburn didn’t state categorically what business he’s thinking of, but he did name one activity that Protocase is interested in: decorative tiles.

The company has equipment that can cut ceramic tiles, and it has experimented in applying the mass-customization model to using ceramics in interior decoration.

“We did 35 installations in about a year,” said Milburn. “It was an easy sell and the numbers worked out right. It was surprisingly simple to integrate something that was completely different for us.”

Now, he would like to work with entrepreneurs on growing this or another business through the Intersect competition. Applicants for the competition must file a business proposal by Dec. 28. (You can find details of the competition, and Protocase's business, here.) The winners will receive $5,000 from Innovacorp and $2,500 in product development and prototyping from Protocase.

The first Intersect competition organized by Innovacorp’s Sydney office was held in October, when candidates were asked to develop a solution for Snow White Laundry. Gavin Andrews and Matt Pyne won with a company called Tracker Inventory Systems.  They are now implementing a laundry tracking system that uses smart labels in the Snow White Laundry facilities.


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Curwin Steps Down as TruLeaf CEO

Gregg Curwin:  'It’s prudent to understand when to let go.'

Gregg Curwin: 'It’s prudent to understand when to let go.'

Gregg Curwin has stepped down as CEO of AgTech company TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, paving the way for McCain Foods to steward the company through a phase of expected “exponential” growth.

In an interview last week, Curwin said it was his decision to step down and he did so with the full support of the TruLeaf board and major investors. All decided the company’s ambition and the complexity of its machine learning-driven vertical farms required a larger management team and access to more capital. Curwin left the post late last month.

Halifax-based TruLeaf aims to be the North American leader in vertical farming, which combines hydroponic technology, LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater with machine learning to produce vegetables year-round indoors. Vertical farming is nearly 30 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 95 percent less water, and takes up less land.

“Startups are like kids – they’re your baby, and with that comes a lot of hard work, cost and emotional attachment,” said Curwin in the interview. “But . . . as founders, it’s prudent to understand when to let go.”

Having taken on investment over the years, TruLeaf now has four major shareholders, none of which has a majority stake. McCain Foods invested an undisclosed amount in TruLeaf earlier this year, and will now manage the company.  As well as Curwin, the other major shareholders are Toronto-based investors Mike Durland and Jeff Watson.  Innovacorp, the early-stage venture capital agency owned by the Nova Scotia government, is also a small investor.

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Curwin described the decision to step down as the hardest of his life and it is coming at a critical time for the company. TruLeaf plans next month to open its $16 million plant in Guelph, Ont., which will supply its Goodleaf Farms brand produce to the Toronto market.

The company already has a farm in Truro, NS, which produces greens for the Maritime market and is experimenting using machine learning to optimize nutrition, taste and growing times.

But the Guelph plant will be far more sophisticated, with more sensors and a greater capacity for its systems to learn from the data it collects.

The next step for TruLeaf is to open farms in Montreal and the Prairies with the eventual goal of becoming the largest indoor farm operator in North America. Calling the projected growth rate “exponential”, Curwin admitted such ambitions will require a lot of capital but did not go into how much money is needed.

Curwin has been working for nine years on TruLeaf, and said that by the end of his run he was “physically, mentally and creatively spent.” He will continue to sit on the TruLeaf board and serve as an adviser, but otherwise will take some time off before getting involved with other endeavors.

Looking back on his time with the company, he noted several social and economic factors combined to propel the company forward. TruLeaf’s low-energy, local production of greens meets the demands of buy local, environmental and pro-nutrition movements.

Said Curwin: “I never imagined in my wildest dreams that we’d have this perfect storm.”

SMU Alters MTEI Startups’ Funding

Ellen Farrell: 'It’s really a motivator for students now

Ellen Farrell: 'It’s really a motivator for students now".

Ellen Farrell believes recent funding changes have improved the quality of startups in Saint Mary’s University’s MTEI program and a new relationship with Mitacs will improve them further.

Farrell, the Co-Director of SMU’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, recently changed the way its startups are funded. She said the result has been the creation of higher caliber companies. Now, the program is partnering with Mitacs—a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage “industrial and social innovation”— to further enhance funding for young companies.

MTEI is the university’s main entrepreneurship program and enrollment has grown from seven students in 2013 to 28 students in the current class. Farrell says the new funding structure is encouraging more of the best students to choose to found startups rather than alternatives for their course work.

“It’s really a motivator for students now,” said Farrell. “First of all, it totally changed who was getting the money. It’s brought better students into the startup stream. Because people still have to live, and if you’re in an internship and you’re earning money that’s fine, but you want your best students in the startup stream.”

The MTEI program allows students to choose from three learning streams: a thesis stream; an internship stream; and a startup stream, in which students create their own companies.

On Wednesday, several MTEI companies presented at a showcase of student entrepreneurship at the university. They included Ashored, which has developed smart fishing gear that reduces harm to sea life and has already raised $244,000 in non-dilutive funding.

SMU's Venture Grade VC Team Invests in Cribcut

Previously, MTEI students competed for cash prizes from SMU’s Durland Innovation Fund by pitching startup ideas at the beginning of the program. Students who produced the best ideas received funding, but were not obligated to enter the startup stream and launch their companies. Some students won prizes, kept the money and then entered the internship stream, where they were also earning a salary.

Under the new funding system, implemented earlier this year, students are given set amounts of money when they reach key business development milestones.

“These milestones are traditional venture-capital methodology, but it’s totally non-dilutive,” said Farrell. “Nobody’s taking any equity.”

Unlike the original system, funding is now tied to specific students, rather than to business ideas. If multiple students are working together on a business, each student can receive funding.

Students will typically earn $5,000 to $6,000 from the Durland fund over the course of the program.

Farrell said the milestone-based payouts can make the financial challenges associated with entrepreneurship more manageable.

The Mitacs funding application process is separate from SMU’s internal funding system and requires that student companies already have secured $7,500 in financing, and that that their startup have a research-related dimension.

Students can choose to invest their own money for this purpose, but Farrell said MTEI is also seeking private donors to help students reach the required threshold.

Mitacs offers each qualifying student up to $15,000, in addition to what they receive from the Durland Fund.

Mitacs began offering its funding too late for most of the current class to apply. Next year’s program begins in May, and Farrell expects that students will start applying for funding shortly afterward.

In addition to the increase in the number of students choosing the startup stream, Farrell believes more students -- especially those who come to MTEI from fulltime jobs in businesses -- will choose to write a thesis to get their degree. She said these executives don't need an internship because they already have a paying job; and they are not interested in starting their own company. But a thesis would help them with their career. 

Bereda’s New Peer-to-Peer Product

Dennis Cottreau

Dennis Cottreau

Bereda Training, the Halifax company that helps endurance athletes, is launching a new product to blend its data and planning platform with a peer-to-peer support function.

The company recently announced its new business model on its website, with the goal of providing one-on-one support that allows athletes to use data to improve their performance. Pairs of athletes can use the product to help each other, or an athlete and coach can use it to help the athlete. 

Bereda has integrated with Strava, the world’s largest social network for endurance sports, with more than 30 million users. Rather than posting results to a social media board to be applauded by a range of people, the new Bereda system lets pairs of athletes or an athlete and coach analyze data together and plot the best way to improve.

“Bereda combines modern, one-to-one messaging with access to training data and future plans, bringing context to conversations about training between athletes, their peers, and coaches,” said CEO Dennis Cottreau on the company website.

“We believe giving endurance athletes the ability to connect and collaborate can unlock the potential of individual athletes to help each other improve their performance, achieve their goals, and gain the experience they need to confidently self-direct their training.”

Bereda Training began last year with a goal of developing an online training platform that automates the training plans that coaches prepare for endurance athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes, etc.). It released its minimum viable product last year – a platform that greatly reduces the time it takes for coaches or self-coached athletes to customize their training schedules over the course of a year. It allows them to build highly customized training strategies that can take into account hectic schedules and things like injuries or holidays.

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Bereda Marketing Manager Tyler Sellars said in an email the original product allows coaches and athletes to develop better plans, but the team realized it could do more for a broader community of athletes if it boosted one-on-one support.

The new product capitalizes on a few trends in technology. The spread of wearable technology has grown dramatically giving athletes a range of metrics on their speed, heart rate and the like. And person-to-person messaging is used more often than other forms of social media.

“Once connected with a peer, the user will have full access to training data, analytics, and future plans: the full perspective needed to get involved and lend a hand,” said Sellars. He added that the new product takes Bereda “out of its niche” and becomes available to tens of millions of ordinary athletes who want to improve.

The company grew out of the frustration its founders (both elite athletes) felt with the inflexibility of existing training platforms. Cottreau was a semi-professional cyclist for two years and CTO Blake Pucsek was the captain of the Harvard University rowing team.

In May, Bereda Training raised $250,000 in equity financing, with $100,000 coming from Innovacorp, and the remaining $150,000 from three angel investors it met through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic.

Xocean Ponders Base in Halifax

The Xocean XO-450.

The Xocean XO-450.

Since touching down in Halifax earlier in the autumn, James Ives has been wondering if the East Coast city could make a suitable North American base for his company, which uses unmanned boats to gather ocean data.

Ives is the co-founder and CEO of Xocean, an Irish company that is developing a fleet of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to gather data from the murky depths. It’s built on the premise that gathering marine data with unmanned vessels is safer, less expensive and better for the environment than using research ships. And in the coming years, data on the oceans is going to become more and more important, he says.

“The ocean economy is hugely important and our premise is that any responsible growth of the ocean economy has to be built on data,” said Ives in an interview in Halifax last week.

He was in Halifax because Xocean is one of a handful of ocean-related companies that are enrolled in the current cohort of the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic. Entrevestor has been talking to these companies this week. On Thursday we took a look at MicroWise of Denmark and today we’re profiling 18-month-old Xocean, which is trying to make ocean data easier to attain.

“In my career, I’ve been a major buyer of ocean data and there are a lot of frustrations,” said Ives, who’s worked with Accenture and headed the environmental group OpenHydro. The high cost of data was the main frustration, but there’s also the time it takes to get it and the quality of the data.

In 2017, he and three co-founders established Xocean in Carlingford, near the border with Northern Ireland, to develop a fleet of USVs that could collect data efficiently. The company is not building up its own data sets but is a service company that helps such clients as governments, research institutions, corporations and others to gather submarine data. The information it can collect ranges from mapping the seabed, to fish stocks, to environmental data.

Ocean-Related Startups Beginning to Surface in Atlantic Canada

It now has one USV, the XO-450, a craft that can operate at one-third of the cost of a conventional ship. With its control staff on the shore, it can operate around the clock, has an 18-day endurance and can collect data 100 nautical miles offshore. The company is now building its second vessel.

The team sees a massive opportunity, said Ives, because the ocean economy is forecast to double in size to $3 trillion in the next decade.

The company so far has been funded by the founders, with the support of such groups as Enterprise Ireland. As the company grows, it hopes to establish operations in North America as well as Europe and is considering opening an operational hub in Halifax.

“We’re here in Atlantic Canada because we see there’s an important opportunity,” said Ives. “When we look at our business, we see the ocean economy as a global business. We see a number of markets where the ocean economy has been prioritized and this is one of them.”

MicroWise Taps Halifax Expertise

The fact that Pia Haecky and Jone Jacobsen were sitting in a coffee shop in Halifax demonstrated the international appeal of their company, and how the oceantech cluster is progressing in Atlantic Canada.

Haeky and Jacobsen are senior partners in MicroWise, an ocean startup whose technology assesses the quality of water that ships hold in their bilges as ballast. It tests water quality onsite in real time, saving ship-owners money and ensuring that water is discharged in ports meets environmental standards.

“Because of new global regulations  . . . all commercial vessels have to monitor their ballast water before dumping it in host ports, otherwise it can lead to the spread of invasive species,” said Jacobsen, the company’s business development officer. “We’ve developed technology that can assess a water sample and very quickly tell if the water is all right to be dumped.”

MicroWise is one of myriad oceantech companies you’ll find being mentored in the region these days, but it stands out in one way: it is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Its principals were in Halifax because the company was accepted into the latest cohort of the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic, a mentoring program for a range of innovative companies, with a special emphasis on cleantech and oceantech.

The company was chosen for CDL Atlantic because the accelerator’s organizers understood the global market for the MicroWise technology, which is a combination of hardware and software.

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At the same time, traveling several times from Denmark to Halifax is a big commitment for a young company that has yet to raise equity investment or generate revenue. The fact that Haeky and Jacobsen made that commitment shows that Atlantic Canada is gaining a reputation as a centre for expertise in ocean technology, which is one of the key steps in developing a cluster for the industry. For the next two days, we’re going to take a look at MicroWise and Ireland’s Xocean, two European companies that were accepted into CDL Atlantic and demonstrate the region’s international reach in oceantech.

MicroWise got its start when a team of scientists and shipping experts understood that new international shipping regulations on ballast water created severe problems for the 100,000 ocean-going vessels in the world. They devised a system that could instantly assess ballast water for algae and other micro-organisms. And they brought on Jacobsen to handle the commercial side of the business. The MicroWise system can test water in 20 minutes, whereas traditional systems require water to be taken to a lab for tests.

The company now has a minimum viable product that it is testing in such maritime markets as Denmark, Britain, Singapore, Japan and Finland. Each test is a single data point for the system, so developing critical mass in its data set is a slow process. “We don’t get a lot of data points, but the data we get is really good,” said Haeky, the company’s CEO, adding the company’s data will increase its value as it grows.

Haeky said the company eventually plans to apply its technology to other sectors, such as testing the quality of foods.

Meanwhile, she and Jacobsen are impressed with the quality and number of mentors they have found in Halifax.

“We’ve been struggling to find expertise in the marine space,” said Jacobsen. “But there’s so much in Halifax so it’s been a real eye-opener.”

NBIF Funding Rose 8.8% in 2017-18

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation invested $6.2 million in 24 companies in the 12 months to March 31, 2018, with the value of deals increasing 8.8 percent over the previous fiscal year.

The non-profit that oversees early-stage venture capital investment and commercial research in the province issued its 2017-18 annual report on Wednesday, showing that it was active in the most recent fiscal period.

NBIF has a dual function. It invests in and nurtures early-stage innovation companies, and it helps to finance research that can help New Brunswick companies. Funding more than doubled last fiscal year for its innovation voucher program, which helps corporations collaborate with universities and research institutions on research and development.

The organization operates two investment funds – the Venture Capital Fund invested a total of $5 million in 2017-18, while the Startup Investment Fund for newer companies distributed $1.2 million. The companies that these two funds invested in also received almost $17 million in financing from other sources.

Two Fredericton-based companies received two rounds of NBIF funding – Eigen Innovations for a total of $900,000, and Beauceron Security for a total of $650,000.

“With over $100 million invested, plus $457 million more leveraged from other sources, the NBIF has helped to create over 113 companies, fund 494 applied research projects, and recruit 72 professors to the province since its inception in 2003,” said the report.

The annual report also revealed for the first time that the company has invested a further $500,000 in Moncton-based Internet of Things company RtTech Software. This company now has received a total of $1.58 million from NBIF, the largest amount in the organization’s portfolio. In December 2017, RtTech sold its key Cipher technology division to Bedford, Mass.-based Aspen Technology, though the company has continued with its other divisions intact.

Fredericton-based Populus Global , which received $350,000 in investment from NBIF last year, is now No. 2 in terms of total investment at $1.32 million.  

The following were the investments in the 2017-18 fiscal year:

Venture Capital Fund

Beauceron Security                         $500,000

Eigen Innovations (1)                      $500,000

Avrij                                                 $500,000

RtTech                                             $500,000

Eigen Innovations (2)                      $400,000

Populus Global                                $350,000

ITAVIO                                             $317,375

SimpTek Technologies                    $300,000

Alongside                                        $250,000

Smartpods                                       $250,000

SomaDetect                                    $200,000

Inversa                                            $200,000

Gemba                                            $300,000

Envenio                                           $112,698

Loft1                                                $100,000

Repable                                           $100,000

Patchell Brook                                  $100,000

Kognitiv Spark                                  $50,000

Startup Investment Fund

EyesOver                                         $200,000

Stash Energy                                   $200,000

Quber                                               $200,000

Beauceron Security                          $150,000

EhEye                                               $150,000

Jaza Energy                                     $100,000

AVSS                                                $100,000

Rise                                                  $50,000


The annual report also noted that NBIF backed $6.4 million in research projects and talent recruitment in the fiscal year. That broke down as $3.9 million in research funding (an increase of $190,000) and $2.5 million in talent recruitment of research professionals and students.

The report said 2018 has been an eventful year for NBIF as it has hired a new CEO in Jeff White and Director of Research in Laura Richard. White replaced former CEO Calvin Milbury, who departed in May.


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

Milk Moovement Eyes Expansion

Robert Forsythe hopes his company Milk Moovement will have 10 clients within two years, which would mean having coverage right across Canada.

The St. John’s-based company has developed a cloud-based reporting system that helps dairy boards give real-time reports to farmers about the quality and volume of their milk production.  

Milk Moovement now has one customer, the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland & Labrador, or DFNL, and is in the process of selling to the dairy boards in the Maritimes. Then it wants to move west.

“The farmers are not our customers,” said Forsythe, a Co-Founder, in an interview at Volta Labs in Halifax last week. “Our clients are the dairy boards. We’ll only have 10 clients in total in Canada, and that’s the 10 dairy boards, one in each province.”

Though the farmers are not the clients, Milk Moovement plans to make their lives a lot easier. Farmers, processors, laboratories and milk boards all now have to use paper-based reporting systems that are inefficient and cause problems. Farmers are paid by the volume and quality of milk they produce.

In the current system, a driver writes down on paper how much milk is collected each day, and a lab technician writes down how much fat and protein is in each sample. Someone has to aggregate all the data and farmers find out at the end of the month what their production was and whether there were problems with the quality.

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Jon King, another Co-Founder, once worked for DFNL and had to tabulate the monthly reports. He figured there had to be a better way to collect and report the data. So he started Milk Moovement. The software allows all players to input their data on a device and deliver the results to the farmer daily. If there’s a problem, the farmers address it immediately. It will even help drivers to optimize their route, which will help in larger provinces.

The company recently began its work with DFNL and its 32 dairy farms and so far the results are positive. Forsythe, who hails from Nova Scotia, is now working out of Volta, having won $25,000 at the recent Volta Cohort pitching competition. He’s at work trying to sign up the dairy boards in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I.

Once they have Atlantic Canada, the team will turn its attention to the biggest prizes of all – Quebec, with 5,500 dairy farms and Ontario with 3,700. Success in Quebec alone could mean $6 million in annual revenues for the company.

By the end of 2020, Milk Moovement hopes to be working with all 10 dairy boards, then possibly looking to specific international markets.

“Our main strategy right now is focusing on other countries that also operate through cooperatives,” said Forsythe. “New Zealand is a big one. New Zealand will be Step 1 for us internationally.”

For now, the company is focusing on Canada’s east coast and is bootstrapping during its initial phases. It has $65,000 in annual revenue from its DFNL deal and hopes to gain more income with deals in the Maritimes. The team is not raising money now, but won’t rule it out. 

“We are not in a funding round currently and are not certain on when we will enter one,” said Forsythe. “It could be late 2019 or early 2020, but as for general investment inquiries we are of course open to those discussions.”

Dal Joins Women Founder Project

Dalhousie University has been selected as one of eight Canadian universities to join a research project into women’s entrepreneurship.

The university said its Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship will join other institutions from across Canada to participate in the Women's Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. The federal government is contributing $9 million over three years to the national project, which will be led by Ryerson University.

Mary Kilfoil, Director of the Newman Centre, will be the lead researcher for the Dalhousie team, and will be supported by researchers Eddy Ng, Martine Dourier-Copp, Binod Sundararajan, and Aaron Newman.

“The WEKH, which is part of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, will advance research, gather important data and disseminate information related to the advancement of women’s entrepreneurship in Canada,” said a statement from Dal. “The WEKH will also deliver a report on the progress of women entrepreneurs in Canada.”

The statement noted that less than 16 percent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women.

ILokol Lands 1500 Clients in 6 Months

There’s often a moment of stunned silence after the founders of iLokol pitch, as if judges and audience members are wondering if they understood the pitchers properly. No one is used to seeing the numbers that Halifax-based iLokol presents from a company in its first year.

Founded by students from China, iLokol is a website that lets international students shop online in their own language from local merchants here in Halifax. Once the shoppers click the buy button, the goods are delivered that day. ILokol has a group of other international students who work part-time making the deliveries.

The company has been going for about six months, and has already posted astonishing sales figures. More than 1,500 active users are shopping on the site over 100 times daily, purchasing stuff from more than 90 local merchants. In total, $650,000 worth of transactions have been carried out using the platform.

When Co-Founder David Dong pitched at Dalhousie University’s Collide event last week, there was a pause at the conclusion before the judges weighed in.

“That’s impressive,” said marketing specialist Katelyn Bourgoin, one of the judges. “I think the next step is more cities.”

Then Marc Almon, Principal of Culture Link CIC, chimed in with a question: “So you’re making international students feel comfortable shopping locally?”

ILokol and Five Other Startups Split $150K from Volta Cohort

That’s right, said Dong. The founders understand the difficulty international students face when they arrive in a new city and need to buy things like food or household goods. And they also realized that small, locally owned businesses don’t have e-commerce platforms and are threatened as shoppers spend more and more of their dollars online.

“Our platform is an all-in-one shopping platform and we only focus on small business,” said Co-Founder and CEO Xi Chen in an interview the next day at Volta Labs in Halifax. The iLokol team is now a resident at the startup house, and they’ve quickly gained a reputation among the Volta crowd for their hard work and long hours.

They’re also winning cash awards, mainly because of the rapid growth of their customer base. ILokol was a co-winner of the Collider competition, taking home $2,500. A week earlier they were one of six teams to win $25,000 in the Volta Cohort competition.

What’s impressive – to use Bourgoin’s term – is that Chen describes the current iteration as a minimum viable product. That’s entrepreneur-speak for a bare-bones product you can throw up to bring in early revenues. The website now is available only in Chinese (I can’t tell what it says unless I use Google’s translate function), though the team hopes to add more languages soon.

It’s unheard of to gain 1,500 users who spend $650,000 in six months with an MVP. But Chen explained that the community of international students is fairly small and tight, and word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool.

The company – which takes a percentage payment from every transaction – now wants to expand the website into more languages, and increase the number of merchants using it. Then it wants to expand to more cities. Chen said every city has its own personality, and iLokol wants to capture these unique traits.

“We’re going to do everything just like Amazon,” he said. “But our advantage is we can be multi-language and multi-cultural.”

Venture Grade Invests in Cribcut

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund – a VC fund managed by students – is investing $15,000 in Cribcut, an online marketplace for hair stylists willing to make house calls.

“Cribcut has a novel business model that we are proud to support,” said Saint Mary’s student and Venture Grade associate Emma Scott in a statement.

Halifax-based Cribcut was co-founded by serial entrepreneur David Howe.  Scott said the young investors had confidence in Howe’s lean startup methodology and experience as a serial entrepreneur who has exited three past ventures, including one in Silicon Valley.

Now, Howe has built a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. Cribcut's solution helps stylists become travelling hairdressers, providing clients with haircuts, colours, and styles at their homes and offices. In May, the company said it would expand into Toronto as well as offering the service in Halifax.

The company’s software helps stylists with bookings, travel optimization, payments and ratings. It also facilitates new client introductions. Bookings can be made through the online booking app with on-demand appointments available.

"We're happy to welcome Venture Grade as one of our investors,” said Howe. “We're confident that this investment will help us continue growth and product development and set us up for further funding over the coming months."
The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund. It is the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital, the group said in the release.

The fund was started by students of Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business in fall 2016, with connections to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members of other Atlantic universities, including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University. Any money made on Venture Grade’s investments is returned to the student fund.

Howe had previous raised $150,000 in equity funding. Investors included Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer of Proposify, Ron Lovett, who founded the Atlantic Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, and Bill Wilson, Chairman of Mindsea.

NSBI, ACOA Expand Scaleup Project

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is expanding its Scaleup Hub Cambridge program with the backing of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to help scaling IT companies from across the region to increase sales in New England.

ACOA announced Friday that it would contribute $280,500 to the program so eight companies could participate and find clients in the northeastern U.S. However, the program this year will only be open to IT companies. 

NSBI piloted the program in 2018, and three Halifax-area companies -- 4Deep Inwater ImagingMindsea, and Aerotec Engines – spent about a week each month in Cambridge, Mass. In total, they have generated more than $2 million in new sales in New England.

“NSBI recognized that high-growth export companies needed a new approach,” said Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan in a statement. “NSBI created this innovative, collaborative pilot and a year later, the success of the participating companies is a truly encouraging sign.”

The announcement comes as support organizations recognize that the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem is really good at helping startups with the initial phases of getting a product into the market. But more support is needed for growing companies that are increasing sales and transforming into bona fide corporations. As well as the NSBI initiative, the University of New Brunswick is now seeking applicants for its Scale Up Atlantic Canada program, which will help about six companies to scale.

UNBSJ Adds Sales Stream to its MBA Program 

NSBI spent $248,000 to develop Scaleup Hub Cambridge – finding co-working space in Cambridge, Mass., hiring an account executive to work with the companies in the Boston area and launching the initiative. It also struck a few partnerships, two of which paid off big time.

One partner was the MIT Enterprise Forum, which works with groups from around the world that want to benefit from the innovation hub around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the other is Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, a group of Canadian expats in the northeastern states who help Canadian businesses.

“We’re really pleased with the outcomes resulting from the pilot,” said NSBI President and CEO Laurel Broten. “We took a risk with this program and it’s been a rewarding and valuable year with our clients reporting significant sales growth for their Nova Scotia-based operations.”

Throughout the summer and fall, the organization has been working with ACOA and the Atlantic Canada ITC Sector Export Team on expanding it to a pan-regional program. Each participant in the program will have to contribute $10,000 and make a commitment to spending significant amounts of time in the Boston area.

New England is a natural choice for a U.S. beachhead for the region’s companies, given its proximity and cultural ties with Atlantic Canada. Massachusetts alone boasts 114 universities and colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Tufts University. It is also the second-largest venture capital hub in the U.S. has the 12th largest economy in the world at $360 billion.

“We were immersed in one of the most innovative ecosystems in the region, enabling us to leverage the larger Cambridge ecosystem via the MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge Startup Spotlight program,” said 4Deep CEO Stephen Jones. “This helped with our goal of developing our brand’s awareness and showcasing our technology’s capabilities. We now have strategic partners in a broader scope of industries that are looking at applying our tech in their processes.”


Disclosure: NSBI and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor. 

Innovacorp Seeks Sprint Entries

Innovacorp is looking for early-stage IT companies to enter its Sprint competition, which will award a total of $100,000 in grants to at least four winners.

Sprint will give as much as $25,000 each to winning companies and will announce the winners next month.

Innovacorp is the Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency, and it also holds a series of competitions in specific sectors to boost companies that are not yet ready for VC. The goal is to give them a bit of development capital and engage them in mentorship programs.

“Sprint participants will have regular meetings with Innovacorp to work on their milestone plan,” said the announcement. “They will also attend three workshops on key subject areas to fast-track their progress: product management, B2B sales and pitching to investors.”

The deadline to enter is Friday, Dec. 21. The full details on eligibility and entering are available here.

IT Leader John Swan Passes Away

Our community lost one of its true leaders last week when John Swan of Saint John passed away.

Swan was a tremendous proponent of the tech industries, especially in New Brunswick. As well as overseeing several companies in the field, he was a key figure in the development of the community and ecosystem in the region.

He worked with development agencies to grow the tech sector, and was a key player, for example, in getting the Silicon Valley company RevJet to set up an office in Saint John.

Trained as an engineer at Dalhousie University, Swan joined Irving Oil, serving as its Chief Innovation Officer until 1999. In the new century, he embarked on several companies, including his consulting company Swan & Associates.

He was the Executive Chairman of Encore Interactive and more recently had been serving as the Chairman and CEO of Scenesharp Technologies of Fredericton.

John Swan is survived by his wife of 43 years Lynn, their sons, Dr. Jake Swan and Dr. Daniel Swan, as well as grandchildren and extended family. A Celebration of his life will be held on Monday, Dec. 10 at 2 pm at RiverCross Church, 61 Forbes Drive, Saint John.

ILokol, Neuro Amel Win Dal Prize

Neuro Amel Technology and iLokol were both declared winners at the Collide 2018 Pitch Showcase, hosted by LaunchDal on Thursday night.

Dalhousie University’s entrepreneurship hub hosted a pitching competition for its latest cohort at the Killam Library, with a total of $6,000 in prizes to be handed out -- $3,000 for the winner, $2,000 for the runner-up and $1,000 for third place.

However, the panel of judges decided that iLokol and Neuro Amel tied for the first prize and awarded $2,500 to both of them.

ILokol – which won equity funding of $25,000 from the Volta Cohort earlier this month – is developing a multi-language platform that helps international students and newcomers find the right places to shop, dine and play. Users can check for nearby businesses, find products or services and place orders from their mobile devices. The company so far has more than 90 clients and more than 100 daily transactions.

Neuro Amel is making an automated sleeve that monitors individuals’ limbs after they have experienced a stroke, and sends data on the recovery to health professionals through the cloud. CEO Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed said it’s like getting clinical data without the patient leaving home. The team went through the LaunchDal accelerator last summer.

The $1,000 runner-up prize went to Smart Engineering, which is creating a software package that helps engineers achieve a safer and more optimized design in a short time span. The team has lined up pilot projects with three engineering groups.

The other pitching teams at the event were:

  • Kavi Systems is developing technologies to de-risk oil and gas drilling activities with the power of knowledge automation and artificial intelligence.
  • Blue to Built is championing excellence in construction documentation by partnering with industry affiliates that provide the written rules of built environment.
  • Podcast Atlantic is both a directory for Atlantic Canadian podcasts as well as a podcast production company.  Through story-telling, Podcast Atlantic aims to help send our region’s stories to the world.
  • Light Me Local is a locally based online platform for freelancers in the creative industry. It supports local communities by providing an online space for local talents to showcase their work for local customers.
  • Atlantic Soleil is Atlantic Canada's first tan through swimsuit company tentatively launching May 2019. It plans to produce swimsuits made of microsolv fabric, which allows for a more gradual unnoticeable tan line.
  • Feed Me is a meal service for students and anyone looking to access locally sourced produce prepared by professional chefs at an affordable price. 
  • TeamUp provides an online platform connecting fitness trainers, gyms and team sports with individuals seeking a tailored fitness regime.

Suru Eyes E-Bike Orders in the Spring

Halifax electric bike maker Suru is preparing to open preorders for its new electric bike in February, buoyed — believe it or not — by the global political environment.

Headed by bike designer Michael Uhlarik, Suru had planned to launch about two years ago but had to delay when it found a glitch in its e-bike’s frame. As Uhlarik fixed that problem, he discovered a way to improve the efficiency of the bike’s hub-motor drive, the key propulsion mechanism. Suru has three patents on the improved device that are incorporated into the new e-bike.

What’s happened in the last two years is rising trade tensions, and Suru is one of the rare beneficiaries. The bikes, which are 65 per cent made in Canada, can be shipped duty free in North America under the new USMCA trade agreement, while bikes and e-bikes from China — by far the world’s largest producer — have been whacked with a 25 per cent tariff in the United States.

Suru is starting to get interest from big American buyers before it’s even begun its marketing.

“We forecast that the bikes will start selling in numbers (through pre-orders) in February with delivery in April,” said Uhlarik in an interview Monday, having just returned from meeting owners of e-bike fleets in the U.S.

“And our focus is the southern United States because it’s warm. It’s a market that’s twice the size of Canada, and the product we have right now is perfect for that market.”

Mysa Smart Thermostat Raises $2M+ in 2nd Round

Manufactured in Nova Scotia, the Suru frame is lightweight, strong and requires no tooling, meaning the components can be made without special moulds, which cuts costs. The parts are motorcycle-grade, and the electronics are contained in the frame to protect from theft or damage. Without pedalling, the rider can go 70 kilometres on a single charge and reach speeds of 32 kilometres per hour.

The market for electric bikes has been booming in the U.S. and Canada lately, rising about 15 per cent annually. In particular, e-bike ride-sharing services are growing strongly, and that’s the market that Uhlarik is courting.

As well as hotels and services that rent out e-bikes, several cities such as Vancouver have e-bike sharing services to give citizens an alternative to owning a car. This market is dominated by three private companies based in the U.S. that provide cities with a full service — bikes, stands, software and marketing.

Uhlarik has just travelled the U.S. to meet with these companies and said they “showed a high level of interest.” These operations have to replace 30 per cent of their fleet each year because bikes get broken, he said, and Suru gives them a USMCA-compliant alternative to ordering from China.

He said Suru uses components made in countries other than China, and its bikes can be repaired more quickly than those that need parts from China. Retail and corporate customers like the fact the e-bikes are made in Canada because the country has an international reputation of trust.

“ ‘Made-in-Canada’ has economic advantage and we’re really noticing a strong attraction,” said Uhlarik.

“We’re getting a lot of requests from Europe and we’re not even doing any marketing there.”

UNBSJ Adds Sales Stream to MBA

Gerry Pond: 'bound and determined' to expand sales training.

Gerry Pond: 'bound and determined' to expand sales training.

Gerry Pond has finally found the university sales program he’s been courting for almost four years, and it’s cropped up in his home town of Saint John.

The University of New Brunswick Saint John is now offering a 12-month MBA course with a stream in “Business Development and Professional Sales”, making it the first English-language university in Canada with a sales program.

Pond, the prime mover of the region’s IT startup craze, shocked a meeting of academics in early 2015 by offering $500,000 to any institution that could produce a full program to educate sales people. Until now, there has not been a sales program at any major Canadian university – even though such programs are growing in the U.S. and typically offer students placement rates above 80 percent.

“We’re very proud and very excited to develop a program that is very highly needed in the market, both in Canada and globally,” said Shelley Rinehart, the MBA Director at UNB Saint John.  “Anything that is important to the business world will eventually find its way into the business schools because that’s what business school s do.”

Shortly after Pond issued his challenge to the region’s universities, the Saint John campus of UNB began to integrate sales into its executive MBA program. Chris Weir, a sales executive with the global accountancy EY, began teaching a sales course, bringing in business leaders to discuss the importance and methods of sales. “I’m trying to broaden the mindset of the class to understand that everyone is in sales,” said Weir in an interview.

Amplify Conference Highlights Best Practice in Sales

That single class evolved so that UNBSJ is now offering a full sales stream to MBA students. Under the schedule of the MBA program, students begin the year in general curriculum, and then choose a stream to specialize in, such as international business, project management, or now sales. The university offered the sales stream with little fanfare last year, and 10 of the 74 students opted for it. The current roster of students has yet to choose their streams, though Rinehart said there is a “high level of interest” in sales. 

The university has now approved the sales stream as a long-term offering, which means it will promote it to domestic and international students for the 2019-20 school year. The curriculum includes data analytics, cross-cultural communication and negotiation, and strategic negotiations.

Since the university has offered sales curriculum, Rinehart and her team have learned how sales skills apply to any number of fields, including medicine, telecoms and technology. “It opened the eyes of many, myself included, as to how permeated sales are across organizations,” she said.

Pond made a contribution to the program and had input on its development, but said in an interview the university did not receive the half-million he advertised four years ago. That money has been donated or invested elsewhere, he said.

He is still “bound and determined” to spread sales education across Canada because of the dire need to improve sales talent in Canadian industry. He continues to speak to other universities, such as St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the University of Manitoba.

Rinehart understands that UNBSJ won’t be the only Canadian school with a sales program for long. She said: “The highest level of praise is for someone to do what you’re doing.”

Mysa Raises $2M-Plus in 2nd Round

The rapidly growing Mysa team.

The rapidly growing Mysa team.

St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats has closed an equity funding round worth more than $2 million, enlisting investors from across the country to fund further sales of its energy-saving devices.

The company issued a statement Wednesday saying the round included contributions from Killick Capital and Pelorus Venture, which invested $600,000 in Mysa in May 2017. The new investors include Conconi Growth Partners of Vancouver, as well as angels Nicholas Ponari of Quebec and Chris Huskilson, the former CEO of Halifax-based power utility Emera. Huskilson is joining the company’s board.

The company was founded under the corporate name Empowered Homes in 2014 by CEO Josh Green. Its main product is the Mysa thermostat, which uses artificial intelligence and mobile communications to ensure optimum heat settings in homes with high-voltage heating systems, such as electric baseboard. Most automated heating products like Nest don’t work on high-voltage systems.

“We have been so impressed with the level of scalability and innovation that Mysa has demonstrated under the leadership of the Green brothers,” said Alex Conconi, President of his family’s investment fund Conconi Growth Partners. “As the only smart-home investment backed by CGP, we couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Empowered Homes movement and the work being done to build a more sustainable future for homeownership in Canada.”

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The Mysa story began when Josh Green was performing energy audits and realized that state-of-the-art smart thermostats don’t work on high-voltage heating systems. He brought in his brother Zachary as COO and was soon growing the business with the help of support organizations like Genesis Centre and Propel ICT. In June, the company graduated from Creative Destructive Lab Atlantic, through which it met some of its investors.

“While it was certainly the quality and the functionality of the Mysa thermostats that led me to Empowered Homes, it was by far . . . the skillful execution of the management’s business strategy and their staggeringly large progress in a short amount of time that made me want to join the family,” said Ponari.

By the end of last year, the company had 5,000 pre-orders of Mysa, which is now installed in thousands of homes, divded evenly between Canada and the U.S.. "The product is receiving rave reviews backed by our 4.5 star rating on Amazon, which has over 200 reviews," said the CEO in an email.

Mysa said these customers are now reducing their electricity bills by as much as 26 percent. Meanwhile, the company’s staff has grown from 12 at the time of the 2017 funding round to 35 today.

With the fresh round of investment, Mysa says it now has the capital to develop new products and continue to support the flagship product.

“At its most basic level, Mysa is all about energy efficiency and keeping people comfortable,” said Josh Green in the statement. “We have built, and will continue to build, advanced heating and control features that push the capability of smart home technology, but they will always focus on helping customers save energy and be comfortable in their homes.”

Salesforce Donates $180K in NS

Digital Nova Scotia and the Discovery Centre have announced a pilot program to boost Nova Scotia educators’ exposure to the ICT and digital technologies sector, assisted by US$180,000 from Salesforce.org.

This is the first time Salesforce.org has contributed to a Nova Scotia initiative, the partners said in a release.  The partners said they are working together to boost the effectiveness of Digital Nova Scotia’s connections in the ICT and digital technologies sector and the Discovery Centre’s experience in STEAM education.

The project will bring together provincial and regional education leaders and representatives from the ICT and digital technologies industry to educate teachers about the lucrative and long-lasting career paths available to their students, the partners said.

“By focusing on educator outreach, this project has the potential for deep and sustainable impact One teacher can impact hundreds of students per school year,” said Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia in a statement.

“Technology is a powerful equalizer, and by leveraging the opportunities technology provides, we can show youth and their parents that there are sustainable, life-changing careers right here in Nova Scotia.”

The project will establish a cohort of 70 educators to become leaders and advocates for the ICT sector and its career opportunities.  It will also increase accessibility of speakers and further education for 200 teachers, and create resources highlighting Nova Scotia success stories and career opportunities for youth. Some 27 per cent of high school teachers in Halifax and the Annapolis Valley will be engaged in the pilot project.

“We’re extremely grateful for the support of Salesforce.org and their commitment to investing in the future workforce of Nova Scotia through our educators,” said Dov Bercovici, President and CEO of the Discovery Centre. “For many years, the Discovery Centre and Digital Nova Scotia have partnered on our joint Digital Discovery Camp, and we are thrilled to see this strategic partnership expand to provide such relevant and creative programming.”

Ebony Frelix, EVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer at Salesforce.org said: "We are proud to partner with Digital Nova Scotia and the Discovery Centre to increase the exposure of technology careers to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed."

Since they began in 1999, Salesforce, a maker of CRM and SaaS solutions, and Salesforce.org have given over $65 million and 175,000 volunteer hours to K-12 schools, with a focus on STEM and computer science education.

Launch Oceans Held in Yarmouth

Ignite Labs and Dalhousie University hosted a startup weekend-style event this past weekend to encourage ocean technology companies in Southwestern Nova Scotia.

At the Launch Oceans event in Yarmouth, teams of students, researchers and community members worked on ocean-related business ideas over the weekend. After interacting with ocean experts to validate the ideas, they pitched their startups to judges for prize money.

The winners will now work with Innovar Inc., which will provide workshops on validating ideas, make connections to ocean industry experts and provide mentorship. All teams are also invited to the next Launch Oceans, to be held in March at Dal’s Surge sandbox, which promotes entrepreneurship related to oceans and science.

“One of the key areas of focus of Ignite Labs is to help develop new and innovative ideas and business focused on the ocean sector,” Doug Jones, Executive Director of Ignite Labs, the new startup house in Yarmouth. “Launch Oceans is the perfect platform for new ideas to be put into action.” 

The top prize was awarded to Scott Dauphinee and Alex Stevenson, founders of Oyster Pyramid, which aims to help oyster farmers turn oyster bed cages. The second-place prize went to Carol Harrison, founder of Smart Start, which hopes to use recycled fish boxes as fuel for fires. Jonathan Skjelmose won the third prize for Black Watch Tech, which plans to help rescue ocean-goers who fall into the water.

In addition, two Junior Women’s Entrepreneurship prizes were awarded. The top prize of $2,000 was awarded to Danielle Surette and Kristin Baldursdottir for Captain Buoy, which is developing a device that tracks lobsters in traps and sends notifications to fishers. The second-place prize was awarded to Laura Jones, founder of Sea Jewel, which is creating ocean-inspired jewelry from recycled shells.

Launch Oceans was developed three years ago by Mary Kilfoil, Director of Dalhousie’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, in an effort to help develop new oceans-related innovation companies.

Ignite Labs opened recently and encourages entrepreneurial growth in the technology, oceans and tourism sectors in Southwestern Nova Scotia.

We Need Branham, Fast 50 Entries

Two lists of Canadian high-growth companies in the past few months have highlighted the fact that Atlantic Canada is still a long way from building tech companies with a truly national and global presence. However, the region is doing better than these lists – the Branham 250 and the Deloitte Fast 50 –  would indicate.

Each year, the Montreal tech consultancy Branham Group produces a list of the 250 largest tech companies in Canada, based on revenue. The latest list doesn’t have a single East Coast company in the top 100. The regional leader is Mobia Technology Innovations of Dartmouth, which placed 115th with $32.2 million in annual sales. Others were: St. John’s-based Bluedrop Performance Learning (No.  126, with $23.4 million in sales); Fredericton’s PQA Testing (No. 180 with $10.1 million); and St. John’s-based Kracken Robotics (No. 231 with $3.5 million).

Then last month, the Deloitte Fast 50 was released without a single Atlantic Canadian representative. The global accountancy releases this annual list of the fastest-growing companies in Canada, based on three years of revenue data. The last Atlantic Canadian company on the list was STI Technologies of Halifax, which placed 41st in 2015. Since then: nada.

This poor showing matters because one of the credos of startup support organizations is that we’re out to build big companies, but we’re invisible when the big companies are recognized.

Atlantic Canadian companies do really well at the early stage stuff. (Just this weekend, I saw tweets saying Talem Health Analytics of Sydney has been accepted into the Hartford Insuretech accelerator in Connecticut, and Fredericton’s Beauceron Security pitched at the Demo Day of CyLon, a cybersecurity accelerator in London, England.) But the goal has always been to produce “unicorns”, which is techspeak for billion-dollar companies.

Kraken Announcement Highlight Surge in Revenues

The region is a lot closer to the Promised Land than these lists indicate. The problem is that dozens of Atlantic Canadian companies could be making these lists, but probably aren’t applying.

To make the Branham 250 this past year, a company needed annual sales of $1.7 million. I bet I could list 30 Atlantic Canadian IT companies that top that. Maybe 40.

The latest Deloitte Fast 50 is a bit more select. To be named to that list in 2018, a company needed three years of revenue history with total growth of 390 percent. A few years ago, we didn’t have enough established startups that could produce three years of sales history, but that’s not a factor any more. Lots of our high-growth companies left the pre-revenue stage since 2014. Is 390 percent growth over three years unattainable? Fahgettaboutit! Entrevestor’s data shows that one-fifth of the innovation companies in the region (about 100 companies) doubled revenues or better last year alone, and many of those companies have recurring revenues. Several companies could meet that threshold.

When I discussed the matter Friday with Ellen Farrell, business professor at St. Mary’s University, she said the region will eventually get bigger companies as the activity generated by exiting companies is fueling more growth. She added that applying for these competitions can be burdensome, which may discourage some companies. Yet, she wishes more companies would take the time to apply.

“If we do have companies that could apply and don’t, that’s a real shame,” she said. “I mean, we all want to revere them and worship them.”   

Pauley Leads PEI’s Hostetter Centre

Matthew Pauley has been around the world studying entrepreneurship, and now he’s set up shop in Charlottetown where he wants to help new businesses launch and young businesses thrive.

As well as being an assistant prof at University of Prince Edward Island, Pauley is the new Director of the Hostetter Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. It’s an institution he’s trying to breathe new life into.

The centre was established nine years ago with a grant from businessman Ralph Hostetter, and has been sitting without funding for some time. The lack of funding is not stopping Pauley from establishing a place where students, faculty and staff at the university can bring their business ideas to fruition.

“We’ve already had 20 students and three faculty members in the program,” Pauley, who arrived in Charlottetown in August, said in an interview. “We’ve reached out to the university community and the disciplines [represented so far include] business, the arts, engineering, even political science. That’s with no funding so when we do finally start to secure funding I only believe it will only grow faster.”

Pauley’s studies and business ventures have taken him far and wide. A native of Barrie, Ont., he has studied in South Dakota on a golf scholarship, taught English for business in South Korea, and attended St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. Now he’s ensconced in P.E.I., and says he’s pleased with both the friendliness and entrepreneurial spirit he’s found on the island.

“In my opinion, P.E.I. is the entrepreneurial giant of the nation,” said Pauley. “There’s a lot of entrepreneurial mindset here and it’s just waiting to take off. What I want to do is help to bring it to the forefront.”

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Pauley has found that many of the entrepreneurs in micro-businesses in the island engage in traditional and seasonal businesses like agriculture and tourism. And in the off-season they diversify into craft businesses, like knitting or making knickknacks. That’s proof of the entrepreneurial mindset he so admires.   

“Entrepreneurship is not necessarily a foundation course; rather it’s a way of thinking,” he said. “It’s important for other faulty to understand that ideas are in everyone. And my role is to help them recognize those idea and to help to commercialize them.”

He has set up two phases of the Hostetter programing : first, an incubator, in which students, faculty and staff can bring their ideas, research the market and explore whether there is a business case;  and second, there is an accelerator, which helps to launch a business if it’s determined there is a product-market fit.

Pauley is also teaching entrepreneurship courses in the business school, and is working with established businesses like Odyssey Virtual, a virtual reality and drone company, and Island Aquatech, which has automated the process of flipping oyster cages. And he’s interested in working with staff and faculty at UPEI’s veterinary college to help them hone their entrepreneurial skillset.

While IT and tech companies get a lot of press these days, Pauley said he’s more interested in working in entrepreneurship in traditional businesses like agriculture and tourism because these will have the largest economic impact.

“Statistically speaking, those types of companies [tech startups] are huge outliers,” he said. “What I’m trying to do – no pun intended –  I’m looking at the meat and the potatoes of the economy.”

Kraken Announces Sales Worth $7M

Kraken Robotics, the St. John’s-based OceanTech company, announced two sales last week, the total value of which is worth more than all its revenues in its most recent quarter.

Publicly listed Kraken, which specializes in making software-based sensors and underwater robotics systems, said last Wednesday that its client Ocean Infinity issued a $6.5 million purchase order for Kraken’s deep-sea batteries. The order is an acceleration of a contract announced last summer.

Two days earlier, Kraken announced it had won a $468,000 contract with the federal government. Kraken will provide the Department of National Defence with the testing, repair and upgrade of sensors it placed in autonomous underwater vehicles four years ago.

The sales announcements are the highlights of a slew of announcements in which the company is bringing in more revenues, strengthening its balance sheet, and increasing its stake in a German unit. The biggest announcement was the sales agreement with Houston-based Ocean Infinity.

“Using Kraken’s pressure tolerant gel encapsulation battery technology, we can increase our energy capacity by over 50% in the same physical form factor as our existing conventional batteries,” said Ocean Infinity President and CEO Oliver Plunkett. “From an operational perspective, this gives us considerable flexibility to optimise mission plans, increase area coverage, manage weather impact and ultimately increase value for our customers in even the most remote portions of the world’s oceans.”

In August, Ocean Infinity agreed to purchase $9 million worth of deep-sea, pressure-resistant batteries to be used in its fleet of UAVs, which are capable of operating to depths of up to 6,000 metres. Ocean Infinity issued an initial $2.5 million purchase order and the next $6.5 million purchase order had been expected by March.

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Now, Ocean Infinity has accelerated the delivery schedule by about six months. Kraken will start shipping this month and finish by the end of March.

To provide for cash flow, Kraken has been invoicing Ocean Infinity in November and January for advance payments of about $5 million.

To put the $7 million value of these two sales in perspective, Kraken reported record revenue of $2.7 million in the three months ended June 30, an improvement of more than 12 times over the same period a year earlier. The huge revenue jump is the big reason the company’s shares on teh TSX Venture exchange have soared about 150 percent in the past year.

Kraken also expects a follow-on order from Ocean Infinity in the second half of 2019 for additional batteries and spares, beyond the initial $9 million contract.

The batteries for Ocean Infinity will be built by Germany-based Kraken Power GmbH, a unit in which Kraken now holds a 19.9 percent interest. Kraken said it intends to increase this stake to 75 percent this month by swapping a convertible note of €110,000 (C$165,000) into equity and paying €111,200 in cash.

Meanwhile, Kraken also said it was receiving about $600,000 due to the exercise of warrants.

“We are very pleased to support Ocean Infinity’s AUV fleet battery upgrade,”said Kraken’s President and CEO Karl Kenny. “In simple terms, within the existing battery compartment footprint, our drop-in, field swappable batteries allow Ocean Infinity’s AUVs to increase underwater mission time from 50-55 hours to 80-85 hours.”

Mindsea’s Wilson Starts SalesRight

The Mindsea Team

The Mindsea Team

Bill Wilson, the founder of Mindsea, has handed management of the mobile app developer over to his former technology chief so that he can focus on a new product-based company SalesRight.

Halifax-based Mindsea announced earlier this week that Wilson is being succeeded as CEO by Reuben Hall, who previously was Vice-President of Product. While remaining as Board Chair at Mindea, Wilson will focus more on SalesRight, which helps business-to-business Software-as-a-Service companies present transparent pricing options to large clients.

Wilson and his two co-founders have been working on SalesRight for two years but found themselves with a classic entrepreneurial problem. It’s difficult to create a product within a service-based company like Mindsea, because the long-term goal of producing new software is always overwhelmed by the immediate demands of clients.

“What we’re making now is a sales-enablement tool,” said Wilson in a phone interview from Boston, where he was attending an event with Scale-up Hub: Cambridge. “It helps people who are in the enterprise sales space close more deals by giving them an easier way to explain their sales pricing to their clients.”

Founded in 2007, MindSea’s team of more than 20 people develops apps with both Android and iOS operating systems. Its clients include Proposify and the Chronicle-Herald of Halifax, the Dallas Morning News and Carleton University, and it has had 4.4 million apps downloaded. It participated in Nova Scotia Business Inc.’s Scale-up Hub: Cambridge project in the Boston area this year, which increased its client base in the northeastern U.S.

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Wilson said the team at MindSea developed the SalesRight software a few years ago to solve its own pricing challenges. Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, customers really liked the tool and asked where they could get it, Wilson said, which was the spark for the new company.

SaaS companies that sell to large enterprises frequently face the problem that the client will buy a basket of features with the software, and then want some customization on top of the basic product. Pricing such a structured service can be difficult and confusing, for both the seller and buyer.

SalesRight simplifies the procedure by giving the SaaS company’s sales team a tool that lays out the pricing for all products and features on offer and tells the client how much any customization would cost. What’s more, it can collect and analyze data on what features are most popular, and what price points actually gain traction. That information helps the sales and development teams to understand what customers are looking for and what price brackets attract buyers.

SalesRight was recently accepted as a resident at Volta Labs, so Wilson and his co-founders are now working out of the Halifax startup house. They have a few customers lined up for beta-tests, and MindSea continues to use it. They are now raising SaleRight’s first round of financing.

Wilson seems ambivalent about moving on from the management of the company he built up over the last decade.

“It’s a little bitter-sweet,” he said. “I love the time I spent there and I’m still involved, of course, as the Board Chair. But they’re in amazing hands with Reuben. And for me, I think starting something new is really exciting.”

Last Day To Apply for Export Igniter

Today is the last day for Fredericton companies to apply for the Export Igniter, a 12-week program to help companies sell effectively in foreign markets.

Organized by Ignite Fredericton and Planet Hatch, the program delivers comprehensive programming, mentorship and resources to companies ready to enter markets outside Canada.

Successful applicants will be charged $500, half of which will be returned to the company upon completion of the program.

You can apply for the program here.

SomaDetect Reveals Early Adopters

Bethany Deshpande: 'Over the next six months, our algorithms will get better and better.'

Bethany Deshpande: 'Over the next six months, our algorithms will get better and better.'

SomaDetect, an AgTech company that launched in Fredericton two years ago, has begun installations of its Version 2 in-line milk monitoring system at Cornell University, marking the beginning of its early adopter program.

The company, which is now based in Buffalo, NY, and Fredericton, said in a statement this week that the early adopter installation at Ithica, NY-based Cornell is a key step in the roll-out of its product. The company is planning a total of 28 installations at farms in the next four months.

SomaDetect provides dairy farms with hardware and software that can scan a cow’s milk and provide instant data regarding the cow's health. Currently, farmers rely on monthly data to make management decisions. With SomaDetect, farmers have access to daily measurements for every cow.

“We have successfully manufactured our first sensors at scale and are excited to be installing them on 28 dairy farms across New York, Ontario and Atlantic Canada,” said CEO Bethany Deshpande in the statement. “Over the next six months, our algorithms will get better and better, and we will be working to maximize the value and benefits of this technology for our dairy farmers.”

The installation at Cornell follows a seven-month commercial validation and data collection study at the university. SomaDetect said the system showed promising results in detecting somatic cell counts, reproductive markers, protein, fat, and other milk quality and health indicators in real time.

Deshpande is now working on a major funding round and has closed investments from a few parties. Last month, SomaDetect revealed an undisclosed amount of funding from the Dairy Farmers of America, cementing a partnership with a group that represents almost 15,000 dairy farmers.

The company in June said it had received an investment of $250,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Deshpande said it has also received investment from Igan Partners of Toronto and she is in talks with a few other funders.

SomaDetect is now based in Fredericton and Buffalo as a result of the company winning US$1 million after being judged the top startup in the Buffalo-based 43North accelerator’s 2017 cohort. Deshpande said in October the company will grow to 21 employees by the end of the year, about half of them in Canada.

Volta Cohort Puts $150K into 6 Teams

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson of Neothermal

Louis Desgrosseilliers and Jill Johnson of Neothermal

The Volta Cohort program awarded a total of $150,000 to six companies on Wednesday night, handing out an extra $25,000 bundle due to the strength of the pitches.

In its third pitching event, the Volta Cohort advertised that it would invest as much as $25,000 to as many as five companies, but it added a bonus investment to a sixth company at the event. Volta Labs, the Halifax startup house, organizes the event to help out early-stage companies that need their first equity investment to help them reach the market.

Thirteen companies pitched at the event, and the winners were:

Aurea Technologies (Halifax) – Aurea helps solve the climate change crisis by creating revolutionary wind turbines for consumer and commercial markets. The company’s product Shine is a portable turbine for campers, backpackers or cottagers that can charge devices in remote locations. The company opened pre-orders Tuesday night and had 25 purchases as of Wednesday night.

Byos Cybersecurity (Halifax) – Byos is developing a product to monitor and protect companies’ critical resources from data leaks, security breaches, fraud and infections. It features a small piece of hardware that can help to protect a company’s data, even if employees are accessing the system from a remote location.

iLokol Technologies (Halifax) – iLokol is developing a multi-language platform that helps international students and newcomers find the right places to shop, dine and play. Users can check for nearby businesses, find products or services and place orders from their mobile devices. The company so far has more than 90 clients and more than 100 daily transactions.

Milk Moovement (St John's) – Milk Moovement is a dairy industry ERP platform that brings outdated systems to new life and provides significant data improvement for all stakeholders in the dairy industry. Milk Moovement is currently being used across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and preparing for expansion across all Atlantic provinces. It is planning a cross country expansion in 2020.

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc. (Bridgewater, NS) – Neothermal is tackling high home energy costs with an innovative, smart home compatible, electric thermal storage heater for residential supplemental space and water heating. The company said it would use the funding to reduce production costs and enhance its sales effort.

Tranquility Online (Halifax) – Tranquility offers an online, Software-as-a-Service solution that uses the gold standard therapy approach for anxiety: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT. Tranquility’s interactive CBT software was built by experts and can also be accompanied by coaching from real people, who will be trained with an internally developed training protocol. The company recently launched a $1400-a-month pilot project with Volta-resident entrepreneurs.


Disclosure: Volta is a client of Entrevestor. 

BlueLight Raises $3M, Led by CIC

J.P. Furey

J.P. Furey

Dental technology company BlueLight Analytics has closed a $3 million funding round and plans to use the money to launch a new data analytics product that can be installed in any dental office.

The Halifax company released a statement Wednesday saying the lead investor in the funding round was CIC Capital Ventures, the North American venture capital arm of French private equity firm CM-CIC Investissement. Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government's early-stage venture capital agency, also joined the round.

It was the first time BlueLight has raised venture capital financing, though it has raised about $3 million in equity funding from angel investors.

BlueLight has landed the funding just as it is about to launch a new product it calls checkUP, which is priced for dentists who want to ensure they’re using the right amount of energy when curing fillings.  

“The biggest thing in the short-term is we’re actually using our data base to get more accurate results and because of that we can decrease our sensor cost,” said CEO J.P. Furey in an interview on Wednesday. He said the data-analytics product is so accurate that the new device can use sensors that cost less than 10 percent of the sensors in the existing product, “which opens up different sales channels for us.”

Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about eight years ago to solve a problem few dentists spoke about. The lights they use to cure resin vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.

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BlueLight developed its checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. The company has partnered with 3M to distribute checkMARC to dental equipment sellers so they can check the curing systems in the dental offices they visit.

CheckMARC is being used extensively enough that BlueLight has built up a huge databank on the various curing products and the energy they emit. By analyzing that data, its next-generation product can operate with great accuracy while using lower-cost sensors, which means every dental office can now have one.

“Our large database of light evaluations is growing daily, which creates opportunities for new technologies and offerings,” said Furey in a press release. “Machine learning and data science will make it possible for us to significantly increase our new product development over the next 12 months.”

Furey said the company is ready to beta-test the new product with a few dentists and hopes for a full launch by the end of March 2019.

“We were drawn to BlueLight’s vision, aimed at improving dental patient care, and impressed by the company’s ability to attract the interest of important industry players,” said Nicola Urbani, principal at CIC Capital Ventures. 

In the interview, Furey said the company will use the new capital – which it plans to augment with money from various government programs – to grow its 16-member team. He said there will be an emphasis on sales and marketing but other departments like product development will also grow.

“I think over the next year we’ll probably add another 10 bodies or we might get to 30 bodies in a little over a year,” said Furey. “It’s pretty much across the board. We have hired some VPs in a few functional areas and now we have to fill out those teams.”

EhEye Sold for $3.2M-Plus in Stock

James Stewart: 'It was sort of love at first sight.'

James Stewart: 'It was sort of love at first sight.'

EhEye, the Saint John company that has developed video recognition software for public security, has been purchased by Patriot One Technologies of Toronto for more than $3.2 million in stock.

The companies announced Tuesday that Patriot One would integrate the New Brunswick company’s software, which allows video surveillance systems to recognize guns or other threats, with its Patscan weapon-detection system.

Founded by President and CEO James Stewart, EhEye had reached the point at which it iwas about to pilot its technology at two different locations, but the company needed capital. By folding the company into Patriot One, Stewart and his team will gain the support of a publicly listed company whose stock has risen 78 percent in the past year.

“It was sort of serendipitous,” said Stewart in an interview this morning. “We met at a trade show and it was sort of love at first sight because we’re both solving the same problem but in different ways.  We detect guns that are in plain sight whereas they find concealed weapons. Putting this together  . . . allows us to push out the security perimeter of a location much further than we could before.”

Listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, Patriot One has a market capitalization (the total value of its shares) of $270 million, and raised $46 million earlier this month by selling shares to investors. Its main product is Patscan, which is a platform designed to combat active shooter threats before they occur.

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Under the terms of the deal, the owners of EhEye will receive 1.64 million Patriot One shares (which closed at $1.99 on Tuesday) for all the stock of EhEye. The statement said the buyer will also grant up to 277,775 stock options to EhEye employees and directors to replace their EhEye options. Stewart said the deal is due to close once it gets the blessing of the TSX, which should take a few days. 

EhEye now has eight employees and plans to add three more in the near future, all based in New Brunswick. Stewart said the backing of Patriot One has allowed him to add four staff members, one of whom has already been hired.  

The Saint John company closed one round of equity funding in January, raising $150,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and a similar amount from friends and family.

Stewart – who has a background in police work and a PhD in computer science – said that the exciting part of the Patriot One deal is the ability to grow more quickly as part of a larger company.  

“That is fantastic,” he said. “It’s tough to be an entrepreneur on the East Coast because resources are limited. It’s taken us over two years to get to the point where we’re just about able to deploy. With Patriot One’s resources, they’re wrapping us in everything that we need.”

The larger company is providing the EhEye team with hardware it needs for its pilots and training services, as well as a broader client base and network. With the acquisition, Patriot One now stretches from coast to coast with offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Saint John.

EhEye is in the process of piloting its solution with an international airport and a correctional facility through the federal government’s Build in Canada Innovation Program.  Going forward, the software will be integrated into the Patriot One solution to broaden its capabilities.

“Their award-winning threat-recognition software will integrate into our clients’ existing video camera networks, offering a first line of defense to detect active shooters or terrorists approaching a venue with weapons drawn,” said Patriot One CEO Martin Cronin in a statement.  “It will also offer an additional layer of detection inside buildings to track threats and even identify irregular disturbances or physical altercations between individuals.”

Energia Demo Day Set in Fredericton

Energia Ventures, the University of New Brunswick’s cleantech accelerator, will hold the Demo Day for its second cohort Wednesday night at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.

Six companies will present at the event, which begins at 6 pm. You can register to attend here.

The UNB Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program launched Energia about two years ago to help energy, cleantech, smart-grid and cybersecurity companies bring their products to market.

The second three-month cohort has been convening in the TME office in downtown Fredericton and recently toured Boston, visiting such startup organizations as North Shore InnoVentures and Greentown Labs.

Over the past twelve weeks, the cohort has had the opportunity to work with mentors and industry experts like NB Power President Gaëtan Thomas, competitive intelligence leader Jonathan Calof, and sales expert Wendy Vrooman.

 “We are incredibly proud of this year’s cohort, who are a very promising group of companies,” said Energia Ventures Managing Director Joe Allen. “They have worked tirelessly in order to put their companies in the best possible position to continue to grow and make a significant impact in the market.”

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The three-month cohort has included companies from across the continent, including:

ReJoule, California – ReJoule is developing intelligent battery management systems, with a primary focus on electric vehicles. Its technology has already attracted the interest of several leading automobile manufacturers.

Potential Motors, Fredericton – This company is developing conversion kits to turn internal combustion engine vehicles into electric automobiles. Founded at UNB, Potential Motors has already converted two consumer vehicles.

DeepCryo, Halifax –DeepCryo is developing a cryogenic treatment system to improve the lifespan of metal parts and tools by mitigating corrosion and wear. (Cryogenics refers to the production and behaviour of materials at extremely low temperatures.) DeepCryo is scaling up the capacity of its system for larger equipment.

Hygge Power, Colorado – Hygge is building uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices for consumers in partnership with U.S. utilities. These devices are WiFi-enabled to provide feedback to the consumer and utility on how much power has been consumed. Hygge Power’s first product, OPO, offers a suite of features beyond just power supply that will give homeowners peace of mind during outages.

Autonom, Quebec – Another company involved in the uninterruptible power supply market, Autonom is building UPS systems for telecoms companies to more accurately pinpoint battery failure and prolong device lifespan. Autonom’s product has a smaller footprint than traditional telecom UPS devices and self-installs in seconds.

Aurea Technologies, Halifax – Aurea is developing innovative wind turbines for consumer and commercial clients. Its commercial product, Flare, aims to offset energy use for high-rise buildings and to allow building owners to divert energy on to the grid.

“Energia Ventures was able to provide our company with the appropriate environment to narrow down our value proposition, helped us refine our investor pitch, and connected us with most of the players in the Atlantic energy and startup space,” said Autonom CEO Hugues Marceau in a statement. “The mentor sessions provided me with valuable insights on how to become a better entrepreneur, and I especially benefitted from the sales training at this point of my venture.”

Energia Ventures is now recruiting startups for its 2019 cohort. Interested companies can learn more here.


Disclosure: UNB is a client of Entrevestor. 

CVCA Data Shows Strength in NB

Atlantic Canada recorded almost twice the venture capital investment in the first nine months of 2018 compared with the same period last year, powered by record funding in New Brunswick.

The Canadian Venture Capital Association on Monday released its funding data for the third quarter, which said the region booked about $41 million in 16 VC deals. The big news was that New Brunswick, which had a slow year in funding in 2017, led the pack in July to September of this year with 10 deals worth $32 million.

During the first nine months of this year, the region raised $122 million in 51 deals. That means that the region has almost doubled its VC fund from the first three quarters of 2017, when the region raised $65 million in VC.

Here is the breakdown:

Venture Capital So Far This Year In Atlantic Canada
  3Q Deals 3Q Value YTD Deals YTD Value
Nova Scotia 2 $6M 14 $61M
New Brunswick 10 $32M 23 $53M
Newfoundland and Labrador 3 $3M 10 $7M
Prince Edward Island 1 >$1M 4 $1M
Total 16 ~$41M 51 $122M

Source: CVCA

New Brunswick has been a hotbed of funding this year, accounting for almost as much funding as Nova Scotia. In the first nine months of last year, according to the CVCA, Nova Scotia had almost four times as much funding as its westerly neighbour -- $49 million vs.$13 million.

Funding in New Brunswick has been dominated by a few major deals, most notably Introhive’s US$15.2 million ($20.2 million) funding round and Resson’s $14 million raise.

The CVCA report also indicates the third quarter of 2018 was an unusually slow period for VC investment, with only two deals worth $6 million showing up in the association’s databank.

Other Atlantic Canadian highlights in the first nine months include:

  • With 14 deals, Fredericton was the fifth most active city in terms of number of transactions, falling just short of Calgary and Ottawa, which tied for fourth with 15 deals. Fredericton-based companies raised a total of $49 million, beating out those residing in Calgary or Ottawa.
  • Halifax accounted for $56 million in VC funding, beaten only by Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Kitchener-Waterloo.  
  • St. John’s is No. 9 in number of deals with 10 financings.
  • New Brunswick Innovation Foundation closed 17 funding deals in the first nine months, making it the seventh most active fund in the country. It was involved in deals worth $27 million.
  • Innovacorp made nine investments, and was involved in deals worth $26 million.

For Canada overall, the association found that the third quarter of 2018 was a weaker period in the past three years for VC investment.  Total investment was $652 million, just over half of the record $1.16 billion from the same period a year earlier.

The report said “$652 million was invested over 127 deals in the third quarter this year bringing the YTD total VC investment to $2.4 billion – 12 percent lower than the same period last year. The average deal size was $5.1 million, a 22 percent decrease from the previous quarter and 3 percent lower compared to the average deal size in the five-year period between 2013-2017 ($5.3 million).”

Tranquility Tackles Founders’ Anxiety

Joel Muise

Joel Muise

After taking his online treatment for anxiety through an initial pilot, Joel Muise is now working with those at the coalface of anxiety—entrepreneurs—before launching TranquilityOnline to the general public in the new year.

TranquilityOnline aims to make getting treatment for anxiety affordable and timely by allowing users to access online support through a coach rather than a therapist. Coaches use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, to show sufferers how to shift negative thought patterns to balanced ones, and how to face challenges rather than avoid them.

Muise said the new paid pilot with Halifax’s Volta Labs startup house will allow Tranquility to work with seven entrepreneurs over six months. Volta will pay Tranquility $1,400 each month -- money which will go toward covering the costs associated with launching to the general public in the new year.

Muise said the company is excited to help other entrepreneurs with their mental health, especially as entrepreneurs have a higher incidence of anxiety than the general community.

“We are helping them with their stress and anxiety,” Muise said. “It’s very validating to get paid for what we’ve built and it gives us the opportunity to prove our method works.” 

Anxiety is a very common condition. A recent survey of 1,500 Canadians, conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of Yahoo Canada, found that 41 percent identified as “someone who struggles with anxiety.”

The National Post, which reported the survey, wrote that a third of respondents had been formally diagnosed with anxiety. Another third had been prescribed antidepressants.

According to a survey of entrepreneurs conducted by Halifax-based The Mindset Project, entrepreneurs rate their ability to cope with stress relatively highly at 7.2 (on a scale of 1 to 10), yet report significant deterioration in physical (49 percent) and mental health (42 percent) once they start a business.

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Muise said Tranquility will cost $99 a month and participants can complete the program and see results within 12 weeks.  In comparison, psychologists cost around $190 an hour in Nova Scotia.

Muise said Tranquility’s initial pilot demonstrated that coaching increased the likelihood that a participant would complete the program, and also showed that the further a participant made it through the course, the better their outcomes.  Those who completed the program went from moderate levels of anxiety to normal levels.

The first pilot divided 27 participants (who tended to be young professionals aged between 25 and 40) into groups of three.  Nine had no coach, the second group received one-on-one coaching via webcam, and the third group were part of a coach-facilitated group via webcam.

The placements in the pilot were random so people placed in the group sessions tended to be anxious about sharing their struggles, but Muise said those who did participate in the group received additional benefits from the extra interaction and felt less alone.

“We proved our hypothesis that including coaching in the service is very important,” he said.

Tranquility’s team has been able to use the feedback gained from the first pilot to improve their web platform as they go into the second pilot, he said.

Muise first established his online CBT business after a blog post, written in February 2015 about his own struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and depression, attracted attention. He realized there were many sufferers in need of help.

He has previously taken his venture through various programs for new ventures, including a Propel ICT program, a Startup Weekend, and LaunchDal.

So far, Muise has bootstrapped his venture using his own money and prizes won from pitching contests.  He is currently seeking more funding through pitching events—something he used to loathe and avoid but CBT has taught him to see public speaking as a challenge. He’s also in talks with an angel investor and interested in talking to other potential investors.

Anyone interested in accessing the site when it launches to the general public can sign up at www.tranquility.app 

Hotspot Expands into Ontario

HotSpot, the Fredericton company whose app allows for easy transportation payments, has established its first beachhead outside Atlantic Canada with a service for Peterborough, Ont.

The announcement Friday of a new service for metered and pay-and-display parking in Peterborough was one of several notices in the last month that show the expansion of the company. HotSpot also issued statements saying its parking service is now available in New Glasgow, NS, and that people in the Annapolis Valley can now use its app to pay for bus tickets.

HotSpot got its start in 2013 when it launched its mobile app that lets drivers remotely feed parking meters. The company’s tech has evolved and now offers real-time parking maps and integrates its services with public transit systems.

“We are excited to bring this convenient option for Peterborough drivers,” said Peterborough Mayor-Elect Diane Therrien in a statement. “Instead of digging for coins for the parking meter, they’ll now be able to use their smartphone to pay electronically.”

The Peterborough announcement – a live version of which has been posted on Facebook – said the parking service will also be available on the campus of Trent University in the city.

A year ago, HotSpot entered the Halifax market and it is now used in every city in the Maritimes. It has been expanding its coverage over the last year, moving into the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in October and now adding New Glasgow.

A week earlier, HotSpot announced that its app could be used in the Annapolis Valley as riders can now buy Kings Transit Authority bus tickets through the HotSpot app, whether it be for a single trip or a monthly pass. As part of the Peterborough announcement, HotSpot and the city announced this year’s Holiday 2 Hours Free Parking downtown. Between Nov. 23 and Dec. 25, drivers can park downtown free of charge for up to two hours. All proceeds from drivers who opt to pay for parking via the traditional meters or pay-and-display machines or the HotSpot App will be donated to Kawartha Food Share.

“Our affordable, transparent, mobile-based service will make parking easier for New Glasgow residents and visitors. Plus, our popular refund option saves users money,” said HotSpot CEO Phillip Curley. “We’re thrilled local leaders in New Glasgow have taken such a forward-looking approach to public services by welcoming HotSpot to their town.”  

Bahr-Gedalia In WXN Hall of Fame

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia,centre, hopes to motivate and inspire future leaders.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia,centre, hopes to motivate and inspire future leaders.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, has been named a Top 100 Award Winner in KPMG’s Women's Executive Network (WXN) 2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women event. It is the fourth year in a row she has made the list and so has been inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame.

The list of Top 100 Winners recognizes outstanding women across Canada who have advocated for workplace diversity and who serve as an inspiration for the next generation of leaders, the organizers said in a release.

“My hope is that by profiling and acknowledging influential women, we will inspire and motivate our future leaders and show them that they have the power to drive change,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

Sherri Stevens, Chief Executive of WXN, said all 100 winners are role models for the generations who will follow.

The Top 100 Awards span the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, with the initial candidates selected by WXN’s Diversity Council. The final vetting process for the 2018 Top 100 Award Winners was completed by WXN’s 2017-2018 Diversity Champions.

Past winners include some of Canada’s best-known female trailblazers: author Margaret Atwood; astronaut Roberta Bondar; former Governor General Michaëlle Jean; Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and Kathleen Taylor, chair of the board at the Royal Bank of Canada.


SIA Aims To Help Hospital in Haiti

The St. John's startup hopes to aid developing-country hospitals, like this one in Haiti. (Stock image)

The St. John's startup hopes to aid developing-country hospitals, like this one in Haiti. (Stock image)

Bo Simango is $70,000 away from deploying new technology that could improve the efficiency, security and safety of a hospital in Haiti, a developing country still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Simango is the Co-Founder and CEO of SIA, a St. John’s company that is developing a Bluetooth-enabled tool that can help people in large facilities find equipment quickly. He and his team are now working on a product that will help hospitals in developing countries. Eventually, they want to move into large industry with a tool that plant managers and others can use to locate badly needed equipment.

SIA has formed a partnership with Team Broken Earth, a Canadian charity based in St. John’s that supports medicine in Haiti and other developing countries. When Broken Earth CEO Andrew Furey learned of SIA’s technology, he immediately understood how it could improve efficiency at an 85-bed hospital his group is involved with in Haiti. The parties are now working on raising money to implement the product at the hospital. 

“It’s a big pain point, particularly in cost savings,” said Simango in an interview when asked how his technology can make a difference at the hospital. “At this moment in time, they don’t have the ability to track assets for security reasons. Theft is one thing they worry about quite a lot. That’s something that’s been very, very consistent with the customer interviews we’ve had so far.”

BreatheSuite Preps for Test for its Inhaler Solution

A native of Zimbabwe, Simango is trained as an engineer and will complete his Masters in engineering at Memorial University next year. He has worked in various fields, and in the past few years has become more focused on healthcare. As he worked in the medical community, he came to understand the problems that arise when doctors, nurses and hospital staff are unable to locate key pieces of equipment within hospitals. Given his own background, Simango and SIA co-founders Bryan Melanson and Vince Payne decided to target hospitals in emerging economies.

What they’ve produced is a combination of software and hardware in which beacons with Bluetooth Low Energy are attached to key “assets” in a hospital. These beacons can send signals to a central platform, which can relay messages to employees' mobile devices so the assets appear on a digital map of the hospital. These Bluetooth beacons can communicate with each other, which means the system could be used even if internet is unavailable – a common problem following natural disasters.

While the system improves security and efficiency at hospitals, Simango stressed it also enhances patient safety. If the staff is able to locate equipment more efficiently before surgery, for example, it allows time for proper sterilization, a huge factor in ensuring safety.

The SIA team plans to add machine-learning capabilities so the system can help with such activities as scheduling to allow optimal use of hospital assets.

SIA, which is now in the Propel ICT Incite accelerator, has produced a minimum viable product and is working to finance the installation in the Haiti hospital. It needs $70,000, mainly to cover the manufacturing of the beacons, and has approached several foundations and government organizations as well as angel investors.

The plan, said Simango, is to get into the hospital in Haiti as soon as possible, use the product in a hospital environment and use that experience as validation in sales to other hospitals.

Dal Doubles Computer Science Women

Dalhousie University has doubled the number of women entering its computer science program, fulfilling a commitment it announced in 2017 in celebration of the university’s 200th anniversary.

Female enrolment numbers are now 144 percent higher than they were when the goal was set internally in 2016.

Computer science workers are in high demand and the field remains dominated by male graduates, so women represent a significant source of untapped productivity.

“We’re not going to stop this activity until we get to parity,” said department Dean Andrew Rau-Chaplin.

For the fall term of 2018, the first year class includes 70 women, which is 18 percent of enrolled students.

The demographic shift was achieved through outreach programs, the introduction of new scholarships and a peer mentoring program implemented by Dalhousie’s student-run Women in Tech Society.

Faculty from the computer science departments visited high schools with the goal of connecting with students in grades 11 and 12. Rau-Chaplin said Grade 11 students have been of particular importance because many Grade 12 students have already chosen a career path.

St. John's-Based Genesis Gains Momentum in Diversity 

Beginning in 2017, Dalhousie also introduced “Women in Tech” days, in which young women visit the university and participate in an interactive program designed to offer them an overview of what a computer science career entails.

Last year, Dalhousie introduced its Women in Technology Scholarship, awarding 32 scholarships worth a combined $320,000, or $10,000 apiece.

Funding was provided by industry partners, including the TD Bank Group and Analyze Re—a local company that offers risk-assessment software to reinsurance companies.

“First and foremost, we're committed to workplace diversity and we recognize that women are generally under-represented in computer science,” said Analyze Re CEO Adrian Bentley in an email. “So we are keen to get behind initiatives that seek to resolve this because we strongly feel that a more diverse workplace is a more creative and productive one.”

Rau-Chaplin believes the growth of the computer science field, and the increasing number of opportunities for graduates, will ease the process of recruiting more women.

“Many of the efforts we made last year, we build on this year,” he said, citing the Women in Tech days as an example of an event that has proven easier to organize the second time around.

Women in Technology Society President Alicia Wong said developing a significant cohort of female students has also improved the experiences of women after they have entered the program:

“This faculty has done everything in its power to support the women coming in and help them feel like part of the community,” said Wong, a third-year student. “Because as much as anyone wants to say everyone’s included, until you actually see yourself represented in the community, it doesn’t feel like it.”

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor.

Panag To Be Sold for up to $27M

Halifax-based Panag Pharma, which is making pain-relief products from natural compounds found in cannabis plants, has agreed to be bought for as much as $27 million by Ontario’s Tetra Bio-Pharma.

Based in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Tetra is a drug discovery company that specializes in developing treatments based on such compounds – known as cannabinoid-based drug discovery. The company, which is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, said in a press release that the acquisition will allow Tetra to develop more natural healthcare products and sell them world wide.

The Panag Team – which is led by healthcare professionals Mary Lynch, Melanie Kelly, Bill Cheliak, Orlando Hung  and Christian Lehmann – will continue to conduct research into cannabinoid-based treatments for Tetra, and receive extra payments for hitting specific milestones. The buyer said it believes it will gain revenues from Panag’s products by late 2019.

“We have been working with Panag for over a year and as a combined entity we will have a robust product pipeline of cannabinoid-derived drugs for development as prescription or OTC [over-the-counter] drugs,” said Tetra CEO and Chief Science Officer Guy Chamberland in a statement. “Tetra is not just acquiring assets and intellectual property, we are joining a group of world-renowned cannabinoid experts that will help take Tetra to the next level as a pharmaceutical company.”

The Panag owners will receive $3 million in cash and $9 million in Tetra stock at the time of the purchase, which is expected by the end of 2018. Tetra shares have risen 54 percent in the past year, giving the company a market value of $152 million.

The statement said the agreement “contemplates the payment” of as much as $15 million in cash to the Panag owners as long as they hit specific milestones. These involve regulatory approvals and commercialization of both human and veterinary drug products.

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Panag has been a quiet but persistent member of the life sciences community in Halifax, and has had some success in startup competitions. The company won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition earlier this year, and was a finalist in the I-3 competition in 2015.

“The timing [of the acquisition] is perfect as there is an urgent need for non-opioid medications to treat pain and inflammation,” said Hung in the statement. “We expect the Panag-Tetra Bio-Pharma combined portfolio of cannabinoid products to play a significant role in the management of pain and inflammation.”

Two members of the Panag team -- Cheliak and Gregory Drohan – are already members of the Tetra board. In fact, Cheliak is the Tetra Chairman. He is a serial entrepreneur who is also the CEO of another Halifax drug-discovery company Chelation Partners.  The statement said Cheliak and Drohan will not receive stock-based payments for their Panag shares.

Tetra’s year-old agreement with Panag did not include access to the Halifax company’s portfolio of natural health products. With the acquisition, the buyer will now gain access to these products.

“Panag will bring Tetra Natural Health a unique pipeline of products, thereby strengthening our role as a key player in the cannabinoid wellness market,” said Richard Giguere, CEO of Tetra Natural Health. “We look forward to working with Panag to commercialize these products globally and expect to generate revenues from these products by Q4 2019 following completion of the acquisition.”

17 Startups Tap Innovacorp Programs

Innovacorp has awarded a total of $725,000 to 17 different companies under its Accelerate Program and Start-Up Yard Cohorts.

The Nova Scotia Crown corporation last week revealed the winners of the two programs, which provide non-dilutive funding, incubation space and mentoring to young MedTech, OceanTech and CleanTech companies. The members of the Startup Yard cohorts will also get space at the new Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, or COVE, on the Dartmouth waterfront.

The federal government contributed $500,000 towards the programs through ACOA’s Business Development Program. The provincial government pitched in with the same amount through Innovacorp’s existing budget.


Innovacorp Accelerate Program

The following are the Accelerate Program winners, which receive $50,000 or more each, as well as business guidance and access to incubation space at Innovacorp’s facilities. An Innovacorp spokeswoman said the total given out through the program is $450,000.

MedTech Stream

Eadie Technologies – Brennan Eadie, Frank Eadie – Halifax

Wearable visual field testing device for eye clinics

ColourSmith Labs – Gabrielle Masone – Halifax 

Direct-to-consumer contact lenses reducing red-green colour blindness and saturating colours

Reach Orthopaedics – David Johnston, Andrew Trenholm – Halifax

Orthopaedic shoulder implant to correct joint imbalance of a rotator cuff tear and lessen the risk of progressive osteoarthritis

Talem Health Analytics – Paul Travis – Sydney 

Software for physiotherapists and orthopedic specialists to track, analyze and predict treatment regimens

ColourSmith and Talem Were Runners-Up at the Recent BioInnovation Challenge


Blue/Green Stream (OceanTech and CleanTech)

DeNova – Brianna Stratton, Talia Boates – Halifax

Sustainable source of protein for fish feed and animal food

FoodByte – Douglas Armour, Matthew Winchester – Windsor

Technology to guide food processors through development of food safety plans to meet regulatory requirements and reduce recalls

Sedna Technologies – Sheamus MacDonald, Aleksandr Stabenow – Halifax 

Traceability system for the seafood industry to reduce waste and mortality

Acoubit Communications – Colin Ross, Tejinder Sandhu – Dartmouth 

Acoustic data communications technology for ocean management and monitoring


Startup Yard

The following companies were accepted into one of the two Startup Yard cohorts in the current year, and will receive $25,000 each, as well as mentoring and incubation space. Acclerate winners Sedna and Acoubit have also been accepted into the first Startup Yard Cohort.

First Cohort

Ashored Innovations – Aaron Stevenson, Maxwell Poole, Ross Arsenault 

Buoy systems to protect endangered marine life and collect data to increase fisher efficiency

BlueNode – Louis Beaubien, Grant Wells, Mike Smit – Halifax

Technology to improve supply chain efficiency in the ocean sector

Marecomms – Ulaş Güntürkün – Halifax

Underwater communications system to deliver information using data collected in the ocean

Maritime bioLoggers – Franziska Broell, Andre Bezanson – Halifax 

Tagging device to track and monitor marine life movement

Second Cohort

Marimetrics Technologies – Chris L’Esperance – Halifax

Trace gas analyzer for measuring chemical compounds in the ocean

SeaVision – Hossein Salimian, Mathew Zimola, Thomas Trappenberg – Halifax

Technology that analyzes live video from aquaculture cages to help calculate fish biomass, health and behaviours in real-time

The Lobster Trap Company – Scott Dauphinee – Yarmouth 

Lobster trap designed to survive the Atlantic Ocean’s harsh conditions

Prosaris Solutions – Colin Sewell – Halifax

Device that records airborne and contact ultrasonic signals into a mobile phone for real-time analysis

Wittaya Aqua International – Evan Hall – Halifax-Toronto 

Production management platform that increases efficiency through aggregation and analysis of data from aquaculture operations


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor. 

BreatheSuite Preps 30-Person Test

BreatheSuite is about to launch a 30-person test of its new inhaler technology, whose purpose is to ensure people use common inhaler devices correctly.

BreatheSuite is a new company based in St. John’s that has developed software and hardware that aim to correct the improper use of inhalers. If successful, it could improve treatment for the millions of people who suffer from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The company is also part of a trend in St. John’s we’ve been writing about: the increasing number of Memorial University students in STEM disciplines who are starting businesses focused on medical solutions. Co-Founder and CEO Brett Vokey, 22, has been launching the company during a work-term as he prepares to complete his engineering degree in the spring of 2019.

“It all started as an idea related to asthma and COPD,” said Vokey in an interview last week. “We found that how inhaler technology is used is a huge problem in the industry. . . . It affects how much [medicine] reaches the lungs. It requires a fair bit of coordination to do it correctly.”

Several organizations, including Eastern Health and the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, are organizing young innovators to come up with healthcare solutions. In February Vokey became aware of the frequent misuse of the common inhaler. Some studies state that 94 percent of inhalers are used incorrectly in terms of the timing, the angle at which the inhaler is held, and the breathing technique used.

St. John's-based Cyno Plans Soft Launch

So Vokey brought together a seven-member team to fix the problem – including two software developers, a doctor and a PhD student specializing in mobile healthcare. Together, they have come up with a product that will teach people to use inhalers properly, ensure they do so at the proper times, and assess their success.

BreatheSuite is a small device that attaches to the inhaler and connects directly to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The software includes educational material on how to use inhalers, and a smartphone dashboard to show the user how he or she is doing in taking the treatment.

In just nine months, the team has designed and built the product, bringing it to the point at which they’re ready for tests. Funded by the Janeway Foundation, the test will involve 30 Eastern Health patients using the product for a few months and providing feedback that will be used in the design of the final product. Vokey said the product will not require Health Canada approval to enter the Canadian market, but regulatory approval may be necessary to sell into the U.S. or Europe.

The BreatheSuite team hopes to have the product on the market in late 2019 at a price of about $99.

 Another interesting note about BreatheSuite is that it is another company launched by a veteran of Memorial University’s entry into the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. Like the founders of CoLab Software (which aids collaboration in 3D design), Vokey was a member of the OpenLoop team that competed successfully in the international competition.  He said the competition helped a lot of students realize they didn’t have to be daunted by the thought of going up against the best in the world.

“That whole competition opened our eyes as to what was possible and what we were capable of doing,” Vokey said. “Going down to the States and competing with the biggest universities in the world showed us what we could do as Newfoundlanders.”

Event for Tech Cos Keen to Expand in U.S.

Fredericton's entrepreneurship hub Planet Hatch and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) have announced a lunch-and-learn event for scaling tech companies interested in learning how to scale and expand in the U.S.

In a panel format, expert business advisors from the Canadian Tech Accelerator (CTA) program will share their insights regarding some of the biggest challenges and opportunities of doing business in the States.

The event will take place this Wednesday, November 21, between noon and 1.30pm at the Planet Hatch location on Crowther Lane in Fredericton.

In a release, the organizers said the CTA provides high-potential companies with access to coaching, mentors, specialized workshops and events, and introductions to potential partners, clients and investors through market immersion programs in New York, Boston, and Silicon Valley, among other places.

Interested companies are encouraged to go to the registration page and apply for the chance of gaining a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with visiting CTA mentors Lauren McCullagh and Karla MacDonald.

Ideal candidates for the one-on-one meetings are innovative Canadian tech companies that already have market traction in Canada and have a well-developed technology, product or service. Applications will be assessed according to: management team experience; product-market fit; traction in the marketplace and potential to scale.

Companies selected for a one-on-one meeting will also have the opportunity to speak with a Trade Commissioner about how the network can support their global growth.

Registration information provided on the page will be shared between the TCS, Planet Hatch, and CTA mentors Lauren McCullagh and Karla MacDonald.

Register here.

Dal Hosts Techstars Startup Weekend

This weekend, Dalhousie’s entrepreneurship centre Launch Dal will host its annual Startup Weekend.

This event, the 13th, pledges to help entrepreneurs take steps toward creating a business, becoming a founder, and connecting with the right people and resources.

“The hardest part of starting up is starting out. At Techstars Startup Weekend, you'll be immersed in the ideal environment,” said Professor Mary Kilfoil in a statement. “Pitch an idea, form a team, and become part of the world’s largest entrepreneurial community in 54 hours.”

Startup Weekend is a global network of leaders and entrepreneurs who work to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities.

This weekend, three winners will be awarded with prize money to use towards their ventures. The first prize will be $3,000, second place will be $2,000, and third place will be $1,000.

The event begins on Friday at 4.30om with registration and concludes on Sunday at 3pm with final presentations. It will be held in The Collider (Room 2600, Killam Memorial Library) at 6225 University Avenue.

Tickets cost between $20 and $40.

You can register here:  

CarbonCure Enters the Asian Market

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax CleanTech company, is moving into the Asian market with a strategic partnership with Pan-United Corp., the leading concrete and cement company in Singapore.

They announced the deal Sunday, saying the Singapore company will use the CarbonCure technology to reduce the carbon dioxide generated in the production of ready-made concrete. As well as its base in Singapore, Pan-United has operations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

CarbonCure has developed a technology that cures concrete by injecting it with CO2 that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. The technology, which reduces builders’ costs while producing a strong concrete, is being used in 105 concrete plants in the U.S. and Canada, and the Pan-United contract marks its first move outside of North America.

"Singapore is a vital gateway for CarbonCure’s entry into Asia to further our global efforts to mitigate harmful carbon emissions from the built environment,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in a statement. “We are delighted and convinced that we have a like-minded and strong partner in Pan-United, which is the industry leader in South-east Asia for advancing green concrete initiatives. Pan-United’s technology capabilities in the concrete and logistics space are second to none in this region.”

The two companies signed the strategic partnership at a ceremony in Singapore on Thursday, which was attended by James Gordon Carr, Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification, and Png Cheong Boon, Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Singapore.

Pan-United said the CarbonCure technology could reduce CO2 emissions by 4,000 tonnes a year at each of its concrete plants. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be sequestered by forestland covering 2.6 percent of the total landmass of Singapore.

Malcolm Fraser Eyes a Top 10 Ecosystem

CarbonCure, which employs 25 people, has been on a roll lately. This summer, the company was named one of 10 finalists for the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge. The competition aims to recognize companies that find commercial uses for carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere. CarbonCure has already received US$500,000 as a finalist and could win a further US$7.5 million next year.

Then in September, CarbonCure announced that it had received an undisclosed amount of capital from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a US$1 billion fund created to accelerate the world’s transition to clean energy. Its investors include Bill Gates, Jack Ma, Jeff Bezos, and a roster of other billionaires. The other investors in the latest round include Toronto-based GreenSoil Building Innovation Fund and previous investor BDC Venture Capital.

CarbonCure is a portfolio company of Elemental Excelerator, a global growth accelerator that supports clean technology deployment in the Asia Pacific, Hawaii and California regions.

“Pan-United is excited to expand our portfolio of sustainable initiatives with the addition of CarbonCure’s unique breakthrough technology,” said Pan-United Executive Director Ken Loh. “We view its clean technology as very useful in addressing the urgent climatic need to reduce the global carbon footprint. Pan-United intends to expand the use of the CarbonCure Technology by introducing it to other ready-mix concrete producers in Singapore and the region.”

More Diversity in St. John’s Startups

Women are taking more prominent roles in the St. John's startup community.

Women are taking more prominent roles in the St. John's startup community.

Genesis, the St. John’s startup house affiliated with Memorial University, has been on a mission to increase diversity among the companies it supports. And it’s generating some data that highlight its success.

For a few years, CEO Michelle Simms and her staff have been working on ways to nurture more startups either founded by women and newcomers, or with such people in senior positions. The organization has several programs to launch and nurture entrepreneurs, and the people within these programs are being populated increasingly by women and/or minorities.

“In our Genesis Enterprise Program, 44 percent of the companies are founded by foreigners,” Dyanna McCarthy, Coordinator of the Women in Technology and Start-Up Visa programs, said in an interview. “That’s a statistic that we’re very proud of.”

The diversity is showing up in some of the high profile companies that have gone through the incubator in the past few years. For example, HeyOrca, headed by Malaysian-born CEO Joe Teo, now has annual recurring revenue of $3 million. And one of the highest profile young founders is Emily Bland of SucSeed, who was recently accepted into the Next Canada program for dynamic students from across Canada.

McCarthy and Angelo Casanas, Director of Programs and Partnerships, also said one-quarter of the stage companies now in Genesis’ Evolution program, in which early-stage companies are tutored, are headed by people from other countries.

3 Takeaways from a Recent Visit to St. John's 

The pair has been working on improving the diversity at the organization, which recently moved to a new location overlooking St. John’s Harbour on Signal Hill. One program they have used is the federal government’s Startup Visa program, in which immigrant entrepreneurs can receive permanent resident status if they move their companies to Canada.

Genesis is a qualified sponsor, and in June 2017 the organization launched its own program to help foreign founders apply for visas. It received 400 inquiries and four of its companies were accepted into the Startup Visa program. One applicant, Sizwe Dhlamini, has already received his permanent residency status. His company Power HV produces advanced bushings, an insulated product used in electricity transmission.

McCarthy, who worked for four-and-a-half years with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, joined Genesis earlier this year to focus on diversity. She was charged not only with developing curriculum to support female and immigrant founders but also with researching what other jurisdictions have done to promote entrepreneurship in these groups.

She also oversees the Women in Technology program in St. John's, which had 10 members in 2013 and now has an enrollment of 130 women. 

In the interview, McCarthy credited Michelle Simms for the advances.

“Michelle was a driving force,” said McCarthy. “She looked around and she made it a priority to increase diversity in the community."

Kinley’s AIR Eyes Digital Product

Jackie Kinley: 'The people aren’t broken. The system is broken in how we’re thinking of them.'

Jackie Kinley: 'The people aren’t broken. The system is broken in how we’re thinking of them.'

The Atlantic Institute for Resilience is going digital.

AIR, as it’s known, was founded by Halifax psychiatrist Jackie Kinley in 2014 as a private enterprise that would help workers overcome stress and other mental health challenges. Kinley is now getting traction from major corporations and organizations in the region, so she is working on a digital product to enhance her work.

When she started her venture, she took the project through the Starting Lean course at Dalhousie University, which helped her to understand the market demands for such a product. Now that she’s bringing a digital component to the enterprise, she has been accepted into Incite, the new virtual accelerator offered by Propel ICT. She hopes that will help her to develop an app that can help her clients’ employees and to increase AIR’s business savvy.

Kinley said the overall goal is to address mental health issues before they’re major problems.

“It’s the whole idea that one in five people are dealing with [mental health problems],” said Kinley. “The people aren’t broken. The system is broken in how we’re thinking of them.”

Kinley said there are four phases involved in people taking leave because of mental health issues: one, they’re fine; two, they’re sad; three, they’re angry, at which point they are often assigned to an employee assistance program, or EAP; and four, they’re disturbed. At Phase 4, employees are usually off work and in long-term treatment.

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Kinley’s goal with AIR is to work with people before they get to Phase 3. When she’s successful, a swath of the workforce could be spared a painful illness, and employers don’t have to pay for expensive programs or non-performing workers. That’s why she’s getting buy-in from several large employers.

AIR now has a corporate program that works with employees in large organizations, introducing them to exercises and practices that can help them work through their challenges.  The next step in its development will be to introduce Mpower, an app that helps employees to work on the material on their own.

“The app is how I roll it out to employees,” she said. “We are figuring out how to use technology to help us to scale.”

AIR has contracted developers to help build Mpower, which she hopes to introduce to clients in 2019. Kinley says the company spent about two years finding its ideal market, and now it has the structure in place to sell its material to willing clients. What she needs now is a senior executive to help grow AIR and turn it into a scaling business. She added that one reason she’s going through the Incite program is to learn more about positioning AIR so that it’s able to scale.

Asked if she was considering raising capital, Kinley said that she’d hope that the senior executive she brings in would have an understanding of how to raise capital. She herself is a psychiatrist and she wants to enhance the business expertise on the team.

What she does know is that after a few years of trying to find a product-market fit, she is feeling pull from the market.

“Sales have at least tripled in 2018,” she said. “In 2018, we have people coming to us.”


Disclosure: Dalhousie University and Propel ICT are clients of Entrevestor.

LeadSift Sales Rise After Pivot

When Tukan Das asked at a 2015 board meeting how he could improve staff morale, he didn’t think the answer would lead to the complete reboot of his company.

But the CEO of Halifax-based data analytics company LeadSift was soon leading his team through a pivot that resulted in a new business model. LeadSift is now focused on helping small and medium-sized technology companies in the business-to-business market find sales leads, and its own sales are rising as a result.

It’s not unusual for startups to pivot. What’s astonishing is LeadSift pivoted when the company had been going for about four years. It had big clients and funding from backers like OMERS Ventures and Salesforce.com. But Das says the company would have failed if it hadn’t changed direction.

“We had blue chip clients but the problem was that the product was built [in a way that] they would not have stayed around for long,” said Das in an interview. “And the team would not have stuck around.”

The lightbulb moment came at a late 2015 board meeting when Das’ presentation included a slide asking what he could do to improve morale.

Director Damien Steele, an OMERS fund manager, said morale problems would persist as long as the company maintained its focus -- monitoring social media for enterprise clients to identify consumers who intended to buy a retail product. The problem was big clients often demanded customized installations, so the development team pretty well had to build a new product for each customer.

“This discussion that I hoped would lead to something like, ‘Buy a ping pong table’, hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Das. “I never wanted to build a company like that.”

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So in early 2016, LeadSift reassessed its market, calling up customers and asking them about their problems and trying to divine a product that would meet their needs.

“We said, ‘Let’s try everything’,” said Das. “Four years after graduating from [tech accelerator] Propel, we were back doing customer discovery, and doing it right this time.”

After a few months, the team came up with a product and asked clients what they thought. The response was lukewarm.  Frustrated, Das asked sales intern Corey Kirkhus what he thought, and the young man outlined the need for a product that would find leads for B2B salespeople.

That was the beginning of the current business model. The team methodically researched and courted clients that needed such a product. Once they established there was a bona fide market for it, they began to build it.

“It’s sales-intention software for B2B tech companies,” said Das. “It helps them identify and prioritize the companies to go after based on signals of intent.”

LeadSift adopted the new business model in March 2016 and by December of that year, the company had monthly recurring revenues of $18,000. A year later, that figure was up to $60,000. Das said the goal now is to hit $1 million in annual recurring revenue by the end of 2018, which would mean revenues will have risen about 40 percent this year.

“The beauty of it is we’ve learned how to do product development,” said Das, adding his team continues to improve the product based on the data it collects. “We dream of a world where sales people would log into their CRM [customer relationship management tool] in the morning and there would be a list of 10 leads. Each day. That’s the vision we have.”

McIntosh Recognized for Plato

Keith McIntosh: A goal to employ 1,000 Indigenous people.

Keith McIntosh: A goal to employ 1,000 Indigenous people.

Keith McIntosh has been an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember. Now, he’s won national recognition for using his skills to help Indigenous people find work.

Growing up on a farm, meant McIntosh used the same valuable business skills that he uses today as CEO and founder of Professional Quality Assurance (PQA), and PLATO Testing. Arguably, one of the best skills McIntosh has developed from his years growing up as an entrepreneur is his ability to solve problems.

“Being an entrepreneur is about identifying a need or problem and providing a solution,” explained McIntosh in an interview.

That is exactly what he has set out to do. McIntosh first saw the need for more IT workers in New Brunswick. This sparked the idea for an outsourced software testing service throughout North America called PQA. After the development of the company, McIntosh saw an even more crucial issue that needed attention- the need for opportunities for Indigenous workers in Canada.

He decided to do something about this and created PLATO testing with the goal of getting more Indigenous people into the workforce. His concern was that this was more than just a Fredericton or New Brunswick based issue. Rather, he felt that corporate Canada bears some responsibility for providing job opportunities for Indigenous people.

“I believe that corporate Canada wants to, but doesn’t always know how to engage at a day-to-day level,” said McIntosh. “I thought PLATO could show them how.”

McIntosh used his problem-solving skills to create Aboriginal training courses in software testing. Those who complete the training are guaranteed a position with PLATO.

Startup Award Gives Cameron Ritchie a Boost

Software testing is a huge business worldwide, worth $6 billion to $7 billion annually, that provides quality assurance to the makers of software. Any software must be tested over and over again, in all conditions and on a range of platforms, to make sure there are no glitches. This is especially true of enterprise software produced by large companies like banks, retailers and large software companies.

The software testing industry is divided into two groups — automated, which can be carried out anywhere with computers, and manual, which is usually carried out in low-wage economies like India or China.

McIntosh was able to get his training off the ground, and now has over 65 Indigenous employees working with the company in three locations across Canada--Fredericton, Miramichi, and Vancouver.

The Fredericton company hopes to eventually employ 1,000 Aboriginal software testers. The company is 50-percent-owned by its staff, so the goal is to bring native people into the tech community and to create wealth in First Nations communities across the country.

It became clear at the recent Startup Canada awards in Ottawa that McIntosh and PLATO are making a difference for Indigenous people across the country. The ceremony honoured the company with the Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award.

“We didn’t set out to be a social enterprise, we set out to be a good business,” said McIntosh, reflecting on the Startup Canada win. He said he feels as though the team is being rewarded for the by-product of doing good business.

McIntosh now plans for PLATO Testing to grow significantly as the company expands to its ultimate goal of 1,000 employees in or near Indigenous communities in provinces around Canada.

He hopes that others can learn a lesson from PLATO: the lesson being that it is possible to be successful while simultaneously doing good things for the community.

“Do good and make a difference,” McIntosh said.

Launch of The Haight Set for Nov. 21

If you’re not doing anything next Wednesday evening, please come out and join us for the Halifax launch of The Haight at the Dalhousie University Faculty Club.

As many of you may know, Poplar Press of New Jersey recently published my first crime novel, which I plan to turn into a series of murder mysteries set in the 1960s. I’ve been meaning to hold a celebration to introduce it in Halifax, and now we’re getting around to it.

The launch will take place Nov. 21 at 7 pm at the Dalhousie Faculty Club, which is on Alumni Crescent, just off South Street. Mike Hamm from Bookmark will be on hand to sell some books.

The Haight is a crime novel set in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood in 1968 – a whodunnit with hippies. It tells the story of Lieut. Jimmy Spracklin’s investigation into the murder of John Blakely, an artist found dead in a Victorian house off Haight Street. Spracklin was drawn to the case because it would take him to Haight-Ashbury, where his 16-year-old step-daughter Marie had been hiding since she ran away the previous fall.

The response to the book has been fantastic – 15 reviews so far on Amazon and 14 of them are five-star.

The Haight would make a great Christmas present, or you can pick up a copy for yourself. If nothing else, just come out and join the fun. It will great to see some Entrevestor readers and give them a chance to see me in my other life.  

Amplify Reveals Best Sales Practices

Steli Efti's Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins

Steli Efti's Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins

Entrepreneurs and mentors from across Atlantic Canada came together Tuesday to learn winning methods to ramp up their sales from global (and local) leaders in the field.

They were in Halifax to attend the second annual Amplify event, organized by Propel, the regional IT accelerator.

The highlight was undoubtedly the international experts brought in to explain best practices in sales and growth marketing, such as keynote speaker Steli Efti, the CEO of Silicon Valley-based Close.io, which makes digital tools to help improve sales.

An expert in software sales, Efti revealed his Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins. One of the most lethal of these, he said, is not following up  with potential clients – and he meant again and again until you get a yes or a no.

“The first step in sales is showing up,” said Efti. “That showing-up place is very busy. Everybody’s doing it.  The next step, the follow-up part, that’s the place where everybody quits the race . . . So if you follow up, you will win.”

Worse still, is the sin of closing a bad deal – one in which your company makes all kinds of concessions to a buyer that probably doesn’t want your product in the first place.

“A bad deal is much worse than not closing a deal,” said Efti. “Closing a bad deal is like taking on compounded debt.”

A New Brunswick Founder Asks: Can Sales Be Taught?

Alistair Croll, the Dalhousie University grad who’s now a Visiting Executive to the Harvard Business School, advised that eventually all growth strategies trend toward zero – meaning that each time a company follows someone else’s growth hack, it becomes less and less effective. He encouraged entrepreneurs to devise hacks that have never been used before and position their product skillfully so it becomes something customers flock to.

“This takes a lot of work,” he said. “It can take more time than writing the code for the product in some cases.”

One highlight of Ampify is sales advice from leading Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs, and the participants this year were a reminder of how much some companies in the region have grown. They included Moncton-based Alongside, with annual recurring revenue of $1 million, St. John’s-based HeyOrca ($3 million) and Halifax-based Proposify ($5 million).

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Alongside CEO Yves Boudreau encouraged founders to follow their competition, subscribing to their newsletters and reacting to their moves;
  • HeyOrca Head of Sales Operations Ryan Mercer spoke of using sales as a learning experience that helps the product team to understand client needs;
  • Laura Simpson, CEO of Halifax-based Sidedoor has been in business for a shorter period than the other presenters. She dwelt on the emotional side of dealing with clients, imploring people to surrender to the pain in the bad moments and feel the joy of the good times.
  • And Proposify CEO Kyle Racki spoke of using data-based processes to decide pricing and the importance of monetizing existing customers rather than just attracting new customers.

Volta Cohort To Hold Pitches Nov. 28

The judges and winners on stage at the Volta Cohort event in May.

The judges and winners on stage at the Volta Cohort event in May.

Fifteen Atlantic Canadian startups will pitch at Volta Cohort’s fall pitch event on Nov. 28 in Halifax, and as many as five of them will receive $25,000 each in investment, mentorship and resources.

The event at Pier 21 marks the third intake to Volta Cohort, which is a funding and mentorship program that provides investment and resources for early-stage Atlantic Canadian technology startups. In the past year, the program organized by the Halifax-based startup house Volta Labs has awarded a total of $250,000 to 10 companies.

“Access to funding at an early stage can drastically reduce the challenges founders face in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Volta Cohort is helping accelerate the growth of high potential founders by providing space to collaborate with their teams, world-class mentorship opportunities and programming tailored to their needs.”

Read about the two previous Volta Cohort events:

Volta Cohort Selects First Winners -- Nov. 2017

Five Teams Split $125K at Volta Cohort -- May, 2018

The selected companies for the third intake are:

Aurea Technologies (Halifax) – Aurea Technologies helps solve the climate change crisis by creating simple, human-centric, revolutionary wind turbines for consumer and commercial markets.

Byos Cybersecurity (Halifax) – Byos Cybersecurity is developing a product to monitor and protect companies’ critical resources from data leaks, security breaches, fraud and infections.

Commlet Technologies (Sydney) – Commlet Technologies uses GPS tracking bracelets and an innovative app to offer a user-friendly solution for real-time positioning tailored to the education and childcare industries.

Copsys Industries Inc. (Halifax) – Copsys Corrosion Management System is a new technology providing a specific type of coating, along with Impressed Current Cathodic Protection and is configured to provide uninterrupted protection on a structure.

DevScript Inc. (South Greenwood) – DevScript’s software product, Aila is an app that infuses creativity and innovation into every-day business operations, so you can compete, scale and thrive in a connected economy.

Halifax VR (Halifax) – Halifax VR is a developing occupational therapy rehabilitation software, in partnership with a children's hospital, using augmented reality. The company’s first product in development is a virtual wheelchair simulator.

iLokol Technologies (Halifax) – iLokol is developing a multi-language platform that helps international students and newcomers find the right places to shop, dine and play. Users can check for nearby businesses, find products or services and place orders from their mobile devices.

Kindness3D (Halifax) – Kindness3D was established to send affordable, 3D-printed artificial limbs to those less fortunate around the world. To date, the project has successfully delivered two devices, one to Costa Rica and the other to Brazil.

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc. (Halifax) – Neothermal Energy Storage is tackling high home energy costs with an innovative, smart home compatible, electric thermal storage heater for residential supplemental space and water heating.

Milk Moovement (St John's) – Milk Moovement is a dairy industry ERP platform that brings outdated systems to new life and provides significant data improvement for all stakeholders in the dairy industry. Milk Moovement is currently being used across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and preparing for expansion across all Atlantic provinces.

Osteo-PM (Halifax) – Osteo-PM is a go-to personal pain and mobility management service for osteoarthritis sufferers. The goal is for the platform to be a diagnostic tool or virtual health provider. A health professional version will also be available to help monitor, interact and coach OA clients/patients via the platform in real time.

Rayleigh Solar Tech (Halifax) – Rayleigh Solar Tech is a Halifax-based company founded in 2016 to develop and commercialize next generation perovskite solar cell technology. 

Tranquility Online (Halifax) – Tranquility Online offers an online, Software-as-a-Service solution that uses the gold standard therapy approach for anxiety: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Tranquility Online’s interactive CBT software was built by experts and can also be accompanied by coaching from real people, who will be trained with an internally developed training protocol.

Tsundoku Digital (Halifax) – Tsundoku Digital is changing the way blog content is consumed by providing users with the opportunity to streamline their reading habits and consume the best content possible in an industry that is overwhelmed with content. The company is building a multi-platform app that delivers the right content when users choose to receive it.

YOUX Systems Inc. (Halifax) – YOUX Systems is developing Sexology, a mobile app that functions as an AI-based sex therapy assistant helping single users and couples improve their sexual life and overcome sexual problems.

You can buy tickets for the pitching event here.

First Mobile Teams Up with Binogi

Gary Stairs

Gary Stairs

Educational groups First Mobile Education of Fredericton and Binogi of Stockholm have announced the signing of an international partnership.

In a statement, the companies said the partnership will help create a multi-linguistic, multi-year, educational curriculum delivered via 2D animated digital video, to be offered across Canada and world-wide.

Gary Stairs, First Mobile’s CEO, said the collaboration complements First Mobile’s original mandate from 2013, which is to export Canadian education and deliver it on a world class mobile platform to emerging markets like China, India and Brazil.

“Here in Canada, we intend to emulate Binogi’s recent language project success in Europe and Africa,” he said.  “For us, the timing couldn’t be better.” 

He said that over the past few years, First Mobile has developed a suite of four mobile-ready education games for k-12, funded in part by the New Brunswick Industry Innovation Challenge.

Recently, the company began to create STEM career choice games for k-12 with an emphasis on 20 bilingual engineering and geo-science careers, including environmental stewardship and conservation. 

“This latest work fits with First Mobile’s vision of ed-tech futures for the Atlantic region, particularly experiential and entrepreneurial education,” he said in the statement.

Speaking on behalf of Binogi, CEO Linus Gunnarson said the partnership will help the company establish the non-profit in Canada.

“Binogi is now in nine different languages and opening its fifth international operation, both in Toronto and here in Atlantic Canada," he said.

The partnership hopes to assist immigrants and the agencies who are supporting them, both in Atlantic and Central Canada. This could entail the use of smart technologies such as interactive video and AI to improve the social inclusion of refugees.

Binogi was started in 2011 in Sweden by two students and a serial entrepreneur/investor who aimed to make school curricula more engaging by putting the lessons on film.  

By 2015, Binogi had produced 1,000 video lessons and written 16,000 quiz questions. Sweden has given refuge to many Syrian refugees and Binogi has worked to put the whole secondary school curriculum on film and dub it into Arabic.

DeCell’s Deal To Produce DermGen

Paul Gratzer, left, and Sean Margueratt.

Paul Gratzer, left, and Sean Margueratt.

After a few years of ups and downs, Halifax-based DeCell Technologies Inc. has struck an agreement that should result in its natural skin grafts reaching the Canadian market in April or May.

Last week, the company struck a deal with RegenMed of Thunder Bay to manufacture and distribute the DeCell product DermGen. RegenMed is the largest tissue bank in Ontario and has deals with other tissue banks across the country.  Chief Scientific Officer Paul Gratzer said in an interview DeCell has also reached an agreement with Impactful Health Solutions of New York State to distribute the product in the Middle East.

“The mutually beneficial partnership with RegenMed is an important milestone for DeCell by providing commercial production of our first product DermGen,” said Gratzer. “It’s a rare and very exciting opportunity for an advanced wound care technology developed in Canada to also be manufactured by a Canadian company. ”

DeCell began in 2013 with the goal of producing DermGen, its patented technology that quickly and affordably cures chronic foot ulcers, which are a common and dangerous ailment for diabetics. DermGen is a natural scaffolding made from donated human skin, which can be placed over the ulcer to encourage the regeneration of skin cells and keep the wound clean to avoid infection. It is free of bacteria and viruses and has no chance of being rejected by the patient.

Picomole Wins $65,000 BioInnovation Challenge

The company, co-founded by Gratzer and COO Sean Margueratt, has gone silent since 2015, and Gratzer admits it went through some “tough times” in the past few years. He described it as involvement with groups that were supposed to be helping the company but “really didn’t understand our technology.” It meant the company spent time validating its technology for partners rather than moving the company forward.

Having said that, Gratzer added the company has made improvements in its processes so that it now takes just 3.5 days to produce the skin grafts, down from about five days previously.

The company’s reps will spend a couple of months in Thunder Bay in the near future helping RegenMed with the installation and training of the tissue bank’s staff.

Asked whether RegenMed has the capacity to meet the demands of the Canadian market, Gratzer said there is actually now a glut of skin in Canadian tissue banks. He added that it’s good to know this resource, donated by people before their deaths, will now be used to help other people heal more quickly.

DeCell was able to raise equity financing in its early years, receiving almost $500,000 from Innovacorp and raising a bit more than that from members of the First Angel Network and other angel investors.

Now that it has a clear pathway to the Canadian diabetic market, DeCell is planning to expand into other markets in the next few years – both geographic and medical diversification.

The company’s partnership with IHS should help with expansion into such countries as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Lebanon. What’s more, DeCell is looking for additional applications for its products, such as using its skin grafts to help burn victims recover.

3 Takeaways from Trip to St. John’s

Ed Clarke: 'We will be able to access additional capital, technology and data.'

Ed Clarke: 'We will be able to access additional capital, technology and data.'

I had a whirlwind visit to St. John’s last week, touring the new Genesis facility and delivering my presentation on Entrevestor’s 2017 startup data. Here are three things I observed during the trip:

1. There are a LOT of new companies.

The St. John’s ecosystem is accelerating its production of new companies. The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, or MCE, has now been going for a couple of years. It is proving adept at gathering MUN students with ideas and marshalling them through the first stages of launching a company. What’s more, these new companies can often find an incubator once they get going. Genesis has expanded and therefore has greater capacity to help companies to scale.

Younger companies were on display at Invest NL last Wednesday, taking the stage in the Pitch 201 and Pitch 101 competitions.

Yousef Ramezani, who recently completed a Masters of Computer Science at MUN, captured the first prize in Pitch 201 for his company CVT Project. CVT stands for Connected Vehicle Technology.

The other finalists in Pitch 201 (not all of whom are "new" companies) were: Duncan Wallace, UAV Control Tower; Peter Francis, HelpMeOrder; Mathias Nielson, Oliver POS; and Jan Mertlik, PowerHV.

The Pitch 101 Winner was Jesse McCaw, President of Averro Robotics & Technologies Inc.

2. The biotech ecosystem is maturing.

One of the interesting developments in Newfoundland and Labrador is the growth of the life sciences segment. Atlantic Canada has biotech organizations in each of the Maritime provinces but until recently there were none on the Rock.  But now there is a collaborative group in St. John’s with buy-in from the local medical community.

The MCE has been nurturing MUN students with ideas for life sciences companies, and the community has brought in Montreal-based Hacking Health, an organization that promotes healthcare innovation,  to help develop the sector.

That has led to the launch of the Bounce Health Initiative (which Jennifer Lee wrote about when she interviewed EIR Mandy Woodland in September). MCE Director Florian Villaumé explained that Bounce is a collaborative effort between MCE, Eastern Health, the MUN Faculty of Medicine and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries, or NATI.

Here’s what’s interesting: the Bounce process starts with participants asking Eastern Health what problems the province’s biggest health authority is facing, then assembling innovators to try to solve that program.

The life sciences organizations in the region are working together under the auspices of the Atlantic Growth Strategy to collaborate on ecosystem development. And NATI is representing Newfoundland in these discussions.

 3. Global Ad Source has exited.

Global Ad Source, the St. John’s company whose advertising database is used by some of the world’s largest brands, has been sold for an undisclosed price to a publicly listed British company.

Global Ad Source – whose official corporate name is Adfinitum Networks Inc. – will maintain its brand name and continue to operate out of St. John’s with its team intact. The Newfoundland company’s CEO Ed Clarke declined to reveal the price or other details.

“We are very excited by this opportunity as we will be able to access additional capital, technology and data to grow our service as a part of the larger company,” said Clarke .

The buyer is a major provider of data to thousands of the world's largest organizations, helping them to analyze information to make better and faster decisions.

In purchasing Global Ad Source, the company is taking on a massive databank of more than 30 million ads, covering eight media types from 80 countries. Clients use this databank to keep abreast of what is happening in the marketing world and how their competitors are reaching out into the marketplace.

Global Ad Source was founded in 2007, and Clarke said in 2015 that it was profitable. It has more than 25 blue-chip clients from 10 countries across a range of industries.

Global Ad Source over the years has raised money from investors, including St. John’s-based angel investors Tom Foran and Jo Mark Zurel, as well as Permjot Valia, who now resides in Nova Scotia. The company in 2012 raised $350,000 from the GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund, whose managers have been overseeing its portfolio as it is wound down.

Said Clarke: “I would like to thank our investors, especially Tom Foran and Jo Mark Zurel, who were instrumental in helping us reach this milestone.”

FDA Clears HBI Tool Used by GE

Chad Munro

Chad Munro

Halifax Biomedical Inc. has received U.S. regulatory clearance to use its latest advanced imaging technology with x-ray equipment produced by GE Healthcare.

HBI, which is based in Mabou, Cape Breton, issued a press release Friday saying it has been granted 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its Halifax Radiostereometry Upgrade.

Hospitals add this technology to GE Healthcare’s Discovery XR656/XR656 Plus x-ray imaging units to provide ultra-high precision 3D measurements in orthopedic procedures like hip replacements.

The announcement comes about a year after HBI announced it had struck a deal with the medical equipment unit of General Electric, one of the world’s biggest medical equipment companies. The product announced on Thursday is the first to be launched under the partnership.

“Halifax Biomedical is excited to offer this unique product upgrade for the GE XR656 imaging systems,” said CEO Chad Munro in the statement. “This is the highest-quality, most efficient and most adoptable system we have created to date. This product launch is a major step towards creating an expanded network of leading orthopedic researchers to advance radiostereometric orthopedic research and clinical care.”

The Halifax Radiostereometry procedure takes two x-rays of the patient from two different views at the same time. The new upgrade comprises an L-shaped arm imaging device that synchronizes with the main imaging machine to take two high-quality digital x-rays at the same time. It takes up minimal floor space and can be quickly positioned to perform both standing and table exams, said the statement.

Halifax Radiostereometry exams have a 3D precision in the range of 0.05 millimeters – many times better than current conventional CT imaging technology.

Specialists use the system for such things as phased innovation, which is the process of validating performance of new orthopedic products through rigorous clinical trials before broad market release. The system has also shown great promise as an emerging clinical tool in areas such as the evaluation of painful joint replacements and spine instability in chronic low back pain patients, said HBI.

Remembering Cousins I Never Met

William Boyd shortly after enlisting in 1914

William Boyd shortly after enlisting in 1914

I’m thinking today of two distant cousins I never met because they sacrificed their lives in battle more than 40 years before I was born.

William and Nigel Boyd grew up Edinburgh, the only sons of William Boyd and Pictou, NS-native Laura (Crerar) Boyd. She was the sister of my great-grandmother, Jane (Crerar) MacKeen.My own link to them was a battered footlocker that was in our house until last summer. 

I know little of the Boyd brothers except what came down through family stories and the research of another distant cousin, David Crerar of Vancouver. I’ve never met David, but he’s fascinated by family history and has helped immeasurably with my own research into the MacKeens.

What I do know is both Boyd brothers enlisted to fight for their country in 1914 and shipped off to the front. William, the elder, joined the King’s Body Guard for Scotland, a part of the Royal Company of Archers. Nigel joined the Black Watch.

Neither would live to see 1916.

Nigel Boyd

Second Lieutenant Nigel Boyd fought at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 then the Battle of Aisne, which ended Oct. 1. Twenty-year-old Nigel was wounded at one point in the Aisne fighting, but held his position with his men. He died of his wounds in hospital.

On April 25 1915, William joined an attack on a German entrenchment (likely at the Second Battle of Ypres) and was killed. He was 22. I believe his body was never found because when my grandfather visited the Boyds shortly afterward William was known to be missing in action.  

After losing both their sons in the first eight months of the war, the elder Boyds lived on in mourning for several decades. The senior William Boyd died sometime during the Second World War, and after the war Laura Boyd decided to return to Nova Scotia. She died during the trans-Atlantic crossing.  

My grandparents inherited her possessions, and they included William Boyd’s footlocker, a black metal box that had been manufactured by J. Stewart & Sons of Edinburgh by appointment to the Royal Company of Archers.

I had the footlocker tucked in a closet for years, but it seemed that David Crerar would be a better steward of it than me. That footlocker represented something monumental, and it deserved to be in a place of greater respect. And David was the guardian of the Crerar story.

So last summer we shipped it off to David in Vancouver. I know David and his family will cherish it and honour the valour of the Boyd brothers.

Picomole Wins $65K Biotech Event

Picomole of Moncton won the $65,000 first prize at the BioInnovation Challenge on Thursday, the money will help the company conduct clinical trials on its device that detects cancer through breath samples.

Held during the BioPort Atlantic conference, the BioInnovation Challenge is the region’s main pitching competition for life sciences companies. This year, the winner of the competition organized by BioNova receives a $25,000 cash prize as well as in-kind services that raise the total value to $65,000.

The winner, Picomole, is developing a portable breath analyzer that patients breathe into to be tested for early signs of lung cancer – a disease that kills 154,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. The product can be used for a fast, inexpensive test when patients visit their doctor to flag patients who need immediate attention.

“We are targeting the high-risk lung cancer population as a start,” said CEO Stephen Graham in his presentation. “We are going to target them business-to-business, through health care professionals and insurance providers.”

The medical community now tests for lung cancer through such expensive processes as CT scans, which are faulty because 95% of their positive results are inaccurate, said Graham. Picomole is working on a system in which people at clinics or pharmacies can provide breath samples, which are then analyzed at a central location. Patients or their doctors could receive the results within two days.

Graham said that by detecting lung cancer early, people with the disease improve their chances of living more then five years from 18 percent to 55 percent.

“Probably the most exciting part of it is our ability to apply our device to other diseases,” said Graham. By changing the algorithms in the analyzing system, it could detect breast cancer, or other lung diseases, he said.

Picomole is now testing its product for proof of concept at hospitals in Saint John and Moncton. It has raised $2.5 million in equity funding and is seeking $12 million more to take the device through regulatory approvals.

The other finalists in the BioInnovation Challenge were:

ColourSmith Labs


Chemist and entrepreneur Gabrielle Masone started ColourSmith to develop soft contact lenses that can help colourblind people see the full spectrum of colour. She is preparing to file a patent for her technology, which applies a “notch filter” to a contact lens, so that it can screen out the types of light that cause colour blindness. The solution is more discreet than competitors’ products, such as sunglasses that perform similar functions.  Masone is now looking to hire a business development executive and intends to begin to raise her first equity funding round in the next month.

Talem Health Analytics


Founded two years ago by physiotherapists Paul Travis and Matthew Kay, Talem has developed software that can help auto insurers understand the time and costs involved for an individual recovering from a car accident. These accidents cause $240 billion in economic damage each year in North America. Drawing on data from physiotherapy clinics, the software uses machine learning and data analysis to predict how someone who has been in an accident will recover. Kay told the BioPort audience that the system can cut the cost of claims by 10 percent, which can help to improve the efficiency of the industry and treatment for patients. The company is hoping to raise $750,000 in its next round.

New Faces in the NB Ecosystem

Alicia Grayeb, left, and Alicia Roisman

Alicia Grayeb, left, and Alicia Roisman

Three women with a range of international startup experience have recently joined support organizations in New Brunswick, greatly enhancing the expertise in the ecosystem.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation announced this week that Laura Richard, who received her PhD in chemistry from Oxford University, has joined the organization as its new Director of Research. And Venn Innovation has revealed two recent hires: Mexican startup specialist Alicia Grayeb as its new Manager of Startup Services; and Israeli serial fintech entrepreneur Alicia Roisman Ismach as Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

NBIF, a non-profit that engages in venture capital and funds commercialization research, said in a statement that Richard is a chemist and data scientist who earned her Bachelor of Science at the University of New Brunswick. She most recently worked with Procter & Gamble in Belgium and France, conducting research and development for products like Tide Pods and Downy fabric softener.

Before that, she was Senior Chemist at Velocys, a renewable fuels company spun out of Oxford University that produces low-carbon fuels from waste materials.

“Laura is a strategic addition to the NBIF team and New Brunswick’s research community,” said Jeff White, who was recently appointed CEO of the organization. “Her R&D expertise with a global powerhouse like Proctor & Gamble and her understanding of how to turn that research into strong consumer products will be a tremendous asset for our organization and the people we work with.”

Venn, a Moncton-based organization that offers programing to New Brunswick startups, said Grayeb will grow its early-stage incubation program, known as the Venn Garage, and develop networks and relationships.

Grayeb previously worked with entrepreneurs in Mexico, where she helped develop the Young Leaders for the Americas Initiative and provided sustainability training for founders.  As a project manager, she helped to attract multinationals as strategic partners in clean energy and technology accelerators. 

“My mission is to help as many entrepreneurs as possible achieve success and have a positive impact in their communities,” said Grayeb. “The Venn Garage is the ideal hub to amalgamate my international background with the projects of our entrepreneurs who want to make the Province of New Brunswick an even more diverse and innovative place.”

Ismach has been developing solutions for financial institutions and the payments industry for more than 15 years.  She was a Co-Director of the Founder Institute in Tel Aviv, and established Founders Café, an international organization of entrepreneurs. She is a member of the Technology Committee of the Electronic Transactions Association.

“Having been involved in startups and entrepreneurship for the last 20 years, I knew that as soon as I moved to New Brunswick I needed to look for the local innovation ecosystem,” she said. “I am thrilled to have found Venn Innovation and to have met so many talented entrepreneurs and exciting startups in such a short period of time.”

Cyno Plans Soft Launch This Week

After raising $450,000 from specialist angels who can help the company, St. John’s-based Cyno this week is planning the soft launch of its digital platform for physiotherapy clinics.

Cyno is a year-old Software-as-a-Service company that helps physiotherapists to work with the patients outside of their clinics and outside of office hours. It has developed a digital platform that includes a secure video link and additional functionality so physios can connect with their patients anywhere and anytime.

Founder and CEO Peter Barbour said the company is releasing the product this week to nine clinics, which will use it for three months. In the first quarter of next year, the company is planning a full launch. He hopes it will mean people have more flexibility in receiving physiotherapy.

“The idea of [treatment being offered] just Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, is shocking,” said Barbour in an interview at Genesis, the St. John’s incubator where Cyno is headquartered.

In researching the market for a virtual physiotherapy project, he learned how the current system disadvantages both physios and their clients. The clinics are concentrated in urban centres so rural residents have to drive long distances for treatment, which can be harmful to someone with back problems. Rural clinics are few and have long waiting lists. And the 9-to-5 system means people have to interrupt their jobs to get treatment.

What Cyno does is allow physiotherapists to do a lot of the work with patients with one or both parties at home. It makes hours more flexible, and allows physios to make sure patients are doing their exercises properly at home.

Talem Health Eyes Paid Pilots in 2019

To finance the development of the product, Barbour sought investment from individual investors who can bring expertise as well as capital to the company. They include a few physiotherapists, a medical doctor, developers with experience in tech companies, and Anne Whelan, the CEO of Seafair Capital and the owner of the CareGivers homecare service.

The groups of investors provided a total of $450,000 and Cyno has been able to access additional funds from government programs. That has allowed the company to hire eight employees, and form some important partnerships.

First, Cyno is a member of the Sun Life Digital Health Lab in Toronto, which is aiming to assemble a portfolio of digital tools (all vetted by the lab officials) to help people with healthcare.

The company is also working with a team of researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland on a next-generation product that could further improve care for patients. It will be image recognition software that lets the physiotherapist use a smart phone or webcam to view the patient’s body and automatically diagnose problems or recovery. For example, it can alert the professional to problems with the patient’s posture, or it could assess progress made between successive tests. And it can all be done without the patient leaving his or her home.

Cyno will own the intellectual property for the product, which Barbour estimates will be ready in 10 to 12 months. He added that this product will position Cyno nicely in the market.

“The goal is to get out of the building and get sales,” he said. “But that [image recognition] product is something that sets us apart from the competition and I think that’s critical.”

Startup Award Gives Ritchie A Boost

Cameron Ritchie, left, with former Dragon's Den star Brett Wilson at the Startup Canada Awards.

Cameron Ritchie, left, with former Dragon's Den star Brett Wilson at the Startup Canada Awards.

Fredericton student Cameron Ritchie is the perfect role model for entrepreneurs of any age.

Ritchie, a first-year engineering student at the University of New Brunswick, recently received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Startup Canada at a special award ceremony in Ottawa.

“The message I’ve always been trying to portray is that you’re never too young to make a difference,” the 18-year-old said in an interview. “Age is just a number.”

His company, HomeWurk, has employed over 200 students with the aim of getting them into the job market.

HomeWurk allows students to perform odd jobs for homeowners who need quick assistance with things like home upkeep and maintenance. The online matching service helps homeowners get their lawn mowed or porch painted. It also helps students who aren’t able to gain entry-level work experience. HomeWurk gives these young people the experience they need to be more successful in the long run.

“If I have a student interested in a career as a carpenter, HomeWurk matches them with different tasks related to carpentry,” Ritchie said.

HomeWurk is a great opportunity for students as it gives them a sense of responsibility and individuality, he said.

All workers represent themselves when they go into a home to complete an odd job. Their quality of work results in how many future jobs they are offered.

Ritchie launched the startup in Grade 11, after hearing friends talk about how they could not find part-time employment that aligned with their schedules. Ritchie figured there had to be a way to merge this group of students with homeowners who don’t have the time to get their household tasks completed.

See What Happened When Ritchie Asked Peers: Can Sales Be Taught?

He credits community support with helping him start a business at a young age.

“An entrepreneur’s success is proportional to the amount of support there is in their community,” said Ritchie. “My biggest supporter has always been the Startup Fredericton ecosystem.”

After winning the Startup Canada award, Ritchie feels as though the country is standing behind his vision.

“The whole feeling was electric,” Ritchie said, adding that receiving the Startup Canada award has validated the idea he had three years ago and gives him a clearer idea of what his next steps are.

“This is something that is here to stay,” he said. “This is something that we have a very passionate team behind, and we’re going to make HomeWurk grow no matter what is standing in our way.”

Ritchie is now working to create a program for students to receive mentorship from licensed individuals who want to give back to the community and train students in a safe environment.

He plans to grow the HomeWurk management team as he hires a team of students to assist him in running the company. Ritchie and his team hope to expand the company across New Brunswick, and eventually Canada.

The team is currently working on a new web-app platform, which will not only help the business with expansion but also give homeowners more choice over who they hire.

Despite his successes, Ritchie admitted it hasn’t always been easy being an 18-year-old entrepreneur. His biggest challenge has been finding a balance between work, school, and extra-curricular activities.

“Just knowing that the rest of Canada is standing behind us gives us the  fuel to propel us to where we want to be," he said.

Immigrant-focused startup hits Toronto

Akram Al-Otumi

Akram Al-Otumi

Spritely Technologies, a Halifax startup that offers a personalized approach to tourism and immigrant services, is having its debut Toronto event Nov. 10 and is seeking local input.

The Spritely platform allows tourists and newcomers to connect with city locals in order to make visiting or relocating to a new city less stressful and more personalized. 

Users can choose and hire a city expert who not only speaks their language, but who also offers a variety of services, such as helping with navigating the city and recommending fun activities and day trips based on the individual client's interests. Spritely already offers the services of a number of experts on the city of Halifax and hopes to replicate the model in Toronto, founder and CEO Akram Al-Otumi said in a release.

“We’ve been doing a lot of simulated market tests where we invite people to our lab to give us feedback, but now we feel we are ready to expand to Toronto with a soft launch,” said Al-Otumi. The goal of the Nov. 10 event is to get as much feedback as possible from the Toronto market in order to improve the product and eventually have a hard launch, he said.

Originally from Yemen, Al-Otumi thought of creating something like Spritely after immigrating to Canada.  

“When I arrived to Canada 11 years ago as an international student, given the fact that I spoke limited English and at the time had very limited experiences with Canadian culture, I faced a lot of challenges to settle in, and I realized I was not the only one—a lot of international students, newcomers and tourists actually face the exact same problem,” he said.

The Toronto meeting and product testing event will be held at: 708 Annette St., Toronto from 2pm to 5pm on Nov. 10.

For more information, contact Al-Otumi at: akram@gospritely.com.

Build’s 2nd Fund Passes $40M Mark

Build Ventures, the Atlantic Canadian venture capital fund, has received more than $40 million in commitments for its second fund, including backing from two bodies within the federal government.

The Halifax-based VC fund said Monday it has received $7.5 million in funding from the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative, or VCCI. And in an interview, Build Partner Rob Barbara also said the company has a commitment for funding from BDC Capital, the VC arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada. He declined to say the amount of the BDC contribution.

Barbara added that the firm is on track to close funds worth $45 million and $55 million this year, and that its second fund could be investing in new companies early in 2019.

“We’ve still got a way to go, but we’re hoping to close the fund by the end of the calendar year,” said Barbara.

Headed by Barbara and Patrick Keefe, the group began five years ago with a $65 million fund, which has invested in 14 companies. With its first fund fully invested, its principals are now raising money for their second fund.

Build previously said it had received $15 million in funding from the Nova Scotia government for Fund II and is receiving $10 million from the New Brunswick government. Barbara declined to discuss talks with other provinces but indicated there would be private investment in the second fund.

Build Ventures invests in companies that are early stage yet have an established business model, a solid team, a large target market, are generating revenue and now need ramp-up capital. Investments are generally between $1 million and $5 million for each venture.

The first Build fund received $15 million from both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as contributions from Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, BDC, Technology Venture Corp. and a few private investors.

Barbara said he and Keefe were pleased to receive money from VCCI, which was set up to distribute federal money to VC funds to help spur innovation. It received the money as an “alternative” venture capital fund, meaning a funding group that may not have the scale or track record of some of the larger Canadian funds.

He said the VCCI money is “going to be a critical piece of us being successful and closing this fund.”


Disclosure: Build Ventures is a client of Entrevestor.

Fraser Eyes Top 10 Startup Ecosystem

Malcolm Fraser, left, appears on stage with Anna Manley, Mo Abdolell and Marciel Gaier.

Malcolm Fraser, left, appears on stage with Anna Manley, Mo Abdolell and Marciel Gaier.

Malcolm Fraser revealed a rather audacious goal last Thursday: the CEO of Innovacorp wants the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem to be one of the 10 best in the world.

Speaking to 800 members of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce at their annual dinner, Fraser said the pieces are in place to move into the top 10, and asked the broader business community to help out by working with high-growth companies.

He cited several high-growth companies that Innovacorp – the provincial Crown corporation responsible for venture capital and innovation – has invested in or is working with. Some of these companies are doubling revenue or better each year, and Fraser sounded a call to action for traditional businesses to work with them to benefit the economy.

“We can light this thing on fire,” said Fraser, who sold his company Mode in 2016 and took the helm at Innovacorp a year ago. “We can get to the goal of making Atlantic Canada one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world.”

Assessing and ranking ecosystems is a complicated matter, but Fraser said there are five key components to a startup ecosystem, and all are in place to support startups in this region.

  • Government – Governments in the region have initiated a range of programs that are supporting startups, and government provides infrastructure, like the new COVE ocean R&D facility in Dartmouth.
  • Academic Institutions – Across the region, universities and colleges are developing entrepreneurship programs, such as Launch Dal at Dalhousie University and St. Mary’s University’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.
  • Funding – The funding by venture capital investors and others has increased dramatically in the past few years, surpassing $100 million for the first time last year.
  • Private Sector – Fraser didn’t say so but this is the weak portion of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, just because it’s such a small component of the economy. Instead, Fraser cited the example of McCain Foods and Emera for the work they’re doing with startups.

Innovacorp's Andrew Ray Wants Portfolio to Make More Money

The final component in the ecosystem is the entrepreneurs themselves – and here Fraser was bursting with examples, most of them companies that Innovacorp has invested in. For example, he said social media monitoring company Dash Hudson quadrupled its revenue in 2017 and is on track to double it this year. Proposify, which helps businesses submit proposals, and Vineview, which analyses data to help vineyards detect diseases, are both growing rapidly as well.

Fraser was also joined on stage by the heads of three younger companies: Mo Abdolell of Densitas of Halifax; Anna Manley of Advocate Cognitive Technologies Inc. of Sydney; and Marciel Gaier of Halifax-based Graphite Innovation and Technologies. They said they could benefit from support from the business community, mainly asking for investment, mentorship and early adoption of their products.

After the speech, Fraser said the assessment of how our ecosystem stacks up against others should be based on the metrics established by the California group Startup Genome. It ranks startup communities around the world based on their funding, exits, talent, and corporate involvement. Though Atlantic Canada isn’t even mentioned in the Startup Genome 2018 report on global startup ecosystems, Fraser said Canada’s East Coast is moving in the right direction.

“We are one of the top ecosystems in Canada and clearly there’s tremendous momentum and potential here,” said Fraser in an email. “For example, we’re already punching above our weight when it comes to venture capital activity. In [the first quarter] of this year, Halifax was ahead of Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge for amount of venture capital invested.”

Disclosure:  Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Precision BioLogic Buys Affinity

Dartmouth-based medical products company Precision BioLogic has purchased Affinity Biologicals of Ancaster, Ont., hoping to merge seamlessly given that they both sell to the same market.

The companies released the news in a statement last week, but did not disclose the value of the deal.

The two companies both provide products that assist hemostasis medicine – that is the practice of stopping the flow of blood. The blending of the two companies will mean that Precision will have a wider array of products to sell its customers.

Precision BioLogic sells hemostasis diagnostic products and it is now expanding its offering as Affinity produces reagents and kits used in hemostasis and thrombosis research and diagnostics.

“This acquisition marks an important step in the development of our company and execution of our strategic plan,” said Precision President and CEO Paul Empey in the statement. “The two organizations serve a similar market with complementary product lines, which will allow us to better serve existing customers and develop new products for research and diagnostics.”

Added Affinity President Hugh Hoogendoorn:  “It’s a logical fit. Affinity and Precision BioLogic share many of the same guiding principles, including a commitment to quality products and service. The resulting synergy will create exciting opportunities for us and our customers.”

The statement said the two companies will continue to focus on their customers and regular operations while developing longer term strategic plans under the Precision BioLogic umbrella.

Affinity was founded in 1987 by Hugh and Patricia Hoogendoorn. The company has become a primary manufacturer of more than 300 reagents and kits used in hemostasis and thrombosis research and diagnostics.

Precision BioLogic is best known for its CRYOcheck line of frozen products used by medical professionals and researchers around the globe to diagnose coagulation disorders.

Invest NL, Other Events in St. John’s

We’re starting a busy week in St. John’s, which will feature the Invest Newfoundland and Labrador conference on Wednesday and several other events as well.

On Tuesday, I will conduct a presentation on the metrics of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. It will focus in on Newfoundland and Labrador and dive into data on such areas as funding, revenue, employment and others. I’ll deliver the presentation (I’ve already given similar presentations this year in Fredericton and Charlottetown) at the Emera Innovation Exchange at 10:30 am. The presentation is free to attend. You can register here.

On Wednesday, Invest NL will be held all day at the Alt Hotel. Hosted by Invest Atlantic, the conference will showcase the province’s startups and provide them with a chance to network with local and visiting investors, mentors and service providers. Tickets are available here

Then on Saturday, Springboard Atlantic and the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic will host the Lab Crawl – a chance to meet up with members of the science and startup communities at a local pub. It will take place at The Biermarkt on Harbour Drive starting at 4:30 pm. You can register here.

The organizers are actually holding Lab Crawl in several cities. There was one in Charlottetown last week, and there will be a Lab Crawl on Thursday in Fredericton at the King Street Ale House.

Job of the Week: Jameson Group

Halifax-based event organizer Jameson Group is looking for a high-energy person to take on the position of 2IC Partner.

Headed by Bob Williamson, Jameson engages in a range of activities. It is best known as the organizer of such conferences as Invest Atlantic, Smart Energy and the PitchCamp Workshops. It is now looking for a full-time person to help run the operations, though the company will consider a part-time applicant.  

The Job 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 Jameson posting:


Jameson Group

2IC Partner

If you are a multi-tasker, take pride in building relationships and are keen to organize projects this might be for you. Our team is looking for a 2IC (second-in-command) individual who excels at building and maintaining corporate relationships while managing various programs and event initiatives. The role is best suited to a self-motivated dynamo keen to help lead a 40 year old business in new directions. In the role of 2IC you would work directly with the senior partner on managing daily operations with an emphasis on building out new initiatives. With the freedom of working from your home office you will work remotely with other team members to create and manage new projects, corporate sales & marketing, and project management to meet the company's aggressive goals so you will need to be sharp. And if you have ambitions to be a "partner" in a company with a vision to support & grow Atlantic Canada's startup community then we have even more to talk about.


• Co-manage existing operations and corporate partnerships, sales and marketing

• Co-develop new initiatives and buildout from existing ones

• Co-manage day-to-day operations including bookkeeping, communications with customers and partners, on-boarding of new team members . . . .

Read the full posting here.

Smart Skin Closes $3.1M Round

Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies, whose pressure-sensitive products help packaging companies operate more efficiently, has closed a $3.1 million round of funding.

Schott AG, a German maker of glass, glass-ceramics and packaging, is the lead investor in the round. It was joined by returning investor New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The 10-year-old company has developed a product called Quantifeel  -- a pressure-sensitive container that can be fed through a production line and warn packagers of costly bottlenecks.  

“This is an exciting period of growth for Smart Skin,” CEO Evan Justason said in a statement. “The funding will support the company’s platform development and market expansion, both geographically and in industry diversification.”

A team led by CTO Kumaran Thillainadarajah started Smart Skin in 2008 to commercialize technology developed at the University of New Brunswick that can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or other device. After testing a few markets, the team hit on a product for the beverage industry.

Food and drink companies with huge production lines have problems regulating the flow of cans. If too many pack the lines at once, bottlenecks occur and the system must be halted and fixed, reducing productivity. By placing Smart Skin’s Quantifeel drones — fake cans lined with a pressure-sensitive skin — in the production line, managers can monitor pressure and motion in the lines and prevent bottlenecks.

NBIF Leads Beauceron's Latest Round

The company said it is now used by global brands in beverage, food production and pharmaceutical industries.

In conjunction with the strategic investment, Fabian Stöcker, Schott Pharmaceutical’s Vice President Global Strategy and Innovation, will join Smart Skin’s Board of Directors.

“The addition of Mr. Stöcker to the board of directors perfectly aligns with Smart Skin’s evolution and his industry expertise will be invaluable,” said Justason.

Schott has more than 130 years of development, materials and technology expertise and offers a broad portfolio of products and intelligent solutions. It is also one of the world’s leading suppliers of parenteral packaging for the pharmaceutical industry.

Smart Skin has won the World Beverage Innovation Award in the category “Best manufacturing or processing innovation” for the Quantifeel System.

In late 2013, Smart Skin raised $3.9 million in venture capital in a round led by Rho Canada Ventures, Build Ventures and the GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund. The round also included investment by NBIF and angel investors.

Let’s Make Customer Research Sexy

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin

Every marketer or product manager worth their salt is looking for ways to do more with less.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always hunting for new channels, tactics or experiments to try. You want to create the maximum amount of impact for the minimum amount of effort.

So… when you’re working your tail off, but aren’t getting the results you’d hoped for, of course you want to find an easier way.

You want to work smarter. Not harder.

Well, what if I told you that the ultimate growth hack — the hack that fuels many of the world’s most innovative companies — is dead simple to copy.

This hack is simple, but apparently “it’s not sexy.”

Customer research is the ultimate growth hack

According to our friends at ProfitWell, companies that invest in ongoing customer research grow two to three times faster.

Did you catch that?

I’ll repeat it again for the people in the back…

Companies that invest in ongoing customer research grow two to three times faster.

Magical Growth Elixir

What is this magical growth elixir? Customer research — often called “customer development” — is the practice of gaining customer insights to generate, test, and optimize ideas through interviews and structured experiments.

It’s different than “market research.” Customer research isn’t about holding focus groups with random people or gathering demographic data for one-off projects. It’s about talking to your actual customers on an ongoing basis in an effort to understand their needs and discover untapped growth opportunities — not just to sell them stuff.

Many of the world’s fastest growing companies like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, IKEA and Intercom are extremely vocal champions for ongoing customer development.

Nearly every startup accelerator on the planet encourages teams to “build for the customer” and to “get out of the building and talk to customers.”

That sounds great, right? There’s just one problem. Customer research matters more than ever — but no one cares.

It’s never been easier to start a business. There are countless blog posts that teach would-be founders how to start a business with $0 or how to use open source tools to build your SaaS in weeks.

Starting is easy. But growth? Growth is tough.

And it’s only getting tougher.

According to a recent study, it costs 55 percent more to acquire a new customer today than it did five years ago.

A Tsunami Is Coming 

That might be because customers have more choice than ever before (10,000 businesses launch every single hour). Or maybe it’s because ad prices are rising almost as fast as customer expectations. *gulp*

According to a recent CXL article, “right now, there is a tsunami that’s coming to wipe out thousands of companies.”

We’re rapidly moving towards a business climate where customers wield ALL the power. To survive the storm that’s brewing, it’s no longer good enough to be customer-focused — you’ve gotta be customer-obsessed.

As Patrick Campbell, the CEO of ProfitWell, says, “Customer research matters more than ever. But no one seems to care, which is sad.”

Patrick isn’t just being dramatic. He’s got the evidence to prove it.

ProfitWell surveyed 5,000 software companies — both big (>$100M ARR) and small (<$1M ARR). They found that seven out of 10 companies were talking to fewer than 10 customers a month in a research capacity.

ProfitWell then asked those same software teams to rank the last product updates they released based on the following criteria:

How valuable was the new feature? (ie. would customers actually want to pay for it?)

How much did the new feature differentiate their product from their competitors?

ProfitWell then interviewed 1.2 million of their customers.

Here's what the 5000 companies thought they were producing:


And here's what their customers thought of the new product:


It turned out most of the customers didn’t value the new features nearly as much as the companies thought they would.

To put that in context…

Thousands of software companies are building the wrong stuff — and 70 percent of them don’t even know it because they’re not talking to their customers.

As Patrick Campbell says, “We’re now in a world where customer research has become so important because the pace of the market is faster than we can keep up, so building the right thing can’t be won by simply guessing and checking your way to success. We see this phenomenon in the actual market data.”

Put another way, the “hit and miss” nature of innovation and growth is no longer sustainable.

Why are so many smart teams getting it wrong?

This is quite literally the million-dollar question. Studies show that over 70 percent of VC-backed startups die within 18 months of raising US$1.3 million.

Why are these businesses failing? According to the founders themselves, it’s because they built a product with “no market need.”

Let that sink it for a second…

Many of these companies aren’t getting out-competed. It’s not because of founder breakups or crappy marketing. Most startups fail because they ignore their customers and end up building a product no one needs.

This is an avoidable mistake, right?

Why Do So Many Teams Get It Wrong?

If leveraging customer feedback can quite literally be the difference between success and failure, why are so many teams getting it wrong?

I think it’s partially because customer research can be overwhelming.

You can’t just ask customers what they want. A lot of companies have learned that the hard way. Customers often don’t really know what they want. Or they’ll tell you what they want, but then when you build it, they won’t buy it. And that is hella frustrating for product teams.

Hiten Shah, the co-founder of CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics, recently surveyed his email list and asked them what problems they were facing as it related to product management.

Over 100 product people replied and their problems fell into two main categories: managing customer feedback and getting alignment on their team about what to prioritize.

As Hiten says, many teams know they should be talking to more customers to guide innovation and improve their marketing and sales efforts. Yet they’re constantly challenged with who to talk to, what to ask them, how to analyze the feedback, and how to action what they learn.

Does that sounds familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many of the product teams I talk to are struggling with customer research. They know it’s “important,” but getting started feels overwhelming. I designed the Customer Camp workshop specifically to help teams overcome these common hurdles.

So, yeah. I think that overwhelm is part of the problem. But I think there’s actually another problem.

It’s a branding problem.

Many of my favourite marketers and product people are customer evangelists.

Thought leaders like Gary Vee, Neil Patel, Sean Ellis, Amy Porterfield, David Cancel, Eric Sui, Seth Godin, and Louis Grenier all preach about the importance of understanding your customer.

Thought Leaders' Advice Comes with a Caveat

Every single one of them advocates for the importance of doing ongoing qualitative research to guide innovation and accelerate growth.

Yet, when they introduce the topic of qualitative customer research  (a.k.a. talking to customers ),  it often comes with a caveat.

It usually goes something like this…

“It’s not sexy, but the best way to figure out [insert growth objective here] is by talking to your customers.”

I keep hearing this over and over. I keep hearing marketers and product people say that “customer research isn’t sexy.”

I’ve heard it on podcasts and on webinars. I’ve heard it during keynote presentations and read it in blog posts.

If we keep telling our teams or our clients that customer research is important — but that “it’s not sexy” — how can we expect them to get excited about it?

Why would they want to do it?

We talk about customer research the way we talk about flossing…

Everyone knows they *should* be doing it more often, but how many of us really are? (Be honest. I won’t tell your dental hygienist.)

We’re using scare tactics to get people to do it — like dentists do with flossing — but it’s clearly not working.

I think it’s time to change the conversation.

Time To Stop Apologizing 

Marketers and product teams need to stop apologizing for investing time in customer research.

We need to stop making customer research a negotiable line item in our growth strategy, and start treating it like what it really is — the holy cornucopia of awesomeness.

Simply put, if we want more teams to understand the importance of customer research, we need to make customer research sexy.

This is an open call to customer evangelists everywhere: we need to rebrand customer research — and quickly.

Luckily, as marketers and product people, we’re the best people for the job.

Did you know that marketers are the geniuses behind minty, foaming toothpaste? True story. Before us marketers came along brushing your teeth was boring. There was no delightful minty reward. It felt like work. Marketers made it a morning ritual.

Do you drink orange juice with your breakfast? You can thank marketers for that one too. Orange juice wasn’t even a thing until Alan Lasker, America’s first “Mad Man”, came along in 1916 and told the world that they should “drink an orange.” Decades later orange juice is still a breakfast staple.

My all-time favourite rebranding story? The diamond engagement ring. De Beers hired a marketing firm in 1938 and gave them one objective: figure out how to sell more diamonds.

The marketing team went to work. They did oodles of customer research and ended up developing one of the most successful positioning campaigns of all time. De Beers proudly told the world that “diamonds are forever” and single-handedly launched what would become a $72B industry.

Today 83 percent of engagement rings are diamond engagement rings.

Now we need to do it again.

Need to Rebrand Customer Research

We need to rebrand customer research.

It starts by changing the conversation. More specifically, we need to show people that talking to their customers to better understand their needs isn’t just some negotiable step in the innovation process. It’s not a chore that product teams must endure in order to get to the good stuff. When done right, it is the good stuff!

We need to start talking about customer research like the sparkling jewel that it really is.

We need to stop apologizing for needing to recommend it and start evangelizing it.

Companies that invest in ongoing customer research grow 2–3X faster. The teams that get it and do it right are reaping the rewards.

Qualitative customer research could be seen as the diamond engagement ring of growth techniques, but it’s OUR job to make that happen.

Here’s what I’m doing about it...

I created Customer Camp to show teams just how powerful customer research really is by tying it to something they already care about — creating a marketing plan for 2019.

Delivered as a unique sprint-style workshop, Customer Camp will empower teams to do a year’s worth of customer research and strategic planning in just a few days.

The program is very hands-on. Teams won’t just learn what they *should do* – they’ll actually *do the work* during each guided session.

Customer Camp starts on Nov. 21 and is free for eligible Digital Nova Scotia members.


Katelyn Bourgoin is a 3X founder turned growth geek. "I help product teams figure out who their best customers are and what triggers them to buy," she says. This article appeared previously on her website. 

Canndeloo’s Cannabis Rating System

The madness of the reefer market has left many consumers dazed and confused, so Canndeloo aims to help sort it out by giving cannabis brands ratings.

Based in Halifax, Canndeloo is an online platform that lets people rate their cannabis and the stores that sell the product. Users can rate and review their weed and use the platform as a guide for sampling new product. It’s like TripAdvisor for the pot market.

The company is led by CEO Charlie Khoury and plans to launch its website with the rating system in December. It hopes to become the top cannabis-rating service in Canada and then expand internationally.

“We’re more of a technology company than a cannabis company,” said Khoury in an interview this week. “We’re an online platform where users can rate the shops and brands.”

Pot became legal in Canada on Oct. 17 and Canada is growing an industry where none existed before. The thinking behind Canndeloo is that the sudden blossoming of an industry has left consumers intrigued and wanting more information on popular products.

As the market grows there will be more factors to consider, such as whether to buy the weed itself or to choose oils, edibles, gum or other product. Khoury said pot smokers tend to vary their products and want information on brands they haven’t sampled yet. He added that regular smokers can develop resistance to certain strains over time and Canndeloo can help them find other strains.

“We now have 7,800 cannabis strains in our database and that will grow,” said Khoury. “By the time we’re finished, we’ll have 50,000 products listed across Canada and that is an awful lot of product to know about. And they’re all new.”

Dispension Industries Offers a New Model for Drug Delivery

Khoury and Co-Founder Jordan Dearing began working on the company in April. Last month, they announced they are working with the web-development company immediaC as well as Charcoal Marketing, both of which are based in Halifax. Working with immediaC, the company reviewed several options for its system before selecting Microsoft’s Azure cloud-based computing service, using the .NET platform.

The Canndeloo rating system is based on proprietary algorithms that aim to maintain the integrity of the scoring system. In particular, it prevents brands from boosting their own product or a consumer from trashing a company with whom they have a disagreement.

Khoury said the company will make money in the early years from allowing stores to advertise and from displaying featured products. He noted that the company is working in a highly regulated environment in both sales and advertising.

The company has formed an advisory board that includes former premier Darrell Dexter, B4Checkin CEO Saar Fabrikant, and Talaal Rshaidat of the Florida-based medical cannabis dispensary Liberty Health Sciences. Dexter has become an authority on cannabis and chairs CannabisConnect, the cannabis practice of the consultancy Global Public Affairs.

“Canadian companies set the highest standards in production and are recognized around the world for the quality of their products,” said Dexter in a statement. “The end of prohibition created an environment for innovation for participants and it is a privilege to be able to assist.”

Propel Names 21 Startups to Incite

Barry Bisson

Barry Bisson

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian IT accelerator, has named the 21 teams accepted into the first cohort of Incite, its new digital program.

Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year regardless of where they are based in Atlantic Canada. It was designed to overcome two challenges facing a group offering mentorship to tech companies across the region: participants can join up regardless of where they’re based; and it guides companies for a longer period of time, rather than just putting them through an intense 12-week program.

More than 140 companies applied to the first cohort, and 21 companies from seven different cities were accepted.

“We were really pleased with the level of interest Incite garnered,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “The Propel team put a lot of work into redesigning our accelerator and we believe what we’ve developed is unprecedented. We look forward to seeing the results from the companies who complete the program.”

Since 2012, Propel has been offering classroom-based accelerators across the region with the goal of identifying promising young companies and helping them to bring a product to market. It began with Launch 36 six years ago. After three years, it switched to a two-tier system in which advanced companies attended a program in Moncton and newer companies were taught in sessions around the region.

After Bisson was hired as CEO last year, he oversaw a complete revamp of the accelerator program, which resulted in Incite.

Propel said the 21 companies were selected through an extensive recruitment process. A selection team vetted the applicants using a three-step process that included internal evaluation and scoring, assessment of the companies’ lean canvases and traction road maps, and one-on-one interviews.

The virtual accelerator is largely based on a learning management system developed by the Propel team based on feedback from alumni.

Propel worked with an instructional designer to make sure the learning objectives and outcomes were aligned with best practices in the education space. It also engaged subject matter experts from across Canada to contribute content.

The Incite program allows participants to move through the content at their own pace over a period of up to 12 months. Companies are evaluated every quarter and are selected to continue based on performance.

Propel will accept companies to the next Incite cohort in March. Applications will open mid-November.

Here are the 21 companies, their business model, and previous Entrevestor articles on a few of them.

Agyle Intelligence

David McNally

Mount Stewart, P.E.I.

Automating data collection and reporting throughout teams, operations and supply chains to improve decision making, simplify reporting and optimize profitability.

Agyle Inks BCIP Contract with Agriculture Canada


Alex Shalkin


An AI-empowered platform for SMEs to simplify automation of conversations with customers.

Atlantic Institute for Resilience

Jackie Kinley


A mental fitness training platform that enables workplaces to assess and build resilience.

Air: A Business Founded on Resilience


Cat Adalay and Rachel Carr


Aurea’s first product, Shine, is a portable, lightweight wind turbine that charges USB devices in remote locations. Its second product, Flare, is an urban wind energy system for high-rise buildings that creates electricity from naturally occurring wind tunnels.

Aurea Named a Co-Winner at Invest Atlantic


Brett Vokey

St. John's

BreatheSuite’s mission is to enable patients with asthma and COPD to take their inhalers correctly, without the need for separate training devices.


Paul Doerwald


Clockk automates time sheets, making the worst part of agency life less annoying.

Clockk Wins $25,000 at Volta Cohort Event

Commlet Technologies

Patsy Leadbeater


Commlet combines a user-friendly app with GPS bracelets to support school trip supervision.

Commlet Among the Winners in Spark Competition


Nelson Peters


A legal technology company using AI to improve access to justice.


Mykola Kushnir


A mobile app to scan the human body to provide the perfect size recommendation while shopping online.


Purushothaman Cannane


A mobile app to reduce food waste in Canada


Shameer Iqbal

Wolfville, N.S.

A platform that helps people with sleep apnea find better lifestyle habits to improve their sleep.


James Weatherbie

Saint John

A platform to search for the best deal in home-related services – such as movers, cleaners or contractors.

Room Service

Johnathan Cannon


RoomServiceHFX.com delivers food to your front door within 45 minutes.

Room Service Creating an Online Store


Matthew Zimola


Analyzes real-time video feeds from fish pens to help the aquaculture industry.

Sensory Friendly Solutions

Christel Seeberger

Saint John

An app leading the movement towards a more sensory friendly world.


Bo Simango

St. John’s

An intelligent hospital platform that leverages real-time analytics and sensor technology to help hospitals operate smarter, safer and faster.

SmartCatch Systems

Pierre Bassaler-Merpillat


Tools and data analysis for production forecast, traceability and origin certification for lobster harvesting and shellfish farming.


Lee Babin and Jacob Christie


A platform that produces more compelling, confident speakers by providing users a private speaking dojo and actionable feedback.

Speakr Among 5 Teams Splitting $125K at Volta Cohort

Team Stripes

Brandon Bourgeois


An e-learning platform for hockey officials.


Shea Munro

Cape Breton

An AI-based personal training platform through which users receive proper form coaching from a mobile app.


Matthew Gillis

Cape Breton

A knee rehabilitation tool designed to improve home exercise programs for patients with knee conditions.

Armoyan Spans New, Old Economy

George Armoyan

George Armoyan

George Armoyan feels like he’s gone back to school every time he attends a Creative Destruction Lab session.

Armoyan was trained as an engineer and has made his fortune in real estate development. Yet he is now one of the fellows at CDL-Atlantic and is becoming more involved with the program in Toronto. That means this developer is getting more involved in innovation, and he’s part of a trend.

Armoyan would like to see more participation in the new economy from people in industries that have been around for generations.

“They should be looking at it more,” Armoyan said in an interview.

“Most of us traditional industry guys are technology laggards so you have to have the desire and willingness to look at new things, to expand beyond your own experience. For me, it’s like going back to school again. You learn a lot.”

Armoyan is best known as the executive chairman of Clarke Inc. and the president of GeoSam Capital. Though he cut his teeth in development in the Halifax area, he said he now spends about 20 per cent of his time throughout the East Coast as his companies are involved in projects in Toronto and Montreal. During the interview, he was at one of his job sites in Montreal, where a few hundred workers are erecting one of his projects.

Armoyan’s involvement with new technologies includes investments in 35 young companies in Atlantic Canada and other parts of the world. He’s also spending more time mentoring entrepreneurs.

The Evolution of Pre-Seed Funding in Atlantic Canada

He was coy about what companies he is backing, but one is Harbr. The Halifax company is developing mobile technology that uses artificial intelligence to help construction companies perfect such tasks as scheduling. Harbr raised $1.75 million this year in a funding round that Armoyran co-led.

As well as bringing capital, which is a blessing for most startups, Armoyan and his team are able to work with Harbr by using its platform on their construction projects and providing invaluable feedback.

Armoyan said he enjoys meeting the bright young people heading these companies, and he was surprised to learn how advanced the ecosystem is in developing these companies.

Given that he’s involved in CDL cohorts in Halifax and Toronto, he’s starting to see different entrepreneurs working on the same idea. But, overall, he said he’s impressed with the array and depth of innovation he’s witnessed.

One thing he enjoys bringing to discussions with young entrepreneurs is real experience in moving projects forward. The entrepreneurs who launch startups are often approaching their ventures with an appreciation of the potential of technology, but they need help in understanding what it takes to get into the market. For a product targeting construction, for example, they have to understand that projects are complicated by finances, engineering challenges and NIMBYism.

“By working with them, it allows them to come into our offices and see how can they practise some of their theories,” said Armoyan.

Disclosure: CDL-Atlantic is a client of Entrevestor.

Croda Opens Marine Biotech Centre

Charlottetown-based Nautilus Biosciences, a subsidiary of U.K. specialty chemical-maker Croda Intl., has marked its official opening as the new Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology.

The announcement on Wednesday comes about nine months after the P.E.I. marine biotech company was purchased by Croda for an undisclosed price.  At the time of the purchase, Russell Kerr, company founder and  University of Prince Edward Island professor, said that becoming part of the Croda group would provide Nautilus with the resources and support to establish a centre for the research and development of marine-derived natural products.

Now, Croda has established Nautilus Biosciences as Croda’s Global Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology at Nautilus’ existing base at UPEI. Nautilus Biosciences has exclusive global access to the Marine Microbial Library, which is based at the university.

“This is an exciting day for us,” said Kerr in the statement. “We’ve been very fortunate to build on a relationship with a multinational speciality chemical company that values growth through sustainable innovation – enhancing our ability to discover even more marine microbes as a potential source of commercial ingredients. We are very proud to be opening this Centre of Innovation in Marine Biotechnology in Prince Edward Island.”

Prior to the January purchase, Nautilus had worked with Croda for six years, developing applications for skin and hair care and crop care.

The statement said that Kerr has worked since 2007 to establish the Marine Microbial Library at UPEI, collecting marine samples from the oceans of Canada and around the world and developing techniques to assess their value as sources of sustainable chemistry.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Croda has a market capitalization of £6.38 billion ($10.6 billion) and in calendar 2016 had sales of £1.2 billion. The company is so acquisitive that it has a tab on its website to show the companies around the world that it has purchased.

The statement Wednesday said that Croda’s investment in the new Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology will accelerate Nautilus’ research and product development work that identifies sustainable, natural sources of functional ingredients.

The opening of the expanded Nautilus facility follows the investment by Croda in an automated high-throughput screening system that increases the discovery of products derived from the marine microbe library.

“Croda’s investment in Nautilus is a testament to the quality of the innovation ecosystem in PEI. Our business, research, and government partners work together to help academics and early stage companies commercialize their technologies and attract new investment,” said Rory Francis, Executive Director of the PEI BioAlliance, the private sector-led partnership of businesses, research and academic institutions and government agencies working to build the province’s bioscience sector.

“This is how we continue to grow this sector and increase its contribution to our provincial economy,” Francis said.


STEMfest Industry Day Set for Nov. 7

The STEMFest Industry Day will be held next Wednesday in Halifax, with the goal of helping companies from all sectors thrive in a digital world.

The one-day event will feature keynote speakers and panelists who will share their vision of the importance and diversity of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Presentations will focus on such topics as big data and artificial intelligence, design thinking and disruption, cybersecurity, smart cities and diversified workplaces.

“It’s a survival plan for any business in this day and age,” said Michael Shepherd, the Industry Day Committee Chair. “It’s about protecting your business and growing your business in the digital age.”

Industry Day is part of the one-week STEMfest, which will feature a series of events beginning on Nov. 3 for youth, university students, and others.  The idea is to increase the knowledge of digital technologies throughout the business community and beyond. You can see the full agenda here.

The committee aims to get a broad range of businesses to attend Industry Day to learn more about using digital technologies to improve their business performance. The topics will range from protecting their organizations against cyber threats to using data analysis or artificial intelligence to improve productivity.

BDC Highlights Weak Adoption of Digital Tech in Atlantic Canada

Over lunch, there will be a “live hack” into an organization’s computer system to give attendees a better understanding of how cyber criminals operate.

The organizers expect about 200 senior decision-makers will come together for an opportunity to learn, collaborate, connect, and do business.

The keynote speakers at Industry Day will include: Steven Woods, Senior Engineering Director and site lead for Google Canada’s primary engineering site in Kitchener-Waterloo; and Corinna Lathan, CEO, Co-Founder, and Board Chair of AnthroTronix, Inc.

Industry Day will be held Nov. 7 at the Halifax Convention Centre and you can buy your tickets here.



Disclosure: STEMfest Industry Day is a client of Entrevestor.

Sapien Helps You Stay Off Phone

Cam Crain

Cam Crain

If you’ve ever had a hard time staying off of your phone, Sapien’s Lightdogs app might help.

Cam Crain, the founder of technology startup Sapien, said the app is like “Pokémon Go meets with Focus Timer.”

“Basically you earn points [called joules] by spending time unplugged from your smartphone and then use them to build a collection of these virtual super dogs,” he said. “You set a time and while the timer’s counting down, you’re earning points. But if you leave the app before your timer’s done, you lose all those points.”

The virtual dogs are called Lightdogs, which users can care for. They start as eggs that can then evolve into adult Lightdogs. If you’re a 90s kid, this might be reminiscent of playing Tamagotchi, except users can also breed the Lightdogs.

Crain said he had been worried about the amount of time people spend on their smartphones for a few years. When he came across Cryptokitties, collectable cats created by Ethereum to get people involved in cryptocurrency, an idea was sparked.  . . . 

Read the Full Article on Huddle.

Founder Asks: Can Sales be Taught?

Cameron Ritchie, left, with former Dragon's Den star Brett Wilson at the Startup Canada Awards.

Cameron Ritchie, left, with former Dragon's Den star Brett Wilson at the Startup Canada Awards.

An interesting young New Brunswicker posed an interesting question on the Headspace for Entrepreneurs Facebook page over the weekend, sparking an interesting discussion.

The subject was a topic dear to the heart of all entrepreneurs – sales.

“What do you think?” asked Cameron Ritchie, a first-year University of New Brunswick student who heads a startup called Homewurk. “Can someone learn how to excel in sales? Or do people have to be naturally gifted in order to crush sales?”

Before we dive into the discussion that ensued, let me give a bit of background. Ritchie is a guy you’ll be hearing more about in the future. (At least you will if you’re a regular Entrevestor reader. We’ll be profiling him in the next week or so.) Earlier this month, Startup Canada handed him its national award as its Young Entrepreneur of the Year. It’s the second time in three years an Atlantic Canadian has won the award, which says something about the quality of education and support for young entrepreneurs in the region.

Ritchie – whose company links students looking to do odd jobs with homeowners who need such help – is searching for a sales-slash-business-development person to help grow the company, and you can tell sales are on his mind these days.

He’s asked the fundamental nature-vs-nurture question about sales people: Can they be trained? Or is it a skill that people are born with? It’s a question that Canadian universities in particular need to ask because there is not a single public university in the country that offers a full sales program. It’s a mind-numbing void given that Corporate Canada is screaming for new sales talent, and about 80 to 90 percent of undergrads completing such programs in the U.S. find great jobs right out of school.

The sales profession doesn’t have a great reputation, but the responses to Ritchie’s question showed why a sales career is a noble calling.

“Sales is about investing in people,” responded Amanda Betts, the CEO of eChart Healthcare in Fredericton. “Build the relationship and the money will come.”

The word “relationship” came up in several responses. The consensus seemed to be that there are natural salespeople, or at least people who possess the skillsets that are effective in selling. But that doesn’t mean there’s not also a place for training, for learning the proper processes, social skills, ethics, techniques in closing and using digital sales tools. The key ingredient is to engage with people.

“I think it can be learned,” said Henry Yates, the CEO of Enso Beverage Co. in Saint John. “[The] strategy is to create meaningful relationships. 10-14 per day, sales will eventually follow.”

Above all, said several respondents, the key to sales is developing relationships with potential customers, understanding their problems and selling them solutions. That’s probably neither a natural talent nor something that’s taught – it’s simply a fundamental business practice.

“Remember, business is a game and there are rules and processes for success,” said J. Rivers Corbett, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Opportunities New Brunswick and the founder of the Headspace Facebook page. “So first of all, a great salesperson practises those rules for success. Secondly, yes it needs to be in your DNA to want to be a salesperson. Hard to do anything well if your heart isn’t in it.”

One Week Till St. John’s Data Event

I’m really looking forward to meeting with members of the St. John’s startup community next Tuesday for a presentation of our data report.

I’ll deliver the presentation at the Emera Innovation Exchange on Nov. 6 at 10:30 am. We’d love you to join us to learn about what’s happening in the startup community in Atlantic Canada. There will be a special emphasis on the community and ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador.

You can register for the event here.

As well as producing daily news on Atlantic Canadian startups, Entrevestor gathers and analyzes data on the sector, which we produce as a report each year. We have been reporting lately on the findings of our 2017 report on entrevestor.com.

My talk outlines our data analysis, which gives the best picture available on the state of the region’s startup community. Based on surveys and interviews with founders across the region, Entrevestor’s analysis includes such metrics as company launches, failures, employment, funding and revenues.

So far, I’ve held public presentations in Charlottetown and Fredericton. My talk in St. John’s will be hosted by Killick Capital, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and Genesis.


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