The federal government has lent Dartmouth-based Beyond Food Inc. $925,000 to develop a manufacturing plant and market its nutritional supplement made out of grocery store produce nearing its sell-by date.
The two-year-old company’s mission is to reduce food wastage, which now amounts to $49.5 billion a year in Canada alone, by finding supermarket produce that is about to be tossed out and using it to make a food supplement. It sells nutrition products under the brand TDF Sports, and the supplements are available nationwide.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement Tuesday saying Beyond Food is establishing a new manufacturing facility in Dartmouth to scale up its plant-based nutritional supplement production capacity. This will allow the company to rent its Nutrient Upcycle pods, which are repurposed shipping containers fitted with clean processing technology, to local grocers.
The pods will enable grocers to dehydrate and transform thousands of dollars worth of late-stage fruits and vegetables into nutrient-dense powders. The powders will then be used as ingredients in value-added supplements manufactured and packaged at Beyond Food’s new facility in Dartmouth.
“The issue of food waste and food insecurity is large and complicated,” said Beyond Food Co-Founder and CEO Darren Burke in the statement. “We have developed a unique technology that can have a significant impact on the environment, economy and for those in need. It is great to have the support from our government and trade partners locally and outside of the region. The involvement from multiple stakeholders including ACOA has helped us advance our business and will be instrumental in our success.”
ACOA has supported the company by making two loans to Beyond Food through the agency’s Business Development Program. The first, for $500,000, will be used to develop a marketing plan to grow awareness of the brand, establish distribution channels and increase sales.
The second loan is worth $425,000. It will be used to establish a production facility to manufacture and package nutritional supplements, to continue research and development on plant-based proteins, and convert food waste into high-value products.
Burke is a serial entrepreneur, who sold his previous company Rivalus Sports Nutrition, Inc. in 2013. He linked up two years ago with former NHL forward TJ Galiardi to plot a business that would develop a product from food that would otherwise be wasted. The management team they assembled includes First Angel Network Co-Founder Brian Lowe, who previously held senior positions with such Halifax companies as Immunovaccine Technologies and ABK Biomedical.
The team raised $1 million in equity funding earlier this year from a range of investors, including several former National Hockey League players.
The company, whose long-term goal is to produce drugs that can combat antibiotic-resistant viruses, issued a statement Monday evening saying the Toronto Stock Exchange had accepted its application for an initial public offering.
Appili is not raising new funds in the listing as it meets the TSX Venture requirements for capital, with enough money in the bank to last until mid-2020. The company raised $3.6 million earlier in the year via a sale of warrants. Since inception, the company has raised a total of $15.4 million in equity funding and $19 million in non-dilutive funds, and decided last autumn that its best long-term route to capital would be found in public markets.
“This public listing is an important part of our evolution as we look to continue to build our pipeline of products that treat the most serious threats to human health,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in an email Monday night. “It really is an exciting part of our life cycle/growth strategy that we are keen to show the markets.”
Just four years old, Appili has been working on promptly bringing out a drug with a fairly narrow market, so it can get revenue to help finance more ambitious projects.
Two years ago, it was allowed a fast-track regulatory process for its first drug candidate, ATI-1501, because the compound is based on a drug called metronidazole that had already been approved.
ATI-1501 treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children. ATI-1501 removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the existing drug.
Meanwhile, Appili is also working on a second compound, ATI-1503, which will take longer to develop but aims for a larger market in addressing antibiotic-resistant viruses. The company has added at least one other candidate to its portfolio of potential drugs.
In a recent prospectus, the company said it planned to spend $106,000 in the near-term in manufacturing and partnering activities with ATI-1501, and $1.2 million on chemical and biological testing for ATI-1503 with the goal of finding a clinical lead candidate.
“We’ve already built a sturdy financial foundation; recruited a strong base of investors; assembled a steadfast, smart, and diverse leadership team; and created a pipeline of three attractive assets with near-term milestones,” said Sullivan in the press release. “Taking the company public is expected to enable access to additional capital and resources, thus expanding our potential to address more unmet needs – and ultimately create more value for shareholders and solutions for patients.”
Propel Seeks Incite Applicants
Propel, the Atlantic Canadian tech support organization, has opened applications for the next cohort of Incite Phase 2, the virtual accelerator for scaling companies.
Incite is Propel’s accelerator for early-stage tech startups across the region, and Phase 2 is a program of up to nine months that focuses on building a repeatable sales engine. It is customized and adapted to fit each individual company’s needs. You can find the application form here.
“We’re looking for companies who have fine-tuned their problem/solution fit and are now looking to build a sales engine,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “Phase 2 of Incite is really focused on customer success so the companies will transform their mindset to be customer obsessed. In turn, they’ll see consistent growth in their sales pipeline.”
Propel in April accepted 30 companies into Phase 1 of Propel for this year and plans to begin the Phase 2 program in September. The deadline to apply is July 31 but a select few applicants may be granted early admission to the program.
Phase 2 culminates with an investor only demo day.
In order to qualify for Phase 2, companies should:
Have an ICT component to their business model;
Have achieved “problem-solution fit”;
Have sales or are close to having sales;
And have full-time founders.
“You cannot create a successful business without being pushed outside of your comfort zone," said Laura Simpson, CEO and co-founder of Side Door. “Propel’s Incite encouraged us to analyze how we were doing things and to adjust in order to reach our goals more effectively.”
Side Door participated in the last Phase 2 cohort and was the inaugural winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize and the option for a $30,000 investment.
MTI Eyes $10M+ Raise During IPO
by Peter Moreira
Metamaterial Technologies Inc. plans to raise more than $10 million in fresh capital when it lists its shares on the Canadian Security Exchange later this year.
In an interview Monday, MTI Co-Founder and CEO George Palikaras said his company is seeking the listing to help finance expansion and position itself to grow more aggressively in the future.
“This is not an exit,” said Palikaras. “This is the next chapter of growth for us. … We have a very aggressive growth strategy where we will consider M&A as long as it contributes to the company. We feel it [the listing] allows us greater opportunities for growth.”
The company has been raising capital and received commitments of about $3 million on its own. Continental Precious Minerals will invest as much as $4.8 million in the company through the merger, for a total commitment so far of about $8 million. Palikaras hopes now to generate further capital commitments this summer and that the shares will begin trading on the CSE in the fall.
MTI’s board is steeped with executives who have experience in public markets, said Palikaras, and they believe there is a greater opportunity for growth as a public company. As a deep technology company attacking several market segments, MTI can find more excitement among stock market investors than venture capital funds, he added.
“Consumers and industries adopt innovations at a much faster pace today than years ago,” he said. “MTI’s technologies and solutions are now meeting the tipping point: it meets our customer’s functional needs, provides additional value and the price is attractive to the industries we serve.”
MTI is a specialist in producing metamaterials – materials comprising compounds not found in nature – that alter light, either by enhancing, absorbing or blocking it. The company is best known for co-developing metaAIR with Airbus. The partnership is producing a transparent covering for airplane cockpit windows and eyewear that can filter out laser attacks.
MTI is now concentrating on four market segments in which its materials can improve performance: aerospace and defence; medical products; automotive (where Palikaras says there is increasing interest); and clean technology.
Palikaras wouldn’t say which of the segments he’s most excited about (“It’s like asking which of your kids is the favourite.”) but did say the business space is an exciting one. The Financial Times recently listed metamaterial science as one of 50 technologies that will change the world, and Palikaras believes it is has disruptive market potential.
The statement said MTI produced “development revenue” (which is payment it received from partners to develop products for them) of $1.6 million in 2018. Overall, revenues in the last few years have averaged growth of about 40 percent annually, and Palikaras added the company should receive revenue from selling products this year.
MTI reported a net loss of $5.1 million in 2018.
MTI now has more than 40 employees working at its offices in Dartmouth, London, U.K. (where it conducts R&D into healthcare products), and Silicon Valley. It gained its Silicon Valley operations in May 2016 when it bought a California company called Rolith to take on its ability to manufacture transparent films in large dimensions.
News of the Dartmouth-based company’s plan to go public broke Friday night when publicly listed Continental Precious Minerals Inc. issued a statement saying the two companies would merge and list on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
MTI is a specialist in producing metamaterials – materials comprising compounds not found in nature – that alter light, either by magnifying, repelling or filtering it. The company is best known for its metaAIR venture with Airbus, which is producing a transparent covering for airplane cockpit windows that can filter out laser attacks.
The company last raised equity capital in April 2017 when it closed an $8.3 million venture capital round led by Radar Capital of Toronto. Since then, MTI has signed several deals in which funding organizations and/or its partners have helped to finance its projects.
Now, Continental Precious Minerals says it has signed a letter of intent to merge with MTI in an exchange for shares that will leave MTI shareholders with 84.6 percent of the combined company. The new company will be called Metamaterial Technologies Inc. and will preserve the MTI management team, led by President and CEO George Palikaras.
Continental is now listed on the TSX Venture exchange, and intends to delist from that market so the combined company can list on the Canadian Securities Exchange, an alternative exchange that is gaining traction with high-growth companies.
The statement said Lamda Guard Technologies Ltd., a company owned by some Metamaterial founders and Innovacorp, will probably own more than 10 percent of the listed company.
The statement said MTI produced “development revenue” of $1.6 million in 2018, resulting in a net loss of $5.1 million. At the end of last year, it had total assets of $13.2 million, total liabilities of $13.3 million and total shareholders’ equity of minus $177,000.
MTI now has more than 30 employees working at its offices in Dartmouth, London, U.K. (where it conducts R&D into healthcare products), and Silicon Valley. It gained its Silicon Valley operations in May 2016 when it bought a California company called Rolith to take on its ability to manufacture screens in large dimensions.
The big breakthrough for MTI came in 2014 when its Lamda Guard affiliate signed a deal with Airbus to produce cockpit windshield screens that would protect pilots from laser attacks.
The world’s largest aircraft maker is cooperating with the Nova Scotian startup on the development of a transparent, flexible film that can go over the aircraft windshields to block out laser beams. The shield is necessary because aircraft pilots are increasingly subject to laser attacks where lasers are shone into cockpit windows to blind the crew.
Resqunit Canada Inc., the North American subsidiary of Norwegian oceantech company Resqunit A/S, is setting up in Halifax as a base for its growth in Canada and the U.S.
The parent company has developed a floatation device that can be attached to lobster traps and other equipment to ensure these traps are not lost on the ocean floor. Resqunit has already sold 5,000 units of the product and will do a full retail launch in Norway this summer.
The company issued a statement last week announcing Erik Nobbe will lead and co-own the Halifax operation. As well as a base for business development, the Halifax office will conduct research and development to help produce future versions of the product.
“Halifax is the epicenter for oceans technology companies, located literally halfway between west coast USA and Europe, and offers extremely supportive industry and governments alike,” said the statement.
Resqunit, founded in 2017, is addressing the global problem of “ghost fishing”, which is the all too common phenomenon of lobster traps, crab pots or other such gear getting lost on the ocean floor. These lost traps continue to ensnare marine life for long periods of time, needlessly killing animals and depleting stocks. When the gear eventually breaks down, it contributes to micro-plastics in seawater.
Resqunit says 3500 lost pieces of fishing gear were collected by scuba divers in the last two years off Norway alone.
The Resqunit solution is a small device that clamps on to the side of the fishing gear, say, a lobster trap. If the trap is in the water for an extended period of time, the unit activates the floatation buoy it encloses, and the trap floats to the surface where it can be collected. The fishers save money and an environmental hazard is removed from the ocean.
“Lost fishing gear (aka Ghost Gear) and Ghost Fishing is an enormous threat to marine life on the oceans floor, and by far the largest contributor to oceanic micro-plastic pollution,” said Resqunit CEO Helge Trettø Olsen in the statement. “In Norway the product is unanimously welcomed by fishers, environmental organizations and the Directorate of Fisheries, and will be in stores all over Norway in July.”
“We are proud to have recruited Erik Nobbe as CEO of the company,” said Helge Trettø Olsen. “He will be a great addition to our team.”
Beauceron Partners with CIRA
Fredericton-based Beauceron Security, which helps clients improve their cybersecurity culture, has agreed to offer training services through the organization that oversees the .ca domain registration.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, or CIRA, issued a statement Wednesday saying it has launched its new D-Zone Cybersecurity Awareness Training platform. It will use the Beauceron solution to help enterprise customers train their users in how to protect themselves against a cyber-attack.
Growing out of the University of New Brunswick, Beauceron has developed a cloud-based risk-management platform that monitors the human elements in cyber-risk. In other words, it helps companies and organizations make sure their staff are doing the right things to ensure they are protected against cyber-attacks.
“The responsibility for cybersecurity is no longer solely on the IT department; all users have a role to play,” said CIRA Vice-President of Product Development Dave Chiswell in the statement. “Employees who are cyber aware can be a company’s biggest asset in the escalating battle against cybercrime. Beauceron has created a platform that delivers cybersecurity training in a simple and engaging way. We are proud to have them as a partner in our growing suite of cybersecurity services.”
Beauceron has been gaining steam since it launched three years ago. Last year, it raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and was accepted into CyLon, a London, England-based accelerator for cybersecurity companies.
Partnering with CIRA will allow it to reach more customers.
Based in Ottawa, CIRA manages the .ca domain, which is one of the fastest-growing country-specific domains in the world. It also oversees related services, such as a global Domain Name Server, or DNS, network, and one of the world’s most advanced back-end registry solutions.
The organization has been building up a suite of cybersecurity technologies and services to support its goal of building a better online industry in Canada. These services include the D-Zone DNS Firewall and D-Zone Anycast DNS, which together work within the DNS layer to defend against cyberattacks.
A DNS maintains a directory of domain names and translates them to Internet Protocol addresses.
CIRA is now broadening the scope of its cybersecurity offerings by helping its clients train their users in avoiding practices that would leave them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
CIRA’s 2018 Cybersecurity Survey found that 43 percent of all organizations still suffered business-impacting cyberattacks. Larger organizations tend to experience more attacks than smaller ones. This underscores the importance of adding employees to the defensive posture and not just treating them as a risk to be managed with technology, said the organization.
It added that organizations implementing D-Zone Cybersecurity Awareness Training, which uses the Beauceron technology, see an average three-times reduction in users being tricked by phishing emails.
The program includes industry-leading integration testing, simulation, gamification and reports to provide a fully automated platform that requires minimal IT management, said the statement. The platform automatically adjusts the frequency and level of testing and training based on user behavior.
“Beauceron is proud to be partnering with an organization that shares our goal of making a more secure online experience accessible to all Canadians,” said Beauceron CEO David Shipley. “CIRA is a trusted partner with a methodical approach to meeting the needs of their clients and community.”
GIT, which uses the innovative material graphene as the basis of its coating, announced Wednesday that it had joined a partnership to assess how well its product works in ocean settings. The other members of the partnership are:
Newfoundland Aqua Service, also based in St. John’s, a manufacturer and service provider of fish cages, boats, docks, and nets for the aquaculture industry;
And Millbrook First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community in the heart of Nova Scotia operating fishing vessels and industrial facilities.
Together, the four partners will apply to the Ocean Supercluster for funding to support their research into how well GIT’s product Graphene Coat can protect marine equipment and structures.
“Our project will evaluate our technology on ships and on other applications such as aquaculture equipment,” said GIT Chief Executive Mo AlGermozi in a statement. “We also expect to develop new graphene-based products as various applications are identified across Canada’s ocean economy.”
GIT has developed a marine coating whose main ingredient is graphene, a carbon-based material that is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. Algermozi and his Co-Founder Marciel Gaier developed a new method for producing graphene while they were students at Dalhousie University, and have since used it as the base for a product that can coat and protect objects exposed to oceans.
Graphene Coat undercoats ships, buoys or unmanned marine exploration vessels with a hard coating that prevents corrosion and buildup and in turn, extends the life and efficiency of what it’s coating. The coating is also environmentally friendly since it doesn’t leach into the water, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by easing the drag of long-haul ships.
The current project focuses on understanding the range of marine applications for GIT’s coatings to better protect marine equipment and maritime structures at risk of corrosion and “biofouling”. The partners also plan to examine the efficiencies that Graphene Coat can offer. These include reduced fuel consumption on vessels using GIT coatings and the replacement of toxic copper-based biofouling products currently in use across various maritime industries, said the statement.
Private corporations that join the Supercluster organization can identify common problems that they’ve experienced and would like to find a solution to. They would each put up money, and approved projects can also receive financing from the Supercluster fund.
The Ocean Supercluster has not yet announced the approval of any of these research projects, nor the details of its agreement with the federal government.
Rise Gains B-Corp Certification
The Rise Team
As Fredericton-based Rise prepares to monetize its online platform, it will do so with a newly acquired environmental certification.
Rise runs a website that offers home-building and renovation advice for environmentally conscious consumers. It has now been certified as a “B Corporation” by Pennsylvania-based nonprofit B Lab.
B Corporations are required to pass a stringent certification process that verifies them to be dedicated equally to environmental, social and fiscal responsibility.
“It’s about making sure your decisions are not just guided by making money, but also guided by… making sure that your community is well-served, making sure that people within the organization are happy, and also that the environment is respected at the same time,” said Rise CEO Matt Daigle in an interview.
The website, buildwithrise.com, allows visitors to read articles by staff and contributors, explore a database of green products, and identify financial rebates from governments and corporations.
It also includes interactive photos of green homes that can be moused over for more information, and will let users search for relevant retailers and contractors.
Daigle plans to monetize the site this summer by featuring vetted manufacturers in Rise’s product databases, in exchange for a fee.
He said that the B Corporation certification will help Rise demonstrate to its environmentally conscious customers—48 per cent of whom are planning a home renovation project within a year—that its values are aligned with their own.
“The reason that people are coming back to our site is that we’ve become a trusted source,” he said. “Rise won’t be able to enjoy the kind of success that it wants to have without having these values. The minute that we step out of that realm… the credibility and trust factor with homeowners starts to erode.”
According to the B Lab website, “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
B Corporations must pass a multi-stage assessment process, file annual reports on their activities with B Lab, and implement an explicit human rights policy, among other requirements.
Other B Corporations include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Proctor & Gamble subsidiary New Chapter.
Rise’s certification has been planned since it was founded in 2015, with the actual vetting process occurring between May 2018 and May 2019.
“We’re in a time where the environment is at the top of everyone’s list and climate change is a real thing, and so many people are dedicating their lives to helping,” said Daigle. “So when you’re thinking of starting a company, you have to ask yourself, What are you really trying to do? Are you really just trying to make a buck?”
Proof Heads to Pitch@Palace Finals
Ben Sanders, left, Luke DeCoste and Wes George
Proof, whose SaaS platform helps governments make better decisions, can add another trophy to the cabinet, having won the Pitch@Palace event in Toronto last month.
The company, which is a resident of Volta in Halifax, has quietly been building a list of national programs that it has entered and excelled in. The latest was the Canadian leg of Pitch@Palace, an international competition championed by Prince Andrew. Proof and another company were chosen the winners from 24 competitors from across the country last month, and will now travel to St. James’s Palace in London in December for the international finals of Pitch@Palace.
The reason for the early success of this company is Proof solves a huge societal problem: the challenges governments face in making decisions.
“Governments make the most important decisions in the world but they don’t get access to the best software,” said Co-Founder Luke DeCoste in an interview Tuesday. “The fundamental thing that government does is make decisions, and many people are involved in every decision. That means there are hundreds of documents floating around every department so things get lost.”
Founded in 2016 and based in Halifax and Yukon, Proof set out to digitize the decision process for governments to remove paper and pens from the decision-making process. The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps government officials track and route documents digitally.
The dashboard allows officials to highlight matters that need urgent approval, follow the timeline of a specific issue, and track who has signed off on a matter.
“Proof empowers public servants and government officials with technology designed specifically for the approval process of government,” said the company’s website. “We drastically lower friction, empower team members throughout the review process, and collect data to better understand operations and constituent issues.”
DeCoste said Proof has signed up 15 public-sector clients in Canada and aims to double that in the near future, then make inroads into the U.S.
And it has closed an equity funding round, led by the national early-stage venture capital fund Panache Ventures. The 15 investors included the new Halifax-based VC fund Concrete Ventures. DeCoste, whose title is Chief Governance Officer, wouldn’t say how much Proof had raised in the round, but did say it’s enough to hire 15 people in the next 18 months. By that time, the company hopes to be cash-flow positive.
The six-member Proof team – which includes Co-Founders DeCoste, Ben Sanders and Wes George – is steeped in government processes and have used their contacts and background to sell to government departments at all levels. Governments are notoriously difficult to sell to, so Proof began with indigenous governments and municipalities, then provinces and recently landed its first federal departments.
To make the sales easy, they have designed a product that’s easy to install, is priced below government procurement thresholds, and has the certifications required by governments. DeCoste added that once government departments begin using the technology, they keep using it.
Proof will be one of 22 companies presenting at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax on June 26 and 27.
EChart has developed an innovative digital patient-charting system that simplifies the way long-term care facilities track the health of their patients. The cloud-based system allows the facilities’ staff and the patients’ family members to all receive pertinent information in real-time.
CEO Amanda Betts – whose family operates the Autumn Lee Retirement Home in Moncton – started eChart three years ago to solve the problem of communicating vital information to staff and family members.
“The best technology companies solve a clear and growing problem,” said NBIF Director of Investment Ray Fitzpatrick in a statement. “That’s what eChart Healthcare does very well with its digital charting system. The long-term care software market is expected to grow to US$5.6 billion by 2026. eChart Healthcare is well poised to succeed in this fast-growing market.”
The investment will support additional product development as well as sales and marketing activities.
The statement said Betts drew inspiration for the functionality of eChart Healthcare through her experience operating a senior care home.
The software she developed created a way for staff and families to receive information readily available at the point of care with real-time data on things like medication, vitals, meals, activities and even a mood tracker. That led to pilot projects with long-term care facilities and pharmacies, and now a seed investment round, said the statement.
“Moving an aging parent or relative into a long-term care facility is never easy,” said Betts. “Our eChart platform is creating connected care that gives families and facilities access to all the important information about a loved one in a simple, easy-to-use way. This creates new efficiencies in care delivery and lets the staff of long-term care facilities focus their energies on caring for their residents.”
Halifax Index: Population Up Again
The Halifax Partnership unveiled its Halifax Index on Monday, revealing that surging population growth, especially among young people, has led to an increase in GDP.
The annual assessment of the economy of the Nova Scotian capital shows that the population increased by 2 percent in 2018, and the strongest growth was in the 25- to 39-year-old age group. That population increase contributed to a 1.6 percent gain in GDP. It was the third year in a row that Halifax’s population had increased, reversing a five-year period in which there were four years of decline.
“The results are very encouraging and consistent with the outcome that we hoped for and acted upon – getting more immigrants and youth here, and staying here,” said Halifax Partnership Chief Economist Ian Munro.
Though Entrevestor doesn’t usually cover general economic stories, there’s a huge overlap with the Halifax Index and what is going on in the startup community. During the launch of the Index at the Central Library in Halifax, several speakers alluded to the role startups are playing in creating employment, attracting skilled talent and creating office demand. About 36 percent of the startups covered by Entrevestor are based in Halifax.
Halifax Partnership Economist Chadwick Meyers – who based his calculations on Crunchbase data -- said Halifax-based companies raised a total of US$224 million in 2014-2018.
The Partnership in 2016 established a baseline for several metrics, set goals for a five-year plan and tracks the city’s progress in each metric annually. It also benchmarks the city’s progress against five cities of comparable size – St. John’s, Quebec City, Kitchener-Waterloo, Regina and Victoria.
The 59-page report said Halifax’s situation is improving in several of the metrics involving talent and population. With GDP of $19.2 billion, it is lagging in its goal to have a GDP of $22.5 billion by 2021.
One metric that is actually worsening is the goal of reducing commercial vacancy rates in the downtown. In three years, the vacancy rate has risen from 14.1 percent to 19.1 percent, said the report, though it added the vacancy rate has fallen for suburban offices.
The 59-page report is thorough, so rather than go through it and cherry-pick certain bits of data, we'll let the Halifax Partnership point out the highlights. The following is an excerpt from the Partnership's press release:
Halifax had its third straight year of strong population growth, a 2.0 percent increase (8,544 people) in population in 2018. Over the past three years, Halifax’s population has grown by more than 22,000 people.
For the third year in a row, international immigration was far above the long-term average with 5,405 new immigrants coming to Halifax in 2018.
There were 2,503 new arrivals to Halifax between the ages of 20 and 29 representing nearly one third of total population growth.
Halifax saw its labour force participation increase for the first time since 2009. As well, after three years of annual labour force growth below 1.0 percent, 2018 saw an increase of 8,000 workers, a 3.3 percent jump.
Halifax’s GDP grew by 1.6 percent in 2018. Among the six benchmark cities. Halifax ranked fourth in terms of 2018 GDP growth, behind Quebec City, Victoria, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (KCW), but ahead of Regina and St. John’s.
According to the Business Confidence Index conducted annually by Narrative Research, the shares of surveyed businesses expecting to increase sales, hire additional staff, make a major investment in facilities or equipment, and make a major investment in research and development remain significantly above long-term averages.
Halifax surpassed its record for cruise ship visits and total number of cruise passengers for the second year in a row in 2018, making it the most successful conference year in the city’s history. Total overnight room bookings grew by 14 percent, marking six straight years of growth in room bookings.
QUALITY OF PLACE
Construction on residential rental units reached a historic high in 2018, yet vacancy rates are still going down.
In 2018, Halifax’s average apartment rent grew by 2.1 percent, the third highest increase among the benchmark cities, but still below the Canadian average of 3.4 percent.
As of spring 2019, Halifax Transit charged the least (or tied for the least) for single tickets, monthly passes, senior fares, and child fares for all six benchmark cities.
Over the past decade, Halifax has experienced only 10 days of Air Quality Advisories, the second lowest figure among the six benchmark cities.
Disclosure: The Halifax Partnership is a client of Entrevestor.
Startup Genome Rates Atlantic Canada No. 4 in Activation Phase
Atlantic Canada has the world’s fourth best “activation stage” ecosystem for startups, says Silicon Valley think tank Startup Genome.
The organization each year ranks startup ecosystems around the world, and Innovacorp signed up Atlantic Canada to be included in the 2019 study. Startup Genome has classified Atlantic Canada as an “activation phase” ecosystem, meaning its support system is relatively young and its startup base small. The organization found that we are No. 4 in the world at this phase, exceeded only by: Western Denmark; Belgrade and Novi Sad (Serbia); and Taipei City.
“Overall, it you look at other ecosystems at the same stage as us, we’re No. 4 in the world – I get excited by that,” said Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser in an interview.
Late last year, Fraser stated publicly that Atlantic Canada should aspire to be one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world. That led to Innovacorp becoming one of Startup Genome’s partners, meaning the organization would begin to track our progress.
In its 2019 report, Startup Genome ranked the top 30 startup ecosystems in the world, and Atlantic Canada is not on that list. Toronto-Waterloo moved up three places in the latest rankings to No. 13 in the world, while Vancouver fell nine places to No. 24. For the first time, Startup Genome also ranked “lifecycle ecosystems”, meaning it ranked ecosystems in the various phases ecosystems must pass through to reach the top tier.
The most advanced of these is the “Attraction” phase, which is populated by jurisdictions like Amsterdam that are breaking into the top layer. Next is the “Globalization” phase, sort of a middle-tier group in which Montreal placed second to Paris. And finally the “Activation” phase is made up of younger ecosystems. Startup Genome assigns ecosystems to phases based on “growth in funding, exits and number of startups.”
Startup Genome says Activation-phase ecosystems are “limited startup experience” in terms of founders, investors, advisers and mentors, have fewer than 1,000 startups, and face such challenges as losing resources to more advanced ecosystems.
That may seem like a bleak assessment, but Atlantic Canada has placed ahead of such other Activation phase members as Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City in Canada, and Estonia, Manila, Frankfurt and New Zealand internationally.
Atlantic Canada excels at early-stage funding, leading all ecosystems in the Activation phase by raising $382,000 per startup, said the report. It is also one of the top 15 ecosystems in the world in any phase in the “Bang for Buck” rating, which assesses costs.
“The piece of this that we’re interested in is that we’re now in a position where we can benchmark ourselves against other jurisdictions,” said Fraser. “We can look at what’s successful and what’s not. . . . We can continue to do this because we have the data to help us make decisions.”
[For full disclosure, we should say that Entrevestor was involved in the Startup Genome initiative. Entrevestor is primarily a data company, and Innovacorp contracted us to provide data to Startup Genome – mainly the names and urls of startups across the region.]
In the interview, Fraser said he’s not put off in the ambition to grow a top 10 ecosystem. The important thing, he said, is Atlantic Canada now knows where it stands against other ecosystems and it has to continue to improve its capacity to develop high-growth companies.
“I think what’s really important for us at this stage is regional collaboration,” said Fraser. “Because of the success of our ecosystem, there are a lot of opportunities for students and others to get involved in various programs, and we need to think about that from a broader perspective.”
I’m frequently asked about media relations by founders. How do we get our story in a certain newspaper or magazine? When is the best time to approach the media? How do you deal with reporters? What do you put in a press release? What problems should be avoided?
On Wednesday, I will be discussing these issues and fielding any questions you want to raise during the Lunch and Learn.
I have some pretty strong opinions on how startups should work with traditional media, and I’m hoping the talk will be both entertaining and informative.
The cost is $10 and lunch is included. You can purchase tickets here.
I hope to see you on Wednesday.
Site2020 Eyes Strong Sales Growth
Dartmouth-based Site2020’s traffic-control equipment was used on more than 200 construction sites last year, and CEO Mitch Hollohan expects to deploy another 1,000 units over the next two years.
The company’s product, the Guardian SmartFlagger, is designed to replace human “flaggers”—construction employees paid to direct traffic. It includes a portable stoplight and a barrier that can be lowered to block traffic flow.
“It increases the safety of flaggers tenfold, because you don’t have to have flaggers … in front of the road, possibly being hit by a car,” said Hollohan in an interview.
Site2020 was founded in 2015, in an alumni company at Volta and launched the Guardian in 2017 after 24 months of research and development.
A single worker can control up to four of the machines using an iPad and video-monitoring software provided by Site2020.
The Guardian is leased by construction companies, which pay by the hour. Customers are not billed for time during which the device is not in use, but they are required to pay for a minimum number of hours per month—usually about 80.
The typical hourly price is between $20.00 and $25.00, depending on which jurisdiction the construction site is located in.
“We provide the entire service,” said Hollohan. “We help them with every change that it’s going to take for their business to go from traditional flagging to automated flagging.”
Site2020 was initially funded by angel investors, but manufacturing of new equipment is paid for using bank financing.
Hollohan intends to fund future growth the same way, and has no plans to seek venture capital or other outside investment.
The physical Guardian equipment is not built by Site2020, but Hollohan said of the business’s manufacturing partner, “They’re connected pretty much directly to us.”
Site2020 directly employs 18 people, up from eight last year, with the manufacturing company raising the total to 36.
The technology is officially approved for use in forty-two American states and every province in Canada except Nova Scotia.
Businesses in the province have placed orders, but inflexible regulations and a complex bureaucracy have so far prevented Site2020 from fulfilling them on a consistent basis, said Hollohan.
Hollohan recalls one industry partner that spent $18,000 seeking regulatory approval to use the Guardian on a local construction site for two hours.
“We’re saving lives in the United States every single day,” he said. “But the Nova Scotia government is just too slow and too bureaucratic … to make change.”
Fuckup Nights Arrives in Halifax
A sold-out crowd gathered in Halifax last night to learn from, reflect on, even laugh at other people’s failures, and in doing so join a movement that has spread to more than 300 cities in 90 countries.
The Halifax chapter of Fuckup Nights held its first meeting on Thursday to hear three local heroes discuss the times they screwed up in business or their lives and how they learned from it. Fuckup Nights is an international organization that believes the best education comes from, well, fuck-ups. It holds get-togethers in which people openly discuss their mistakes and what they learned.
“Fucking up is a privilege,” said Lindsay MacPhee, the founder of the Floatation Centre Halifax and one of the presenters. “It means we’re alive. It means we’re going to grow. And it also means we keep on pushing forward and we come out the other side.”
The story of Fuckup Nights dates back to 2012 when five friends got together in a bar in Mexico City and began swapping war stories about their greatest failures. As the evening wore on, they realized they were learning from each other’s tales of the banana skins they had trodden on in their lives. They got so much out of it that soon they opened it up to the public, and the Fuckup Nights movement was born.
A while back, the Ottawa chapter of Fuckup Nights held its quarterly meeting in conjunction with its SaaS North conference. The attendees that night included Haligonians Mary Jane Leslie and Melissa Cooper, who decided Halifax needed a chapter of its own. So Leslie and Cooper – who work together at the Software-as-a-Service security company Liferaft – worked with the international Fuckup Nights organization to open in Halifax.
Well before the Raptors game started on Thursday, a crowd gathered at the Good Robot Pub on Robie Street, enjoying beer subsidized by Stewart McKelvey, to witness the trio of confessions. As well as MacPhee, the fuckers-up on stage were serial entrepreneur Shawn Wilkie and screenwriter Michael Amo, whose credits include TV series Pure.
All the speakers were funny, willing to laugh at the mistakes they’d made. They spoke of their own business mistakes, and the failures that the universe thrust upon them. Some revealed personal tragedy. They all spoke of the ups and downs involved in being entrepreneurs or creative people.
Wilkie, for example, joked about barely breaking even in college when he and a friend invested $10,000 on a scheme to sell office chairs to college kids. That was nothing compared to the $750,000 he lost in buying three video retail franchises early in the century. On a more positive note, he still owns half of Robotnik, a thriving business that sells computers to students, and has launched the Halifax startup Talkatoo.
The talks were instructive for entrepreneurs. MacPhee spoke of her over-arching goal to be kind and having to learn that as an employer she has to sometimes make unpopular decisions.
Overall, the upshot of the evening was that it is sure to be repeated.
“We sold this out in less than two days and that shows that there is a need for something like this,” Leslie told the crowd. “We hope to make it a quarterly thing.”
NBIF To Invest in Energia Companies
Energia Head Joe Allen, left, NBIF CEO Jeff White, and UNB President Eddy Campbell
Energia and NBIF announced Wednesday companies going in the program -- regardless of whether they're based in New Brunswick -- will receive an investment of up to $50,000 from NBIF. Adding in non-dilutive funding of $20,000 that is already in place, it means each company will receive up to $70,000 if they complete the program.
UNB’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program launched Energia two years ago to nurture companies in the energy, smart grid, cleantech and cybersecurity sectors. The accelerator is now accepting applications from companies based in New Brunswick or elsewhere for its next cohort, which will begin in September. Applications are open until July 14.
“Energia has a great reputation for working with companies to help them realize their full potential and getting them to market,” said NBIF Investment Director Ray Fitzpatrick in the statement. “They play a key role in the New Brunswick innovation ecosystem by helping these companies establish relationships and by curating investible companies.”
An intensive 13-week program, Energia prepares startups for rapid revenue growth in these sectors. Ideal companies have previously raised funds and have a market-tested product. Energia prepares these companies as they move towards full-scale commercialization and raising follow-on funding.
“NBIF knows that the best accelerators in the world come with equity investments and by assisting Energia in making this level of commitment, we believe they will be on par with the best-in-class International accelerators in both programming and funding,” said Fitzpatrick. “We want to see Energia achieve International recognition as an accelerator with a highly competitive environment from startups to participate in the program.”
Added Energia Managing Director Joe Allen: “We’re so very pleased to have NBIF believe in the work we’re doing and demonstrate that by investing in the companies we work with. We strive to attract and work with the best companies in our sectors of focus, and this investment will go a long way in attracting these companies in the competitive space of business acceleration.”
Medteq Backs Densitas, Spring Loaded
Two Halifax-area medtech companies – Spring Loaded Technology and Densitas – have received a slice of an $11 million equity funding exercise anchored by the Montreal-based health technology organization Medteq.
Medteq, which nurtures Canadian health-technology innovators, issued a statement saying that its $14 million investment fund made its first investments, backing eight companies based in Montreal and Halifax. MEDTEQ invested alongside co-investors including: Anges-Quebec, Anges-Quebec Capital, Innovacorp, Real Ventures and others.
The target companies included Spring Loaded, which makes advanced knee braces, and Densitas, which assesses the density of breast tissue during mammograms. Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency, was already an existing investor in both companies.
“Medteq is seeking to financially support health-technology companies across Canada who share our vision that a collaborative approach de-risks health products and services,” said Jacques Milette, President of Medteq’s Board of Directors. “Starting in Quebec, we’ve branched out and found interesting partners and companies in other provinces. We are looking forward to developing opportunities in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the months to come.”
The statement said the eight companies raised a total of $11 million, though it did not specify how much of that came from Medteq nor provide a breakdown of its investment in each company.
Based in Dartmouth, Spring Loaded Technology has produced the Levitation brace, which not only stabilizes the knee joint but adds power to it, allowing people with mobility problems to move more freely. The Levitation line includes the world’s first tri-compartment unloader knee brace. It reduces pressure throughout the knee while enhancing strength to alleviate pain and improve mobility for people with knee arthritis and injuries.
Halifax-based Densitas has developed software that provides an automated mechanism for quantifying and recording breast tissue density, a risk factor for breast cancer in women. Dense breasts can mask cancerous cells. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of cancer.
The other six companies receiving investment, all based in Montreal, are: MIMs (My Intelligent Machines; My01; Optina Diagnostics; Saccade Analytics; Spinologics; and Thorasys. Thorasys, which aims to revolutionize pulmonary medicine by offering portable, easy-to-use devices for lung function screening, diagnostics and monitoring, actually started in Halifax before moving to Montreal.
Medteq said its investment philosophy is based on the belief that robust product validation exercises, completed in collaboration with such stakeholders as doctors, insurance companies, and eventual acquirers, drives fundamental value for health products and companies.
The funds seek out companies with maturing technologies and accelerating innovation. In addition to the investment fund, Medteq supports its clients’ projects by offering non-dilutive funding, helping to find other grants and securing validation partners.
StepScan Launches Military Product
The Stepscan team
Stepscan Technologies, the Charlottetown company that has developed pressure-sensitive floor mats, has launched a new product that helps the military train soldiers in combat techniques.
Primarily a medical device company, Stepscan has developed floor tiles that can analyze people's gait and footprints, which reveal such medical information as their balance, the health of their joints and how they are recovering from injury.
Last month, it launched a non-medical product, StepTracker, which covers a wider area and analyzes the movement of more than one person. Using StepTracker, military trainers can teach groups of soldiers how to move in a combat situation and analyze the performance of each trainee.
“When doing a patient assessment, you don’t do more than one patient at a time,” said CEO Crystal Trevors in an interview. “Here, they’ll be looking for the position of individuals and the relative position of individuals within a group.”
Trevors said the company’s main market is still the medical sphere, in which Stepscan’s pressurized tiles can be used to assess health. She said that ideally her seven-person team would like to find a company to buy the military application because it is so different to the medical business.
With the medical device, buyers purchase a few pressure-sensitive tiles so the user has about 400 square feet of area to walk across. The sales are fairly straightforward. In fact, in the first five months of 2019, Stepscan has already sold as much of its core product as it did in all of 2018.
The military application can involve, say, 4,000 tiles over 15,000 square feet, covering two or three rooms in a mock building used for training exercises. Trevors said the trainers can use it to monitor a group of four soldiers entering a building, making sure each individual moves and faces in the right direction at the right time throughout the course of the exercise.
“The biggest challenge is in distinguishing what footprint belongs to which people and detecting which people were actually in which space,” said Patrick Connor, the R&D lead at Stepscan. “That’s the trickiest part, and then determining where each person is based on their direction and speed, and then where they’re facing and their posture.”
Selling 4,000 tiles would obviously be a big sale, but Trevors said the military sales cycle is about four to five years – far longer than for the medical devices. “It’s a different beast altogether,” she said.
Stepscan is also working on a security product that can be installed in important buildings and help identify anyone who breaks in. Everyone has a unique gait, so even someone wearing a mask or gloves could be identified with the Stepscan technology. Trevors attended the recent SecCan security conference in Ottawa, where she met with many security companies with a potential interest in the product. Again, the long-term goal would be to sell the IP to another company so Stepscan can focus on its medical device.
The company in the past has raised money from several angel investors, including East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond. Trevors is now working on a new funding round with a target of $3 million.
Ocean Sonics Expands to New HQ
Ocean Sonics' New HQ
Ocean Sonics, the Nova Scotia-based maker of equipment that listens to and monitors the oceans, has moved into a new headquarters in Truro Heights that will facilitate growth of staff, innovation and sales.
Ocean Sonics designs and manufactures the icListen smart hydrophones and other products that improve the quality and analysis of underwater sound measurements.
The company has long been based in the water-side hamlet of Great Village and has expanded rapidly in recent years. It has 18 full-time employees and is advertising nationally and internationally for software developers, electronic engineers and sales people.
“We are constantly innovating. When you have innovative people, you have to keep them interested and improving. You have to keep them innovating and making products and selling,” said co-owner and operations manager Desiree Stockermans in an interview.
The company is looking to expand beyond its main markets of Asia, Europe and North America into South America and Australia.
“We believe we are the best in the world and we want to let everyone else know we are,” Stockermans said with a smile.
The company’s growth prospects are enviable as the monitoring and measuring of underwater sounds is a new and growing market with an increasing range of applications.
Stockermans said the company has many research clients, and that Ocean Sonic products have real-time applications and can process the data they collect right away.
“The hydrophone has been around since World War II when the first submarines went in the water; hydrophones have mostly been used for that type of application,” said Stockermans.
“Now, they are being used to increase understanding of the ocean and what’s going on in the water. We are in the right place with the right products and we can take advantage of that to grow.”
Marine engineer Mark Wood and Stockermans co-founded their first venture Instrument Concepts in Great Village in 2000. Ocean Sonics branched off in 2012 in order to focus on developing and selling its products. (Instrument Concepts remains the consultancy side of the business.)
Applications include the monitoring of the sounds made by whales, such as the endangered right whale.
“It’s possible one of the reasons they are getting caught in traps is because they are shifting north because their food source is moving north with changing water temperatures,” said Stockermans. “We can tell things about changes in climate from changes in the behaviours of marine life.
“In the past, you could hear a sound, then you could tell where it was coming from. Now, you can tell where it’s coming from and where it’s going. You can identify the whale and where it’s going. If it’s toward a ship, you can notify the ship to slow down or alter course.”
The company is one of the providers contributing to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans network of hydrophones established in the Vancouver Harbour area to gauge the reaction of marine mammals to loud noises, such as construction noise and sounds made by shipping traffic.
Stockermans said it’s important to measure and understand these things before regulations on issues such as shipping speeds are made.
The development of off-shore wind farms in the eastern U.S. is an area of growth. Sounds are studied before, during, and after construction to provide the full picture of the impact of human activity.
The company is proud that their new headquarters reflects their values. Ocean Sonics is a certified B Corp (a for-profit company pledged to provide positive impacts for their employees, communities and the planet). The new building has a low impact on the environment, with potential for a living green roof. All materials and labour are either sustainably or locally sourced.
Ocean Sonics worked with partners from Business Development Bank of Canada, Architects Omar Gandhi and Eric Stotts, and Lindsay Construction to create the building. The project was supported by the Government of Canada.
Nine Win Startup Canada Awards
Gary F. Keenan, the Co-Founder and Chairman of F6 Networks of Fredericton, was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Atlantic Region Startup Canada Awards on Tuesday.
Keenan, who last year was named the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Atlantic Canada, captured the Startup Canada Award at a presentation event in Fredericton, where nine people or groups were recognized.
Created out of K-Line Construction, F6 Networks is the largest privately owned open access fibre network in Canada.
Startup Canada, whose mission is to promote and nurture startups and entrepreneurship across the country, holds regional awards across the nation in several categories. The regional winners in most of these categories then compete in the national finals.
“We are honoured to recognize vibrant entrepreneurs and disruptors across Canada,” said Startup Canada Chief Executive Director Anastasia Valentine in a statement. "Each recipient is highly contributing to build our nation’s economy and to strengthen the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.”
The other 2019 Atlantic Canadian Region Winners are:
SucSeed of St. John’s received the Social Enterprise Award;
HeyOrca of St. John’s received the High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award;
Natasha Dhayagude, the CEO of Fredericton-based Chinova Bioworks, won the Woman Entrepreneur Award;
And Noah Donovan of Quispamsis, NB, received the Young Entrepreneur Award for his company Port City Candy.
“The Joint Economic Development Initiative is delighted to be the Atlantic Region Winner for Entrepreneur Support,” said JEDI President Alex Dedam, whose group supports entrepreneurship in First Nations communities. “JEDI has been working in the field of Economic Development in New Brunswick for almost 25 years and we are happy to be recognized for our efforts in supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs and community economic development."
Startup Canada has already held regional ceremonies in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Edmonton, Mississauga and Montreal. The finale event will take place in Toronto in October.
The development agency has teamed up with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to launch the Navigator Paid Start-Up Program, which will begin in the fall. It will pay entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 (or in rare cases, up to 35) for up to six months while they develop their business idea.
“We want to give young people who are interested in starting their own business the space and time and energy that they need to get it started,” said Michele Lodge, the ESJ Project Coordinator for Emerging Entrepreneurs.
Anyone interested in the program can apply here by June 30.
The Navigator program, which will begin in September, will be held at the ConnexionWorks co-working space in Uptown Saint John.
Ten participants accepted into the program will receive a space in a co-working environment, which includes wi-fi and meeting space. They will each be paid $11.25 per hour for 30 hours per week throughout the program.
Each week, there will be a three-hour training session taught by subject matter experts in such topics as pitching, business validation, market research, small business finances and marketing.
Participants must agree to devote at least 30 hours a week to their businesses and attend all the training sessions. Participants cannot be full-time students during the program.
Lodge said the program is a pilot project with the goal of attracting or retaining young people with an entrepreneurial mindset.
“We’re just really hoping that a lot of people will return to Saint John who haven’t have the chance to explore a business opportunity here, and we’re hoping to attract young people from other places as well,” said Lodge.
Devil’s Keep Vodka Wins Big
Joe Allen (left) and Ray Fitzpatrick
Two well-known drivers of New Brunswick’s innovation sector are celebrating a win for their own recently founded startup as they take home international recognition for their Devil’s Keep vodka.
Ray Fitzpatrick and Joe Allen have won a Platinum award from the International Spirits Competition in San Francisco for the vodka they distill at their Devil’s Keep Distillery just outside Fredericton.
The award is the highest in its class and is judged on a blind taste test.
“Our vodka doesn’t have a pucker factor – our vodka is smooth and sippable,” said Allen, who is Head Distiller at Devil’s Keep and (during the day) Managing Director of Accelerator Programs at University of New Brunswick.“Our vodka doesn’t need to be hidden in your favourite mix. It can be poured on the rocks and enjoyed.”
Allen said the smooth taste is achieved through lengthy distilling of locally sourced ingredients. “All our corn, rye, and barley is grown in the Saint John Valley to produce a New Brunswick flavour,” he said, adding that Devil’s Keep vodka is one of only two Canadian vodkas to achieve this award.
The pair has been quick to get to market and make an impact.
It took only about 18 months from finalizing their recipes to winning the award, and their product is now in most New Brunswick liquor stores.
“Our day jobs remind us to keep going and try to think big, to diversify and start exporting, to keep thinking and going hard,” he said.
Devil’s Keep grew from the pair’s shared work in the sector.
“When we were both at NBIF, we often travelled together,” Allen said. “We were inspired by the entrepreneurs we see every day. There are so many wonderful Maritime stories, it was a case of why not us? We asked, ‘What can we do?’ They say, ‘Do what you love,’ but we couldn’t be professional drinkers, so we decided to supply a fine alcohol.”
At first, they thought they would build a craft brewery but the province already had many impressive brewers.
“We realized we would be at the tail end of that wave and it would be uphill to get market share,” Allen said. “There were only four distilleries in New Brunswick – now there are nine or 10. We thought that would be the next wave.”
The partners chose vodka as their first offering as it is relatively fast to produce and is the most consumed spirit in the world. Now, they are expanding into whiskey.
They have produced 16 barrels of their first whiskey, which are quietly aging. The whiskey will have to wait at least three years to be considered Canadian standard but they intend to export their whiskey as soon as it is ready.
They are planning to get their vodka into liquor stores in Nova Scotia or P.E.I., possibly both at the same time.
They have already gone through one expansion of their premises and are planning the next growth phase, which they intend to include larger facilities, a tasting room, and bigger equipment.
They say it is hard juggling full-time jobs with entrepreneurship, and they owe a great deal to others. The vodka was created with research chemist Mike Doucette of the Community College of New Brunswick. They now have a staff member, distiller Shaun Nadeau. And their wives are invaluable, with Monica Fitzpatrick overseeing social media and designing, and Lana Thompson managing shipping and receiving.
Allen said the award provides great recognition from a third-party body.
“Far too often we hear, especially in our day jobs, ‘Go out into the world and get validation.’
"Then the world asks if we have validation in our own back yard. We are working on gaining validation through gaining sales in the province and internationally.”
Pelorus Mulls Raising 2nd Fund
Chris Moyer: 'I cannot express how happy we are with the portfolio.'
With its Newfoundland and Labrador-focused fund performing better than expected, Pelorus Venture Capital is talking about raising a second fund.
Four years ago, the Atlantic Canadian investment group began to manage the Venture NL fund, which makes early-stage investments in companies based on The Rock. Director Chris Moyer said in an interview this week the fund’s portfolio companies have exceeded all expectations. There’s now one year left in the fund’s commitment period, and Pelorus would like to raise a second fund to continue investing in new companies that come along.
“If we want continuity in the ecosystem, which I think is incredibly important in an ecosystem, there needs to be the continued funding after Fund 1 is over,” said Moyer. “We have not started actively fundraising for Fund 2 but we would like to continue investing in Newfoundland and Labrador because we think it is a strong ecosystem. We think it is the strongest in Atlantic Canada.”
The Venture NL fund got its start in the early part of the decade when officials in the Newfoundland and Labrador government grew concerned about the lack of early-stage funding for startups in the province. Rather than launch a government-led funding body, it put up money for a fund and brought in Pelorus as the investment manager. BDC Capital also put money into the fund, and angel investors, who received investment tax credits, also invested in the fund, accounting for 16.5 percent of the capital.
The fund has invested in seven companies, and Moyer said he’s in active discussions with “around three” companies with a view to bringing them into the portfolio.
“They’re all doing well – it’s not like any of them is limping along,” said Moyer. “We would have expected a much higher attrition rate. The companies have shown real strength.”
Venture NL so far has invested $6 million in the seven companies. The six active companies have received equity investments of $14.6 million from other sources, including Killick Capital, the St. John’s investment group that has invested in many of the same companies. These six companies now employ 128 people, with an average salary of $75,000.
Moyer said he can invest in new companies for the 11 months, then any new portfolio companies would have to seek financing from a second fund.
Meanwhile, he attributed the success of the fund to the process of developing innovative companies in St. John’s. Most companies in the Pelorus portfolio went through Propel, the regional tech accelerator, and became residents in Genesis, the St. John’s startup hub. Once they got funding from Venture NL, four of the companies enrolled in the Creative Destruction Lab, which Moyer said has proved a key step for the companies securing funding from outside Atlantic Canada.
Said Moyer: “I cannot express how happy we are with the portfolio we’ve built and the execution that these companies have attained.”
NBIF issued a press release on Monday outlining its contribution to what it described as a “seed round”. The statement said the funding includes investments from angels, but did not say the total value of the round.
TurboPlay is building a personalized video game marketplace for indie gamers and game developers, allowing them to sell their digital games and related downloadable content. Its goal is to add more flexibility and convenience into the gaming industry, which is now worth US$137 billion annually – more than the music and movie industries combined.
“TurboPlay’s team is led by veteran entrepreneurs with tremendous experience in the gaming industry and the model they are developing has the potential to disrupt the current approach to video game publishing and distribution,” said NBIF Director of Investment Ray Fitzpatrick in the statement. “TurboPlay has also attracted a significant number of angel investors to its seed round, a further validation of the quality of the company’s team and its business model.”
Despite its popularity, the current indie game market is plagued with problems for both developers and gamers. Distribution of games is controlled by a few platforms, which TurboPlay’s website says are “trapped in a paradigm of outdated technologies and obscure business practices.”
It says the current centralized platforms can cost developers 30 percent of every sale, often bury some game titles so they are never seen by gamers, and are subject to outages and downtime.
TurboPlay has developed a decentralized alternative. Its platform uses a machine-learning algorithm to interpret user behavior, creating a better customer experience, said the statement. It can handle micro-transactions within each game, and gamers can pay for services using legitimate tokens, credit cards or PayPal.
The company has already secured prolific studios such as Bedtime Games, with almost 400,000 players, said the statement. It will use the proceeds from the seed round to hire additional developers and customer support staff, as well as for enhanced sales and marketing efforts.
The company was founded in 2018 by CEO and co-CTO Vince McMullin, COO John Nguyen, co-CTO Royal O’Brien and CMO Lisa Weeks. Their overall goal is to disrupt the current gaming model by creating a new platform for the sale of games by both indie developers and more established companies.
“The video game industry is ripe for disruption,” said McMullin in the statement. “It’s time for change. TurboPlay will take a user-focused approach to develop a platform that makes it easier to buy and sell games and makes in-game microtransactions more convenient for everyone.”
Volta Presents 5 Ecosystem Awards
Volta presented Ecosystem Impact Awards to five companies or organizations Thursday to acknowledge their contributions to nurturing startups in Atlantic Canada.
The Halifax startup hub initiated the awards this year to recognize groups that had helped to develop the ecosystem across the region. It handed out the awards at its summer party last week.
“The support and leadership within the startup community is one of the reasons why Atlantic Canadian companies are experiencing growth and success on national and international levels,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Organizations, like the ones recognized here today, are positively shaping our ecosystem, and are helping put Atlantic Canada on the map.”
The winners were:
Catalyst Award – Ignite Labs, Yarmouth. Ignite Labs opened last year to encourage entrepreneurial growth in the technology, oceans and tourism sectors in Southwestern Nova Scotia. It aims to create a technology culture in the region by presenting youth with problems experienced in the region and beyond and helping them devise solutions.
Positive Impact Award – Square Roots, Halifax. Growing out of the St. Mary’s University Enactus program, Square Roots works with farmers to find produce that would be rejected by normal supermarkets because it’s an odd shape or is unappealing. The company sells bundles of this food to low-income customers, the price depending on what they can afford.
Community Leader Award – Build Ventures, Halifax. Build is a venture capital firm that invests in scaling companies and so far its first fund has backed 14 companies with initial investments of $1.5 million to $3 million each. It is now raising its second fund and has publicly said it has received commitments of $15 million from Nova Scotia and $10 million from New Brunswick.
Corporate Supporter Award – McInnes Cooper, Halifax. McInnes Cooper is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest law firms, and supported various startup programs and organizations throughout the region.
Disruptor Award – SomaDetect, Fredericton. 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.
Volta said there were more than 40 nominations, and the recipients were selected by a panel of judges, comprised of regional business leaders.
Jobs: Remsoft, Springboard Atlantic
Our Job of the Week column today showcases two openings at Remsoft in Fredericton and one at Springboard Atlantic in Atlantic Canada.
Remsoft, a predictive analytics software company, helps its clients in the forest industry increase land value by analyzing forests' age, growth, and the market value of the lumber. This company has openings for a Director of Marketing and Communications and a Vice-President of Product Management.
Springboard Atlantic promotes the commercialization of academic research in Atlantic Canada, linking industry with researchers at the region’s colleges and universities, and helping to launch new companies. The pan-regional organization is looking for a Manager of Partnerships and Member Support.
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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:
As part of its global expansion including new products, sectors and customers, Remsoft is seeking an experienced leader to drive the company’s overall marketing and communications strategy and execution. This is an opportunity to join the Senior Leadership Team of a dynamic and highly client-driven organization. The Director of Marketing & Communications will accelerate opportunities for significant growth for Remsoft through strategic marketing and outreach. S/he will position Remsoft as a socially responsible company and global leader in optimization software, capable of bringing innovative solutions to land and infrastructure-focused sectors.
*There is flexibility for the successful candidate to work and live in other locations with travel to Fredericton as required.
Develop a Strategic Communications Plan targeting all key stakeholders consistent with overall strategy and the company’s value proposition: asset value (long- and short-term planning); profitability (predictive modeling, advanced analytics); and sustainability (commercial, local, and global).
Coordinate the implementation of the communication plan including public relations, stakeholder engagement, brand management, and marketing across a diverse range of platforms.
Initiate and maintain communications policies and processes to ensure consistent messaging and compatibility with overall strategic agenda and messages.
Increase awareness and recognition of Remsoft as a key global leader and partner in sustainable land and infrastructure asset management.
Enhance existing client loyalty supporting long term value creation for the company.
Effectively market Remsoft’s products and services to the forestry, utilities, and civil infrastructure sectors – from target audiences including IT influencers, sector thought leaders, government leaders, and across C-suites down to directors.
Create product profile packages and product launches in various platforms and to the media. Aggregate and public client testimonials.
Maintain timely communications about Remsoft and its ongoing value to stakeholders and the global community, and timely response to questions and expressions of interest. . . .
Remsoft is seeking a visionary to lead the strategic product direction for the company. The successful candidate will define Remsoft’s future product roadmap with a particular focus on cloud solutions and strategy, aligned to the company’s immediate and long-term business goals. The role includes leadership relating to crucial new technology capabilities across the enterprise to drive the business, deliver exceptional client experiences, and ensure scale to support growth objectives.
The V.P. Product Management will develop recommendations associated with product investment and technical platform evolution, while overseeing and managing the product management team.
The role is expected to liaise closely with Sales and Client relations to understand what our customers are asking for, in terms of features and functionality, as well as align with the Corporate Development function to provide guidance around the best technical “fit” for partnership and/or acquisition targets. The individual will need to understand the current technology stack and the current product roadmap plans.
Design and execute a vision of product excellence, producing, developing and leading the implementation of a platform and product vision as well as corresponding roadmaps.
Ensure the Product and Technology Teams are supported and aligned with the overall product architecture and strategy for the company.
Transform vision into actionable, measurable product plans based on data and insights.
Develop a two- to five- year plan for the evolution of the platform, and a one- to two- year plan for the evolution of the product suite that is tied to revenue targets.
Balance long-term innovation and evolution of the technology stack with the need to drive revenue and business growth in the short- and medium-term.
Present a proposed team structure to deliver the above, in an immediate and long-term timeframe. Lead the development and acquisition of new technological innovations, solutions, and tools to improve internal operations and customer experience.
Attract, mentor and develop a high-performing team that demonstrates dedication to building great products, collaboration, accountability and respect.
Thoroughly review and assess the current status of the Remsoft technical platform and product suite, while understanding the strategy objectives of the business.
Define critical implementation details and set boundaries for engineering teams.
Provide oversight of infrastructure, security, data and application architecture.
Lead the product development team in product and solution design.
Provide guidance as needed to the Software Development team
Engage and develop relationships inside and outside of the organization to understand functional business requirements and identify opportunities to introduce new technology solutions.
Identify emerging information technologies to be assimilated, integrated, and introduced within the company.
Assess new technologies and their application to Remsoft.
Springboard Atlantic is seeking an energetic self-starter with exceptional relationship management abilities to join our central office team.
Reporting to the President and CEO, the Manager of Partnerships and Member Support is part of a dedicated 6-person team who are passionate about innovation and our entrepreneurial research community. Your main responsibilities will be to coordinate with the 30 dedicated industry engagement and commercialization professionals working within their institutions to fulfill Springboard Atlantic’s mandate, and to manage collaborative projects and relationships with a variety of external partners.
Springboard Atlantic is one of Canada’s leading networks of universities and colleges dedicated to helping industry innovate and capitalize on new opportunities through the application of research, and to helping great ideas become commercial successes. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation supported by 19 member institutions and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Liaising with member institutions, specifically the industry engagement and commercialization offices to determine needs and provide direction, promote best-practices and coordinate support (i.e. professional development, onboarding, workshops, etc.).
Working with the CEO to develop partnerships and manage collaborative projects among government agencies, industry associations and the regional innovation ecosystem.
Directing Springboard’s marketing activities and providing guidance to the Communications Coordinator, and external contractors, regarding implementation.
Providing strategic support to Springboard-led industry/academia/government roundtables and working with the Programs Manager on related programs and events.
Overseeing quarterly and annual reporting highlighting Springboard’s activities and performance including member successes.
Lead Springboard participation at conferences and partner events and coordinate quarterly network-wide meetings. . . .
The winner of the 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ pitching competition plans to use the prize money to help improve modern farming methods in rural Nova Scotia.
Thian Carman is the owner of Meadow’s Brothers’ Farms, which purchases or leases abandoned farmland, and returns it to active food production. Now he has the money to buy some equipment that will help not only his farm but also his neighbours.
The competition offers the winning company $10,000 cash and about another $10,000 worth of services from event sponsors. The winner was chosen by an audience vote during the finals Wednesday at St. Mary’s University. The three finalists were selected ahead of time by a panel of judges.
“It’s a great honor to win any competition, but especially this one, and with quite the prize in the end,” said Carman during an interview. “When I heard about it, I knew I had to apply.”
Farmers in Digby County, where Meadow’s Brothers’ Farms is headquartered, have struggled to access necessary equipment as a consequence of the area’s isolation.
Meadow’s Brothers’ loses large portions of its hay crop to mildew. But when Carman tried to rent a machine that would protect the harvested hay by sealing it inside an airtight plastic wrapping, he discovered that most equipment owners were unwilling to ship their machinery over the long distance to Digby.
Now Carman – who at 19 has been recognized as Canada’s youngest farm owner – will buy a hay-wrapper outright with his prize money. He’ll both use it for his own crops, as well as rent it out to other nearby farms.
“This isn’t just big for us, it’s going to be big for a lot of people in the area,” said Carman.
The 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ initiative is staged by non-profit 100 Seed$ Atlantic. It aims to encourage youth entrepreneurship by providing both funding and networking opportunities to business owners aged 24 or younger.
Attendees pay $100 for a ticket, with the cost of the tickets providing the prize money.
“The support that you’re providing today and in the future, not just financially, but through your willingness to connect, introduce people in your network and share insight is really what matters,” said Co-Founder Allyson England to attendees at the event.
The 100 Seed$ Atlantic group was founded in 2015 in response to the Ivany Report, which emphasized the need for Nova Scotia to develop a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The other two finalists at this year’s competition were NovaCare and VIS Foods.
- NovaCare is an app that aims to improve the efficiency of the Nova Scotia healthcare system by allowing users to communicate with healthcare providers and check wait times at clinics and other facilities. Founder Jake Chambers plans to monetize the app by selling user data to the Nova Scotia Health Authority and ad space to medical-services companies.
- VIS Foods sells hemp powder and plans to launch a full line of vegan “super foods”--nutrient-rich health foods. Ten percent of the proceeds from the e-commerce portion of VIS’s business are donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada.
VineView Eyes $10M A Round
Richard van der Put
With a new CTO on board and revenues expected to hit $1 million this year, Bedford-based VineView is on the hunt for capital, hoping to close a $10 million funding round near the end of the year.
VineView uses aerial images to assess the health and output of vineyards, and has become the market leader in France. The company in its current form was created in early 2018 when Halifax-based SkySquirrel merged with its Napa Valley, California-based partner VineView, creating an enlarged company based in the Halifax area.
“Last year, we focused on merging the businesses and building up our operational capacity,” said CEO Richard van der Put in an interview Thursday. “We now have six full-time salespeople on our sales team, and we’ve started this year to operate at a larger scale in France. That’s where we’ve seen a lot of things happening. We’ve been working with a distribution partner, and that gives us access to 650,000 acres of vineyards [in France alone].”
When van der Put announced the merger in January 2018, the company had just raised $3 million, $1 million of which came from Innovacorp. The CEO said the company is now working on a Series A funding round with a target of $10 million, which he hopes to close late this year or early in 2020. Some funds have already been committed and he is now meeting with other investors, finding the greatest engagement with funders based in Canada.
VineView’s funding campaign is being driven by a strong growth story. The company is now on track to double its revenues in 2019 to about $1 million and its headcount has risen to 31 people.
While most companies gathering and analyzing data for agricultural clients use drones to scan fields, VineView uses aircraft. It even has its own fleet of three planes. Van der Put said it’s a surprisingly cost-effective way to gather data, and a single aircraft can scan all of Napa Valley in a single afternoon. The company uses its own technology called PureVine, developed by its own team, which is so precise it can give vineyard owners data on individual vines in their fields.
Van der Put said PureView can, for example, help vineyard owners determine how many of their vines are dead or missing – something they now have to do by walking their fields and counting them. The precision of the solution has helped with sales, especially in France, where VineView is a market leader.
The company is selling well in the smaller California market as well, but van der Put said there are more competitors in the U.S.
To continue to develop its technology, VineView recently hired Shaun Johansen as Chief Technology Officer and head of its five-member development team. Most recently involved in now-defunct startup Velo Industries, Johansen has been a co-founder of several startups, including two that were acquired by BlackBerry Inc. (formerly Research in Motion).
“Shaun brings vibrant energy and fresh ideas to the team,” said van der Put. “We are excited about the growth and progress we will be able to make together.”
Kognitiv Named in Microsoft Awards
Kognitiv Spark on Thursday said it was named a finalist in the 2019 Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner of the Year Award.
The Fredericton company, which uses augmented reality and mixed reality to assist remote workers using complicated equipment, was honored among a global field of top Microsoft partners. Microsoft presents the award for excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology. It named four finalists including Kognitiv Spark, and selected one winner.
Kognitiv Spark delivers industrial worker support software designed for the Microsoft HoloLens, leveraging AR and MR. The company recently announced a partnership with the Royal Canadian Navy to test drive a Mixed Reality Remote Assistant Support system as part of a project that aims to improve maintenance and repairs aboard active naval vessels.
“We’re so proud to be recognized as a finalist for this award because it validates our signature approach of never stopping at good enough,” said Kognitiv Spark CEO Yan Simard in a statement. “It reinforces our position as a world-class mixed reality worker support platform and is a testament to our dedication to empowering workers with the autonomy and confidence to perform their best.”
Established in 2016, Kognitiv Spark offers an AR and MR solution to help the military and industries with training and the instructing of remote workers using complex equipment. Workers in remote locations frequently need to repair complex machinery, or need training with machines. RemoteSpark, the company’s flagship technology, allows a specialist at a main office to work with remote workers and walk them through what’s needed to get a piece of equipment working.
The Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards recognize Microsoft partners that have developed and delivered exceptional Microsoft-based solutions during the past year.
The Mixed Reality Partner of the Year Award recognizes a partner that has designed, developed, and deployed a solution that helps customers accelerate their digital transformation using MR technology and Azure services.
Awards were presented in several categories, with winners chosen from more than 2,900 entrants from 115 countries. Kognitiv Spark was recognized for providing outstanding solutions and services in MR.
In 2018, Kognitiv Spark won a Microsoft IMPACT award for Innovation with Hardware. It was also awarded a NATO Defence Innovation Challenge award for Mobile Apps for Defence Users and the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association Industry Excellence Award.
“It’s an honor to recognize finalists and winners of the Microsoft 2019 Partner of the Year Awards,” said Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft Corp. “These companies are successfully leading their industries, building intelligent solutions, addressing complex business challenges and making more possible for customers around the world. I’m honored to congratulate each winner and finalist.”
Ali Ghorbani: NB’s Serial Entrepreneur-Academic
Ali Ghorbani: The head of the Institute for Cybersecurity is planning his next startup.
As a driving force behind the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity and the private company Eyesover, Ali Ghorbani’s résumé is an impressive document – and he’s not finished adding to it.
Before serving as the founding director of the Fredericton-based CIC, Ghorbani was the Dean of Computer Science at University of New Brunswick. A deep believer in applied research, he also develops technology on which to build companies. He is the Co-Founder and Chair of Eyesover, a startup that identifies controversial topics before they’re in the news. Before that, Ghorbani was a Co-Founder of cybersecurity company Sentrant Solutions, which was purchased by the media-rating giant Nielsen Holdings in a modest exit in 2017.
In all, he has become a key player in Fredericton’s growth as a cybersecurity R&D hub. The New Brunswick capital is home to IBM’s global cybersecurity R&D network as well as the CIC and made headlines in January when Fredericton-based Sonrai Security raised US$18.5 million in its first round of venture capital financing.
Having spent 37 years in academia, Ghorbani has come to realize that academics too often focus on “fantasy problems” rather than finding solutions to real-world issues.
“I now only work with people who are working on practical problems, something that someone says is a problem and [they are] willing to take the solution that we provide,” said Ghorbani in a recent interview. “I have to have their stamp on it, saying that, ‘We think this is a problem.’’’
Over the years, Ghorbani often worked with private companies to solve such problems. When the cybersecurity company Q1 Labs won an Atlantic Innovation Fund grant to work with Ghorbani and other UNB researchers, it sparked his interest in launching his own companies.
He worked on several ideas, but the first company he launched was another cybersecurity company Ara Labs, which soon changed its name to Sentrant.
“Ara Labs was a big education for me,” he said. “I learned as an academician to go in front of a different group, to get on the road with investors, and to massage my message so that they could understand it. At the same time, it was a big learning curve to see how the market works. “
As he moved on from Sentrant, Ghorbani returned to a project that he’d begun in 2004 after a provincial election was determined by controversy over highway tolls. Ghorbani noticed that this issue took all parties by surprise and he began to work on a platform that could alert politicians or businesspeople to public opinion shifts that could erupt into problems.
He shelved that project, but over the years social media developed, which meant his software could help warn of viral controversies. So in 2016, he teamed up with former provincial politician Craig Leonard to launch Eyesover. Its technology analyzes social media and other online content to alert users about topics that could soon become problems for them.
Now Ghorbani is thinking about a new company. He’s mum on the details, saying only that it would involve a cybersecurity solution – a critical field in which he has become an expert.
These days, Ghorbani focuses mainly on overseeing the Institute for Cybersecurity, which has helped to develop Fredericton into a key cybersecurity hub.
Just three years old, the CIC has grown to the point that 58 people now work there, including nine researchers and research associates, and 28 post-graduate students. In its first two years, 89 students passed through the CIC, developing skills to help large organizations protect themselves from cyber-threats. The CIC has now moved into the National Research Council building in Fredericton, meaning the two organizations can work more closely together, further establishing Fredericton’s position as a cybersecurity hub.
“It means to some extent that we will have more graduates and researchers in the area,” said Ghorbani. “We hope that this consortium [between the CIC and NRC] will do more research and development with industry. And then we’ll have more resources to hire graduates and conduct more research.”
Mysa Raises $2.3M Equity Round
St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats has closed a $2.3 million equity funding round, which it plans to use to launch new products and expand sales.
Co-Founder and CEO Joshua Green said in an interview that the funding follows on from a $1.5 million round about a year ago, with all its previous investors putting in more money.
The company was founded under the corporate name Empowered Homes in 2014 by Green and his brother Zachary. 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 and Ecobee don’t work on high-voltage systems.
While he was restrained in his comments on new products, Green said the company’s second hardware product is in the works. He also said the long-term goal is to use the hardware to collect data that can provide a service to owners of real estate and utilities to help with energy conservation.
“When we started out we were just a single-product company,” said Green. “While it is a large market, that is only a small portion of where we want to bring the business.”
In a few years, Mysa has become a star of the St. John’s startup community, gaining rapid sales even though advanced manufacturing is often considered a more plodding business than producing software.
In 2017, the company raised about $600,000 from Venture NL (the fund managed by Pelorus Venture Capital) and Killick Capital. Then the company went through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, which helped it to bring on a range of investors from across Canada to join Killick and Venture NL in the 2018 round. The second wave of investors included 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 sits on the company’s board.
All these investors participated again in the latest round.
Pelorus Director Chris Moyer said in an interview that Mysa has hit all its milestones on time and has gained traction and funding. That has allowed the company – which now employs almost 40 staff – to attract top people as senior executives. Since the beginning of 2018, the company has added new heads of operations, human resources and finance, all of whom bring years of experience to the company.
“The [Green] brothers have shown great ability to learn and grow, and they’ve also shown a great ability to attract people to the senior management team who really add value to it,” said Moyer.
Asked how long the latest funding round would last the company, Joshua Green said it would depend on Mysa’s sales performance. But he added we could expect to hear about a further round in mid-2020. Moyer, who spoke in a separate interview, agreed the company will likely raise more money before too long.
“Last time, they were able to raise a significant amount of capital and bring in some really interesting investors,” said Moyer. “I expect them to continue to do really strong sales and I could see them raising another significant amount of capital, and most of this would come from outside the region.”
Deloitte Buys Blue Spurs Consulting
The global consultancy Deloitte is acquiring Fredericton-based Blue Spurs Consulting to enhance its capabilities in cloud-based technologies and increase its presence in Atlantic Canada.
Deloitte issued a statement on Tuesday saying it would purchase the firm and bring on board its 70 employees. The press release did not say how much Deloitte was paying for the company.
In acquiring Blue Spurs, Deloitte will be gaining a tech firm that has deep specialization in the cloud. The seven-year-old company builds custom solutions, develops and migrates services for the cloud, and hosts and maintains both applications and infrastructure. This lets clients optimize their technology through custom solutions and managed cloud offerings.
“Pairing up with Blue Spurs makes for an enticing duo, enabling us to combine our cloud transformation forces and bring leading-edge capabilities to the market, while giving us an expanded presence in Atlantic Canada, something our clients will immediately notice,” said Sébastien Blais, Managing Partner of Consulting at Deloitte Canada. “Our mutual strides in cloud and emerging technologies like IoT and machine learning will help drive superior growth and lend itself to helping our clients grow.”
Deloitte plans to integrate Blue Spurs Consulting’s team into Deloitte Canada’s consulting practice, specifically the core business operations offering portfolio under cloud engineering offerings.
The buyer said Blue Spurs’ team brings valuable access to deep domain expertise and services across many industries. With an increased focus on data management, paired with Deloitte’s established practices in many areas including AI, Blue Spurs Consulting will drive value in all areas of business, said the statement.
As one of only 10 Amazon Web Service Advanced Consulting partners in Canada, Blue Spurs is a winner of the 2018 IoT Edge Computing Excellence Award, the Globe and Mail’s Canada’s Top 100 Small and Medium Employers for 2019 list, and is the top Cloud/IoT firm in the Eastern market.
Blue Spurs also offers a cloud-based computer vision application service for object recognition. It uses machine learning and IoT services to extend current IP camera infrastructure for powerful and cost effective vision-based applications.
“We’re excited to be joining Deloitte, as it opens up a new host of opportunities for both practices,” said Blue Spurs CEO Mike LeBlanc, who will join Deloitte as a managing partner. “Leveraging Deloitte’s global access to lengthen our reach, coupled with our emerging technology focus, will provide real value to customers and open up new pathways to successful digital transformations.”
Deloitte said its Canada Corporate Development Office actively pursues and responds to merger, acquisition and alliance opportunities that align with the firm’s commitment to client service excellence.
This year, regional events will be held in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Edmonton, Mississauga, Fredericton and Montreal to celebrate entrepreneurs in those regions. The winners from each region will travel to Toronto in the fall to compete for the national awards.
Also on June 11, Fredericton will host the Canadian Export Challenge. This is a one-day accelerator and workshop for entrepreneurs looking to build their exporting and scaling skills. It is one of six regional events taking place across the country, along with the Startup Canada Awards.
It includes a pitch competition – entrepreneurs can pitch their business against other Atlantic Canadian startups for a $2,500 prize, and a trip to the national finals in Toronto to compete for $25,000 plus $100,000 of in-kind support.
Norm Couturier, the Community Lead for Startup Fredericton, and others have been working to develop a single group that would unite all the startup groups in New Brunswick. Once Startup New Brunswick achieves its goals in that province, he would like to see if it could expand to become a regional group.
The show is the world’s largest bioscience convention, drawing more than 16,000 attendees. This year’s event is taking place in Philadelphia and is being attended by leaders of Atlantic Canada’s bioscience sector.
Tieӧs has partnered with Cyclica, a Toronto company that applies artificial intelligence to medical research, to help in creating new classes of medications for treating cancer.
The two companies use artificial intelligence algorithms and computational biology to create “polypharmacological compounds”, which are drugs that act on several disease pathways at once. Tieös aims to simultaneously attack cancer tumors in various ways, while using intelligent design elements to minimize drug resistance and collateral damage.
The company will present to a panel of life science investors in the Canada Pavilion on June 5 with the hope of winning a presentation spot during BIOTECanada’s Investor Summit to be held in Whistler in March 2020.
This week, the bioscience sectors of all four Atlantic provinces are being promoted by the Atlantic Canada Bio-Industries Alliance. The region’s sector employs more than 3,000 workers and represents $655 million in revenue from upward of 200 companies and at least 50 research organizations, participants said in a statement.
The provinces have developed complementary strengths, the statement said. In Newfoundland, marine biotechnology and human genomics dominate. In New Brunswick, the focus is agriculture and bio-resources. In Nova Scotia, it is marine, health, bio-medical and general biotechnology. On PEI, strengths are pharmaceutical manufacturing, diagnostics, natural health products and animal and fish health.
Official delegates of the Atlantic Canadian mission include representatives from each of the following:
Atlantic Cancer Research Institute
BioMedica Diagnostics Inc.
Center for Aquaculture Technologies
Government of New Brunswick
New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT)
New Brunswick Health Research Foundation
Neurodyn Cognition Inc.
Torigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Université de Moncton
VetNOW – One Health Solutions
Vitalité Health Network
Funding support for the mission is provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the four Atlantic provincial governments through the Atlantic Trade and Investment Growth Strategy.
The Atlantic Canadian mission was coordinated by the PEI BioAlliance, on behalf of the Atlantic Canada Bio-Industries Alliance. The alliance comprises BioNB, BioNova, the Newfoundland & Labrador Association of Technology Industries and the PEI BioAlliance.
3 Winners at Digital NS Awards
The winners of this year’s Digital NS Diversity Awards were honoured in Halifax on Monday at an event that celebrated achievements in widening participation in Nova Scotia’s ICT workforce.
Event organizer Digital Nova Scotia -- the industry association for the sector -- hosted the fourth annual event with the Centre for Women in Business at startup house Volta.
“Women still account for less than 25 percent of our industry. A diverse workforce provides a wealth of knowledge and perspectives and thereby accelerates and improves problem solving,” said Digital Nova Scotia President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia in a statement.
“Most importantly, both diversity and inclusion will allow us to tackle our sector’s largest challenge – access to talent.”
This year’s winners were:
Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership – Eilidh Lindsay-Sinclair
Lindsay-Sinclair is the Director of Operations at CloudKettle; a consultancy that specializes in optimizing revenue operations for B2B SaaS companies. Lindsay-Sinclair has helped the company grow from two people to over a dozen employees, helped it become a 1 percent company and built a recruitment program which includes a blind screening process for interview candidates. Lindsay-Sinclair founded and co-chairs Digital Skills for Women, a learning cohort aimed at increasing digital literacy. Lindsay-Sinclair is also a Techsploration mentor and connects with women looking to enter the technology field.
Women Leaders in the Digital Economy – Kim Scaravelli
Scaravelli is a digital strategist, content creator, instructional designer, and owner of Trust Communications. Working with corporations, non-profits, governments, and educational institutions, she has designed more than 300 online learning programs and provides digital strategy expertise to brands like Sport for Life Canada, Heart & Stroke Canada, and PCL Construction. In 2016, Scaravelli founded The Canadian Diversity Initiative, a social enterprise platform that presents online diversity and inclusion training from non-profits, including the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, and Safety Services Canada.
Diversity Champion of the Year – Dalhousie University Faculty of Computer Science
Through their WeAreAllCS initiative, the Faculty of Computer Science united leaders from education, industry, government and the student body to increase the number of incoming female students by 144 per cent in 2018. Dalhousie co-ordinated with partners in industry and Nova Scotia's K-12 system. They developed new curriculum and course delivery methods, created scholarship opportunities and peer mentorship programs and hosted a national conference for women in technology.
Digital Nova Scotia’s partnership with the Women in Communications and Technology means that all three award recipients will also be nominated for WCT’s own national annual awards program to be held in 2020.
The AVF will be held June 26 and 27 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The seventh annual forum features networking opportunities, an Atlantic Canadian technology showcase, and information sessions.
The program includes presentations from 22 companies in four categories – Oceantech, ICT, Health Technologies and Sustainable Technologies. These are the startups that will present at the event:
Ashored, Halifax -- Ashored is developing fishing equipment that reduces the risk of animals such as whales becoming entangled in ropes and the risk of lost equipment littering the ocean floor. Its first product, the Modular Ocean Based Instrument, or MOBI, is a lobster trap buoy that is positioned near the ocean floor and released only when the fishing boat approaches.
Graphite Innovation and Technologies, Halifax -- The company has developed a marine coating out of graphene, a carbon-based material that is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. GrapheneCoat undercoats ships, buoys or unmanned marine exploration vessels with a hard coating that prevents corrosion and buildup and in turn, extends the life and efficiency of what it’s coating.
Global Spatial Technology Solutions, Halifax -- GSTS has developed a platform called OCIANA, which collects data from satellites and terrestrial sources then uses artificial intelligence to help crews plot the best route possible for their ships. The idea is that AI can assess weather patterns, ocean conditions and the traffic of other ships to help ships’ crews plot the safest route with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.
ReelData, Dartmouth -- This startup uses artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for fish farms. The software can analyze video from fish pens and produce meaningful data on the weight distribution of fish stock and the progress of certain diseases. It helps to automate manual processes like feeding fish.
Sedna Technologies, Dartmouth – Sedna is developing a traceability system for the seafood industry to reduce waste and improve profitability. It tracks the seafood through the various processing stages, from the ocean to the consumer.
Global Intelligence, Fredericton – Global Intelligence has developed a digital product that helps law enforcement teams work together to fight crime. Its flagship product is the Anti-Child Exploitation System, which uses a business supply chain methodology to solve crimes.
Mesh/Diversity, New Brunswick and Toronto -- The company launched to provide an online platform that companies or organizations can use to assess whether their culture meets modern diversity and inclusion standards. The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps organizations and their staff or members develop an inclusive culture.
Proof, Halifax – Proof has developed a SaaS platform that helps governments go paperless and make better decisions. Instead of losing track of approvals as they shuffle paper from desk to desk, government officials can now track and route them digitally.
QRA Corp., Halifax -- QRA builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements during their development. Its products help engineers devise better requirements and detect design errors early in the design process.
R I D D L, Moncton – The company has developed a platform that will help impact investors assess the social or environmental effects of their investments. It has also arranged pilot tests with impact investment houses in Amsterdam, New York and Atlanta, which will help prepare the platform for a general launch.
Vinocount, St. John’s -- Serial entrepreneur Jon King and his team have developed an inventory tracking and ordering tool for restaurants and bars. The owners of these establishments can monitor their supplies and sales and order fresh stock from their suppliers. King said Vinocount now has $7000 in monthly recurring revenue, and this figure is increasing by 32% monthly.
Aurea Technologies, Halifax – Aurea is developing a portable wind turbine to create and store energy for USB devices. Its product Shine helps backpackers and adventurers recharge their phones or tablets when they’re off the grid for a period of days.
Beyond Food, Halifax -- The company was formed two years ago with a core of sports and health enthusiasts. Its mission is to reduce food wastage, which now amounts to $31 billion a year in Canada alone, by finding supermarket produce that is about to be tossed out and using it to make a nutritional food supplement. It sells nutrition products under the brand TDF Sports.
Canum Nanomaterials, Fredericton -- Canum has grown out of Professor Felipe Chibante’s research at University of New Brunswick, which has resulted in a new, cost-effective way of making fullerenes. These nanoparticles are spherical structures of carbon atoms that have a range of commercial uses, including in healthcare and solar energy. Canum believes it can cut the price of making fullerenes by half in five years.
EnergyX, Toronto – EnergyX has developed several online platforms that enable utilities and other stakeholders to engage with their customers, help them understand energy use and provide ways to save. Its goal is to help utilities and their stakeholders provide better services for their customers.
Nexus Robotics, Halifax -- Nexus is building a robot that can identify and remove weeds. A big issue in modern farming is that weeds have become resistant to traditional herbicides, forcing farmers to resort to old fashioned weed-pullin’ to deal with unwanted sprouts.
Stash Energy, Fredericton – Stash Energy has developed a system that works with conventional residential heat pumps to store energy for later use. Companies around the world are working on energy storage systems so that consumers can store electricity from the grid during inexpensive, off-peak hours and use stored energy when demand is highest.
Axem Neurotechnology, Halifax – Axem is developing wearable technology that enhances mental training for athletes. Axem’s device sits on top of your head, almost like a headband, and records brain activity and function. Its purpose is to allow users to “mentally train” for physical tasks and improve motor function.
Colorsmith, Halifax -- Colorsmith is developing the world’s first contact lenses that mitigate the most prevalent forms of color blindness. By saturating colours, its lenses allow users to unlock a new level of beauty and utility in vision and enjoy the experience of sight.
Eadie Technologies, Halifax – Headed by glaucoma specialist Dr. Brennan Eadie and his father Frank, Eadie Technologies is developing a wearable headset that will simplify the standard testing glaucoma patients undergo to manage their disease. The company built a proof-of-concept device last year and is now working on a functional prototype that could be used in clinical trials. The company hopes to have a product in the marketplace by the end of 2020.
EChart Healthcare, Fredericton – eChart has developed a cloud-based solution for seniors’ homes that simplifies the process of recording and sharing patients’ charts. Staff can enter all the data they need on to a tablet as they make their rounds of the home. And the information is available to family members, recognizing their right to be kept apprised of all developments in the patient's care.
Talem Health, Sydney -- Founded by physiotherapists Paul Travis and Matthew Kay, Talem has developed software that can help auto insurers understand the time and costs of an individual recovering from a car accident. 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.
Valentine Named Startup Canada Director
Veteran entrepreneur Anastasia Valentine has been appointed Chief Executive Director of Startup Canada, following the decision by CEO Victoria Lennox to become the organization’s President.
Ottawa-based Valentine has been working as a volunteer with the national business development group for the last two years—most notably as host of the Startup Canada LIVE digital series.
Speaking last week, during one of her first days in the job, Valentine said she is getting to know the needs of Canada’s 2.3 million entrepreneurs so the organization can work towards meeting those needs.
“We want to provide a one stop shop for everything that’s required throughout an entrepreneur’s journey,” she said.
“Our goal, as Canada's entrepreneur organization, is to ensure that the journey is mapped and resources are available at every step, from idea, through to startup and growth of a scaleup.
“This requires a combination of tools, resources and people, and it is our goal to bring those all together to deliver on our promise to support every entrepreneur across Canada.”
Valentine said she brings the voice of a seasoned entrepreneur to her new role. She has held executive leadership roles with startups and billion-dollar companies in the areas of innovation, commercialization, marketing and sales.
She founded her own company Sandbox, an idea-to-launch company, and has been through multiple exits, most recently as Chief Marketing Officer at Versature, a communications venture which has been acquired by net2phone.
She is also known for her community and educational work. She is a regular speaker at business conferences and an advocate of women in STEM, education and entrepreneurship. She established the Anastasia Valentine Bursary for Young Parents in conjunction with Ottawa’s Bethany Hope Centre to fund the costs of post-secondary studies for young mothers and fathers.
Victoria Lennox, the head of Startup Canada since it began in 2012, became the group’s first president on January 14 in order to focus on growing the organization and developing national and global strategic partnerships.
“Anastasia brings more than 20 years of experience to the role and will build and nurture a team to take the organization to the next level,” Lennox told Entrevestor.
The day-to-day operations of the CEO, including managing the organization's team and programs, were managed for several months by Interim CEO Richard Rémillard.
SMU Study Highlights Lack of External Links
Ellen Farrell and Nathan Dennison
A new report from St. Mary’s University Professor Ellen Farrell highlights the interconnectedness of the Atlantic startup ecosystem, but also reveals it lacks ties with organizations outside the region.
The report titled “Atlantic Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Vibrant and Globally Aspiring” was released at the Halifax tech incubator Volta on Friday. Farrell presented her work with the help of collaborator Nathan Dennison of Nova Scotia Business Inc.
The 70-page document is the result of three years of research and tracks the relationships between members of the innovation community, including universities, venture capital funds and startups, among others.
“Relations are important,” said Farrell in introducing the report. “They’re important because entrepreneurship doesn’t exist in the air and opportunities don’t appear out of nowhere.”
The researchers modelled connections between respondents based on “knowledge-seeking activities”—the process by which entrepreneurs and innovators seek information or advice from each other.
Farrell and her colleagues surveyed 1,666 organizations, and the report features almost 3,500 data points.
The standing-room only presentation doubled as the keynote for an event held to mark the beginning of a new collaboration between SMU and Volta.
The Volta space on the main floor of the Maritime Centre now boasts a dedicated area for the use of SMU students, which is designed to foster a co-operative work environment and give students access to the Volta ecosystem.
"This partnership will infuse Volta's community with the creativity, enthusiasm and innovative thinking that SMU students exemplify," said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a press release.
The incubator also has plans to add a coffee shop in the near future to further encourage networking.
According to Farrell’s research, startups and their supporting organizations in Atlantic Canada tend to have strong ties within the region, with a high degree of cross-communication.
However, the majority of the knowledge-seeking behaviors documented in the report involve business and finance questions, as opposed to product-development advice. Companies were actively seeking generalized entrepreneurship guidance more often than feedback relating to their specific products.
The report warned that this type of insight is useful, but will not drive technological advancement. “Outreach designed to spur innovation will need curiosity aimed at the more technical/product/design investigations to create new technologies and product solutions,” said the report.
A second issue flagged by the report is Atlantic Canada’s lack of entrepreneurial integration with the rest of the world.
About three-quarters of organizations involved in interactions with Atlantic Canadian startups were themselves located in Atlantic Canada. The next largest sources of connections were the rest of Canada, the United States and other countries, in that order.
Global networks are a consistent feature of successful startup environments, and according to Farrell’s data, Atlantic Canada curently lacks this high level of international connectedness.
“Atlantic Canada has to promote ourselves,” she said. “We have to promote ourselves as being an active and motivated ecosystem.”
The report also includes a list of 22 steps that established businesses can take to assist startups.
Examples include participating in prototype testing and providing feedback on the market-fit of new products.
Swell Teams Up with Square
Craig Sheppard, left, and Iaian Archibald
Swell Advantage, which makes software for marinas and waterfronts, has struck a partnership with merchant services giant Square, which will offer more efficient point-of-sales transactions at boating facilities.
Swell and Square announced the partnership on Thursday, under which they will provide POS services at marinas and other boating facilities so boaters will have an easier time paying for dock space or retail goods. The service could be used at marina offices or even on the dock.
The agreement is a big step forward for Swell, which was formed in Halifax in 2014 by Iaian Archibald and Craig Sheppard to provide software for marinas. The software helps marina operators find spaces for boats, communicate with boats and – with the partnership with Square – take payments from boaters for food, goods and services.
“From a sales perspective, the teams at Swell and Square are working together to help our individual customers realize the increased value the product integration brings to marina and waterfront operations,” said Swell CEO Archibald in an email.
“We're excited to help Square grow to be the preferred POS solution for the recreational boating service sector as Swell becomes the preferred marina and waterfront management software solution. In turn, Square is working with its current marina customers to introduce Swell as part of its partner ecosystem. The goal is to grow together as we serve the industry.”
Archibald said Swell was looking for a partner to work with on a POS product for marinas and waterfronts, and it wanted to make sure the product had full functionality and ease of use. He described Square’s offering as a perfect fit, as it allows direct online payments through Swell’s invoices, permits recurring charges, and can be used on the dock or in the marina office.
“On top of that they have great inventory, retail and restaurant software as part of their product, all of which are components of a lot of marina operations,” said Archibald in a statement.
Added Pankaj Bengani, Global Partnerships Lead at Square: “Until now, managers and owners had to stitch together different processes and systems to run their business operations. Together, Swell Advantage and Square give waterfront and marina sellers a single view of their entire business and they can make informed decisions.”
Swell Advantage, which has operations in Halifax and San Diego, and San Francisco-based Square, will continue to work together on their products with the goal of helping marinas and waterfronts better serve their boaters.
“When the 2008 recession happened, the marina industry was hit hard, resulting in little innovation in marina and waterfront management software for a decade,” said Archibald. “With the industry starting to grow again and competition between marinas increasing, managers and owners are looking for modern tools to help.”
Job of the Week: Aycoutay’s VP IT
Halifax-based wearable technologies company Aycoutay is looking for a Vice-President of Information Technology.
The posting – which is our Job of the Week – comes from a young company that is developing hardware and software to help users achieve better health through nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. The hardware is a wearable device that captures data on the user’s body and the software analyzes the data to provide a holistic assessment of the user’s health.
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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:
Aycoutay Technologies Inc., located at 1592 Barrington Street 5th floor, Halifax NS B3J 0C7, creates technology for tracking the body’s well-being. The technology allows its users to gather and analyze data regarding the 7 main body systems, and provide recommendations on how to improve systems balance. Aycoutay is part of a group of companies that form an “Ecosystem” of companies founded and managed by the same CEO.
Aycoutay is hiring a 30 hour per week permanent Vice President Information Technology who will create strategies to ensure the security of the Ecosystem electronic information and build structures and processes to ensure safe capture, storage and transmission of this data. The role will also support technology product development across the Ecosystem. While employed by Aycoutay, this position will be assigned to support and work out of the other Ecosystem companies throughout the course of employment with Aycoutay.
Create the vision and strategy for management of Ecosystem company electronic data that are both aligned with industry best practices and the Ecosystem values.
Support on-going product development including hardware, software including external service providers.
Support and contribute to user testing process.
Investigate and implement electronic document management system - research, present options to leadership team and implement selected options including security for R&D, lab, production etc.
Create strategy and systems for company data Infrastructure:
Controlling / Finance data
Collaboration platforms, shared document platform
Create strategy and systems for IoT Devices:
Device to smartphone - smartphone to server
Storage of all collected data adhering to all applicable data security laws
Secure encrypted connection (data in motion)
Storage data encryption (data in rest)
Scale out / scale up structure within the software
Create software strategy and tools:
Store of different software versions (version management)
Penetration / security testing
Smoke tests / approval tests
DevOps Infrastructure and / or DevOps culture
Establish service desk strategy and plan including:
1st to 3rd level including workflows
Service level agreements
Customer ticket system
Problem and incident management
Languages aligned with company sales and marketing strategy
Follow the sun support
Solution knowledge bases
Create hosting / hardware systems:
SSL encrypted connections
Scale out / scale up architectures
Service level agreements
Service level objectives
3 tier application security architectures
Customer data handling
Datacenter security or cloud computing security
Using multi-cloud services
Create Contingency/Emergency planning including:
other data loss situations
Today’s Growth 10%
As part of the leadership team, contribute to revenue strategy and delivery as applicable.
Human Dynamics 10%
Mentor Ecosystem team members in IT strategy and tools.
Use values as a decision making tool.
Build healthy and prosperous relationships within IT team (when built) as well as all Ecosystem team members and with external partners . . .
Eleven companies from the Propel Incite Phase 2 program presented their business plans at the regional accelerator’s demo day on Thursday.
Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. Phase 1 began in September with the goal of helping companies validate their products. Then in January, 15 companies entered Phase 2 to learn how to attack their chosen markets and bring on more paying customers. These companies are due to remain with the program until the end of the summer.
“We’re willing to walk beside a founder literally for a period of up to 12 months to help them conduct a series of experiments to see what works best in gaining sales,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson:
Agyle Intelligence, Charlottetown – This company analyzes data for food processors, which have automated the production of food but still gather data manually. CEO David McNally said this simple solution provides a 98 percent improvement in access to manual data and can boost a company’s bottom line by $2 million in a single year. Since launching in 2017, the company has tripled customer numbers and had $500,000 in revenues in the first five months of 2019. Agyle is in talks with several parties to serve as its representative in Latin America.
Passiv,Fredericton– Passiv is working with online stockbrokers, who are suffering because 70 percent of their customer accounts are dormant. Passiv helps their clients to rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily, improving the service provided by the stockbrokers. Passiv just signed its first deal with Questrade and has four other brokers in its pipeline, said CEO Brendan Lee Young. He added Passiv is looking for a seed round of $750,000.
ReelData, Dartmouth -- This startup uses artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for fish farms. The software can analyze video from fish pens and produce meaningful data on the weight distribution of fish stock and the progress of certain diseases. It helps to automate manual processes like feeding fish. CEO Matt Zimola said ReelData is already carrying out pilot projects in Scotland, Denmark, the U.S. and Mexico, and will generate initial revenue this fall.
Room Service, Halifax – Room Service is an online convenience store that delivers goodies to your door within 45 minutes. In the 18 months since it launched in Halifax, it has logged more than $250,00 in revenue. The company plans to expand across North America in mid-sized cities so as not to compete with major online retailers in larger centres, said Johnathan Cannon, adding that the company is opening a seed round.
Safa, St. John’s – This company’s tool, Safa Insight, helps companies understand which of their employees intend to quit and how to prevent them from leaving. CEO Jason Trask said the company is targeting traditional industries with large salesforces as losing a key sales person could cost an employer as much as 250 percent of that individual’s salary. Trask, who raised more than $20 million for earlier ventures, said Safa has already signed five large customers in Canada and the U.S.
Team Stripes Systems, Moncton – The company’s e-training platform lets sports leagues train their officials – they can create courses, assign tasks and benefit from Team Stripes’ back office functions. CEO Brandon Bourgeois, who is raising a pre-seed round, said many of the 20,000 sports associations in North America use outdated training methods. The company targets the pain of sports organizations having shortages of officials, or insufficiently trained refs.
Trip Ninja, Halifax – Trip Ninja helps traditional and online travel services find the cheapest trip for travelers who are going to several cities and don’t care about the order of their stops. The company is now working with Sky-tours and is building relationships with other travel agents. Trip Ninja is now making about $1000 per day and expects that figure to grow dramatically this year. Co-Founder Brett Ziegler said the company is raising a seed round and will open up its Series A round later this year.
Sensory Friendly Solutions, Saint John -- The company is building a two-sided market in which groups offering sensory friendly places and products can display them, and those looking for such things can search and discuss what they find. The goal is to have a comprehensive showcase for things that can help people who are searching for all things in the sensory friendly space. The company has reached a beta version of the product, said CMO Nicole Kemp, adding that it is working on a pre-seed round.
Unum Health, Fredericton – This company has developed a mobile app that improves communications in nursing homes – between carers, medical staff and families of the elderly. CEO Lisa Williams said the company is raising a round of pre-seed funding.
Vinocount, St. John’s – Serial entrepreneur Jon King and his team have developed an inventory tracking and ordering tool for restaurants and bars. The owners of these establishments can monitor their supplies and sales and order fresh stock from their suppliers. King said Vinocount now has $7000 in monthly recurring revenue, and this figure is increasing by 32% monthly. The company is raising a pre-seed round to enable geographic expansion.
Side Door Wins Gerry Pond Award
Laura Simpson, CEO of Halifax-based startup Side Door, is the first winner of the Gerry Pond Sales Award, which was presented by the regional accelerator Propel at an event in Saint John on Thursday.
Side Door has developed a platform that entertainers can use to stage concerts in people’s homes or other intimate settings. CEO Laura Simpson said its bookings have increased 500 percent since February, and it is making plans to expand aggressively in the U.S. The company is now raising a seed round with a target of $2.5 million.
Propel presented the award at the culmination of its 2019 Demo Day to recognize the contribution Gerry Pond has made to the professionalization of sales, in Atlantic Canada and across Canada. The Chair of Mariner and the driving force behind the East Valley Ventures investment group, Pond has been an evangelist for sales throughout his career.
In presenting the award, Pond said sales people as a group have to shake off the stigma associated with their trade and show their value.
“Someone a long time ago made fun of this profession, but sales as a profession never fought back,” he said. “In fact, sales has become the most important function of any organization, including politics. … It’s not seen as an accreditation of any value and we’ve got to change that. And when we change that, the economy of Atlantic Canada will grow. “
Pond was introduced by TD Deputy Chair Frank McKenna, who waxed nostalgic about the days when he was Premier of New Brunswick and Pond was the CEO of NBTel – a time, McKenna joked, when Pond would always introduce him as NBTel’s Vice-President of Sales. McKenna saluted Pond, who turns 75 this year, for his commitment to innovation and economic development in Atlantic Canada.
“At a time when a lot of people have moved into a rocking chair and bought a pair of slippers, he just moved into high gear,” said McKenna. “Everything that’s good and promising about the IT industry in this region, Gerry’s at the centre of it.”
The Gerry Pond Sales Award will be presented each year to a Propel Incite Phase 2 company that excels in creating a repeatable and scalable sales process. The winner of the new award gains a $25,000 cash prize and the option of a combined investment from Innovacorp and New Brunswick Innovation Foundation totaling $30,000.
Propel CEO Barry Bisson said the award, which is funded for five years, is awarded to an Incite participant based on four criteria:
Growth in sales in the first five months of the program;
Growth in number of customers in the first five months of the program;
Performance in pushing sales prospects through the company’s sales system;
And the degree to which the founders benefited from instruction in building a sales process.
Bisson added that Pond has been a strong advocate of sales as a profession so Propel wanted to recognize him and encourage entrepreneurs to sell more.
Quoting one of his staff members at a meeting this week, Bisson said: “This award is all about growing big fish in Gerry’s pond.”
TIS Launches with $5k and Adopter
Gavin Andrews: 'I knew we could build a prototype for $5,000.'
When Gavin Andrews, CEO of Sydney-based Tracker Inventory Systems, pitched at the Volta Cohort event last week, one thing that was overlooked was the fascinating story of how the company was formed.
Tracker Inventory, which has produced an Android app to help companies track their inventory, is just six months old. But it already has one customer and is moving into a new market with two more potential clients. And it’s done all this with just $5,000 in funding and a relationship with a laundry service.
That laundry service, Sydney-based Snow White Laundry, uses the product to track and verify the linen it accepts, cleans and returns to clients. Andrews and his partner Matt Pyne are now working on developing a similar product for seafood producers (who they decline to name) based in mainland Nova Scotia.
“I knew we could build a prototype for $5,000,” said Andrews in an interview this week. “Beyond that, we’ve put in our own money. It’s not a lot of money, but it was enough to do what we needed to do. And yes, I’m surprised it’s worked out to be honest with you, but we’re really happy with it.”
The company started in November when Andrews attended Innovacorp’s Intersect Challenge in Sydney. This new program lets an established company present startups or entrepreneurs with a problem it’s experiencing. The entrepreneurs pitch suggested solutions and the winner receives $5,000 to build the product and the aid of the established business in developing it.
Andrews won with a proposal to use radio frequency identification, or RFID, a form of wireless communication, to track the linen at Snow White’s commercial laundry facilities in Moncton and Sydney.
An Oxford University-educated microbiologist, Andrews has lived in the State of Georgia, in Taiwan and Australia. He spent four years as an assistant research manager for Sydney-based manufacturer Protocase (which gave him experience in inventory management) and then served as Project Manager at the Verschuren Centre at Cape Breton University.
After winning Intersect, he brought in Pyne to build the product. There was one more vital component to launching the company: the participation of Snow White Laundry owner Donnie Snow. Andrews said White is adept with technology and he was essential in providing feedback and helping to integrate the new app into the company’s operations.
After they launched the product for Snow White, Andrews and Pyne were approached by the two seafood companies for a product that used RFID to track live lobster and other shellfish. These companies need a product that can monitor environmental conditions in the tanks holding live animals, and track them as they are shipped.
Andrews is now a full-time employee of Tracker Inventory Systems and is working on the development and implementation of the seafood product. He said the company is not actively raising equity funds because it is too early, and will likely apply for some government programs in the coming months.
The company was not a winner in the tough field at Volta Cohort, which awarded $25,000 each to five startups. But what caught my eye was that the Intersect pilot program has already produced one company. Andrews said the big factor in launching the company wasn’t the money so much as working closely with an early adopter to develop the product.
“Having the buyer of the product was more important,” he said. “It’s always half the battle.”
Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Mitacs Recognizes Huq, Hanafi
Two Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs received Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards at a reception Tuesday for the winners of the national awards in Halifax.
Tanzina Huq, Co-Founder and CTO of Chinova Bioworks of Fredericton, received the Outstanding Entrepreneur award, and Hamed Hanafi, Founder and President of Halifax’s Novaresp Technologies, was named the Global Impact Entrepreneur.
Mitacs is a national organization that helps link researchers with corporations for R&D projects. Now in their fourth year, the Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards celebrate startup companies founded by outstanding former Mitacs interns and postdoctoral fellows.
“Canada has exceptional talent and Mitacs is extremely proud to support young entrepreneurs in spring-boarding to market the next generation of innovations,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director Alejandro Adem in a statement. “Their contributions are strengthening the Canadian economy, spurring productivity, and creating jobs.”
Huq, 34, is a former Mitacs postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Brunswick. Her company is disrupting the food and beverage industry with the launch of a first-of-its-kind all natural, clean label preservative that ensures food safety and a longer shelf life without the health risks associated with artificial preservatives. The company raised US$2 million in VC funding last year.
Hanafi, 33, a former Mitacs intern at Dalhousie University, is working on a new treatment for sleep apnea and other breathing conditions. He is launching a unique respiratory monitoring device that provides a safer, more comfortable, and more effective aid to help patients sleep.
The other four Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners are:
Environmental Entrepreneur: Beatriz Molero, 32, a former Mitacs postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, and chief technology officer and co-founder of Calgary-based SeeO2 Energy. Molero is recognized for her company’s solution that converts greenhouse gas emissions into high-value fuels and chemicals, helping to battle climate change.
Change Agent Entrepreneur: Ephraim Nowak, 26, a former Mitacs intern at the University of British Columbia, and founder and CEO of Kelowna-based startup Percept Systems. Nowak is filling a void in the aviation market with the launch of a lightweight cockpit video recorder and flight data monitoring solution.
Social Entrepreneur: Hachem Agili, 31, a former Mitacs participant from Université Laval, pursuing his doctorate at Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS); and co-founder, president, and CEO of Quebec City-based Geosapiens. Agili is improving flood risk management with the launch of an online tool that assesses and predicts the impact of flood waters.
A special Mitacs 20th Anniversary Award was presented to Montreal-based Element AI in recognition of the company’s commitment to innovation and its entrepreneurial spirit. Working closely with Mitacs, Element AI was able to speed up the development and commercialization of its technology. Just three years old, the company employs 500 people in five offices around the world.
Kraken Sees Sales Doubling in 2019
After doubling its revenue last year, marine technology company Kraken Robotics is expecting to deliver a repeat performance in 2019.
Despite posting a loss of just under $3 million in 2018–the latest in a series of annual deficits—Kraken’s share price has more than tripled since May 2018.
The St. John’s-based company, which trades on the TSX Venture exchange, manufactures sonar equipment and unmanned submarines.
“For 2019, we are anticipating revenue of greater than $15 million, more than doubling 2018 revenue,” said CEO Karl Kenny in a press release.
Kenny added that the $15 million estimate does not include several large contract bids that are still in the early stages, nor potential income from a research and development project that Kraken has proposed to the Ocean Supercluster research co-operative in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
After the company released its 2018 financial statement, analyst Gabriel Leung of Beacon Securities, increased his target price for the stock from 70 cents to $1.05, according to the Cantech newsletter. The shares on Wednesday were trading at 61 cents, a rise of 336 percent over the past year.
Leung told the newsletter: “We believe this is an exciting period for Kraken as the fruits of its R&D years pay off in the form of large, long-tail contracts, which could be announced over the near-term.”
One factor that contributed to last year’s loss was Kraken’s purchase of a 75 percent stake in ENITECH Subsea GmbH--a German company specializing in battery and propulsion systems for unmanned submarines.
ENITECH was subsequently renamed Kraken Power GmbH and its finances were integrated with Kraken Robotics. The 2018 earnings report includes results from both companies.
In its report, Kraken added that technology from the ENITECH acquisition will help reduce manufacturing costs for its submarines.
The company ended 2018 with $4.9 million in cash reserves, up from zero the year before.
Since then, it has signed seven-figure contracts with the Canadian government, as well as the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
A manufacturing contract for a mine-detecting program that is funded jointly by the Belgium and Dutch navies could also earn Kraken more than $35 million over several years.
In the press release, Chief Financial Officer Greg Reid added, “Our pipeline of customer opportunities is better than it has ever been, both for military and commercial customers.”
Social Media Day Halifax in June
A one-day social media conference for the small business community will be held in Halifax on June 21.
Social Media Day Halifax will see Atlantic Canadian experts and business owners come together to share strategies that have worked for them. Speakers will share their knowledge, case studies, and best practices. Sessions are focused on providing real life examples, with actionable information attendees can take home.
There will be sessions on Facebook ads, Twitter, Instagram Stories, Pinterest, LinkedIn lead generation, storytelling, live video, podcasting, Google My Business, chatbots and Google Analytics, organizers Linda Daley and Anita Kirkbride said in a statement.
Information on speakers and sessions is available here:
The event will coincide with other Social Media Day events being held around the world. It will be held at the Cineplex Scotiabank Theatre in Bayer's Lake.
Venture Capital funding hit a lull in Atlantic Canada in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association.
The association, known as the CVCA, issued its quarterly data report on Tuesday, showing that Atlantic Canada raised a total of $22.4 million in the three months to March 31. It was a decline from the rabid funding witnessed in 2018, when the region averaged $39.5 million per quarter, according to the CVCA.
The group found that in the first quarter of 2019, Nova Scotian startups raised $16 million in four deals, while New Brunswick startups produced six deals worth $6 million. A single deal in Prince Edward Island was worth $400,000. There were no deals reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.
There were a couple of bright spots in the report. Fredericton was the fourth-most active fundraising centre in the country with six deals. And Nova Scotia averaged $4 million per deal in the quarter – a sign that companies are landing follow-on funding.
The data for the second quarter will show an improvement because of at least one deal : ABK Biomedical of Halifax raised US$30 million (C$40 million) in April. That round was led by: Cambridge, Mass.-based F-Prime Capital, which is an offshoot of mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, a maker of medical software.
The CVCA said the Canadian VC industry overall had a great first quarter. There were 142 deals amounting to $1 billion. It was the fifth billion-dollar quarter since 2013 and the investment total was 48 percent higher than in the same quarter in 2018. There were seven mega-deals (worth $50 million or more) in the first quarter, which accounted for a 57 percent share of all dollars invested, said the CVCA.
Montreal-based Lightspeed POS Inc. completed the largest and only IPO exit since 2017 with a market capitalization of $1.1 billion.
“It’s great to see continued momentum across the Canadian VC industry with this fifth billion-dollar quarter in less than 10 years,” said CVCA Chief Executive Kim Furlong in a statement. “Lightspeed’s exit this quarter is another proud accomplishment for the industry. We will be keeping an eye on the exit environment throughout the remainder of 2019.”
Nodalblock Hires Leetzow as CEO
Halifax-based blockchain cybersecurity company Nodalblock Canada Holdings has named Joel Leetzow its new President and Chief Executive Officer, taking over from Daniel Faria, who is remaining with the company.
"We are very pleased that Joel will be joining our team as President and CEO," said Nodalblock Chair Jim Megann in a statement. "His extensive experience in the tech sector and strong operational background will be of tremendous benefit, and his proven track record of delivering on sales and technical deployments will be invaluable to the advancement of the company's corporate strategy."
While Nodalblock was founded in Madrid and has 15 employees in the Spanish capital, it received investment last year from Halifax-based Numus Financial, which assembled an executive team in Halifax, including Faria. The company has a range of products including digital identity, document verification and ticket distribution.
Nodalblock's mobile ticket delivery system dramatically reduces counterfeit ticket and scalping occurrences. The company's ticketing delivery system works in conjunction with established ticketing solutions providers, replaces paper tickets, and can provide track and trace accountability for all tickets issued and transferred.
"The company has developed a best-in-class cybersecurity and digital identity platform capable of reshaping the idea of a secure internet,” said Leetzow. “The platform's ability to provide a very complex layer of data encryption behind standard facial recognition technologies without diminishing the user experience of facial recognition login is incredibly exciting. The world needs a passive security screening tool that doesn't miss, and the team at Nodalblock has invented one.”
Innovacorp Names 4 Sprint Winners
Innovacorp has awarded four companies $25,000 each as winners of the 2019 Sprint competition.
The Nova Scotia venture capital and innovation agency holds several competitions throughout the year to provide early-stage companies with a bit of money and mentorship with which to develop their products. Sprint is a competition open to companies from all sectors and from across Nova Scotia.
The four winners are:
BlueNode, Grant Wells and Louis Beaubien, Halifax – BlueNode has developed software for data cleansing, analysis, auditing and sharing for marine container ports. The company was accepted into the Startup Yard in Dartmouth last year.
Invisible Agents, Stuart Boyd, Halifax – This company is developing technology to improve fundraising for non-profits and churches through machine learning, visual storytelling, and communication automation. It is planning a launch in July.
Symbi Medical, Cameron Sehl, Maxwell Jennings, and Devin McArthur, Antigonish – Symbi’s platform allows health care teams to quickly and securely send digital instructions to patients before and after care.
Innovacorp said it received 77 submissions from across Nova Scotia. It narrowed that list down to a shortlist of 10 companies, and a panel of judges deliberated for two hours before selecting four winners.
Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Propel Award Honours Pond
The regional IT accelerator Propel has announced the creation of a sales award in recognition of Gerry Pond and his contribution to the Atlantic Canadian innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Pond co-founded Propel in 2003 and has played an integral role in the organization, which helps launch tech startups in Atlantic Canada.
The Gerry Pond Sales Award will be presented each year to a Propel Incite Phase 2 company that excels in creating a repeatable and scalable sales process.
“Everyone who knows Gerry is well aware of his passion for three things: entrepreneurship; sales and Atlantic Canada,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “We could not think of a better way to recognize him than with an award to further encourage entrepreneurship and excellence in sales execution in the Atlantic provinces.”
Pond believes sales execution is an area where many Atlantic Canadian founders need to improve.
“Sales execution is often the difference between being a successful venture and one that does not realize its full potential,” said Pond in the statement.
“It is with honour and humility that I accept this recognition as I believe it will further help to achieve and bring awareness to the need for sales professionalism in successful Atlantic Canadian ventures.”
The winner of the new award will gain a $25,000 cash prize and the option of a combined investment from Innovacorp and NBIF totaling $30,000.
The winner will be chosen by a third-party selection committee. Judging criteria will include: monthly sales growth; growth in number of customers; and demonstrated ability to push leads through the funnel in a structured way.
The first winner will be announced during a ceremony following Propel’s Demo Day on May 30 in Saint John. Pond will be honoured by Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair of TD Bank Group. McKenna is also a former Premier of New Brunswick and a former ambassador to the U.S.
Born in Quebec and raised in New Brunswick, Pond has over 45 years of experience in the ICT sector. As the CEO of NBTel and the President of its successor, Aliant Telecom, Pond was at the helm during a period of significant deregulation in the Canadian industry. Under his leadership, NBTel emerged as an international ICT leader.
He is currently Chairman and Co-Founder of Mariner Partners and has co-founded a number of successful ICT start-ups, including iMagicTV, Q1 Labs, Brovada Technologies, Radian6, Shift Energy and Cirrus9.
Pond is also the Co-Founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, and the Co-Founder of East Valley Ventures, an accelerator for Atlantic Canadian startup companies. He is a Director of Upside Foundation, the NB Business Council and the National Angel Capital Organization.
His many awards include being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada; being named the first ever Business Development Bank of Canada Entrepreneurship Champion; receiving the Order of New Brunswick; being inducted into the New Brunswick Business Hall of Fame and winning the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.
The new award is being sponsored and supported by businesses and leaders who have a strong connection with Pond. They include: Frank McKenna; the UNB Saint John MBA program; Beers Neal; Innovatia; Mariner Partners; Cirrus9; Resson; Sunny Corner; Elias Management Group and EY.
MassChallenge Picks Ashored
The Ashored founders: Aaron Stevenson, left, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.
After fielding 3,000 applications, MassChallenge this month accepted 100 startups into its international accelerator for 2019, and it included only one Canadian company – Ashored Innovations of Dartmouth.
In an interview after the announcement, Ashored CEO Aaron Stevenson said he was thrilled to be accepted into the Boston-based program and spoke about the doors it will open for the company. But he was more eager to discuss another aspect of his company’s experience – the opportunity to join the global discussion on protecting marine environments.
Ashored is developing commercial fishing equipment that aims to avoid harm to sea life and the marine environment. Stevenson said the company is still “firmly in research and development mode”, but as it develops the product Stevenson and his five colleagues have been involved in events around the world discussing how to better protect our oceans.
“In so much of the commercial fishery, there’s a gap between where they are today and . . . and where the public would like to see the wild fishery,” said Stevenson. “The whole idea of sustainably caught wild fish . . . that’s where people want to go. It’s clear that the old ways of doing things are not going to be tolerated for much longer.”
Ashored strives to be part of that movement. Working with various organizations, the company has participated in a virtual accelerator in San Diego, engaged with the French embassy in Ottawa, and will attend the 7 Seas Summit in Lisbon next month.
Now two years old, Ashored is developing equipment that reduces the risk of animals such as whales becoming entangled in ropes, and the risk of lost equipment littering the ocean floor. Its first product, the Modular Ocean Based Instrument, or MOBI, is a lobster trap buoy that is positioned near the ocean floor . When the fishing boat returns to collect the trap, the spool of rope on the buoy unwinds so the buoy can float to the surface and the fishermen can collect the trap.
The intelligent buoy also captures such data as location, date, weather, tides, and water temperature, to help improve the catch over the long term.
Ashored is also developing a product called Atlas, which uses radio frequency ID and sonar to locate equipment on the ocean floor and make sure all equipment is retrieved.
Stevenson, who took the company through the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary’s University, said the team conducted its first sea trials of MOBI last fall. That product had a timer for unraveling the spool and it established the basic functionality of the product in the open ocean. Working with the Halifax engineering company Enginuity, Ashored will this autumn test an improved product in which the spool unwinds on command via a radio signal as the fishing boat approaches.
If all goes according to plan, Ashored could begin preliminary sales in 2020 and fully enter the market in 2021. The company, which operates out of the COVE Startup Yard in Dartmouth, has never raised equity capital and has grown with $340,000 in funding from competitions or grants.
Stevenson said he hopes the MassChallenge experience will lead to investment from backers outside the region. And also, he hopes it will provide an opportunity to deepen Ashored’s involvement in the movement to protect the marine environment.
“How we’ve positioned our company is, from what we’ve seen so far, quite unique on the international stage,” said Stevenson. “We’re looking toward to the future and seeing where sustainability is going and what needs to happen to get there. I think we have a compelling and unique story that captures people‘s attention. “
Job of the Week: Dash Hudson
Our Job of the Week column today showcases an opening for a Content Marketing Manager at Dash Hudson.
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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:
Reporting to the Senior Director of Marketing, the Content Marketing Manager will support the initiatives set by the Senior Director of Marketing in order to reach the departmental lead, and overall company revenue goals. The Content Marketing Manager must be equal parts creative and analytical - excelling at writing, research, data analysis, and problem solving. The ideal candidate will have experience developing innovative content campaigns from the ground up as well as creating scalable content strategies for brand awareness, lead generation and lead nurturing. Your strong communication and collaboration skills allow you to work effectively and closely with a highly talented team of marketers and designers.
Ideate and produce high-quality content in the form of website landing pages, advertising copy, bylined articles, social media posts, ebooks, benchmark reports, case studies, blog posts, and more.
Work with the Marketing team to turn that content into high-impact, highly cross-functional campaigns that demonstrate clear and compelling results. Your work should generate qualified leads and greater engagement.
Measure and analyze what's working and what isn't.
Help implement smart and sustainable SEO strategies.
Possess impeccable writing skills, with the ability to adapt writing style to various audiences and tones of voice.
Attention to detail. You lose sleep over typos.
Super organized. To the point of compulsion.
Strong awareness of brands and their respective positions in the beauty, fashion, luxury, media, publishing, home, food, and travel spaces.
Ability to learn, absorb, and recall information at a very fast pace.
Ability to work head down and maintain high productivity.
A people person - you function highly in a team setting, and are able to develop and maintain strong business relationships.
Not afraid to take on new challenges and problem solve independently.
What you'll need - Desired Qualifications:
2-5 years content marketing experience in a similar role; agency or in-house.
Lisa Ali Learning with her sons Darian, left, and Lucas
When Lisa Ali Learning’s sons became sick with body pain and swollen joints, she had no idea what was wrong. It turned out the boys, then aged 12 and nine, had developed Lyme Disease. Their illness led their mom to found AtlanTick Repellent Products, a business focused on developing natural tick repellents.
Now, Ali Learning has received a grant of up to $100,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The money will go toward completing toxicology tests necessary for registering Ali Learning’s most potent repellent with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
The funding follows 18 months during which Ali Learning has started selling products online and in retail outlets. She has also been testing and refining her repellents at Acadia University. She said she hopes to become the first to register a scientifically proven natural tick spray in Canada.
“The boys had no bulls eye rash or typical Lyme flu symptoms,” Ali Learning said in an interview, recalling the early days of her sons’ illness.
“Things got so bad that my oldest couldn't walk for a period of time. I was terrified and still had no diagnosis.”
Her son, Darian, was sent to a child rheumatologist. Ali Learning asked the doctor to test for Lyme and to immediately put her son on antibiotics as a precaution.
“I felt sick to my stomach. Any parent can relate when a child is that debilitated.”
When Lyme was confirmed after eight long months, Ali Learning felt guilty for the delay in treatment—a neighbour had warned her about the prevalence of ticks and Lyme when the family moved to Mahone Bay several years earlier, but Ali Learning had forgotten.
Her sons’ illness incentivised her to act. She started doing research online and found that various essential oils make good tick repellents. She devised some formulas and took them to Acadia University's biologist Nicoletta Faraone for testing and refinement.
Ali Learning describes the experience of seeing ticks in a petri dish.
“They looked dead, but Dr. Faraone breathed on them and their little legs popped up because of the carbon dioxide in her breath. They started to crawl about to find out where it came from.”
Tests proved one particular formula repelled 80-85 percent of the ticks in contact with it. This product is now being sold as an outdoor spray. It is categorized as a cosmetic and does not need regulatory approval. Ali Learning also sells other products such as a lava stone bracelet and a pendant, which absorb the tick-repelling spray.
She said another formula proved to be 97.5 per cent effective at repelling ticks, and that one is going through the regulatory process with Health Canada.
Gaining regulatory approval is a long, expensive undertaking but Ali Learning isn’t new to entrepreneurship. She began her first venture in 1999 when she began selling her own digital artwork, which explored her childhood growing up Metis in Labrador. Later, she got into property investing and development.
With her latest venture growing, Ali Learning has recently gained a business partner, Nancy Thompson, who also grew up in Labrador and now lives in British Columbia. Thompson has had Lyme Disease for 12 years. The partners’ potential market is vast as different species of tick and different types of tick-borne illnesses are becoming more common. In Atlantic Canada, deer ticks—also known as blacklegged ticks--cause Lyme disease and are of major concern.
Ali Learning said recent tests have shown that her son Darian is now free of Lyme. Her younger boy, Lucas, will soon be retested.
She said her boys’ experience has left her nervous—after all, a child’s muscle or joint ache can be a symptom of Lyme or just a growing pain. But she hopes her products make a difference. “We are dedicated to impacting this problem and providing safe options to protect the people and pets (it is safe for dogs) we all love,” she said.
Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.
Volta Cohort Seeds 5 Startups
The Volta Cohort program awarded a total of $125,000 to five companies Wednesday night, bringing the total funding provided by the two-year-old program over the $500,000 mark.
In its fourth pitching event, the Volta Cohort invested $25,000 each in five companies, meaning it has now channeled a total of $525,000 into 21 startups based in Atlantic Canada. Volta, 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.
The 16 companies that received Volta Cohort funding in the first three events have also received $533,000 in grants. And four of them have received $3.8 million in follow-on investment.
“We’re really excited about what the founders have been able to do with the Volta Cohort, just taking the concept and running with it,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers. He added that the Volta Cohort has been a two-year pilot project and Volta and its partners will soon decide how to move forward with the program.
Arolytics is developing technology that helps industrial companies to cost-effectively monitor leaks of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The company is starting with oil and natural gas wells that leak invisible gases. Arolytics provides a dashboard of up-to-date emission analytics, which saves companies time and money by generating reports needed for regulatory compliance. Arolytics now is going through a one-year contact with an oil and gas contractor, and is working on a $350,000 equity round.
Atomo, Matt Cooper
Cooper, a startup veteran, is developing technology to help SaaS development teams research the market for a product they’re considering. Atomo’s tool will integrate with common customer relationship management platforms like Salesforce to help development teams reach the right people quickly. It will also help the teams make sure they are asking the right questions, and provide a continuous service so companies are in constant touch with their customers. Cooper said the $25,000 would help him finish his minimum viable product and bring it to the 30 customers that want to be early adopters.
This Halifax startup uses artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for fish farms. The software can analyze video from fish pens and produce meaningful data on the weight distribution of fish stock and the progress of certain diseases. It helps to automate manual processes like feeding fish, and Zimola said clients have used the word “desperate” to describe their need for the technology. ReelData is already carrying out pilot projects in Scotland, Denmark, the U.S. and Mexico, and will soon be ready to attack major markets like Norway and Chile.
Gibli Innovations, Ben Bschaden
Gibli is developing a sensor providing cyclists and triathletes with real-time aerodynamic feedback to help them optimize their riding position and reduce wind resistance. Rather than train in an expensive wind tunnel, cyclists can use the Gibli product to perfect their body angle. Athletes using the product have found 20 percent improvement in performance. The company has a prototype built, and signed up 14 people to buy the device in its first three days of a presales campaign.
Based in Yarmouth, N.S., the company is developing a wristwatch-like safety device that can quickly locate fishermen if they are swept overboard. The team is designing a product that fishermen will be willing to wear, overcoming the problem of too few mariners wearing safety devices. If someone goes overboard, the device would send signals to the fishing boat so the captain could quickly locate the person in the water. BlackWatch.Tech is working with Dalhousie University, Allendale Electronics and the Ignite startup house in Yarmouth to develop the product.
Companies receiving investment are given space at Volta and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. For companies outside of Halifax, support is arranged with partner organizations in other cities.
Mariner’s Change Management Team
Best known as a multi-layered IT company, Mariner has launched a new service that helps companies develop change management strategies.
The Saint John-based company issued a statement on Wednesday saying it has hired Shelley Fletcher to head the new change management practice, which will help clients grasp the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls of a changing business environment.
The thinking behind the new service says that “change” represents an important opportunity for most businesses, but the first step in changing is having a clear understanding of the organization’s approach to doing things differently.
“We work with clients to help them become a change-able organization, supporting teams and leaders as they develop and integrate change management practices needed to achieve goals and realize benefits sooner,” said Fletcher in the statement.
Mariner began in 2003 when veterans of iMagicTV, which provided software for video services, launched a new company to improve the delivery of videos online and alert providers of any problems with video transmissions. That business, known as xVu, has been the core of Mariner’s business.
The company, which employs more than 200 people, has three other pillars: Shift Energy, which has developed an internet-of-things application to conserve energy in large facilities; Mariner Innovations, which provides advisory and professional services and project delivery; and East Valley Ventures, the loosely held portfolio of 27 startup investments, held by Mariner itself and/or members of its network.
New to Mariner, Fletcher has spent the last 25 years managing change and overseeing other projects within large organizations. She began her career in health care, with over eight years of leading corporate communications for a large health authority. She has been a senior consultant in the technology industry since 2008 and spent over 10 years leading and integrating change management practices.
Now she is building a team that will help businesses prepare for immediate and future transformation while growing and developing their internal change management expertise. The team, which will serve customers mainly in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, will work out of the recently opened Fredericton office.
“We’re extremely pleased to have Shelley add her leadership and extensive change management expertise to the Mariner team,” said Mariner President Paul Eisner. “An advanced approach to change is now a critical business foundation. We look forward to helping both public and private sector organizations achieve success with our innovative strategies.”
Agyle Fills Ag Department Contract
Agyle Intelligence, a P.E.I.-based data analysis company, said it has filled a contract with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada worth almost half a million dollars.
Based in Mount Stewart, just east of Charlottetown, Agyle Intelligence said its technology is helping the federal department to automate instant access to manually collected data in various research projects, ranging from greenhouses to labs.
“We are thrilled with the response from our key contacts at AAFC and are looking forward to more growth across the department,” said Agyle CEO David McNally in a statement.
The two-year-old company has developed software that automates the process of analyzing collected data. The solution is used across the food industry to manage operations and supply chains by providing up-to-the-second results and correlations from critical data being collected across business units and teams.
Agyle was awarded a contract for $496,000 through the former Build In Canada Innovation Program, which is now part of Innovative Solutions Canada. The goal was to speed up access to manually gathered data generated from research projects across the country. The Agyle solution simplified the process and instantly produced the data in visuals and reports, said the statement.
Founded by CEO Mahmoud Mirmehrabi, the life sciences company has developed expertise at converting liquid medicines into solids — the pharmaceutical industry’s preferred state to transport and dispense drugs. Mirmehrabi said about 30 per cent of medical compounds are liquids in their natural state, and it is essential to ensure they retain certain properties when converting them to solids.
“Our team is about 15 people now,” said Mirmehrabi in an interview Tuesday. “Now we’re occupying almost one-quarter of the usable space in the Innovacorp building. So we’ll be moving to new facilities.”
Solid State Pharma is a service company that helps major pharmaceutical companies around the world change the state of their drugs. For competitive reasons, Mirmehrabi declined to reveal much about the company’s sales or how many clients it has. However, he did say exports account for all its sales. It has clients in Boston, California, Japan and Europe, and its sales have been doubling annually.
To meet the demand for its technology, the company needs more scientists who can help to master the process of converting the drugs. Mirmehrabi said the hiring process in and of itself will amount to a major project for the company.
“We're going to a waterfront facility about three times the size of what we have now and that gives us the room to go to 40 highly skilled employees,” he said. “Within the next few years, we have to hire 25 masters and PhDs.”
As well as local hires, Mirmehrabi said the company will search across Canada for talent, and bring in people from other countries. Solid State also has a rigorous training program, he said, and there are enough senior executives to ensure the new staff learn the ropes.
A statement from ACOA said Solid State will purchase state-of-the-art equipment to outfit the laboratory where it will conduct innovative research to produce new intellectual property. Pharmaceutical and natural health care companies will use this research to patent new drugs, extend the patent life of existing drugs, and lower required dosages. It added that Solid State will decrease costs for its clients and develop new intellectual property to improve the company’s sustainability.
Solid State has never raised equity financing because it hasn’t had to, said Mirmehrabi, though it has borrowed money from ACOA and the Business Development Bank of Canada. The company’s priority in the next year or so will be to complete the move, bring on new employees and continue to increase its sales.
“We received four requests for an acquisition in the last five years,” said Mirmehrabi. “We did not pursue any of them because we’re not interested. We want to be here in Halifax 20 years down the road.”
Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.
Moltex Eyes Power from Nuke Waste
The Point Lepreau nuclear power facility.
A British company is developing a 300-megawatt power plant in New Brunswick to source electricity from spent nuclear fuel, and says it could make Saint John a hub for similar zero-carbon plants around the world.
Moltex Energy signed an agreement last July with NB Power, the utility owned by the New Brunswick government, under which both parties would put up $5 million toward the project. (Another company, ARC Nuclear Canada, signed a similar contract to work on a small modular reactor facility.)
Moltex has since set up a 10-person office in Saint John, and is now raising close to £6 million(C$10.3 million) in private money to put toward the project. Over the next year, it will attempt to raise a further £40 million to help finance its first plant near the Point Lepreau nuclear facility, which would eventually cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion. This plant could be ready in eight to 10 years, if everything goes smoothly.
Moltex believes its technology has the capacity to solve the climate change crisis on its own. In time, says Moltex, it could deliver affordable electricity with no carbon emissions while reducing the world’s stock of nuclear waste.
“The opportunity here is so big,” said Moltex CEO North America Rory O’Sullivan in an interview. “The GDP increase for the host nation would be C$1.5 trillion and it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. That opportunity is too big just for Canada.”
Moltex is one of a handful of companies around the world that is working on technology that would convert the waste from nuclear plants into electricity. (Another is Bellevue, Wash.-based TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates.) Some environmentalists believe nuclear power is a key to battling climate change because it produces energy on demand (whereas renewables like solar or wind are sporadic), and this new technology would mitigate the downside of nuclear power by consuming nuclear waste.
Founded in Stratford-upon-Avon, Moltex has devised a plan for a molten salt reactor, which the company says is safer and less expensive than conventional nuclear reactors. It does not require the high pressures of current reactors, and does not produce radioactive gases. What’s more, the nuclear reaction slows as the temperature rises, so it is self-cooling.
O’Sullivan, who’s now based in Saint John, said Canada and the U.K. have the two best regulatory regimes for developing a molten salt reactor. Though there are utilities and investors around the world that accept the science behind the project, it has proven difficult to find a place to build the first plant, he said.
The New Brunswick government, meanwhile, had proposed a nuclear research cluster in the province, and Moltex found that NB Power would be a suitable partner in developing a plant.
“The numbers show that this business should be profitable as long as we can get anywhere near delivering what we believe we can,” said O’Sullivan. “We have loads of interest from utilities around the world that want to build these things, but no one wants to build the first one.”
The Canadian company has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a design review, which could take three years. After that, there would be a more rigorous safety review.
Meanwhile, the parent company, Moltex Energy, is working on raising capital. It received a £2.5 million investment from the Spanish engineering firm IDOM, and £800,000 from existing investors. It set out to raise a further £700,000 in an equity crowdfunding round through the site Shadow Foundr, and O’Sullivan said that in one week it exceeded its target, so it has raised the total target for the current raise from as much as £5 million to £6 million.
The current round will set the stage for a larger round with a target of £40 million. O’Sullivan said the main difficulty in courting investors is that the company will not produce revenues for at least eight to 10 years, and most investors demand a return in less time. But he adds that the company has the potential to be highly profitable and to make a meaningful impact on the climate change battle.
“From the climate change perspective, anyone who has taken the time to understand what we’re doing can understand that this is a technology that can solve climate change,” said O’Sullivan. “I don’t know of any other technology that’s scalable and that can make that claim.”
Energia Seeking Cohort Members
A 2018 Energia Cohort
Fredericton-based accelerator Energia Ventures is inviting applications from companies in the smart-grid, energy, cleantech, and cybersecurity sectors.
A Global Accelerator Network (GAN) member, Energia’s program is headquartered in Fredericton and was built in partnership with the University of New Brunswick and leading technology companies.
Founded in 2016, the program offers a 12-week intensive accelerator where companies receive mentorship, industry connections, roadmapping, access to labs and researchers, equipment for prototyping and other resources through the University of New Brunswick.
The program provides a minimum of $20,000 in financing and a platform to pitch VC and angel investors, along with introductions to agencies that can provide non-dilutive funds. Participants gain access to the GAN perks program, which includes discounts on many services integral to moving a business forward.
Program organizers say they can connect participants to influential organizations and companies around the world as well as put them in touch with 85,000+ UNB alumni.
“We encourage collaboration amongst our cohort and foster an environment of peer-to-peer support,” organizers said in a statement.
Gillian McCrae chatting with McInnes Cooper Partner Rob Cowan at Volta last week.
In less than two years, the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic has established itself as the main angel funding group in Atlantic Canada, with its members investing about $7 million into 23 companies – so far.
The CDL is primarily a mentorship group that assembles wealthy businesspeople (which it calls fellows or associate fellows) to advise and invest in young innovation companies. It requires the companies to reach a series of benchmarks through the nine-month program, and those that don’t meet the benchmarks are asked to leave. Twelve companies graduated in 2018, and 11 graduates from the most recent cohort will head to the final “super session” in Toronto next month.
“What’s remarkable is that at this stage, being a month out from the super session in Toronto, these companies (the 2019 graduates) have collectively closed $3 million in equity investment and the majority has been 25 cheques written by our angels and fellows,” said CDL Venture Manager Gillian McCrae in an interview Wednesday.
She added that most of these companies are continuing to raise money and expect to close a further $8 million to $10 million in funding this summer, hopefully aided by meetings with other investors at the super session.
She said that the 12 companies in the first cohort raised a total of $10 million in 2018, and $4 million of that total came from CDL fellows and other angel investors affiliated with the group. The Year 1 companies closing large rounds included: Fredericton-based natural preservative maker Chinova Bioworks, which raised US$2 million (C$2.6 million); St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats, which raised more than $2 million; and Halifax-based construction software maker Harbr, which raised $1.75 million.
CDL Atlantic is hitting its stride at a time when startup support experts have been expressing their concern about the lack of angel funding in the region, especially after the pioneering First Angel Network closed its doors this year after 14 years of operation. But the results reported by CDL show it is backing more companies and providing more funding than other angel groups have. What’s more, it has introduced some of the region’s leading business people, like IMP founder Ken Rowe and former Emera CEO Chris Huskilson, to angel investing.
“Some fellows are becoming angels for the first time,” said McCrae. “Some are supporting a handful of companies and others have made a lot of investments. We’ve got seasoned investors and we’ve got new investors and it’s creating a lot of energy in supporting these companies.”
CDL-Atlantic was criticized early on for having only male fellows, the organization has since added female advisors, said McCrae. Sally Daub, CEO of ViXS Systems, is now a fellow, and the organization has eight female associates. She added that four of the 11 CDL-Atlantic graduates this year are companies headed by women.
The organization is now accepting applications for the 2019-20 cohort for its programs in Halifax and other Canadian centres, as well as New York and Oxford, England. You can find the application forms and details about the process here.
ACOA Lends Eadie Tech $300K
Halifax-based medtech company Eadie Technologies has received a $153,000 loan from the federal government to help finance the design and development of its device for testing glaucoma patients.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement Thursday saying it had lent the company money via the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program – a nationwide program that backs innovative companies and the ecosystem.
Headed by glaucoma specialist Dr. Brennan Eadie and his father Frank, Eadie Technologies is developing a wearable headset that will simplify the standard testing glaucoma patients undergo to manage their disease. The company built a proof-of-concept device last year and is now working on a functional prototype that could be used in clinical trials. The company hopes to have a product in the marketplace by the end of 2020.
“It means a great deal to the company in terms of being able to leverage up the investment capital we have in order to do the things that are necessary to bring this product to market,” Frank Eadie said in an interview. “The onus is on us to make sure this is a dependable product, which is what we intend to do.”
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness around the world, and people suffering from it should undergo visual field tests once every four to six months, depending on the severity of their illness. These tests are currently conducted on a large, clunky desktop device in a doctor’s office, with each test taking about a half hour, Eadie said
Eadie Technologies, which employs five people including the co-founders, aims to replace the clunky machine with a headset, which would speed up the process and allow for remote testing.
“By reducing the margin of error in current vision tests, Dr. Eadie’s game-changing technology has the potential to impact how glaucoma and other eye diseases are diagnosed and treated around the world,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore in a statement. “Not only will this device help with the accurate detection of eye disease, it will also improve the lives of thousands of Canadians suffering from existing conditions for which frequent tests are vital to properly manage their disorders.”
Frank Eadie said the company is still assessing how it will proceed with applying for regulatory approval. The company so far has raised $300,000 in equity investment, mainly from ophthalmologists, and will likely try to raise a further $300,000 this year.
The company is working closely with Dalhousie University’s Glaucoma Research Group, and has contracted out work in developing the product to the engineering company Enginuity and the software development company T4G.
Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.
Kyriakidis Joins Feds’ AI Council
Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO of Halifax-based QRA Corp, has been appointed to the Federal Government’s new Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence. He will be advising on how to build on Canada’s strength in AI in a way that reflects democratic values.
QRA builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements during their development. Kyriakidis has been shortlisted to this year’s Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award, which presents cash prizes of up to $100,000 to winners.
Kyriakidis told Entrevestor it’s vital that Canada play a leadership role in the development, consequences, and opportunities of AI.
“This council is a strong step in that direction. We are at the cusp of a brand-new market. And nobody knows how it will play out,” he said.
“But certain features always accompany strategic inflection points. For example, deploying new products into the market before safety and quality controls have a chance to catch up make it incredibly dangerous and expensive to fix errors after the fact. If we don’t get a handle on the safety aspect, public trust will erode. And that will be a shame because I believe that autonomy and AI can make us all safer, healthier, and freer.”
In a statement, the federal government said the new council will advise on how best to build on Canada’s AI strengths. It will look at identifying opportunities to create economic growth that benefits all Canadians, and ensure that AI advancements reflect values grounded in human rights, transparency and openness.
The statement said that Canada is home to more than 800 AI companies, and the number of Canadian AI start-ups is growing by approximately 28 percent a year. Job opportunities in the field grew by nearly 500 percent between June 2015 and June 2017. In 2018, $548 million in venture capital was invested in Canadian AI companies, an increase of about 50 percent from 2017.
The government has recently named five themed industrial superclusters, all of which will support projects that will promote the development or use of AI. The AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI) will be the supercluster with the biggest focus on AI, undertaking activities to develop next-generation AI-powered supply chain platforms which will create over 16,000 jobs.
On November 22, 2018, at the Digital 9 Summit in Israel, Canada and the other D9 member nations agreed on a shared approach to the responsible implementation and use of AI by governments.
The advisory council will be co-chaired by Foteini Agrafioti, Chief Science Officer for the Royal Bank of Canada, and Yoshua Bengio, Scientific Director of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.
Other members of the council include:
Pierre Boivin, President and CEO, Claridge
Natalie Cartwright, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Finn AI
Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Canada Research Chair in Public Ethics and Political Theory, Université de Montréal
Eli Fathi, Co-Founder and CEO, MindBridge Analytics Inc.
Geoffrey Hinton, Chief Scientific Advisor, Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, University of Ottawa
AJung Moon, Director, Open Roboethics Institute
Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor
Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, University of Ottawa
Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Richard Sutton, Chief Science Advisor, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute
Geneviève Tanguay, Vice President of Emerging Technologies, National Research Council Canada
Smartpods Gains with The Pulse
After a modest change to its business model of making automatically adjusting desks, Smartpods is reporting higher sales with particular success in selling to the federal government and the new market of call centres.
The Dieppe, NB-based company began several years with the goal of manufacturing desks that adjusted height and position automatically so workers would alternate between sitting and standing. In the past couple of years, it has introduced The Pulse, a device that attaches to any electric standing-sitting desk to automatically adjust it for the user.
The Pulse now accounts for about 70 percent of Smartpods’ sales. CEO Léon DesRoches said the company has been effective in selling The Pulse because it helps employers to get better value out of standard adjustable desks they have already invested in.
“We’re seeing the executives being frustrated because…they’ve bought electric sit-stand desks,” said DesRoches in an interview. “The issue is that after a few months, the novelty wears off and no one uses them. … This technology can be integrated with any electric sit-stand desk. Now they get a return on investment in the electric sit-stand desk.”
The result, said DesRoches, has been better health and productivity experienced by the workforce of Smartpods’ customers.
DesRoches buys into the notion that sitting is the new smoking, and in 2011 he set out to help battle this problem. He launched Smartpods with the goal of manufacturing desks that would move to different positions so the user wouldn’t sit five hours straight. Now with The Pulse, the company is helping clients who have already invested in adjustable office furniture to receive better results from that investment.
What’s more, Smartpods’ devices – which are 100 percent manufactured in New Brunswick – include sensors and collect data. They can show employers how the environment of their offices impacts workers’ performance, or how health and productivity improve as workers move more.
“We’ve come a long way,” said DesRoches. “We used to make a desk that moves up and down, which we still do. But we also capture a lot of things and analyze them.”
DesRoches declined to reveal sales figures but said they have been strong. The company has sold thousands of units to the federal government, and is finding a growing market in call centres. Smartpods is also one of the companies accepted into the Scale-Up Hub: Cambridge, in which half a dozen Atlantic Canadian companies spend a year in the Boston area to increase sales in New England.
The company now has 14 employees, and DesRoches expects staffing to rise to 18 to 20 employees this year. Smartpods has accomplished its recent growth without raising equity capital over the past few years, but DesRoches said it would consider raising money next year if it needs capital to fund expansion.
Meanwhile, the thing that gives DesRoches special satisfaction is the knowledge that people are enjoying better health because of his company’s product.
“We did a complete install in New Brunswick in a complete floor a while back and initially we saw a little bit of resistance from people because they said, ‘This is technology,’” DesRoches said. “When you walk back in there a few months later, people have started to buy into the transition of using this. People feel better and they don’t know why, and it’s because they’ve moving while they work.”
NB Hosts Virtual Job Fair
Like a lot of tech companies in New Brunswick, Introhive has been facing the challenges of finding New Brunswick-based talent to join their team.
“The reality is we have some really great talent here in New Brunswick from an IT perspective,” says Kristen Vautour, a talent acquisition specialist at Introhive. “But on the flip side, we also have some really great organizations here in New Brunswick in that industry and we’ve only got so many people to go around … that leaves us with a very small pool to draw from.
“Despite us being active in hiring New Brunswick residents, there are just not enough people.”
Vautour has started pursuing other avenues to recruit people from outside the province. Recently, she took part in a virtual job fair, hosted by the Province of New Brunswick. . .
The NBCPM research centre is also a “bio-incubator” designed to support the growth of bio-medical startups in New Brunswick. The centre will allow biomedical startups to access valuable technology, network with other startups, and undertake experimental projects in precision medicine.
Precision medicine is a recent trend in healthcare where the unique biological factors of the patient, and the specific details of how the disease is impacting the patient, are taken into consideration to build more effective treatment plans than traditionally possible. However, this customized approach requires more specialized diagnostic and treatment tools. This has created an ecosystem with a high demand for technological innovation.
Biomedical startups in the field have relatively easy access to dry-labs, which don’t use live samples but computer models using previously gathered data. While dry-lab testing is an important part of the process, a bottleneck exists for access to wet-labs, which are designed to safely deal with microbes, chemicals, drugs, and other biological samples. In these labs, experiments can be conducted to collect new, real-world data and to put theoretical solutions to the test.
The NBCPM will increase access to wet-labs for New Brunswick bio-medical startups. The release says startup teams will be able to rent space and equipment that is only available in a wet-lab.
The release said: “By acting as a hub for the bioscience industry, a generator of important partnerships and intellectual property, and an incubator for fledgling startups, the Center for Precision Medicine can be many things to many people in New Brunswick.”
PEI’s Kay MacPhee Mourned
The loss of Kathleen "Kay" MacPhee is being widely felt in the startup community, following the recent passing of the educator and force behind two literacy-focused ventures.
A former teacher who used her expertise and passion to help found Charlottetown-based Ooka Island, a developer of literacy software that teaches young children to read, MacPhee died aged 79 in Charlottetown on May 10.
The Ooka Island game blends phonics and language-based literacy with an adaptive technology, meaning that the system analyzes individual student’s results and formulates individual learning paths. In April 2017, Ooka Island was acquired by Scholastic.
Nova Scotia Senator Colin Deacon worked with MacPhee on her first venture, SpellRead. Paying tribute on Tuesday, he said she never questioned a child’s ability to become an efficient reader.
“When faced with students who were not making the expected progress, she always questioned her skills, her knowledge, her abilities — never the students’," he said. “Her focus and determination created programs that delivered consistent student results and that were celebrated by some of the most respected experts in North America.”
In a January 2014 interview with Entrevestor, MacPhee’s granddaughter Joelle MacPhee, then Ooka Island’s director of reading partnerships, highlighted the role her grandmother played in founding and building Ooka Island.
She said Ooka was conceptualized by Kay, a teacher and researcher who became interested in reading acquisition when her son, Lowell, was born profoundly deaf in 1960.
Kay MacPhee went on to develop her own program, SpellRead, which she sold for over $20 million in 2006. Two years later, she joined with Jim Barber to develop Ooka Island, believing that an online game would be accessible and thus help more children learn to read.
“Kay started researching language for her son, but then found that parents of other children with learning difficulties also wanted her help,” Joelle told Entrevestor. “She always said, ‘This shouldn’t happen; reading should be as easy as talking. Reading is a basic skill.’”
According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of adult Canadians fall below the minimum level of literacy required to function well at work and in life. “Research shows that reading well by the end of third grade is a strong predictor of how successful a child will be,” Joelle said.
Joelle took inspiration from her grandmother. In a 2017 Facebook post announcing the sale of Ooka Island, she wrote: “Building a business is a hard, weird, seemingly-impossible, loooong game.
“In the later years, I finally learned to recognize when I needed to take a break. To step back, recharge, and put things in perspective. To find my anchor. I realize now that my anchor has always been my grandmother. When I felt like giving up, I would think of her legacy and why she started Ooka Island in the first place. I knew if she wasn't giving up, then neither was I, no way. Thankfully, she never did.”
Operating out of Dalhousie University, the CDL-Atlantic just finished its second cohort, which began last autumn with just over two dozen companies being mentored by some of the region’s top business leaders. The organization never reveals its participants until they graduate as the numbers dwindle as the cohort progresses.
The CDL began a few years ago at University of Toronto and now offers programing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, New York and Oxford, England.
Here is a complete list of the most recent CDL-Atlantic graduates (and links to Entrevestor articles on those we’ve covered recently):
Byos, Matias Katz, Halifax – Byos’ SaaS platform allows IT/Security managers to control their remote employees' activities and filter out any potential attack or infection from spreading into the main corporate network.
CapIntel, James Rockwood, Toronto – CapIntel is digitizing communications between asset managers and financial advisors. The company hopes to become the infrastructure for professional investment decisions globally.
CoLab Software, Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews, St. John’s – CoLab has developed a digital platform that helps mechanical engineering teams automate their design review process and resolve issues faster.
Rayleigh Solar Tech, Sam March and Dane George, Halifax – Rayleigh is developing a low-cost solar cell using large-scale perovskite solar cell production methods to license to large manufacturers.
Rimot, Andrew Boswell, Halifax – Rimot provides remote monitoring-as-a-service of wireless transmitter sites to the oil and gas, public safety, and transportation and logistics industries.
SucSeed, Emily Blunt, St. John’s – SucSeed produces at-home hydroponics growing kits. It provides consumers with the ability to grow fresh, affordable produce year-round, without soil or sun for less than 30 cents per day.
Applications for the next cohort will be open through Aug. 12. You can find the details here.
McCrae, Barbara Headline Volta Talk
Rob Barbara and Gillian McCrae
Startup community vets Rob Barbara and Gillian McCrae highlighted concerns about two parts of the funding regime in Atlantic Canada during a talk at Volta last week – a discussion that’s available online.
In the course of the discussion, they touched on two areas of funding that are of interest in Atlantic Canada: the eight-figure rounds that go to super-promising companies; and the state of angel funding in Atlantic Canada.
On the B or C rounds, the panelists agreed that there are only a few companies in the region with the fire power to convince investors from outside the region that they would use tens of millions of dollars wisely.
“These companies should be at a state where they can show they can take a dollar and turn it into a multiple of dollars, and that’s really hard to do,” said McCrae. “We’re still at an early stage there.”
They also addressed worries over angel funding, now that the First Angel Network has closed down. Barbara admitted that angel investing is “an area of concern” in Atlantic Canada, adding that the community needs companies to get the $100,000-$200,000 funding rounds to get off the ground. It’s a necessary building block to getting the companies to a stage at which funds like Build can consider investing in them.
This is just a glimpse of the discussion and it’s worth taking a listen to the full chat.
Volta is aiming to host Your Ecosystem chats once a quarter, to bring forward experts in high growth companies and generate discussion on hot topics in the community.
Naveco Power Wins Rising Star Award
(left to right) Mariah Belyea, Energy Analyst Amit Virmani, CEO & Founder Sarah Arsenault, Marketing & Communications
Fredericton-based Naveco Power, a clean energy developer, has received the Rising Star Award at New Brunswick Power’s Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards.
The Rising Star Award recognizes an individual (or group) less than 30 years of age who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to energy efficiency and conservation through advocacy, volunteerism, research, education or projects.
Naveco Power comprises millennials who have been working together since 2015 to provide clean energy projects to New Brunswick. They aim to create clean energy investment projects that inspire societal, environmental, and economic change, the company said in a statement.
“The potential for renewable energy in our province is endless,” said Amit Virmani, company Founder and CEO and, at 30, the oldest member of the team.
“When you invest in renewables within the province, you’re controlling your own destiny. You are able to invest in a place you care about.”
Naveco Power has been involved with many project opportunities across the province, the statement said, including wind farm developments, solar feasibility studies, and energy efficient building retrofits.
Naveco’s focus is on job creation, reducing fossil fuel dependence, community investments, and New Brunswick itself.
Last year, the Rising Star Award went to Jordan Kennie of Stash Energy. The company has since closed a $500,000 investment round, and is going from strength to strength.
The Awards recognize the local leaders and supporters who are helping to grow the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.
“We all have a role to play in creating a more innovative and prosperous future for Atlantic Canada,” said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta. “The Ecosystem Impact Awards are our way of celebrating the individuals and organizations that are contributing to this goal in a meaningful way, and serve as a source of inspiration for those who want to drive growth in the region.”
This year, there are five Ecosystem Impact Awards:
The Catalyst Award, for an organization that has helped cohesion and growth in the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem. Either by directly supporting growth, facilitating relationship building, or reducing barriers for startups.
The Positive Impact Award, for an entrepreneur or company who has developed and implemented a solution for an important social issue, benefiting the community-at-large.
The Community Leader Award, for a company that has directly impacted the growth and development of the entrepreneurial landscape in Atlantic Canada by its dedication to the startup community, donation of time, mentorship, and other acts of community leadership.
The Corporate Supporter, for a corporate partner supporting the tech startup community in Atlantic Canada by donating time and resources, as well as training and mentorship.
The Disruptor Award, for an up-and-coming business in Atlantic Canada that has successfully disrupted current market patterns or innovated disruptive technological answers.
“The innovation industry is critical to the future economic strength of our region,” said Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic Provinces. “RBC is excited be part of the inaugural Ecosystem Impact Awards and we look forward to celebrating the people and businesses who are creating an impact locally and globally.”
The Ecosystem Impact Awards will be held on June 6, beginning at 5:30pm, in the Volta Event Space.
Nominations are open until Wednesday, May 15, at 11:59 pm. You can find the forms here.
The competition challenges entrepreneurs and startups to solve a problem for an established Cape Breton business. This round’s established business partner is the Destination Cape Breton Association, the tourism marketing organization for Cape Breton Island.
The exact details of DCBA’s pain point will be revealed at the launch Monday, but DCBA is looking for a data solution to track tourism, highs and lows, in real time.
Startups and entrepreneurs will pitch a solution to DCBA’s problem and detail the accompanying business model. The winning team will receive a $5000 grant from Innnovacorp, business support from DCBA, and access to a model for attracting niche customers.
The previous two Intersect Challenges called on entrepreneurs to work with Protocase, a company developing custom electronic enclosures, and Snow White Laundry, a professional dry cleaning service.
The Intersect Challenge III launch is May 13 at 6 pm in the Holiday Inn in Sydney.
Jobs of the Week: 2 at Protocase
Protocase of Sydney is looking for a CNC Profile Operator and a CNC Machining Specialist, two openings that are our Jobs of the Week this week.
Established in 2001, Protocase makes custom electronic enclosures. It focuses on combining advances in software with advanced manufacturing techniques to offer unique custom manufacturing to the engineering, design, and research industries. The company has more than 175 employees and 12,000 clients.
CNC, which stands for “computer numerical control”, is a manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed computer settings to operate tools and machinery.
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 headline postings this week:
Protocase is currently seeking reliable and detailed CNC Profile Mill Operators to join our Production team in the fast-paced CNC Machining department in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. Our customers – engineers, designers and scientists – depend on Protocase to quickly and accurately CNC machine custom enclosures, panels and parts.
As a member of the busy CNC team, you will operate and set up machines to perform repetitive machining operations, along with a variety of other duties to help keep the CNC department running smoothly.
Read and interpret engineering drawings, blueprints, charts and tables
Verify dimensions of parts machined using precise measuring instruments, including micrometers and calipers
Report deviations from specifications and tolerances
Perform routine maintenance on equipment and machinery
Clean and maintain work space
Maintain inspection records and complete inspection reports . . . .
Protocase is currently seeking a dedicated and experienced CNC Machining Technologist/Specialist to join our CNC Machining Division in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia.
Our customers – engineers, designers and scientists – depend on Protocase to quickly and accurately CNC machine custom enclosures, panels and parts. Our CNC Machining equipment includes 3- and 5-axis milling machines, CNC Router, and CNC turning.
As a leader of the busy CNC team, you will be responsible for a variety of duties:
Help operators and programmers to optimize jobs
Perform CNC programming tasks
Help troubleshoot equipment problems and repairing equipment as needed with in-house and/or manufacturer support . . . .
The partnership, called the Sector Digitization project, will focus on data collection for the non-profit sector, and CSCNS member organizations will have access to SimplyCast’s digital community engagement tools to connect with volunteers, members, and donors.
“A lot of the management systems that we were looking at were really directed more to the private sector in the way the private sector operates,” said Arlene MacDonald, Executive Director of CSCNS. “And so, it gives us a system that is specific to how the not-for-profit sector operates.”
MacDonald said SimplyCast’s platform cost less than a third of some of the available options for private companies while being fully customized. By working with a Canadian company, the data CSCNS is collecting can be stored in Canada and will be subject to Canadian privacy laws. Dartmouth-based SimplyCast is a communication automation company known for its customer-flow application SimplyCast360.
As well, she said investing in Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotian companies like SimplyCast, is a key priority for CSCNS. She said SimplyCast’s active engagement in Nova Scotian communities made the partnership fit. MacDonald said the company has very strong value alignment with CSCNS’s mission to build the economic and social landscape of Nova Scotia.
One of the key issues facing non-profit organizations in Nova Scotia is lack of information. Important data, such as workforce numbers and executive salary information, isn’t currently being collected. Registered charities must report that information to the CRA but registered not-for-profits aren’t required to.
“We’re missing a lot of data on what the workforce in Nova Scotia really looks like without having access to that kind of information,” said MacDonald. “So, this system will allow us to start collecting information on our sector.”
MacDonald said it is clear to her that the non-profit sector has a positive impact on Nova Scotia, but while individual organizations can report on their successes, the sector as a whole lacks the tools to do so. She said there are reporting systems currently in use, but there is no standardized process for reporting in the sector, and that’s what this partnership with SimplyCast solves.
Investing for impact as a strategy has been increasing in all sectors, government included,, MacDonald said. For the non-profit sector to attract investment, it must better articulate its successes and make the return on investment clear to stakeholders.
In addition to data collection and management, the SimplyCast platform allows for process automation, reducing the workload on non-profit employees. MacDonald said Tuesday’s announcement was simplified to a single click, compared to what would have been posts to multiple mailing lists and social media platforms. She said this automation will free up human resources and allow the sector to focus on growth.
“CSCNS is always looking for new ways to innovate and benefit the non-profit community in Nova Scotia as donor, volunteer, and stakeholder demographics change and as our sector becomes more entrepreneurial,” said MacDonald in the statement. “Digital engagement is a critical component of that.”
NSBI launched the program last year as a vehicle to help scaling companies establish a base in Cambridge, MA., and generate sales. In December, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency provided $280,500 to allow the Nova Scotia economic development agency to expand the program, offering it to scaling companies from around the region.
The program offers the winners the following resources for a full year: working space in Cambridge; assistance with selling in the New England marketplace; and the services of an in-market business development team to help with sales strategy and market development.
NSBI on Thursday posted on social media the names of the companies participating in the cohort:
Beauceron Securities, Fredericton – Beauceron has developed a cloud-based risk-management platform that monitors the human elements in cyber-risk. In other words, it helps companies and organizations make sure their staff are doing the right things to ensure they are protected against cyber-attacks. The company last year was accepted into the CyLon cybersecurity accelerator in London and raised a $1.5 million funding round.
Northern Business Intelligence, Dartmouth – Part of the Kerr Group of Companies, Northern Business Intelligence offers corporate customers cutting-edge software and hardware to improve efficiency. It then goes a step further by working with clients to make sure they understand how to use the solutions to get the most out of them.
ScreenScape Networks, Charlottetown – ScreenScape helps businesses and organizations advertise on TV monitors in public spaces. The company is now launching its ScreenScape5 initiative, which will offer greater flexibility to users.
Smartpods, Dieppe, NB -- The company makes tables that have work areas that automatically rise, fall and move from side to side so users work in a variety of positions. Its technology controls the movement of the working space, and it is finding customers among corporations and government.
EcoPilot Canada, Halifax -- EcoPilot is an artificial intelligence system that integrates with existing building management systems and automatically changes temperature to save energy and money. Its logarithms assess indoor data, weather forecasts and other factors to produce optimium temperatures.
LeeWay Marine, Dartmouth -- Leeway owns and operates ships that help clients gather data, and specializes in assisting with hydrographic and geophysical surveys. The company is now updating its latest ship, The Leeway Striker, whose high speeds make it an invaluable asset.
NSBI piloted the program in 2018, and three Halifax-area companies -- 4Deep Inwater Imaging, Mindsea, and Aerotec Engines – spent about a week each month in Cambridge. In total, they have generated more than $2 million in new sales in New England.
Disclosure: ACOA and NSBI are clients of Entrevestor.
A pioneer in digital signage in public spaces, ScreenScape helps businesses and organizations to advertise on location-based TV monitors. It aims to offer an easy-to-use, cost-effective product to present high-quality messaging on flat-screen monitors.
ScreenScape5 won’t increase the cost of the company’s subscription or hardware, said Founder and CEO Mark Hemphill in an interview. It is a better, more-flexible offering for existing and new clients, which allows ScreenScape to better compete against the digital-signage-as-service model.
“It’s one thing to make the system more powerful, but it’s another to make it more elegant,” said Hemphill.
Hemphill told Entrevestor the purpose of upgrade is twofold. The new software removes Adobe flash, a program he says is being phased out of the industry. Hemphill said the redesign was required to remove the soon-to-be-obsolete program, so it was the perfect time to improve the user experience and to make the program easier to use, while keeping all the tools clients need.
The key to the redesign was to make a program that would provide professional and customizable digital signage, requiring little to no design expertise on the part of the client.
“The exercise afforded us the chance to take everything we learned about the industry, and take the enormous amount of feedback we gathered from customers over the years, and also take the best of new and modern software techniques,” said Hemphill. “To do things we couldn’t do 10 years ago.”
ScreenScape5 adds easy design elements, from professionally designed templates to a database of stock photos and videos, which are included in ScreenScape’s subscription free. Clients can still choose to build their digital signage from the ground up, if they have the assets and expertise to do so, or to mix ScreenScape-provided media and templates with their own content.
“You can now do it all without leaving ScreenScape5,” said Hemphill. “The result is more striking, more engaging digital signage content, even by non-technical, non-designers.”
In addition, he said ScreenScape5 will provide customers with an optional mobile set-up.
He said one of the key pain points ScreenScape5 will address for business owners will be the cost of hiring outside agencies to create content for their digital signage. ScreenScape’s low-cost subscription model drastically reduces prices compared to existing service-based solutions in the digital signage industry.
ScreenScape currently has 25 employees, up two from the beginning of the year, and has plans to hire one or two additional employees by the end of the year.
The company didn’t do any additional fundraising to create ScreenScape5 – the development was paid for entirely with cash-flow, said Hemphill.
ScreenScape’s clients include Hyundai, Costco, and Amazon. Hemphill said Amazon uses ScreenScape in more than 100 locations for employee-facing messaging. Most of the design work is handled by local managers and IT without any need for designers.
“We now feel like we have, bar none, the best solution, especially for the price, in the marketplace,” said Hemphill. “The [makeover] was a defensive move but, boy, are we glad we did it right.”
Concrete Leads SalesRight’s Round
Halifax-based SalesRight has raised $250,000 in a pre-seed round led by Concrete Ventures, the first investment made by the new Atlantic Canadian venture capital fund.
Hankinson co-founded Tether, a leading Halifax tech company early in the decade, and was a founder of Compilr, a code learning platform which was acquired by Lynda, before Lynda was acquired by LinkedIn.
Hankinson has personally invested in 14 companies as an angel investor, but SalesRight is Concrete Ventures’ first investment.
SalesRight is developing software to streamline complex pricing models for business-to-business sales in the Software-as-a-Service market.
“Pricing is one of the biggest levers that can boost the underlying economics of a business,” said Hankinson in a statement. “Yet, executives often have little to no insights on how their pricing impacts their overall business. Nobody's tackling this problem the way SalesRight is, and that’s where I see the opportunity. With the experience Bill and his co-founders bring to the table, I’m excited to be a part of this.”
Bill Wilson, CEO of SalesRight and former CEO of the mobile app development agency MindSea, said in an interview the raise will be used to expand SalesRight’s three-member team. It will also build on the company’s recent success in acquiring customers in the U.S. and Canada, he said.
The company’s main goal is to allow clients to configure custom deals with their customers, he said, the same way customers are used to buying simple SaaS products today.
“We’re really trying to take that configure price quote element, that is usually quite laborious, and make it a lot simpler for the sales reps, and also make it more transparent for the customers who are actually buying,” said Wilson.
The software creates a pricing guide and sales document solution, either highly customized or a standard template, both of which will reflect pricing and special deals. They will allow customers to accept terms directly from the guide.
Wilson said the software is designed to support existing sales process and allow salespeople to cut down on back-and-forth while protecting the sales rep-customer relationship.
He said it puts all the information that would come slowly through email, over the course of hours or days, and up-front in a way buyers can interact with. The goal isn’t to reduce sales reps’ ability to identify pain points and problems, but to clear up communication on the pricing and options for solutions.
In addition, the software uses analytics to give the sales rep information on what the customer is interacting with.
“Their follow-ups become much more relevant and more timely, because now they can actually understand what their prospect is looking at and actually bring that up with them, and say, ‘Okay this is clearly important to you, lets talk about it,’” said Wilson. “One of three things: you either understand it and you really want it; you don’t understand it; or you’re curious about it. Either way, its something actionable.”
CoLab Accepted into Y Combinator
CoLab's Gradient product
St. John’s-based CoLab Software has become the first Atlantic Canadian company to be accepted into Y Combinator, one of the world’s most prestigious tech accelerators.
CoLab, whose Gradient platform helps engineers and designers collaborate, started at the Silicon Valley accelerator last month. The company is now planning to double the size of its 14-member team by the end of the year to meet growing customer demand.
Joining Y Combinator is a big deal, both for CoLab and the region. Being a Y Combinator alum is a mark of distinction for any high-growth company, and the program has an acceptance rate of 1.5 percent. Participating in the program will expose CoLab Co-Founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews to the world’s biggest venture capital funds, and immersing themselves in Silicon Valley for a few months will help to further develop a product designed for engineers.
“Y Combinator presents significant opportunity for CoLab to connect with top global investors and mentors while accelerating the development and growth of the company,” said CoLab in a statement. “Y Combinator will also contribute to CoLab’s seed financing and help acquire new customers.”
Y Combinator customarily invests US$150,000 (C$202,000) in the companies that enter this program (which will no doubt contribute to the funding round that Keating and Andrews are now working on). Through these investments, the accelerator now has a portfolio of companies whose total value is more than US$100 billion. They include such titans as Airbnb, Reddit and Dropbox. Its Canadian grads include Thalmic, a Kitchener, Ont.-based specialist in human-computer interaction that raised US$120 million in 2016, and Kitchener-based video marketing company Vidyard, which raised US$35 million in 2016.
CoLab is a much younger company than these high-flyers, as Keating and Andrews only graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland a couple of years ago. At MUN, they participated in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, finishing second in the international competition that charged student teams with designing the fastest ultra-high-speed ground vehicle.
They learned during the competition that engineers have a really hard time collaborating on 3D designs because of the dearth of technology that allows them to work on the same 3D files simultaneously. They created CoLab to solve that problem.
CoLab has developed Gradient, a collaboration platform that helps engineers and others work together on 3D designs. It’s a cloud-based tool that helps engineering teams streamline the design review process, simplify program management, and resolve issues faster.
Last year, the company executed a successful beta program and raised a $600,000 pre-seed financing round from Killick Capital, Pelorus Venture Capital and Panache Ventures. CoLab says it is now working with some of the largest automotive and industrial companies in the world. The company – which has openings for programmers, sales, marketing and customer success professionals – said it plans to install Gradient with a number of industry leaders in the next six months.
“Our mission is to empower engineering teams to build the future faster,” Keating, the company’s CEO, said in a press release. “Y Combinator is going to accelerate our growth and pair us with some of the brightest and most successful entrepreneurs in the world. We are excited to leverage Y Combinator to provide our customers with industry leading products while expanding our team and customer base.”
The seventh annual forum features networking opportunities, an Atlantic Canadian technology showcase, and information sessions.
The AVF speakers this year include:
Adam Nanjee -- Nanjee is the Canadian Managing Director for Microsoft for Startups, on the board of The Canadian Innovation Exchange, and a member of the management board of The Ismaili Centres Canada. Nanjee has worked in innovation for 15 years, including time with MaRS, MasterCard, BlackBerry, Zafin, and Microsoft.
April Dunford -- Dunford is an executive consultant, investor, speaker and author. She is an expert in positioning and market strategy. Dunford spent 25 years as vice-president marketing for a series of high-growth startups. In April, she was named to the Propel board
Paul de Gelder -- De Gelder is a Navy diver, shark attack survivor, author and motivational speaker. He co-hosted nine Discovery Channel’s Shark Week documentaries and one for National Geographic. His book, No Time for Fear, details his life and journey of recovery after a shark-attack in 2009.
The AVF focuses on technological innovation in information and communication technologies, sustainable technology, life sciences and health technologies and oceans technologies.
In the Forum’s Technology Showcase, early-stage and growth-stage companies will have an opportunity to present their technology and businesses to the attending audience as well as a panel of expert investors.
The AVF is June 26 and 27 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find more information on the speakers here and register to attend here.
Nextleaf Raises $4M in Share Sale
Nextleaf Solutions, co-founded by Saint Mary’s University alum Paul Pedersen in 2015, will raise $4 million through the sale of new shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange this week. This brings the total funds raised by the Vancouver-based company up to $15 million.
Of the $4 million, about $800,000 is coming from employees and other insiders. The source of the remaining $3.2 million hasn’t been disclosed, but Nextleaf CFO Charles Ackerman said the money comes from family offices, investors, institutional and strategic financial investors across the country. He added that a significant amount of the raise is from Nova Scotian investors.
Nextleaf has developed – and has filed nearly 20 patents on -- technology that extracts THC and CBD from dry cannabis biomass to produce a tasteless, odorless substance, or distillate, that is standardized for potency. It can consistently be used with clearly defined dosage of THC and/or CBD.
Ackerman said the cannabis biomass doesn’t have to be high quality – what would now be considered waste or failed crops can be used – to produce high-quality distillate.
“Nextleaf currently has an issued U.S. patent on the entire end-to-end process,” said Ackerman. The process includes steps from biomass preparation through to molecular distillation. “And, to our knowledge, it is currently the only publicly traded cannabis company to have an industrial cannabis-specific extraction and purification patent granted by the U.S. Patent Agency.”
This is unique in a market where most players are still looking to fill cannabis supply. Nextleaf is looking to the yet-to-be-legalized cannabis-infused product market. Cannabis-infused products are set to become legal by October.
“We started Nextleaf with the thought: let’s never grow a plant,” said CEO Paul Pedersen. “Let’s focus on acquiring market-validated extraction technology.”
Nextleaf applied for a Standard Processor License in June 2018 and, Ackerman said, expects to see the licence granted before the end of the year.
This hasn’t stopped the company from putting their process into practice. Nextleaf created The Mobile Lab, a small-scale version of its industrial patent capable of processing 20 kilograms of cannabis per hour. The Mobile Lab operates on-site and under the licence of the client. The Mobile Lab doubles as a testing platform to refine Nextleaf’s processes.
Nextleaf’s central, 6,540-square-foot, processing facility in Greater Vancouver will be capable of processing 100 tons of cannabis per year, said Ackerman. The facility will also have a research lab for ongoing R&D.
Nextleaf can produce distillates high in THC or CBD, allowing for many applications from recreational to health. Nextleaf distillates can be used in products including skin cream, vape technology, edible oils, and water-soluble extracts.
Ackerman said the company has broadly refrained from making supplier agreements until its processing facility is up and running, but one notable exception to this rule is a partnership with BevCanna in British Columbia. Nextleaf and BevCanna have signed a letter of intent for Nextleaf to supply cannabis oils to BevCanna’s 40 million-bottle beverage facility for cannabis-infused beverages.
Nextleaf listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange as OILS.
Apply Now for Next CDL Cohort
The Creative Destruction Lab has opened applications for its 2019-20 cohort, at its Atlantic Canadian pod and other locations across Canada and in New York and Oxford, England.
The applications can be found here and are open until Aug. 12.
Started at the University of Toronto, the Creative Destruction Lab is a seed-stage program for scalable startups whose technology is based on science.
The CDL starts cohorts in each location with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a core of graduates.
CDL-Atlantic is just wrapping up its second cohort, and accepts companies from a broad range of sectors though it has a special emphasis on ocean tech, cleantech and agritech.
As well as CDL-Atlantic, startups can apply to other locations that offer specialization in their particular sector. For example, the Montreal program has a special focus on artificial intelligence and data science, while Vancouver specializes in health technology.
ACOA issued a statement Friday saying the company, which specializes in assisting with hydrographic and geophysical surveys, borrowed the money through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. LeeWay will use the cash to add new technology to and rewire the vessel, and have it approved to operate commercially in Canadian and U.S. waters.
“Striker represents a massive leap in the operational profile of a survey and data acquisition company,” said LeeWay Marine CEO Jamie Sangster in an interview. “It fundamentally changes the way things are done, in the sense that we’re now applying speed.”
The LeeWay Striker was designed and built for a United States military tender, but the ship didn’t win the bid, so the builder was eager to find a buyer. LeeWay bought the ship and is now fitting it out to the company’s needs.
Though the ship is more expensive to operate than others, Sangster said the costs in time and crew are drastically reduced. The ship doesn’t get the work done any faster, but its high speed cuts the time taken to travel to and from research sites. And Sangster said time drives everything in his business.
“It always does, and it always will,” said Sangster. “Since we evaluate total value in a finite period of time, you need to change something in that overall equation, physically, if you want to increase your uptake.”
The Striker has a top speed of 55 knots, and Sangster said the company’s competitive advantage lies in reducing the time required to get from the dock to the operational area and between operational areas. He said time reduction can increase the density of work the company does and allow it to make money faster.
“Bringing speed to the market, if you have the right vessel that can operate offshore, fundamentally will shift a lot of the survey programs that we enter,” said Sangster.
LeeWay Marine -- whose only equity funding came from friends and family when the company started -- is also bringing the Striker to its outpost in Cambridge, MA., with the hopes of getting into the U.S. market.
The company has been accepted into Scale-up Hub Cambridge (a program designed to help Atlantic ICT companies expand into export markets), with the help of Nova Scotia Business Inc. During the one-year program, LeeWay hopes to make inroads into the U.S. market with the unique speed of the LeeWay Striker.
He added LeeWay will bring “not just Striker, but . . . technology that’s developed here to improve the processes that surveyors require.”
One piece of new technology it will deploy is the Katfish, produced by St. John’s-based Kraken Robotics. The towed subsurface scanning system isn’t affected by waves, so it allows vessels that are small and fast, like the Striker, to do the same work of a larger, more stable ship.
“We want to go in [and], in many ways, penetrate that market with some new technology, so these particular survey companies are afforded alternative options,” said Sangster. “They can see some realizable operational efficiencies by using us. It’s new technology. It’s driving costs lower. And it’s improving margins.”
LeeWay Marine’s sales have increased close to 200 percent in the last two years. The company has 11 full-time employees, and 14 additional seasonal employees for its active season.
Latham and McArthur Join Propel
Propel, the Atlantic Canadian ITC accelerator, has named veteran entrepreneurs Derek Latham and Gordon McArthur to its stable of entrepreneurs-in-residence.
The company released a press release last week saying Latham and McArthur have joined Charlotte Murray and Richard Jones as EIRs. The EIRs help develop and deliver programming for Propel’s Incite accelerator, as well as working directly with founders and startups supported by Propel in Atlantic Canada. Both McArthur and Latham are based in Halifax.
“We are very happy to have Derek and Gordon join our team,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in the statement. “While their backgrounds are different, their knowledge and experience are equally impressive. And, perhaps more importantly, they are both extremely passionate and driven to help the founders in Incite further their companies.”
Just two years ago, Latham was a participant in a Propel accelerator: “A Propel alumni myself, I am excited to work with the talented startup founders to achieve product-market fit and grow their businesses here in Atlantic Canada.”
Latham has a background in business development and marketing. He’s worked with Nestle Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint, and Starbucks Coffee Canada.
McArthur is the former President of Dartmouth-based Eosense, an environmental gas measurement tech company, and has skills in cleantech, ICT, and hardware.
"There are a lot of places to go wrong when starting a business and what Propel is doing, getting businesses off on the right foot by focusing them intensely on the problem they are solving, is going to have huge reverberations in Atlantic Canada and beyond,” said McArthur. “I'm fortunate to be a part of that.”
Much of Lathan and McArthur’s role will be working in Propel’s Incite accelerator, a 12-month program focused on developing early stage technology companies by delivering curriculum online. The program runs in two phases. Phase 1 runs for three months and focuses on problem validation and solution fit. Phase 2 runs the remaining seven months and focuses on building a sales engine.
Disclosure: Propel is a client of Entrevestor.
Seven Join UNB Summer Institute
The 2019 Summer Institute
The University of New Brunswick’s TME group has revealed the seven companies in its Summer Institute, an accelerator that emphasizes the human aspects of entrepreneurship, such as marketing and design.
“The number of applicant companies has grown every year since inception, and this year, we received over 145 applications, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2018.” said Joe Allen, Managing Director of Accelerator Programs for TME. “It’s getting harder every year to select a cohort and if this trend continues we may look to run two cohorts a year.”
Now in its sixth year, the Summer Institute is a three-month accelerator for entrepreneurs with an innovative idea and the passion needed to turn that idea into a sustainable venture. Leading the program this year will be TME’s new accelerator team consisting of Allen and Operations Coordinator Tanvir Kohli.
“We’re very excited with the companies in this cohort,” said TME Chair Dhirendra Shukla in the statement. “The program has grown every year, and this is the first year where the entire cohort have products that are earning revenue.”
The program began April 29 and will conclude with a demo day on July 18. The companies accepted into the program are:
-- Scottage Cheeze (Harvey, NB)
Dairy free vegan cheeses dips and spreads.
-- JW Couture (Fredericton)
Men’s and women’s bodybuilding competition suits.
-- Loran Olivia (Fredericton)
Full service custom wedding stationery and design studio.
-- Queen of Cups Lingerie (St. Stephen, NB)
High quality, individually tailored bras.
-- Handmade by Alicia (Nackawic, NB)
All-natural and environmentally friendly solutions to your everyday personal care needs.
-- Luna Baby (Fredericton)
The company aims to produce the world’s best breastfeeding pillow.
-- Envirotech (Delhi, India)
Smartbins that simplify the waste management practices and reward users.
Disclosure: UNB TME is a client of Entrevestor.
How Will the Recession Impact You?
One constant factor in the Atlantic Canadian startup story in the past decade has been a strong underlying economy in key export markets – but that could change soon.
Robust economic growth, especially in the U.S., has provided primed markets for these innovation companies. But recessions inevitably come – it’s a matter of when, not if. Here are a few thoughts on what the looming downturn will mean for East Coast startups:
1. Founders will love Keynes – A little-known component of the Harper government’s economic action plan in 2008-09 was a substantial funding increase in the National Research Council’s Industry Research Assistance Program, or IRAP. It will happen again.
IRAP is excellent Keynesian spending – money that can be productively distributed quickly, often to the benefit of young people. Other startup programs will probably be boosted as well. In the last decade, all governments have boarded the innovation bandwagon and will see startups as an efficient way to spark spending.
2. Our best companies will feel the most pain – Atlantic Canada has produced some great scaling companies – generally those with $2 million-plus in revenue, doubling sales annually. They sell mainly to private sector businesses or consumers, and the next recession could be brutal for them.
These companies are too big to receive meaningful help from government programs. Those raising capital will find it a lot harder to entice angels or venture capital funds in a downturn. Those that have already raised large sums will feel pressure from the VCs to cut costs (read: lay people off) so their funding will last through the downturn.
3. There could be a talent glut – Founders are now coping with a tight, tight market for developers – tighter in some cities than others. That could change dramatically in a recession.
Fortune 500 companies could adopt hiring freezes really quickly, and some may lay off developers, maybe in big numbers. Developers could suddenly be easier to find.
What’s more, coders, engineers and scientists coming out of universities will face a pretty bleak job market and many will choose to start a business rather than hunt for a job. They will stoke the startup furnace.
4. Our young entrepreneurs are about to get schooled – I would bet the median age of founders in Atlantic Canada is about 30. That means that roughly half the founders would have been no more than 20 during the last recession, likely still in university.
They’re about to go through their first recession as business people, and it will be a real education – and a healthy education. One of the key lessons in personal finance and business is learning how to manage recessions.
5. No one is planning for the recession – I haven’t heard founders talking about a coming recession, but they should planning for tougher markets. How?
Raise now. Burn slow. Sell to government.
The smart companies are trying to raise capital now and planning to spend it slowly so it lasts a few years. And if possible, they should be looking for public sector customers. The federal government’s Build In Canada Innovation Program (which purchases new-fangled goods from Canadian startups) will be extremely popular in a year or two.
Applications Open for Sprint Contest
Applications for Innovacorp’s Sprint competition for Nova Scotia technology startups opened Wednesday and will remain open until May 15.
Winners will receive up to $25,000 each in non-dilutive, non-repayable funding and business guidance from experienced industry professionals. A total of $100,000 is up for grabs, and funding is based on meeting short-term milestones, laid out by Innovacorp for each winner.
Sprint includes two streams: Phase 1 for companies that have not received Sprint funding before; and Phase 2 for companies that have been awarded funding before and met milestones. Companies can win Sprint funding up to three times.
Shortlisted companies will pitch their business to Sprint judges on May 23. You can find more information and application forms here.
Luther To Head Halifax Partnership
Wendy Luther will become the President and CEO of Halifax Partnership on June 3.
The Halifax Partnership has announced the appointment of Wendy Luther as President and CEO, effective June 3. Luther has 17 years of experience in representing Nova Scotia nationally and internationally.
The Halifax Partnership works to grow Halifax’s economy. The group is focused on The Halifax Economic Growth Plan, which aims to grow the population to 550,000 and GDP to $30 billion by 2031.
“Halifax is quickly becoming one of the best mid-sized cities in North America in which to live, work, and do business,” said Matt Hebb, Chair of the Board of Directors. “There’s more work to do, and Wendy will be instrumental in building upon past successes.”
Luther’s accomplishments include serving as President and CEO of EduNova, which works with international students. While there, she developed the award-winning Study and Stay program, which incentivizes international students to stay and work in Nova Scotia.
Prior to that, Luther led export development initiatives with the Atlantic Canada World Trade Centre and Nova Scotia Business Inc., where she led trade missions to over twenty countries. She has mentored and advised over 300 Nova Scotian exporters on how to be competitive in international markets.
“I'm excited to get started with the Partnership,” Luther said. “Ours is a dynamic and growing city and I believe the Partnership has been key in Halifax's recent momentum.”
The Partnership thanked interim President and CEO John Rogers, who filled in after the previous CEO Ron Hanlon passed away suddenly in May, 2018.
14 To Pitch at Volta Cohort
Volta Cohort No. 3
Fourteen Atlantic Canadian early-stage startups will vie for a total of as much as $125,000 at the spring edition of the Volta Cohort pitching event on May 22 in Halifax.
Volta, the Halifax-based startup hub, began the Volta Cohort in 2017 to provide some early development capital for Atlantic Canadian startups. Up to five companies at each pitching session receive $25,000 each in investment, mentorship, and resources.
So far, the Volta Cohort has awarded a total of $400,000 in investment in three events. The judges at the last event actually awarded funding to six companies due to the difficulties in deciding between a few of the entrants.
“Creating a more innovative future in Atlantic Canada starts by funding and supporting high calibre founders that will turn their ideas into global companies,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Through Volta Cohort, we are able to engage with these founders at a critical time in their development and provide the opportunities and resources they need to get to the next stage faster.”
The finalists are:
Arolytics is developing web applications to help manufacturers cost-effectively produce less greenhouse gases and pollutants.
Atomo is a continuous discovery platform for product teams.
BlackWatch.Tech is a safety equipment company developing such products as a man-overboard device for fishermen.
CareCrew is designing the future of residential care.
E/venTx offers management and sales tools for event organizers to promote events and manage their business.
FloLab is a culture and mental training platform for sports teams.
Gibli Innovations is developing a sensor providing cyclists and triathletes with real-time aerodynamic feedback while training or racing to optimize their riding position.
Jara Developments provides a tenant security portal for landlords.
Manage Your Home is a concierge service company that helps homeowners manage the maintenance, and improvement of their homes.
ReelData develops remote monitoring technology for the aquaculture industry, allowing fish farms to know the biomass, appetite and welfare of finned fish in real time, without manual intervention.
ShopLaw has created an online tool that provides an easy way to find the right legal solution for consumers.
Sparrow Acoustics' AI-based system enables cardiologists to better visualize and interpret heart sounds.
Tracker Inventory System makes modular, easy-to-use RFID inventory solutions for industries with a history of low technology adoption. Its first product is designed for the laundry industry.
VRCOM is developing a fast way for businesses to create an engaging virtual reality shopping experience.
Companies receiving investment are given space at Volta and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. For companies outside of Halifax, support is arranged with partner organizations in other cities.
Maritime DevCon Set for June 8
The sixth annual Maritime DevCon, a conference for software developers, is coming to Fredericton in June.
Maritime DevCon is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting a strong software development community on the east coast of Canada, and the Maritime DevCon 2019 Conference is a chance for the community to gather together.
Currently 24 speakers are slated to present 21 sessions. The sessions run from 20-minute “lightning talks” to full 45-minute sessions.
The event will be held at the Wu Conference Centre at the University of New Brunswick on June 8. The formal schedule has yet to be announced.
Showing the effects of its recent marketing launch, Halifax-based home-concert organizer Side Door more than tripled the number of performances it arranged in March compared with February.
The company – whose online platform matches entertainers with people who want them to perform in their homes or other intimate locations – arranged 72 shows in March. It was a gain of 3.7 times from February. And the high volume is continuing as Side Door has 151 total shows booked through the summer of 2020.
Side Door Co-Founder Laura Simpson said the boom is due to the company’s recent marketing launch. Side Door automates the repeatable processes involved in booking a show, from matching artists and hosts based on preferences to handling things like tickets and payout. She said about half of the bookings organized through the web platform don’t require any intervention from an employee.
It’s about keeping cost low. “Finding space for shows that were low overhead and high profit margins was one of the greatest needs in the entertainment industry,” said Simpson. More than that, half of the platform’s hosts have never hosted a show before, so Side Door is creating a new market for the artist.
The company, whose five full-time employees work out of Volta in Halifax, has taken equity investment from friends, family, and a few musicians. Simpson is now raising a new funding round with a target of $2 million to $2.5 million.
Artist investors are the best marketing tools Side Door has, Simpson said. “Referral and word of mouth is our strongest point right now.”
The money from the seed round will be used to find a senior developer for the app version of Side Door, as a companion to the web platform, said Simpson. The company also plans to launch a rating and review system, and let clients use the platform to book service providers, anything from catering to photography.
The money will also be used to increase market penetration and develop new markets in the United States.
Simpson said there are a few competitors in the U.S., but none has the artist focus Side Door does. “If we earn the trust of the artist, they will use us, and that means the quality of the shows are that much higher because we’re attracting the best artists.”
She added: “We have people who do full tours, and some get paid two grand each [per show], by just showing up with a guitar. It’s a much better situation for them where they can actually make a livelihood.”
Since Simpson and co-founder Dan Mangan launched the company in April 2017, Side Door has booked 400 shows, of which 194 have been held. The company has signed up 437 hosts (almost 300 have signed since the end of January), and 1257 "discoverable" artists.
Almost 400 additional shows are pending on the platform, said Simpson. Pending shows are those still being negotiated by the hosts and performers.
Unlike most startups, Side Door had revenue almost from the beginning, she said, and the company actually booked shows even before the web platform started development in March 2018.
Side Door is paid a percentage of show revenue, so the key to the success is generating a high volume of shows. Side Door sold $124,000 in tickets in 2018, and Simpson said her goal is to hit $1 million in annual ticket sales by the end of 2020.
Zirka Plans Gamified Dating Site
The Halifax-based creator of a dating app hopes to challenge the likes of Tinder and Match.com.
Frogo founder Marc Zirka plans to compete in the crowded marketplace by offering a user experience that is inspired by mobile games.
A “pilot” version of the app is available for download on Android and iOS, and is free to use. When the full version launches, Zirka will monetize it by selling premium subscriptions.
“You have, all the time, the element of surprise because you cannot search for a partner,” said Zirka in an interview. “Based on how you are answering questions, and how others are answering questions, we match people together. This is why we call it a ‘gameified’ app.”
When users sign up, they are invited to answer a set of questions that help build a psychological profile of them. The profile is then used to calculate their temperamental compatibility with other users.
To make the process more fun, many of the questions are whimsical or quirky, such as, “Would you date someone with hair like Einstein?”. This particular answer would indicate the extent to which a user is concerned about a potential partner’s outward appearance.
Like mobile games that increase user engagement by encouraging the player to progress through a series of levels, would-be daters then send each other questions that they must answer similarly in order to “level up” their compatibility and earn the right to communicate.
The premium subscription will cost about $10.00 per month and will allow users to send more personal questions, but only to other premium users. To ensure propriety, the chat function will not allow images.
Premium subscribers will also be given a trial period—possibly of up to three months, but that remains to be decided—before they have to begin paying.
“We’re all in the business of making money, but what I don’t want is for it to be a scam,” said Zirka, explaining the purpose of the trial period.
For security, users cannot send each other questions unless they both opt-in by “liking” each other.
Apps that rely on a sizeable active user base for their appeal, such as dating apps, sometimes struggle to reach critical mass. When the full version of the app launches, Zirka hopes to solve this problem with regionally targeted advertising blitzes.
New users will not be prevented from signing up if they are outside the regions being targeted, but Zirka said that concentrating marketing efforts on one area at a time will help ensure that most new users can meet in person if they choose to.
Zirka, whose background is in the telecom industry, is the CEO of both the Lebanese TelcoVision Group SAL and the Nova Scotian Strategy Up, both of which are management consulting firms that specialize in improving the operational efficiency of startups and information technology companies.
Frogo—a subsidiary of Strategy Up—will also soon be spun off into a separate corporate entity to offer increased transparency to prospective investors.
Zirka plans to raise $3 to $5 million of investment in the near future. Until now, the app’s development costs have been paid for by him and two co-founders, whose shares he has since purchased.
About 15 percent of the money raised will be spent on continued development of the app itself, 15 percent on staffing costs, and the remaining 70 percent on marketing.
As part of the fundraising effort, the Frogo team will attend this May’s Collision Conference in Toronto—one of the largest tech conferences in North America.
According to a statement, the funding and upgrades are part of Cooke Aquaculture’s five-year plan to invest $500 million in Atlantic Canada.
Cooke will use $3 million from ACOA’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program to expand and create up to six new skilled jobs at the company’s Johnson Lake hatchery.
Just over $2 million from the Atlantic Innovation Fund – which lends money for major research projects – will go to expansion at the Oak Bay hatchery. The expansion will allow the company to continue to develop its salmon breeding expertise with marine genomics technology.
“As the company has expanded across the region, so has our need to grow this supply,” said CEO Glenn Cooke in the statement. “This [Oak Bay] facility has continued to play a very important part in our operations and our ability to grow healthy seafood in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Blacks Harbour, NB-based Cooke Aquaculture was founded in 1985 with one fish farm in Kelly Cove, NB, and now is vertically integrated from farm to retail, has hatchery or harvesting operations in three continents, and sales offices in four.
Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.
Adaptiiv Partners With Italy’s EZB
Adaptiiv Medical Technologies Inc., the Halifax company that uses 3D printing to improve cancer treatment, has further extended its international reach by partnering with Italian peer Eckert & Ziegler BEBIG, or EZB.
EZB specializes in products used in brachytherapy, which applies radioactive sources directly to or into tumors while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. For the patient, this means shorter treatment periods, fewer side effects and a faster recovery.
The two companies announced Sunday they will test and align their systems to provide an integrated workflow for cancer centers to create 3D-printed brachytherapy applicators customized to each patient. They believe the collaboration will demonstrate that 3D printing can provide clinically viable solutions that improve treatment and patient care.
"This is a significant milestone for us," said Adaptiiv CTO Alex Dunphy in the press release. "Collaborating with the team at EZB has allowed us to continue to make significant strides towards improving the standard of care using a patient-specific approach in brachytherapy. The successful alignment of our systems will demonstrate that 3D printing can be used to provide a clinically viable solution in brachytherapy treatment.”
Last year, Adaptiiv became the first company in the world to receive US FDA 510(k) clearance for software that is intended to 3D print patient-specific medical devices for use in radiation oncology.
The Adaptiiv system 3D prints a bolus – a piece of plastic placed over the cancerous area. The radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour.
There can be no air pockets between the bolus and the skin, which complicates matters given that every body is unique. Hospitals using the Adaptiiv product buy a system that includes 3D printers with special filaments, so boluses customized to each patient can be printed within seconds. They can be reused as the patient receives repeated radiation dosages. Or, if the patient’s body shape changes over the course of multiple treatments, the medical staff can print off another bolus quickly.
Adaptiiv said its solution represents a step further in enabling patient-specific care by increasing the clinical acceptance and implementation of 3D printing at the point-of-care.
The Halifax company has struck several partnerships in the past year. In February, Adaptiiv partnered with leading Canadian cancer facility Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, and last October it announced University of Hong Kong had become both a customer and research partner.
“We are excited to collaborate with Adaptiiv and its turnkey solution for 3D printing medical accessories,” said Thomas Osche, Product Manager at EZB. “Adaptiiv is the first company to offer a platform that seamlessly integrates into existing treatment workflows and their team has demonstrated the ability to rapidly validate new approaches to treatment that are being used in a clinical setting.”
The companies last week issued a statement saying that Cuna del Mar has bought all the shares of CAT for an undisclosed sum from Linnaeus Capital Partners BV, a Dutch investment group.
With operations in P.E.I. and San Diego, CAT is a specialist in researching the ways that aquaculture operations can improve their output through genetic improvement. The seven-year-old research organization also helps with the commercial development of innovative feed and health management products and services.
“Cuna del Mar is very pleased to be acquiring the CAT operations in the USA and Canada,” said Cuna del Mar Managing Director Robert Orr in the statement. “CAT has a tremendously talented team of people with unique capabilities, who are dedicated to making a difference for our customers and the industry as a whole. We are excited about the possibilities the future holds for this business.”
Cuna del Mar is an investment group dedicated to revolutionizing seafood production by focusing on open ocean aquaculture – that is, establishing fish farms offshore. Its vision statement says 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are near collapse and it wants to shift food production to sustainable operations that can produce healthy food without harming the environement.
It is backed by Christy Walton, the widow of John T. Walton, one of the sons of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. The operations are headed by Orr, best known as the former CEO of Ocean Nutrition Canada, the Dartmouth-based food additive producer sold for $540 million in 2012.
Cuna del Mar owns a portfolio of aquaculture companies, including offshore fish producer Open Blue Sea Farms, aquaculture tech company Innovasea Land Systems, Mexican fish producer Earth Ocean Farms and oyster producer Sol Azul Maricultivos, also of Mexico.
By purchasing CAT, Cuna del Mar is receiving: a research hub in San Diego; and state-of-the-art wet lab facilities in P.E.I., which include Bio-Safety Level 3 containment for aquatic animal pathogens. (This is the second-highest of four bio-safety levels.)
“The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies is a high competency CRO [contract research organization] with a customer base across the global aquaculture industry and a key asset in the PEI BioCluster’s fish health and nutrition business sector,” said PEI BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis in an email. “We’re very pleased to see this “smart money” investment from Cuna del Mar that will enable CAT to achieve its full potential.”
CAT Chief Executive John Buchanan added: “We look forward to working within Cuna del Mar, a fund that clearly sees the potential for growth in the aquaculture industry.”
Planet Hatch Names Sales Cohort
Planet Hatch has named the five companies that will participate in its 2019 Sales Accelerator Program, which helps companies find new markets and improve their revenue base.
The Fredericton entrepreneurship hub said in a statement the program provides participants with comprehensive sales training from industry experts, and access of up to $25,000 to support market entry and business development activities. Participants will also receive access to a fully funded post-secondary student intern to help throughout the summer.
“We’re very excited about the companies that will participate in our first cohort of the Sales Accelerator Program,” said Adam Peabody, Director of Planet Hatch and coordinator of the program. “The program is designed to help these companies develop a sales playbook and hone their skills for predictable and repeatable revenue growth.”
The participating companies, all from the Fredericton area, are:
A. Parrill & Associates – A women-led leadership development company, which aims to coach and develop high-performing executives and professionals;
SimpTek – A platform that helps electricity purchasers measure and analyze their consumption and link up with companies that could help to reduce their energy costs;
HomeWurk -- A startup whose online platform helps students earn money by finding home and business owners who need help with odd jobs;
Educated Beards – a veteran-owned startup that makes all-natural beard-grooming products and encourages healthy and educated lifestyles;
E.T. Mechanical – Local specialists in residential heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other home services.
Launched in March, the program was developed through a partnership model between Planet Hatch, Atlantic Growth Solutions, the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, Future Ready NB, and the Impact Atlantic Loan Program.
“We received a record number of company and student applications, which indicates the market demand and need for this type of initiative,” said Peabody.
Enriched Founder Program at AVF
The Atlantic Venture Forum is seeking companies to present at this year’s conference and benefit from an enriched program of content for founders.
Companies have until the end of the day Tuesday to apply to present. You can find applications here.
The seventh annual AVF, which will take place June 26 and 27 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. The two-day event will include pitches by both early- and growth-stage companies.
Day 1 of the AVF this year will feature a curated matchmaking event at Volta, in which founders can fill out a questionnaire and be selected for one-on-one meetings with investors and support organizations. The goal is to make meaningful connections for the companies attending the event. You can find more information on the matchmaking event here.
The presenting companies will be able to deliver a five-minute pitch to the assembly, and will be featured in the printed material distributed at the event.
Presenting companies are selected by the AVF’s industry advisory board and are drawn largely from the focus areas of ICT, sustainable technology, life sciences and health technologies, and oceans technologies.
The first day of the AVF will also include a day-long session led by startup expert Craig Elias on all the stages of the startup journey. Elias is a startup veteran and the entrepeneur-in-residence at Bow Valley College in the Calgary area.
30 Startups Enter Incite Phase 1
Propel, the pan-Atlantic IT support organization, has accepted 30 companies into Phase 1 of its virtual accelerator Incite – an increase of about one-third from its first cohort of the program.
Launched with 21 companies last fall, Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. The program is divided into two phases. Phase 1 focuses on validating the problem-solution fit and runs until the end of June 2019. Phase 2, which focuses on building a sales engine, will begin in September with another intake of companies.
“Phase 1 of Incite forces the founders to be customer-focused,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “At the end of the three months, their offering will be fine-tuned to best address the needs of their customers so they can move on to building a sustainable sales pipeline.”
Incite 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.
The 30 new companies from across Atlantic Canada span a wide variety of industries including education, healthcare, energy, shipping, dairy, real estate, ecommerce and law. The Phase I companies, their locations, and (co-) founders are:
A few years after leaving behind the tech game and St. John’s, Jason Janes has a new company with a distinctly low-tech product – wooden barbeque scrapers.
But here's the surprising thing: the young venture called Juniper BBQ Scrapers is showing growth metrics that tech entrepreneurs aspire to. Less than two years old, the company is on the cusp of selling its 100,000th scraper, now offering them through 400 stores across Canada.
Now based in Newfoundland’s West Coast, Janes said his Deer Lake-based company is profitable and growing. He will be showing the products at the Saltscapes East Coast Expo in Halifax this weekend, and no doubt recounting the unlikely story of an IT developer making his way in the barbeque utensil market.
“One thing I learned about product-market fit is it can come out of left field, just by following your passion,” said Janes in an interview this week. “I mean, I didn’t expect to sell any when we started.”
Janes, who turns 47 this week, has spent his career in IT, most of it in product management. He was one of the co-founders of Startup NL, a volunteer group that brought together techies and entrepreneurs mainly in greater St. John’s. And he was also a co-founder of Sentinel Alert, a startup that helped companies monitor the safety of remote workers.
Sentinel Alert shut down just over two years ago, and Janes left St. John’s for Newfoundland’s West Coast. There he spent time doing something he loves almost as much as technology – barbequing. He didn’t want to use a wire brush to clean his grill for safety reasons, but he couldn’t find an alternative. “I was struggling to find something to clean my barbeque with that was natural and local,” he said.
Ever the entrepreneur, he researched the matter and discovered that a type of wood known in Newfoundland and Labrador as juniper (larch or tamarack elsewhere) is burn- and rot-resistant and known to resist bacteria.
Janes made his own scraper, and asked friends what they thought. They not only liked it – they wanted one. So he started to sell them.
“Within the first couple of weeks, we sold a few 100 units,” he said. “In parallel with that, we connected with local retailers who wanted to resell it. . . . We went from six stores in our first six months to where we are now with 400 across Canada, and now we’re now starting to add stores in the U.S.”
Janes has tended to focus on specialty stores for barbequing and cottaging. The largest chain that carries the product is Sobey’s, which is selling the scrapers in every province. Juniper BBQ has customers in 70 countries around the world. The team – three full-time and two part-time staff – is remaining focused on the barbeque scrapers though it has produced a second product, bottle openers made from scrap juniper wood.
Janes said the lessons he learned working with tech startups served him well in building the new company. In a way, he considers it a tech company because so much of the marketing was carried out on social media.
‘I learned a lot of things from the startup world and one of them is that we all move much too slow,” he said. “As soon as we got a whiff that there was a need for this product, we went in 100 percent to get it into the market.”
Dal Launches 100K Competition
Dalhousie University is inviting startup founders to apply for its annual 100K Competition, in which winning teams receive $10,000 in non-dilutive funding and entry into the university’s accelerator.
Dal’s 100K Competition, now in its sixth year, brings together students and researchers with the aim of helping young companies succeed. Ten finalists receive $10,000 each and entry into Dal’s on-campus Launchpad Accelerator over the summer. The accelerator is part of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship’s LaunchDal programming.
An intensive 10-week, full-time program, the accelerator focuses on developing founding skills, bringing together a network of mentors, venture capitalists, and serial entrepreneurs and offering prototyping capacity and other discounted services.
Previous graduates of Dal’s LaunchPad include RovaultAI, which brings visual recognition to the seafood industry, and Graphite Innovation and Technology, a materials company developing disruptive uses for graphene. Contest entrants have until May 6 to apply.
In a statement, the contest organizers said all applications must include an eight-minute video explaining how the business model canvas has been used within the startup.
Competing teams should consist of: at least two, and no more than five, degree-seeking students; recent Dalhousie graduates (graduated within the past two years) or Dalhousie researchers or junior faculty. Teams are also eligible to apply if the team is commercializing Dalhousie-related research or projects. In general, at least one member of the team who meets the eligibility criteria should be either a co-founder or an executive at the “C” level.
The organizers said:
The team must have a minimum of 20 percent ownership in the venture.
The team must control a minimum of 51 percent of the venture’s voting rights. The organizers recommend maintaining this control for at least two years beyond the date of the competition.
Because revenue is often the best form of validation, minimal revenues gained in the process of validation are allowable.
Ventures cannot be a buyout, an expansion of an existing company, a real estate syndication, a tax shelter, a franchise, or a licensing agreement for distribution in a different geographical area.
Ventures may compete in the $100K Competition only once.
The organizers state that no set of criteria can apply to every circumstance and therefore reserve the right to determine eligibility or to disqualify any team determined to be in violation of the spirit of the competition. Similarly, applicants who feel they fit the spirit of the competition, but may be in minor violation of the eligibility criteria, may submit a petition via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor.
Using Startups to Spur Growth
One reason Jason Martell has grown his business Inside Out Cleaning Services so strongly in recent years is his partnerships with Halifax-area startups, which have helped him to adopt a growth strategy and new technology.
Based in Blockhouse, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, Inside Out expanded mainly because of the acquisition of a competitor in Halifax in 2016. But that deal went hand-in-hand with Martell working closely with Halifax startups Swept and Proposify to improve efficiency. In particular, getting to know Swept CEO Michael Brown – whose company provides software to janitorial companies – helped Martell understand the potential of his business.
“It has certainly helped us accommodate that growth and it has helped me as an owner get out of my own way,” said Martell in an interview last week. “The idea of growth was very daunting to me and Swept was one of the tools we used . . . to make growth less daunting.”
Martell’s parents started the company (then known as Martell's Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning) in 1977, and their son took over the company in 2003. Under Jason’s stewardship, the company began to move into the commercial cleaning space then targeted Halifax. Martell’s staff increased from about 35 to 40 people four years ago to 55 to 60 people today.
“He has taken the business to a new level of growth by leveraging technology,” said Brown. “I work with many cleaning companies around the world and Inside Out is second to none.”
In 2015, Jason Martell met Brown at an event in Mahone Bay and the two became friends. Brown’s company, then called CleanSimple, provided cleaning services. As Brown’s business model changed to providing software tailored to the cleaning market, Inside Out became an early customer.
The Swept software allows better communications between cleaning companies, their cleaners and their customers. It helps with scheduling, payroll, assignment of tasks and lets cleaners report back to head office.
“Before Swept, our workers had to fill out paperwork and had to get it back to us on a biweekly basis,” said Martell. “After Swept, we have moved entirely away from paper to gather information from cleaners, so I’m certain it has made their lives easier.”
Brown was also able to introduce Inside Out to Proposify, a Halifax startup that automates and enhances the process of producing proposals used to pitch to potential clients. Martell also adopted its technology, which has helped in reaching out for new clients.
Inside Out, whose business is now about 70 percent in the commercial market, is continuing to grow. Though the company’s main focus is adding clients in Halifax, Martell said he’s looking at growth throughout Nova Scotia and he’s working now on adding clients in the Annapolis Valley, Pictou County and Cape Breton. He credits his startup connections with changing the way he does business. It’s helped him realize he had to move the digital side of the business to the cloud and changed his processes.
“Working closely with them has taught me an immense amount,” said Martell. “Startups move so fast. They make decisions in generally a short amount of time. Sometimes they’re the wrong ones but it doesn’t matter – they [startup founders] learn from them and move on. . . . Working with the startup community has helped us to execute better and make not necessarily better decisions but to make them faster.”